§ The DUKE of NEWCASTLE
, in moving the Second Reading of the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Bill, said, he should probably best consult the convenience of the House, and certainly accommodate the wishes of that large portion of noble Lords present, who, by birth and property, were connected with Ireland, if, in the few observations he should have to offer, he comprehended, in those observations, the other two Bills which followed it on the paper, namely, the Tenants Improvements Compensation (Ireland) Bill, and the Leasing Powers (Ireland) Bill; not because the Bills, as forming one general code, ought not to be discussed separately, but because there was so much of a similar character in them that it would tend to simplify the discussion, and to convey a more accurate knowledge of their provisions. He should have been less disposed to do so, had not an attempt been made within the last few days to persuade the public that there was something of a communistic principle in these Bills—that they were tainted with something tending to the confiscation of property—and that their Lordships would be endangering the rights of property itself if they gave any countenance to them. He could only say for himself, and for every Member of Her Majesty's Government, that if there had been the slightest ground for suspicion that such a characteristic was justly attributable to these Bills, they would be the last to give them any countenance. What, then, was the origin of these Bills? He had seen a statement that morning that these Bills, being of a confiscatory character, had been brought in by a coalition Cabinet at the dictation of a certain number of Irish Members, who were represented to have some extraordinary influence with Her Majesty's Government; and that Her Majesty's Government, in obedience to them, had brought in and originated these measures. So far from that being the case, these Bills dated so far back as November last. They were introduced not by the coalition Cabinet, but by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General of the Government of which Lord Derby was at the head. They were brought before Parliament upon the responsibility of the Conservative Government of Lord Derby—that Government which proclaimed itself as a body antagonistic to any advance of that democratic element which was now supposed to be concentrated in these Bills. 1501 They were approved by that Cabinet, and proposed by them to the House of Commons. How came it, then, that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) first became connected with the subject? He thought it was due to one so distinguished as the right hon. Gentleman to state the origin of these Bills. If the late Attorney General for Ireland, distinguished as he was in his profession, had not been actuated by high motives, he would have shrunk from grappling with a subject of such intricacy and difficulty. After successive Governments had failed to bring this matter to a satisfactory issue, the right hon. Gentleman, then an independent Member of Parliament, volunteered to take up the question in a large and general spirit, and through the instrumentality of gentlemen of great ability who were associated with him, he went into a most minute examination of the whole of the laws affecting landlords and tenants in Ireland, and performed the work, aided by those gentlemen, which the noble Lord on the cross benches suggested to the Government of 1850 as well worthy the labours of a Commission. He said that to the honour of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Napier)—he said it the more, because he spoke of a political opponent; and he should be unworthy of a seat in that House if, being opposed to the right hon. Gentleman in politics, he allowed him to be traduced and maligned without offering his testimony to time exertions he had made, and the anxious desire he had shown, to bring an intricate and difficult question to a satisfactory conclusion, with a due appreciation of and regard for the rights of all parties.
Their Lordships were forewarned last night of opposition to these Bills; and the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) told the House that these Bills were not the same Bills which were introduced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and approved by the Government of which the noble Earl was a Member. He confessed he was never more astonished than when he heard that statement of the noble Earl, and he was prepared to show that the Bills were not only the same in every Parliamentary and recognised sense, but the same in the main and principal enactments; and, moreover, all the changes they had undergone in their passage through the other House were not of a more extensive character than were frequently made in Bills of an important character in passing through either House 1502 of Parliament. It was impossible for any man who recognised the justice and propriety of these Bills in November last, fairly to repudiate them now, and on the score of alterations to say that they were not the same Bills, and that therefore he was absolved from that assent which he had given in a former official capacity. A question was put by the noble Marquess (the Marguess of Clanricarde) last evening as to these Bills having been referred to the present Lord Chancellor and the law officers of the Crown under the present Government; and he (the Duke of Newcastle) had answered that he understood these Bills had been referred to and approved by the present Lord Chancellor and the present law officers of the Crown. That answer he begged to repeat now; but his noble Friend rejoined by endeavouring to represent that they could not have been considered by them, because in the schedule of sixty Acts repealed by one of these measures, he found that five or six Acts of Parliament had been introduced into the schedule which were not in the original draft of the Bill. His noble Friend was undoubtedly correct in that statement; but it was the unavoidable consequence of one or two unimportant alterations in the body of the Bill; and his noble Friend would see, when a Bill was subjected to examination and alteration, having a schedule appended repealing a number of Acts, it was impossible the schedule could be completed until the Bill had passed its final stage. Of course, with regard to those five or six Acts of Parliament, the question of omitting them or continuing them in the schedule might be fairly raised; but his noble Friend was not justified in saying the Bills had not in their integrity been referred to and approved by the law officers of the Crown. Those were not the only authorities to whom these Bills had been referred. Before introducing them, the late Attorney General for Ireland referred them to the most able men in that country. They were referred to Baron Pennefather, than whom none was a higher authority either as a judge, a lawyer, or a landlord. They were referred to Baron Greene. They were referred to Mr. Longfield. They were referred to Mr. Commissioner Yardley and to Mr. Robert Holmes, the father of the Bar in Ireland, by whom they through were approved. Higher authorities than those he had named could not be quoted in that House. But not merely were these Bills referred to lawyers, however able, 1503 but to many practical men and to many landlords, to corroborate those legal opinions; and he had reason to believe that they were referred to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Donoughmore), than whom no man was better acquainted with landed property in Ireland, or more capable of giving a sound opinion, not excepting even those who had much longer occupied scats in that House; and it was understood that the noble Earl had offered some valuable suggestions which were embodied in the Bills. When Her Majesty's Government acceded to office, they felt it was their bounden duty to aid, if possible, the exertions of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and of the late Government, in bringing this question to a solution—that it was their bounden duty, notwithstanding the onerous labour which devolved upon them, and the important measures they were about to introduce, not to throw over these Bills, and discard them as not having been brought in by their own political party, but to render every assistance in their power to the right hon. Gentleman and his former Colleagues in bringing them to maturity. His right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland (Sir John Young), under those circumstances, undertook to persist in the inquiry before the Committee, and when the Bills had passed the House of Commons, he (the Duke of Newcastle) thought it right that their Lordships should express their opinion upon them.
He might be fairly asked why he, of all men, who had certainly not a great deal of leisure time on his hands, should interfere in a subject in no way connected with the office which he had the honour to hold. The principal reason was not merely the sincere anxiety which he felt to promote measures which could in any way conduce to the interests of landed property in Ireland, and raise it from the depression under which it was labouring; but the fact of his having, whilst holding, though for a brief period, an official position in that country, originated a measure of the same description.
It was not necessary to recount a long and painful history of the complaints on this subject, and of the measures attempting to remedy the evils which were admitted to exist. He would not go back to the curious and interesting book of Sir John Davies in the time of Elizabeth. He would not quote the case of Spencer, or do more than allude to the long and earnest endeavours of Mr. Sharman Crawford, whilst he 1504 occupied a seat in the House of Commons, to find a solution to the difficulty—endeavours which were not mistaken in spirit, but mistaken in form. He would not refer to the measures taken by the Government of the day, in consequence of the frequent discussions in Parliament, which resulted in that interesting document, the Report of the Devon Commission. He would not quote, as he might do, many passages from the proceedings of the Committee which sat on Agricultural Customs in 1848. It would be sufficient to say that if the evils were recognised and extensive, the remedy was invariably found to be difficult, because the subject was encumbered with difficulties. Various attempts had been made by all parties to bring the question to issue. In 1845 a Bill was brought into the House of Commons by the noble Earl, not then present, then Lord Stanley. In the year following, he (the Duke of Newcastle) had the honour to introduce a Bill on the same subject; and in 1848 and 1850 two further Bills to settle the same question were introduced, but they were all equally unsuccessful. It was at that period, 1850, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) undertook to examine into and maturely consider the subject, which had resulted, as he had stated, in the Bills now before their Lordships. However desirable might be a settlement of the question as bearing on the future interests of Ireland, he believed no settlement could be satisfactory or of any value which did not maintain the rights of property inviolate. He could conceive nothing more tending to restrain the social improvement of any country, and the progress of civilisation, than any measure which had the slightest tendency to imperil in any way the rights of property, when on the integrity of those rights depended not merely the interests of the holders of the property, but the interests of every man, no matter what his condition in life might be. The allusion to these rights of property reminded him of the often-quoted sentence of Mr. Drummond, that "property had its duties as well as its rights." From the anomalous position of property in Ireland it too frequently happened that the duties and rights of property did not appertain to the same individuals. The position of property was such, that while the rights of property attached to and were enjoyed by the encumbrancers on the estates, the duties attached to the merely nominal holders— 1505 so that duties and rights were disassociated in a manner which must be prejudicial in every respect to the well-being of the country. He was quite aware that much abstract reasoning might be employed to show the inexpediency of any legislation on the relations of landlord and tenant, and it might be contended that such legislation was inconsistent with the doctrine of free trade. He was not disposed to dispute that position; but he said this, they were unfortunately not now in a position in which they could decide not to legislate between landlord and tenant; and when the noble Earl cheered that statement, he would remind him of what the Legislature had been doing in successive generations, not only with reference to landlord and tenant in Ireland, but in this country also. The Bills now on the table, and the second reading of which he should move, bore testimony to the fact that they had long been interfering between landlord and tenant. The schedule of one Bill contained sixty Acts which were to be repealed, and he was assured that no less than 200 Acts of Parliament were more or less concerned or referred to in these Bills. From the time of Edward IV. down to the present moment, the Statute-book laboured under the legislation interfering between landlord and tenant. Under such circumstances it was impossible to maintain the abstract doctrine of free trade between landlord and tenant, unless they were prepared to sweep away the whole of those laws, and set the question entirely free. He apprehended they could not do that without interfering with the law of property entailed. Looking at the law of entail as a valuable thing in the social system of this country, he had no hesitation in saying, that—looking to the greatly increased wealth of all classes of the community, and the great increase of population—it was necessary, if we wished to preserve the law of entail, to pass measures like that before the House for determining the relations of landlord and tenant; and he was of opinion that such a Bill would, as had been observed upon the succession duty, also have the effect of a strengthening, instead of weakening, the law, of entail. He thought no one would for a moment maintain that this was not a national object, if he could show that the improvement of land in Ireland was connected with legislation of this description; and he would frankly say he looked upon the present moment as decidedly opportune for settling this question. It might be true that the 1506 value of property in Ireland had increased, and was increasing; that the social prosperity of the people had increased in a proportionate ratio. It might be said that the cry which prevailed some time ago on this subject was no longer heard; but that might be owing to the spirit in which the question had been undertaken in the other House of Parliament; and if, from any cause, agitation had ceased, the absence of agitation was an argument in favour of, and not an argument against, legislation.
In accordance with his engagement to make as few observations as possible, he would proceed briefly to explain the leading provisions of these Bills; and as the Leasing Powers Bill was less connected with the others than the others were with one another, he would take that first. The Leasing Powers Bill might be divided into two parts. The one enabled the landlords and tenants between themselves to make sufficient leases. The second part enabled the same parties to make sufficient agreements for any special improvements which might be found desirable. The leading characteristic of the Bill was, that every plot of land in Ireland should have a living representative, if he might so express himself, who should have the power of so dealing with it as to bind the inheritance. Under the law as it now stood, every settlement, every mortgage, every judgment deed, was an insuperable bar to an effective sale of land. This evil had been remedied, as regarded the larger landed properties both in Ireland and in this country, by the process well known to their Lordships, of applying to Parliament for a private Bill; and one of the leading principles and objects of this Bill was to do by public enactment for smaller properties in Ireland that which was done for large properties by special private Acts. By the Leasing Powers Bill it was proposed to alter the law under which the present proprietors of landed property were enabled to grant leases. At present leasing powers in Ireland were very conflicting. A rector could only lease for one year, a bishop could grant for 21 years, and tenant in tail for 41 years. This Bill proposed to place all upon the same footing, and to enable each to grant agricultural leases for periods not exceeding 31 years, and for other periods in the cases of leases for other than agricultural purposes. Such were the main features of the Bill—a Bill which might well be called one both of consolidation and amendment, inasmuch as it 1507 consolidated no fewer than sixty Acts of Parliament, and amended them in several important respects. He had, he trusted, succeeded in briefly explaining its general purport. He would now pass on to the next Bill—the Landlord and Tenant Bill. This was a measure of so strictly a legal character, that he should prefer leaving the explanation of its technical provisions to his noble and learned Friend upon the woolsack; but he would endeavour to describe its objects in a single sentence, by saying that it comprised one clear and convenient law, easy, if referents, upon all matters connected with the land, in solving the relative positions of landlord and tenant; and he could not but think, from the attention and consideration which had been given to the Bill, that it would prove greatly beneficial to landlords and tenants in Ireland. He might, as he had already alluded to the opinions of Baron Pennefather, state that that learned Judge had devoted a great deal of time and attention to the provisions of this measure. Let not noble Lords suppose that at his mature age Baron Pennefather had lost that vigour and elasticity of mind which characterised him forty years ago. This was certainly not the case; for he had pleasure in informing Lordships that he was just as capable now as he was then of exercising a sound judgment, with the advantage of possessing a more lengthened experience; and any noble Lord who had passed through the country where Baron Pennefather held property, would have cause to observe that he had been an improving landlord; and the approval of this learned person might surely be taken as a guarantee for the efficiency and safety of the Bill, even if no other arguments could be alleged in its favour. The Landlord and Tenant Bill was, in other words, a measure to facilitate contracts; it facilitated the enforcement of contracts upon both parties—a measure which, if it were duly and fairly carried out, would yield to none for value and importance, as effecting the morality and honesty of all classes in Ireland, and as encouraging punctuality—an essential ingredient in all transactions between man and man of a commercial character. The provisions of the Bill were very numerous; but if their Lordships should consent to its being committed, they could be explained and discussed in detail; it would, therefore, be unnecessary for him to do more than touch upon some of the most important. The Bill provided for a regis- 1508 try of leases and agreements. It contained an entirely new mode of legislating with regard to the prevention of waste; and especially it endeavoured to prevent a practice which had prevailed, and by which land had been greatly deteriorated—that of burning. Noble Lords connected with Ireland would be aware that the provisions of the Burning Act were of a highly penal character, and had been found to be practically ineffective. The object of the present proposal was to prevent rather than to punish, and he believed that it would be found to be more useful in practice than the existing Burning Act. The measure also contained provisions upon another subject, and one which had proved a fertile source of injury to Ireland—the practice of subletting. The system of subletting was one which ought to be suppressed, for under that system none of those great improvements so necessary for agricultural success could be carried out; and, in fact, on every estate where it prevailed, it formed an impassable barrier to all material improvement, and therefore he thought that any proposition which provided for putting an end to it could not but prove beneficial. The Bill also contained provisions with regard to improvements in cottages, not altogether dissimilar to those in a Bill brought in by his noble Friend the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde), and which had been sent to the House of Commons a few days ago. The present measure also contained provisions with reference to distress and distraint, somewhat modifying the existing laws on that subject. The Tenants' Improvements Compensation Bill proposed providing compensation for improvements effected by a tenant in the absence of any express contract with the landlord; while, where a contract existed, the case was provided for by the second of the two Bills to which he had already referred. He did not anticipate any very strong opposition to the clauses of this Bill, with the exception of those particular ones which had a retrospective operation, and especially the 14th clause. He felt persuaded that none of their Lordships would for a single moment dispute the position that it was most desirable, by legislation, to insure, if possible, the most complete security for the investment of capital, with a view of improving property; and he apprehended that to obtain that security was one of the most important points to be considered in framing a Bill like the one which he was now asking their Lord- 1509 ships to read a second time. He would frankly admit that the spirit in which the Government had taken up this measure was not from any very strong conviction with reference to its being the best method of legislation, but from the conviction that it was the best which had hitherto been proposed. He was also quite willing to admit that, although he approved most strongly of the present measure, he preferred, in some respects, a measure which he had had the honour of submitting to their Lordships in 1846; but as that proposal was not approved, he was must willing to give his assistance in producing any measure which appeared most probable to be able to deal with the peculiar case. While, however, he admitted that in some respects he preferred his own measure of 1846, he would at the same time allow that that proposal had very defective machinery, which would, from being too complicated, have been most probably inoperative; but he was by no means satisfied of the impossibility of rendering, that machinery more simple. He had heard it argued against a proposal like the present, that such legislation was partial—that it was for Ireland only; and no such measure existed either in this country or in Scotland. Now, he was quite willing to admit that no Bill like the present had been introduced for this country or for Scotland; but he entirely denied that the system which this Bill proposed to create in Ireland did not exist;—so far the contrary, he himself lived in a part of the country where the system of tenant-right prevailed to a great extent. It prevailed to a very large extent not merely in the midland and eastern districts of this country, but in the northern, and in parts of Scotland. He admitted it varied in different parishes; still the system prevailed; and, in fact, almost every provision of the 16th clause of this Bill existed in custom in many parts of this country and had the force of law. [A Noble LORD expressed his dissent.] He assured the noble Lord that this was the case; and in anticipation of the objection he had provided himself with proof of it. It had been judicially laid down that this custom had the force of law The case of Mousley v. Ludlam came before Justices Coleridge and Erle in the Court of Queen's Bench on 26th November, 1851, by way of appeal from the County Court of Derbyshire. It was an action by an outgoing tenant against his landlord, to recover 50l. for having 1510 given up a farm, with the benefit of work done, manure spread, tiles and other material expended in and about the cultivation and improvement thereof, together with the stone posts, grass, herbage, crops, &c. The plaintiff was a yearly tenant, on the terms that he should use and cultivate his farm in a good and tenantable manner, according to the rules of good husbandry. The tenancy was determined by notice to quit given by the landlord. For drainage done two years, the tenant charged 5–7ths; for that done one year, 6–7ths. The improvements were made without the knowledge or consent of the landlord. The custom was proved that every outgoing tenant should be entitled to claim from the landlord compensation for works, though done without the landlord's knowledge or consent. It was contended for the landlord that the alleged custom could not be supported, as being unreasonable and bad. Mr. Justice Coleridge said, "It seems to me not an unreasonable custom that a tenant who is bound to use a farm in a good and tenantable manner, and according to the rules of good husbandry, should be at liberty on quitting his farm to charge his landlord with a portion of the expense of draining the land that requires drainage according to good husbandry, though the drainage be done without the landlord's knowledge or consent." Mr. Justice Erle, said, "If it be not unreasonable as a contract, I do not see that it is unreasonable as a custom." He quoted this ease merely to show their Lordships that there were customs prevailing in England having the force of law, and which no landlord could resist. This principle subsisted in France at the present time; it existed in the latter days of the Roman Empire, and had been engrafted on the Roman civil law. He was not now arguing that the principle was accompanied with proper restrictions in this Bill; but upon the question of principle he must repeat that it was applicable by custom in many parts of England and Scotland, that it was applicable in France, and that it had been adopted in the Roman Empire in its later years; he was therefore unable to understand how it could be considered so wholly inapplicable to Ireland as it was said to be. Indeed, there were circumstances in Ireland which appeared to render it more applicable to that country than either to England, Scotland, or even in some respects to France. In England and Scotland the landlords let farms, in Ireland they only let land. This was an 1511 additional reason for some legal provision of the kind. The Bill, however, evinced a perfect knowledge, on the part of its framers, of the difficulties of the question, and of the necessity for restrictions and precautions against frauds; and, therefore, if noble Lords would read the Bill carefully, they would find that it had been framed in the most careful manner. They would find—he was now speaking only of the prospective part of the measure—that no tenant could claim compensation for any improvements unless he had given notice to the landlord of his intention to execute such improvements. After the landlord had been served with notice of the intention to make improvements, he might, if he were able and willing—and he apprehended this would be the result in many cases—serve a counter notice upon the tenant that he would undertake the improvements himself; and under those circumstances, the landlord would be in a position, under the other Bill, to claim a percentage from the tenant for such improvements. He would not occupy their Lordships' time by dealing with the objections which had been made by persons who had not read the Bill carefully, to some of its provisions, on the ground that they were extravagant; but if they would take the trouble to look at the clauses they would find that many of the frightful evils which they anticipated had been carefully guarded against. When he was told that it would be in the power of the cottier tenant to make the landlord pay for any shed he might require, he referred such parties to the Bill, where they would find the case met. When he was told there would be cases where men occupying as tenants would erect cottages for the purpose of subletting them to the neighbouring population, and then claim compensation for such erection, he answered, that this case was met by special enactment, to say nothing of the general provision that claims could alone be made which tended to increase the agricultural value of the land. These were not the only securities provided by the Bill. No tenant who had executed an improvement under the sanction of his landlord could claim compensation if he was in arrear for rent, if he had sublet any portion of his land with out the consent of the landlord, or if he had broken any lease or agreement with the landlord, and if he had voluntarily abandoned possession of the property. Great care had been taken to provide for due notice being given to the landlord of the 1512 intended improvement; while, after the improvements had been executed, the tenant could not claim compensation if he were not entirely free from all default; in short, the only position in which a tenant could claim compensation, was in the case of his being arbitrarily dispossessed by the landlord. With these provisions, he did not think that fraud could easily be committed; but he would not dwell on that part of the question, but would at once pass to those clauses of the Bill which had a retrospective operation.
He admitted that retrospective legislation was in principle objectionable, and in the Bill which he introduced in 1806 no provision was inserted of this kind. But if a useful measure was in contemplation, here was a good deal to be said on both sides, and he invited noble Lords to consider the question fairly in Committee. They must not discard moral considerations. None of their Lordships, he was sure, would deny that where a tenant had expended his money in the improvement of a property, and he was dispossessed by the landlord, he had a moral right to compensation. It was this moral right that was recognised in this country, where the custom of tenant-right was not recognised; and this moral right generally operated as a sufficient security to the tenant. The moral right, then, being established, the Bill now before their Lordships merely converted it into a legal right; whilst careful restrictions had been introduced in order to meet the objections that might be made. He had certainly heard no reason hitherto why such provisions should not be introduced into the Bill; but on the part of the Government he should be ready, in Committee, to consider any suggestions for the improvement of the clauses. It was, of course, open for the consideration of their Lordships whether the retrospective clauses should be retained, and this would be a subject for fair discussion and argument. He had promised to refer to an observation made by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury), that these Bills were not the same as had been sanctioned by the Ministry of Lord Derby. If the noble Earl thought they were inconsistent with the measures he then approved, he was no doubt entitled to take the course he appeared to be meditating; but the noble Earl had no right to find a loop-hole for himself by a misrepresentation of the real facts of the case. He defied the noble Earl to prove the assertion he made last 1513 night, that the measures were not identical in principle with the Bills sanctioned by the Government of Lord Derby. If the noble Earl meant to say they were not, clause by clause and line by line, identical with the Bills introduced by Lord Derby's Government in November, he admitted such was the case; but the noble Earl could not maintain that he was justified, either by Parliamentary, official, or any other usage, in availing himself of that assertion to refuse his assent to the second reading of these Bills. Now, what were the alterations that were supposed to render the identity of the Bills no longer the same? In the Landlord and Tenant Bill the only material change was the exclusion of growing crops from the power of distraint. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, if this was a vital principle of the Bill, let them move its reintroduction into the Bill. The Tenants' Improvement Bill, as originally drawn by Mr. Napier, gave compensation to the tenant for improvements on and in the soil, on a principle different from that which at present stood in the Bill, since it gave compensation by terms of years. By an alteration in Committee the mode of computation had been simplified by an arrangement which, it would not be disputed, was an improvement, namely, that it should be by valuation at the time of the determination of the tenancy. The 14th clause was certainly altered; but in spirit and intention it remained the same. As originally introduced it did not contain the restriction now imposed by the proviso carried by his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland (Sir J. Young), which greatly limited its operation, to the effect that no compensation should be given for improvements which was not claimed within twelve months of the passing of the Act. The principle of retrospective legislation was undoubtedly contained in the Bill introduced by the late Government; and it was impossible to deny that the peasantry of Ireland would consider this question, not in the same light as it was viewed and argued in that House, but as it was felt in their daily habits and intercourse of life; and it was the duty of Parliament to endeavour to settle the question in a social, as well as in a legal, point of view; and it was with this desire on the part of the Government that he called upon their Lordships to assent to the second reading of these Bills. He regretted that the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) was not present, as he felt persuaded that that noble Earl 1514 would not depart, whatever others might do who previously served with him and generally sat beside him, from the assurance which he had given to his right hon. and learned Friend the late Attorney General for Ireland, of his resolve to assist him to the utmost in carrying out the provisions of these Bills, and in obtaining a full and fair consideration of them in the House, of which he was one of the greatest ornaments. He felt convinced that if the noble Earl were present he would have exerted his influence to prevent any attempt to stop that consideration to which measures of this kind, after all the examination it had gone through, was so fairly entitled. He could not forget the course taken by the friends and associates of noble Lords opposite at the last election in Ireland, and the assurances which were given by Members of the other House of Parliament friendly to the late Government of the earnest desire to settle this question in a liberal spirit, and their desire afterwards expressed in the House of Commons to carry this Bill into effect. Remembering these things, he did regret that some of the associates of that Government should now band themselves together to oppose measures which, in their integrity and essence—whether right or wrong—were the same as those which they had previously sanctioned. He could not but believe that noble Lords opposite proposed to adopt a most unwise course upon this occasion; they were, in fact, following the same course which they pursued for so many years with reference to protection. For himself, he would say he was too sincere a friend to Ireland and to their Lordships not to hope that they might not be visited with those results which were likely to attend their indisposition to pass these Bills, and to fairly settle this question during the present Session. He never submitted any measures to the consideration of Parliament with a deeper conviction that it was the bounden duty of the Legislature to enter upon their discussion without reference to party feeling. [The Earl of MALMESBURY: Hear, hear!] The noble Earl cheered as though he had some cause to complain of party feeling on the Ministerial side of the House in connexion with these Bills. He could assure the noble Earl that Her Majesty's Government, eschewing party feeling, sought nothing by passing these Bills but the promotion of the peace and welfare of Ireland. If the Bills were passed into law, and succeeded, 1515 whose would be the credit? He had no hesitation in saying at once that it would be the credit, and justly so, of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland; while if they were passed, and did not succeed, the reproach would be thrown upon the present Government for assisting in carrying them out. What, then, could be the party motives which could influence the Government in wishing to pass these Bills? Her Majesty's Government, by desiring to pass them, did honour to one who had done honour to the late Government, and whom noble Lords opposite were now anxious to discredit when he had suited their purpose, or now considered as no longer useful to them. Her Majesty's Government were ready to place the responsibility of settling this question to the credit of the late Government, if the proposed measures succeeded, with a certainty of blame to themselves if they did not. He would conclude by earnestly appealing to their Lordships to pass the second reading of the Bills, not the view of carrying through unconsidered the whole of the proposed enactments, but for the purpose of giving to the measures that fair consideration which they so well deserved.
In respect of the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Bill it was moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
said, he thought that if their Lordships wanted proofs of the danger of passing these Bills at the present moment, and of the difficulty of legislating at all on this subject, they would find them in the speech of the noble Duke, who, while he addressed the House but a very short time in explanation of the details of the measure, and said not one word on the effect the various clauses would have in Ireland, had in the latter portion of his address endeavoured to divert from them the attention of the House, and had introduced a personal question taxing noble Lords with their political antecedents, regardless of the danger of sacrificing the best interests of Ireland by precipitately passing these measures, so that the purposes of the moment were served. What necessity was there to have said one word about party motives? Why should the noble Duke have introduced the argumentum ad hominem instead of the argumentum ad rem, if not to place the opponents of these measures in a disagreeable position, and enforce their votes by an allusion to their personal 1516 position? Notwithstanding his strong objections to the Bills, he would recommend their Lordships to suffer the Bills now before them to be read a second time, and then to refer them to a Select Committee, with a view to the subject being fully considered, and these most important questions dealt with in the next Session of Parliament. The reasons for delay were obvious. There were some provisions in the present Bills so objectionable that it would be impossible to assent to them; their Lordships had now been sitting ten months, and at the end of such a Session, just as the House was about to rise, it was proposed to pass three of the most important Bills affecting the internal condition of Ireland that were ever proposed to Parliament. Nor could be fail to remark upon the absence on such an occasion of the noble Marquess so long the President of the Council—(the Marquess of Lansdowne), though he was aware of the cause of that absence—who was one of the greatest authorities in the Cabinet upon this question. And then, when he looked to the other side of the House, he missed a noble Earl who was the greatest authority on that side of the House, not because he was the leader of the party, but because he had been Chief Secretary for Ireland at one of the most critical moments in her history, and from the time he first entered Parliament to the present moment had taken a most active part in all matters affecting Ireland, and who was, moreover, a large Irish proprietor. Their Lordships had not the benefit and advantage of the authorities of these noble Lords, and this was an additional reason for delay. And how had the other House of Parliament dealt with these Bills? The House of Commons had had these Bills before them for the last ten months; and he wanted to know why they were not brought before this House until the month of August? Of course, he knew the Bills had received great attention in the other House during the time; that they had been before a Select Committee, and that alterations had been made both there and up to the last moment upon their various stages. Was this House, however, to be so treated, that they were to be told to pass in ten days Bills which had occupied the attention of the House of Commons for ten months? The state of the Session when their Lordships were called upon to take these measures into consideration, alone justified the delay which he now asked for. Allusion had been made 1517 by the noble Duke to the late Government having originated this measure; but the late Government had never made it a party question—they had laid the Bills on the table of the house for the consideration of Parliament. And, now, let them see if, all the time those Bills had been before the other House, they had received that care and attention which were absolutely necessary for safe legislation on such subjects. When a Bill professed to amend and consolidate the whole law of the land question, it ought to be considered with very great deliberation; and yet at the very last stage of the principal one of those three Bills, statutes were repealed and others re-enacted—not by one or two, but by the half-dozen—and not less than six Acts were taken out of the schedule one Bill, and five put into it. Under such circumstances, he did not care what learned persons had seen the measures, for it was evident that they required the greatest attention from their Lordships. Let their Lordships see what were some of those important Acts to which those schedules referred. There was an alteration even on the third reading, and the schedules had been totally altered since Mr. Napier had left London, and gone to Ireland. Further, would their Lordships believe that by this Bill the old law of replevin, which had caused such litigation in Ireland, had been re-enacted at the last moment? There were about 200 statutes altogether relating to this subject, about sixty of those statutes having reference to leasing powers, and yet the Leasing Powers Bill, which professed to repeal and consolidate the whole of them, did not touch by name any one of those statutes. But by the noble Duke's own account this Bill would leave 140 statutes loose upon the statutebooks of Ireland; and this Muse was asked to pass such a measure within ten days of the end of the Session! There had been a very excellent Bill passed in 1845 upon the subject of leases, under which a great many leases had been entered into; he had been informed by an extensive land agent that he had been party to upwards of 200. This Act was repealed by the present legislation. He had no to doubt this had been done by misapprehension and mistake, but it would produce a general violation of contracts with regard to leases which had been entered into under it. It repealed also the Act of 1832, which had reference to subletting, making no saving clause respecting the leases, 1518 made under the operation of that Act, and accordingly the whole faith by which they had been contracted was broken. There was another Act also, the Act of Estoppel, and if this Bill were passed the common law would be revived, and every tenant would be at liberty to cut down as much timber as he pleased upon the land held by him. One of the most popular writers of the day had enunciated, in the case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce," that the great principle of British law was to make work for itself, and that principle was certainly observed in these Bills. Was it not a monstrous principle to lay down, that if a house were not in good repair, the landlord was not to get his rent? Did anybody hear before of such an enactment, or of making the personal qualification and character of the tenant a question in adjudication? And yet from no cottier holder, not an agricultural labourer, could you recover rent under one of the clauses? These and other points required, be considered, the most minute attention of a Select Committee. Of the three Bills, that which he viewed with the least disfavour was the Leasing Powers Bill; but then what was called the Leasing Powers Bill was also a Tenants' Compensation Bill, the two subjects being mixed up in a most wonderful manner. Such a Bill as the Tenants' Compensation Bill—such a total violation and disregard of all contracts—was never before, he believed, submitted to Parliament, nor had he ever heard of any Government having ventured to propose such a measure as was intended to be carried out in the retrospective clauses of the Bill. The noble Duke absolutely allowed a tenant to make every kind of improvement he pleased, contrary to the will of the landlord, and the latter was to be bound to pay the former for these improvements whenever the tenant pleased. The noble Duke, indeed, said there were certain sets-off and securities, which he described; but the only set-off the landlord could really bring in on balancing accounts was the damage done to these very improvements, without the slightest reference to other dilapidations or injuries to land, or to buildings. Did they ever hear the like of that before? The noble Duke would lead their Lordships to believe this Bill only sought to niche law that which was the custom in this country; but he quite failed in doing so. Would their Lordships believe it, that there was no limitation for 1519 time at all in this Bill, though the cases which the noble Duke relied on, and the judgment of the learned persons he had quoted, showed clearly that there was always such a limitation in this country, whenever compensation for improvements was granted? He said, then, that these Bills required close examination in all their details. Now, what would be the effect of their being carried into a law? What had the effect of them been in Ireland already? He had received, among many others, a letter from a gallant officer with whom he was totally unacquainted, which stated the following case:—In 1784 an ancestor of the writer made a lease by which twenty-seven acres of arable land were leased with a large tract of mountain land at the low rent of 13l. a year, with the express object of having the latter improved. The lease was now nearly run out, and the writer said he expected that the tenant, having for so many years enjoyed all the benefit of this land at such a rent, would, should these Bills pass into law, seek to make him pay for the whole of the improvements made since the year 1784, although the lease was intended to be, and was, full compensation for those improvements. He had also received a letter from a friend of his, in which he said he had just withdrawn from a transaction in the Encumbered Estates Court, in which 30,000l. worth of property was involved, "lest," said he, "I should purchase with it seventy or eighty lawsuits."
§ The DUKE of NEWCASTLE
If the noble Marquess would only take the trouble look to the 4th and 5th lines of the 5th clause of the Bill, he would see that the case he had described in such glowing terms could not possibly occur.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
Well, that was a matter they could discuss in Committee, but their Lordships had this fact, that 30,000l. worth of property had been offered for sale, but that the trustee about to purchase it had very properly withdrawn his offer on account of the probability that this Bill would pass. They had before them a Bill for the continuance of the Encumbered Estates Court. What was the use of forcing sales when they were deteriorating property and deterring persons from vesting their money in Irish property by passing such Bills as this? If they passed, there would be a mass of litigation and confusion in Ireland such as never had been seen in any country before. No noble Lord connected with Ireland could 1520 deny it. So far from the tenantry being benefited by these measures, they would be injured, and au end would be put to all improvements whatever. He ventured to assert that if the Bills passed, the tenantry of Ireland would be kept in many places under a notice to quit from quarter to quarter, and the hanging gale would be always hung in terrorem over their heads, for fear that they should take advantage of the clauses of this Bill. It was well known that in many places they were ready prepared for the passing of this Bill, and it would be a signal of the greatest confusion and social disturbance. He humbly implored their Lordships not to go on any further with these Bills at present. The question was one of the greatest gravity and importance. Let them remember how carefully and delicately it had been handled on former occasions. It was fully a year subsequent to the close of the Devon Commission before a Bill was introduced to deal with a small portion of the subject, and was rejected; and since that time various other measures, down to the Bill of Sir William Somerville, had been proposed, but without success. For the sake of their own characters, he asked the noble Duke and the Government not to attempt to force these Bills through Parliament at such a period of the Session. If they were to have any such thing as party at all, and if it was true that party was necessary in order to rule, on what party in Ireland could Government expect to rest if they dealt with property in this reckless way? This ought to be to no question of party for the Ministry one way or another. It touched nearly and deeply the whole question of the loyalty and confidence of the landed proprietors of Ireland in the Government of this country. If they saw real property in Ireland was treated in a way in which no man in his senses would think of treating real property in England or Scotland, he wanted to know what was to secure their attachment to the Crown, and their obedience to its supremacy? Let their Lordships have the whole of the Bills carefully examined by a Select Committee before passing them. When the Bills were read a second time, he would make the Motion to refer them to a Select Committee which stood in his name.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
said, that he should not have risen at the time he did, nor have attempted to follow the noble Duke, because he felt it would be more respectful to the Members of their 1521 Lordships' House who came from Ireland to give them the priority in this debate, which concerned them so nearly and so deeply; but he rose because, with more astonishment than he had ever felt since he had been a Member of their Lordships' House, and that was now twelve years—with an astonishment which must have been shared by most of their Lordships, he had heard a Minister of the Crown, on introducing a measure of a very important nature, containing nothing that could possibly excite choler and passion in any one of their Lordships—instead of making one of those calm and dignified statements which he had no doubt the noble Duke was well able to make if he chose—but, evading the subject on which he called the House to decide and judge, he suddenly made a charge—a rush, as it were—at a single Member of the House—without any provocation whatever—before he had opened his mouth on the subject, on which he had never in his life indeed spoken; and, without showing any reason for it—as, indeed, he was incapable of doing—he assumed that he (the Earl of Malmesbury) was going at once viciously and with the greatest ferocity to resist all these Bills, and to—he took down the noble Duke's words, that there might be no mistake on the subject—find loopholes to blind the House—to blink the subject—to traduce and malign Mr. Napier—and, in a word, to discharge himself of all the responsibility which attached to him, and which he still felt, as one who had been a Minister of the Government to which he (Mr. Napier) had belonged. The noble Duke assumed all that—God knows why—for, as he said, he had never uttered a sentence on the subject. Last night he merely had all asked the noble Duke if those Bills, which he said had been referred to the present law officers of the Crown, had been laid before them before or after they had passed through the Committee of the House of Commons. That was all he said, and—
§ The DUKE of NEWCASTLE
My Lords, the noble Earl distinctly said—and I am in the recollection of your Lordships when I say so—that they were not the same Bills.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
And they were not the same Bills—he repeated it—they were not, and he was ready to prove it. That the noble Duke should have made this charge, and should have used words scarcely proper to be uttered in the heat of an excited debate, only 1522 showed that the noble Duke was not yet acquainted with the first duty of a Minister of the Crown, which was not to provoke needless passion, and not to make an unprovoked attack on one for supposed intentions he did not entertain. But he knew the noble Duke to be so fond of antagonism in every shape and form, and to be so firmly convinced that a person who had been once in office was in such an unfortunate position when out of office, that every method and means should be tried by the unhappy gentleman to succeed to it again, that he imagined every one else to be actuated by the same motives. He (the Earl of Malmesbury) at once disclaimed all such notions and all such means. He disclaimed utterly that he had any wish to obtain once more the office he had unworthily filled by factious or unfair means—he told the noble Duke he did not envy him his place, and he only hoped he might keep it with greater case than he kept his temper. The question before the House was, whether the Bills now on the table were the same Bills which Mr. Napier had sanctioned; which had been approved by the Government at the time they introduced them; and which they would have made every attempt to pass through Parliament had they remained in office? When a private individual brought in a Bill to Parliament he would not be so arrogant or pedantic as to adhere to every word of it; but he did not hesitate to say that the principle of the Bills introduced by the late Government was different from the principle of the Bills now before the House. The noble Duke assumed that he (the Earl of Malmesbury) was going to abandon his former colleagues, and above all Mr. Napier, by opposing these Bills in the mass. But when the noble Duke talked of his (the Earl of Malmesbury's) late colleagues, he would ask him what was the principle of the noble Duke's colleagues with respect to this question? Was it the principle of Mr. Sharman Crawford and of Mr. Keogh, the noble Duke's intimate friend? He thought the noble Duke would find there was a much greater difference between the principle of these Gentlemen and his own, than there was between him (the Earl of Malmesbury) and Mr. Napier. He would keep to the point of refuting the charge the noble Duke had made, that he had abandoned the former intentions of the Government to which he belonged, and was now destroying the Bill of Mr. Napier. 1523 Now, as to the Leasing Powers Bill, he was free to confess it had not been so much altered during its passage through the House of Commons as to require him to ask their Lordships not to go into Committee upon it, though he would much prefer a Select Committee of their Lordships, if that was not out of the question at that period of the Session; but as to the Landlord and Tenant Bill, they had so much altered the spirit and intentions of Mr. Napier and the late Government—they had so garbled and changed it, that, though he was ready to consent to the Committee, there were many clauses which must be amended. When the noble Duke said, with all the vehemence and passion that he had displayed on that occasion, that none of those Bills had been altered, and that they were the very Bills of the late Government in spirit and intention, he (the Earl of Malmesbury) could only say that the third Bill, namely, the Tenants Compensation Bill, was the complete reverse of all that Mr. Napier's Bill was—that there was hardly a part of it for which Mr. Napier was responsible, or which he knew as his own. Would the noble Duke take his authority for that fact? [The Duke of NEWCASTLE: Certainly not.] The noble Duke said he certainly would not take his authority. Whose, then, would he take? [The Duke of NEWCASTLE: I will take the authority of Mr. Napier.] He at once accepted the noble Duke's reference to that authority. He had a letter in his hand in which the writer, talking of the Tenants' Compensation Bill, said, it was despatched by a Select Committee of the House of Commons, "and several clauses muddled together—in fact, it became a raft to which every one tried to tie a plank, and on which no one would venture to put to sea when finished." It was Mr. Napier who spoke thus of the Bill. [The Duke NEWCASTLE: What is the date of that letter?] It was dated last Thursday evening. That was Mr. Napier's description of what had passed in the Committee of the House of Commons with respect to that Bill. It was totally different both in form and substance from the Bill he had introduced. As to the other Bill, Mr. Napier wrote—"It is quite open to your Lordship to exercise your independent judgment upon it, for this is not the Bill in substance or form which I introduced." He understood the noble Duke said he would take Mr. Napier's authority, and there he had it—
§ The DUKE of NEWCASTLE
All I can say is, that a letter of the same date, which I will place in your Lordships' hands, if you please, from Mr. Napier, led me to infer Mr. Napier had a different opinion.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
He was quite ready to give the noble Duke the advantage of admitting that though Mr. Napier declared he was at liberty, as his former colleague, to act independently with respect to this Bill, because it was different from that he had sanctioned, his (Mr. Napier's) private opinion was, that this Bill should pass. But he had answered the noble Duke's challenge, that it was the same Bill Mr. Napier brought before the late Cabinet, and which he (the Earl of Malmesbury) was now going to abandon. It was his duty to be responsible for anything he had introduced as Minister; and he was the last man to desert any colleague, and least of all so distinguished and amiable a man as Mr. Napier; but was he bound to follow Mr. Napier for all the rest of his life through the Committees of the House of Commons? As long as he had been his colleague, he was ready to take the responsibility of all Mr. Napier's acts, but no further. When he used this language, he was told by the noble Duke that he would probably act in contradistinction to the manner in which Lord Derby would have acted were he not unfortunately absent; but he had that noble Earl's authority to say that he took the same view of the case. If his noble Friend had been present, he would have proposed what he (the Earl of Malmesbury) now proposed—that their Lordships should allow two of the Bills to go into Committee, but reject in toto the Tenants Compensation Bill, as one with which his noble Friend would have nothing to do, being, according to Mr. Napier's own showing, entirely different from the Bill introduced by the late Government.
The Earl of RODEN
said, he was totally unconnected with party on either side of the House; but, being interested in the welfare of Ireland, he felt bound to offer a few observations on a subject of such deep importance to that country as the present. Having attentively listened to the noble Duke's exposition of the provisions of these Bills, he confessed he felt indignation that one of the measures—the Tenants Compensation Bill—so disgraceful and unjust to the holders of property in Ireland, should have passed the House of Commons. Such a measure, 1525 he was certain, would never have been proposed to be adopted for England or Scotland; or, if proposed, would have been immediately scouted by every individual, probably, in their Lordships' House. It was nothing to him to be told that the Bill was Mr. Napier's Bill. No man had a greater respect for that learned Gentleman than he had; but from the first that moment he heard that. Mr. Napier had undertaken to propose such a measure as a panacea for all the evils complained of with respect to tenant right, and which would be satisfactory to all parties, he felt that that undertaking was perfectly illusory; and he considered that a measure which contained so unjust a provision as the retrospective clause which had been alluded to, ought to meet with no one's approbation. Were those clauses to be passed, the greatest injustice would be inflicted on the landowner, for he would be made to pay for improvements which had formed the very consideration in many cases on which he had let his land at a low rent. He was extremely sorry to learn from the noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) that he did nut intend to oppose the second reading of those Bills. He (the Earl of Roden) thought the honest course to pursue, when a bad measure was introduced into that House or elsewhere, was to oppose it at once, and to come at once to a decision upon its principle. He should think it his duty to take their Lordships' opinion as to the second reading of those Bills. Considering that their Lordships' House had never had an opportunity of inquiring into the details of the measures of his noble Friend (the Duke of Newcastle) now under consideration, thought the straightforward course for their Lordships to pursue was to reject Motion for the second reading of the whole of them.
The EARL of WICKLOW
said, he was sorry that these Bills had come before their Lordships at so late a period of the Session, and that the Government should have reserved them to be brought into Parliament altogether. However, as their Lordships had been driven to consider them together, it was with great satisfaction that he had heard the course which the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) proposed to take on this occasion. With respect to the Landlord and Tenant Bill, and the Leasing Powers Bill, he was not able to discover any great discrepancy between them and the draughts 1526 originally drawn by Mr. Napier. There had certainly been alterations made, but they were not of such a nature as to justify any decided opposition to them on that ground. The Tenants Compensation Bill had, however, been so much altered, that perhaps it might not be altogether just to call it Mr. Napier's Bill. He thought, at that period of the Session, they would not be able to give a fair consideration to the Tenants Compensation Bill; but with respect to the other two Bills—the Landlord and Tenant Bill and the Leasing Powers Bill—he thought they were not of such a character as to prevent their Lordships dealing with them at once, late in the Session though it was. He knew they were called Landlords' Bills; but the first contained provisions which were fully as much for the advantage of the tenant as the landlord; and with regard to the second he might observe, that there was at the present time a most anxious desire on the part of scientific persons to search for mines in Ireland; and to his own knowledge there were persons of experience in different parts of the country who were endeavouring to ascertain how they could employ their capital in mining operations; and it was most desirable that their Lordships, by the Leasing Powers Bill, should confer on tenants for life in that country the means of enabling those individuals to carry on their pursuits. He hoped they would adopt the proposal of the noble Earl, who stated that he had the authority of the head of the great party on the other side of the House for expressing the opinions he had delivered. He hoped their Lordships would give to two of those Bills at least a second reading, and allow them to go into Committee; at the same time their Lordships might likewise hold out the expectation that early in next Session they would give a full consideration to the third of those Bills, to which the minds of the people of Ireland were so anxiously directed. Until the matter was set at rest agitation would not subside in Ireland. It they thought the question was at rest because nothing had been said on the subject for the last few months, they were mistaken. The reason why the feeling on the subject was suppressed during the interval, was because it was known that the Bills were under the consideration of a Select Committee of the other House, and there was a desire to give time to the House of Commons to consider the subject. It should be observed that their 1527 Lordships' House was a House of landlords, where the tenant had no representative whatever; and if they threw aside all the measures on which the time of the Committee of the House of Commons had been expended for the last six months, it would not only be a gross injustice to the people of Ireland, but an insult to the Committee of the House of Commons. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had put some of his objections in a way that astonished him. The noble Marquess had said that the Bill proposed to give full compensation to the tenant, if the building he had erected was in good repair, although he might have wasted the land and left it in a state of dilapidation. The Bill, on the contrary, particularly guarded against such a grievance by declaring that, in reference to compensation, the state in which the land was left was one of the circumstances to be taken into consideration. Again, the noble Marquess gave their Lordships to understand that if a tenant let his house get out of repair, he would save so much rent, although that provision only referred to labourers' cottages, and would come into operation only the landlord neglecting to keep them in repair, as by the Bill he was bound to do. With respect to timber property to which the noble Marquess had referred, he (the Earl of Wicklow) considered that no provision of the Bill was stronger for the for protection of property than the provision in respect to the kind of property he had just mentioned. The cheers which followed the speech of the noble Marquess proved to him that their Lordships had not read the Bill with much attention. The noble Earl (the Earl of Roden) said he was not connected with party on either side; neither had he (the Earl of Wicklow) party affection so strong as to induce him to support the Bill as a Ministerial measure if he thought it was fraught with all the objections that had been urged against it; but he was not apprehensive of danger from this Bill if the objections were taken in an open and fair manner for the purpose of going into Committee upon them. The retrospective clause as at present existing, was one to which he could never give his assent; but, at the same time, he was not opposed to a retrospective provision of some kind; on the contrary, he would like to see a well-considered and well-guarded provision of a retrospective character adopted. He would suppose the case of a tenant there who had improved and drained his farm, 1528 and built a good house upon it, trusting to his landlord's sense of justice, the landlord perhaps not having given his consent in writing, though he had ocular demonstration of what the tenant was doing, and never said anything to impede him; and suppose that tenant voted against the landlord at an election, would it not be a gross and monstrous injustice that on that account he should be served with an ejectment, and compelled to quit his farm? He would not say that was the general practice, but instances of that kind had occurred. Would it not be monstrous, when they were passing laws with respect to landlord and tenant, if they did not guard against a case of that kind? Or suppose the landlord wanted to consolidate his property, and to get that farm to add to another, would it not be a monstrous injustice that all the improvements made by the tenant, and tacitly sanctioned by the landlord himself, should be lost? It was against evils of that kind that he thought a retrospective clause would be effective, and to that extent he thought a retrospective clause would be desirable. It was said that a retrospective clause in the third Bill, as now drawn, was very objectionable; and that which appeared to be its greatest objection was that which the noble Duke said had been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland. It was said that it was intended to prevent litigation, and that the retrospective clause would not have operation unless where the tenant gave notice to the landlord within the next twelve months of his intention to apply for compensation. He (the Earl of Wicklow) thought a clause of that kind to be one of the most mischievous that could be introduced; for the result would be that every man, with a lease or without a lease, who had expended anything at any period of time in the improvement of the land, however he might have derived all the advantages contemplated by that improvement, would have a chance hereafter, at the termination of his tenancy, which otherwise he would not have, of receiving compensation; and he would, as a matter of course, give notice within the twelve months of his intention to apply for that compensation. The consequence would be that every tenant throughout the kingdom would register an account of his expenditure in the improvement of his farm—that immediately He would suppose the case of a tenant there would be a protest against the demand on the part of the landlord—and 1529 that the whole country, from one end to the other, would be embroiled by dissensions between landlords and tenants. So far as that Bill was concerned, if they went into Committee, he trusted they would make very material alterations in that particular part of it. He hoped their Lordships would not, by rejecting the proposal of the noble Earl opposite, go into Committee on the first two Bills on the paper, excite a feeling in that country that that House would not accede to the reasonable demands of the people, for by that means irreparable mischief might be done.
§ LORD ST. LEONARDS
said, he wished to say a few words on the subject, without the slightest reference to party, for in truth there never was a question which could be considered less a party question. It was impossible for any one who had been connected with the late Government to deny the necessity that existed for taking some steps on this subject; and that they had resolved to lay before Parliament Bills for the same general purpose and for the same general object:—for that Government certainly did intend to consolidate the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland, and they also intended to introduce a Bill to meet that which was so much pressed for—compensation to tenants. He could not, therefore, consider the present Government as open to the slightest blame in bringing forward those measures that had come from the other House, any more than the late Government would have been in similar circumstances. But still, it was a question whether the Bills in their present shape were such as should be passed by the House. As regarded the great question of compensation, he considered himself bound to endeavour to effect what would be serviceable to Ireland on that question; but, certainly, he had never bound himself to any clause whatever as regarded past compensation. [The Duke of NEWCASTLE: There was such a clause in the Bill as introduced by the late Government.] The noble Duke said there was such a clause in the Bill as originally brought in. All he could say was, that he would have exercised the right of judgment on that subject, and he might observe that it was always fully intended that that portion of the question should be left clear and open for discussion. Just as the noble Duke himself had expressed his disapprobation of a particular part of the measures, and stated what he had formerly proposed to do in reference to the same point, he (Lord 1530 St. Leonards) would not now say a single word that he would not have uttered if he had still occupied the place of his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack. There was in addition to the Bills now before them another measure—namely, the Land Improvement Bill—which stood for a third reading, and the four Bills together would form a code of law as between landlord and tenant; and a blessed consummation to Ireland it would be if they could pass those laws with safety and a due attention to the interests of all concerned. He should begin with the Landlord and Tenant Bill, in which the law of landlord and tenant had been consolidated with great learning and labour, and to reject that Bill would be entirely out of the question. If the Government on their own responsibility would say this was a Bill for which they would be answerable—that it had been prepared with so much care as not to require to be referred to a Select Committee, then those noble Lords who had confidence in the Government would be content to take the Bill as it stood; but other noble Lords might naturally say they ought to have an opportunity of forming an opinion of the particular measure. For himself he could declare that if the Government were prepared to say that the measure was framed with so much care that it was fit to go at once to a Committee of the whole House, be would not oppose that proposition. Then he would come to the second Bill, with respect to the Leasing Powers. A more important Bill was never before Parliament; and he was prepared at once to say, that to attempt to go through that Bill in the then state of the House would be a simple mockery. Some of the clauses were entirely new; some were copied from other Acts; and some were a sort of commentary upon them. It was not simply a Bill relating to the powers of leasing, but it conferred extensive and enlarged powers in regard to compensation and the extension of terms originally granted in lieu of improvement. Under its provisions a lease of an extensive description and for a long term was to be given; and superadded to that the most extensive provisions for giving compensation at the end of the term, and frequently extending the term for a great number of years in lieu of improvements. What improvements? Why, the improvements in respect of which the original extraordinary term was granted to him. In England, a man having got a lease of a farm for thirty, forty, fifty, or sixty years, 1531 calculated the gains and losses, and formed an opinion of the sort of a house he could venture to erect on such a lease. The duration of the lease was the consideration for making the improvements; but here the landlord was not only called upon to give that consideration, but was also called upon at the expiration of the term to pay for the improvements in money, or by the extension of the time for which the lease was originally granted; and that he (Lord St. Leonards) considered was not only a contradiction in terms, but a violation of all principle. He did not say the Bill could not be made to work for the benefit and advantage of Ireland by the exercise of great care and caution: but he would represent to their Lordships that in the present state of the Bill it was not a fit measure to pass the House. He thought it should go to a Select Committee, and that it should there receive the most elaborate examination and consideration. As to the Tenant Compensation Bill, which was intended to come in aid of the Lands Improvement Bill, which now stood for the third reading, he should not object to it on a moderate scale and on fair grounds; but he must consider how it was to be done. He was pledged to a certain extent under the late Government to a measure of compensation, and he held himself now and for ever pledged to the same extent, and if a Bill could be framed to protect the just rights of property on the one hand, and the just expectations of the tenant on the other, he should be prepared to consider it; but, he was bound to say that he thought the proposition entirely objectionable, because no rights of property could be safe, if they passed this Bill, with reference to compensation for past improvements. Let them see what its effects might be on a purchaser of a property. By such a measure they would shift the burden from the landlord, who had the benefit of the improvements, to the shoulders of the purchaser, who ought not to bear it. They would strike at the root of all property, and all the blessings of property, properly understood, would pass away, if they allowed themselves to pass a law like that. There never was a Bill laid upon the table of the of House that would cause so much litigation. For example, a tenant from wear to year, on receiving notice to quit, might serve notice of waking improvements, and though he should be forced out before all the improvements were executed, be would be entitled to demand compen- 1532 sation from the landlord for all he had done. In the next place, there was this great singularity in the measure, that the power of the tenant was merely permissive; there was no obligation on the tenant to make the improvements of which he had given notice; and whenever, therefore, the tenant chose to annoy and perplex the landlord, he might do so by serving notice of making improvements, 'though he had no intention of ever carrying them into effect. The landlord might, if he pleased, execute the improvements of which the tenant gave notice, but he must execute them just as the tenant required; if not—the old story—he must go before the assistant barrister. But if the landlord should elect to make the improvements, he must execute them within three months; and among other things which he would be obliged to do within that limited period was to convert bog into arable or pasture land. The bare allusion to that circumstance showed how necessary it was that Bills of this nature should undergo careful consideration. Suppose the landlord to have made the improvements, the tenant might object to the expense, and carry the case before the assistant barrister, without whose intervention it seemed impossible to do anything in Ireland. Suppose the assistant barrister should decide against the tenant, he might then appeal to the Judge of assize, and if the Jude should also decide against him, he might then give up possession. Let not their Lordships, for the sake of preventing what was called a "collision" with the other House, or for the sake of popularity, or on account of a pressure from without, pass imperfect measures like these. Their Lordships would consider and amend them if the opportunity of doing so were afforded them. It had never fallen to his lot to see business conducted with greater ability than in the Select Committees of their Lordships' House; and he would go further, and express his conviction that if the people at large were aware of the able manner in which the real business of the country was transacted in that house, they would feel that they owed their Lordships a deep debt of gratitude.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
said, he confessed it was with some concern he observed the feeling which seemed to prevail among their Lordships with respect to these Bills; for he had hoped that after the abortive labour of ten years the moment had arrived when it was possible to bring this 1533 difficult and exciting question to a satisfactory conclusion. There could be no doubt of the fact that these Bills—whether they retained precisely their original form or not—were substantially the same with those introduced by the late Government, and that they had been taken up by the present Government; and these circumstances naturally inspired him with a hope that they would form such a settlement as would, in the opinion of their Lordships generally, be satisfactory. He perceived the reverse to be the case, and he could not but see, from the tone the discussion had taken, that a majority of their Lordships were of a different opinion. He wished it to be understood most specifically that in taking up these Bills the Government had no other object in view than the benefit of the country for which they were intended; and as he saw a large number of noble Peers opposite connected with Ireland, he begged to assure them, one and all, that Her Majesty's Government had no other object—that they could have no other object—than that which he was sure brought them here—to promote the substantial and permanent good of the country. That being the case—without entering into the details of these measures, but looking at the view which had been expressed generally by their Lordships, and which he believed he was right in supposing, was the opinion of the majority of the House, he felt it would be in vain for him to attempt to press these measures on the consideration of the House in the present Session. He therefore was prepared to assent to the proposition which bad been made early in the evening by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde), that the Bills should be read a second time, and not be further proceeded with during the present Session. He believed their Lordships would do wisely to assent to the second reading; for, if they did not, he feared they might give rise to much misconstruction of their motives. But if their Lordships would consent to the second reading of these Bills, lie, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, was prepared to promise that at the earliest period of next Session, the whole subject should be taken into consideration—probably in that House in the first instance—with the view of seeing whether they could not at last arrive at a final and satisfactory settlement of this very difficult and long-agitated question. Their lordships would remember that these Bills had 1534 been before the other House eight or nine months; that they had occupied the continued attention of that House—they had been examined by a Select Committee, and that the greatest pains had been taken to make them as free from objection as possible. It was not, therefore, any want of attention that was required to bring them to a more perfect state, But he was prepared to say this—that if the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord St. Leopards) would give to the future investigation of the subject the same wide and just view which he had exhibited that night, he should entertain great hopes of a favourable issue. He would abstain from discussing the merits of the Bills; but he thought the proposition made by the noble Marquess ought to be satisfactory, and that their Lordships should accept the second reading upon the understanding which he had ventured to express.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
said, the noble Earl at the head of the Government had, in the course which he adopted, shown the judgment which might have been expected from his great experience. Having been a Member of the late Government, and fully cognisant of the principles on which the Bills were founded, he was quite as anxious as the noble Earl himself for the settlement of the question. With pleasure he had heard the noble Earl announce that at an early period of the next Session he would bring the question forward, and submit to their Lordships Bills analogous to those now before them. Before resuming his seat, he must call the noble Earl's attention to the inconvenience and injury which resulted from bringing important business before their Lordships at a late period of the Session. The remedy for the evil was to originate more measures in that House.
The EARL of DONOUGHMORE
expressed his gratification at the prospect of a settlement of the question next Session; and, with reference to an allusion made to him by the Duke of Newcastle, explained that Mr. Napier did not submit the Bills to his consideration, but that, having seen them, he had expressed a general approval of their principle.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
said, that under the circumstances, he would not proceed with his Motion for referring the Bills to a Select Committee.
§ Bill read 2a.
§ House adjourned to Thursday next.