HL Deb 02 August 1860 vol 160 cc470-7

Order of the Day for the House to be put into a Committee on the Bill road.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on the said Bill.


rose to move that this Bill be referred to a Select Committee. Ho must disclaim hostility to the measure, but it was one of very great importance, and materially affected the interest and position of landlords in Ireland; yet it bad come up to that House at a time when most Irish Peers had left town. Ho objected to the measure, in the first place, because he did not think that the legal gentlemen to whom disputes between landlord and tenant wore to be referred for arbitration were qualified to decide questions of that description. Another most serious objection he had to the measure was the provision for registering disputes between landlord and tenant, and thus giving publicity to the private affairs of the landlord. He believed that this Bill, instead of promoting the improvements of land in Ireland, would have quite a contrary effect. It placed the landlord in a very invidious position in regard to his tenant, and was calculated to produce endless disputes and misunderstandings between the two. He would not conceal from their Lordships that he deprecated legislation on this subject at all. He did not think that Parliament ought to meddle with the private relations of landlord and tenant, and it was certainly an interference which was very unusual. It might perhaps be desirable to legislate for the purpose of facilitating the improvement of land by tenants for life; but they were bound at least to legislate on an equitable principle, and to avoid placing the landlord in an invidious position. There were some good points in the Bill, but there was much that was very objectionable. It was unjust towards the landlord, and to a certain extent even unfair to the tenant; and they might depend upon it that a measure which did not do full justice to both would be no less disadvantageous to the one than to the other. If, therefore, their Lordships wished to legislate justly and wisely between landlord and tenant they would refer the Bill to a Select Committee with a view to its being thoroughly sifted.

Amendment moved, to leave out from ("That") to the end of the Motion, and insert ("the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.")


said, that he could not regard the noble Viscount, who had pronounced the Bill unjust and oppressive, as friendly towards it, and that he felt it his duty to oppose the Motion to refer it to a Select Committee. It was very undesirable that the progress of the Bill should be further delayed. The noble Viscount complained that the Bill should have been brought forward at a time when so many-Irish Peers had left town; but the attendance of Peers now was as large as it generally was throughout the Session. The subject had been already inquired into by a Select Committee in both Houses of Parliament, and, as the question was one which affected the interests of landlords and tenants, it was necessary, to avoid misconstruction, that the reasons which induced their Lordships, who represented the landlord interest, to amend or reject the Bill, should be fully and publicly stated.


protested altogether against a Bill of this nature being brought forward in connection with Ireland. Transactions in reference to these matters ought to be conducted in Ireland the same as they were in this country. There was nothing to justify the assumption that it was expedient that provision should be made to facilitate the improvement of landlord and tenant in Ireland. Were not landed proprietors and tenants in Ireland gifted with common sense enough to conduct their own affairs without this kind of legislation? There had been a great deal of agitation on the subject of tenant-right. This was made a party cry for political purposes; and in some degree this Bill was the offspring of that cry and agitation. The transactions that took place between landlord and tenant were as much matters of private bargain as any other; and he therefore called upon all noble Lords who were landlords—whether English, Scotch, or Irish—to come forward and declare that they would not sanction this kind of legislative interference with them, by putting a veto on this Bill.


was understood to support the reference to a Select Committee; though it was at the same time highly desirable that the Bill should be passed this Session. He would remind the noble Marquess that this was not the first occasion on which their Lordships had legislated on this subject; and that in 1854 they bad adopted a Bill which went much further than the present one.


thought it was impossible for their Lordships to do justice to the clauses of this Bill in a Committee of the Whole House, or to deal with them in a manner that would be satisfactory to themselves or the public. He was, however, perfectly favourable to the measure; and if he believed that the Motion for referring it to a Select Committee would endanger its success, he should vote against that proposition. The Government deserved the best thanks of the public for the attention they had devoted to this subject; and his only anxiety was to see the measure pass in such a shape as would effect a permanent settlement of this question. If their Lordships sent the Bill to a Select Committee, they would doubtless do so with a sincere desire to carry out all its essential provisions, without raising any captious objections.


had no great affection for this measure; but would recommend that if it were referred to a Select Committee, it should be so referred with a distinct understanding that it should be passed in all its essential parts. Although he could not anticipate that the Bill would have all the pacifying influence which had been claimed for it; yet it was an honest measure which had been much considered by the other House, and he thought their Lordships would do well to pass it.


did not think their Lordships should allow themselves to be altogether led away by the notion that this Bill could not be discussed in a Committee of the Whole House. They had already had Select Committees of both Houses upon this subject; and certainly, as far as the satisfaction of the public out of doors, who read their debates was concerned, it would be far better that they should devote a little time to this discussion in the Whole House, instead of in a Select Committee, in which no report of the arguments or speeches on either side would be published. With regard to the two proposals which had been made on this question, he appealed to any lawyer whether the measure of the Government was not, simple and easy of comprehension by unlearned persons; while the noble Lord's Bill was most difficult to understand.

On Question, Whether the words proposed So be left out shall stand part of the Motion?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 34; Not-Contents 30: Majority 4.

Resolved in the Affirmative.

House in Committee accordingly.

Clauses 1 to 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 (Definition of Improvements).


moved to omit Paragraph 7.

On Question, "Whether the Words proposed to be left out shall stand Part of the Clause?"

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 23; Not-Contents 30: Majority 7.

Resolved in the Negative. Paragraph struck out. Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 12 to 23 agreed to.

Clause 24 (this Clause and the subsequent clauses down to Clause 32, formed Part II. of the Bill, and enacted a code of "Leasing Powers" applicable to the purview of the measure).


proposed to strike out the whole of this section, and to substitute other provisions to the same intent, framed on the provisions of the Bill of 1853, which had been assented to by the House of Commons.


thought it would be better not to encumber the Bill with these details. It would be inexpedient to send down to the other House an entirely different measure from the one which it had passed.


supported the Amendment.


objected generally to the clauses on the ground that, inter alia, they conferred powers of granting building and mining leases without the sanction of any Court to guard against the interests of those who had reversionary or other interests being prejudiced. This was contrary to the principle of the Leases and Settled Estates Act, and the recommendations of the Committees who had inquired into that subject.


hoped his noble Friend would not press these clauses. The Bill was quite clear and intelligible as it stood, and great pains had been taken with it elsewhere by those whom he very highly respected. It would be invidious to send back in the Bill a series of clauses which the Commons had rejected on a division, however small the majority. The introduction of these clauses at the present period of the Session might occasion a difficulty, and he was very unwilling that anything should be done to prevent the passing of some measure on this subject. It was very important that this question should, if possible, be settled this Session, ho should, therefore, prefer legislation, even though loss perfect, with the chance of obtaining the sanction of the other House, to that which technically might be more complete, but involving the risk of further discussion and delay. He therefore hoped his noble Friend would not press the consideration of his Amendments, but consider the various clauses in the Bill as introduced by the Government.


consented to withdraw his Amendments.

Amendment negatived.

Clause 25 (Power of Limited owner to Lease.


moved as an Amendment, extending the provisions of the clause to building leases, and to substitute, for the Chairman of Quarter Sessions, one of the Judges of the Landed Estates Court, as the authority whose previous sanction should he obtained by the limited owner of an estate before granting such a lease. He said that the Chairmen or Assistant Barristers of counties in Ireland ought not to have such an invidious duty imposed upon them, and however eminent in the legal profession, they could not be expected to he competent to deal with questions of the valuation and management of landed estates. The Landed Estates Court in Ireland, which was expressly occupied with such matters, was the tribunal to which these questions on leases ought to be referred.

Amendment moved, after "Improvement," to insert "or Building."


said, the Assistant Barristers and Chairmen of County Sessions in Ireland were a most valuable body of men, who enjoyed the confidence of all classes of the people; and he should be sorry to cast upon them any duties which might tend to impair their position, where they had to decide between the conflicting interests of the parties. He had, however, to ask whether it was true that many of those Gentlemen had expressed an unwillingness to undertake the functions proposed to be thrown upon them by this measure.


said, it was not correct that they had expressed any such objections to the Government, and he believed their local knowledge would enable them to discharge the duty better than the Landed Estates Court in Dublin could do. One of the most valuable benefits which this Bill might be expected to confer upon Ireland was that it would enable leases to be granted in such a case without the expense of an application to the Court of Chancery for its sanction. But if an application to the Lauded Estates Court were to be required, the expense would not be so much reduced.

The Marquess of WESTMEATH and Viscount DUNGANNON were understood to support the Amendment; the Duke of LEIN-STER to oppose it.

On Question, their Lordships divided:—Contents 19; Not-Contents 20: Majority 1.


moved an Amendment limiting the term of a building lease to 60 years. Ho had no objection to take a shorter term, as 40 years, or a longer term, if the House thought proper, but he wished some limit to be fixed, so that a life owner might not be able to make away with ground for building houses or cottages in perpetuity, to the injury of the estate for ever.


begged to remind the noble Marquess that no such building lease could be granted without the sanction of the Landed Estates Court, which might disapprove of the lease without qualification if it should appear to be unfair or prejudicial to the estate.

After discussion,


altered his Amendment so as to provide that building leases might be granted for periods not exceeding 99 years.

Amendment moved, after ("Years") to insert ("and of a Building Lease shall not exceed Ninety-nine Years").

On Question, their Lordships divided:—Contents 24; Not-Contents 17:—Majority 7.


suggested that it would be desirable to introduce a restriction in building leases, to the effect that the buildings to be constructed should be of a certain value, so as to prevent the erection of miserable cabins. The noble Earl said he was not prepared, at present, to specify the exact amount.

Clauses 26 to 39 inclusive agreed to.

Clause 40 (Consent of Owner).


said, the Amendment he was going to propose was the most important of all those of which he had given notice in reference to this Bill. The clause as it stood provided that a tenant should serve a notice upon his landlord of his intention to make certain improvements, and if within three months after such service the landlord did not object and lodge his objection with the clerk of the peace of the county against such proposed improvements, the tenant should have the power to proceed in making them. He could not conceive anything more unfair against a landlord than to allow a tenant to take advantage of any accident which might happen—it would be to allow a tenant to proceed in making improvements without the landlord's consent. On the other hand he would propose this: that a tenant should serve a notice upon his landlord or the agent of his intention to make improvements, and that he should not be allowed to proceed with them unless the landlord or agent should serve a notice in writing expressing his approval of the proposed alterations. He did not see what objection there could be to have the written consent of the landlord in a case where the tenant was to have the benefit of the alterations. The noble Marquess then moved Amendments the effect of which was to render the written consent of the owner necessary.


was understood to oppose the Amendment. It was no doubt a very important one, and would, if sanctioned, prevent the Bill having the effect which it was intended—it would, in short, have the effect of putting a stop to improvements by a tenant.


said, the object of the clause as it stood was to enable both landlord and tenant to act together in making certain improvements, and the mode provided by the Bill was that the tenant should give a notice to the landlord, and that the landlord should then, within three months, express his dissent to the improvements and lodge a notice with the clerk of the peace to that effect. Undoubtedly that was placing the landlord in a very invidious position. It was requiring him to express in writing an opposition to improvements and to make a publication of his objections by sending them to the clerk of the peace. The Amendment proposed had nothing to do with evictions. It merely proposed that the approval of the landlord should be substituted for his disapproval—in short that no improvements should be entered upon without his expressed approval. If the Amendment should be agreed to, landlords would not be placed in that invidious position which the clause contemplated in requiring them to exercise a veto, and in publicly expressing their disapprobation to the clerk of the peace within a given time. He thought the Amendment should be adopted.


said, the whole question turned upon this:—Was the landlord's silence in not giving notice to the clerk of the peace to be taken for a consent to the proposed improvements by the tenant? He disapproved of the clause as it stood, and should feel himself obliged to vote against it.


said, if a landlord were so unmindful of his own interests as not to return a reply to the notice be received in the space of three months, it must be fairly assumed that ho consented to the improvements proposed by the tenant. He objected to an express written consent being required from the landlord, but he would agree to an Amendment of the clause to the extent that a landlord should not be required to lodge his objection with the clerk of the peace.


felt that the whole question depended on the validity of the notice. This ought to be served personally either on the landlord or Ins agent, and not, as the clause proposed, through the medium of the post.


expressed his willingness to alter the clause in accordance with the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord.

After some further discussion Clause, as Amended, agreed to.

Clauses 41 to 56 agreed to.

Clause 57 struck out.

Remaining Clauses agreed to.

The Report of the Amendments to be received on Monday next.