HL Deb 11 May 1866 vol 183 cc745-65

, in moving the second reading of the Bill, said, the subject with which it dealt was one which had in recent years been very much discussed in both Houses of Parliament and in the country. He, nevertheless, deemed it to be due to their Lordships to state the reasons which induced him to bring forward a measure which many persons might think would have been more properly introduced by the Government. It was maintained in more than one quarter that the existing law of land tenure in Ireland served all the purposes which such a law should be enacted to promote, and so far as the principles on which it was based were concerned, he was perfectly ready to concur in that opinion. The present Bill, therefore, did not in any way propose to alter those principles. On the other hand, he thought it would be generally admitted by every one who had paid the slightest attention to the affairs of Ireland, that the relations between landlord and tenant in that country were not altogether satisfactory, and that it was desirable to place them, if possible, on an improved footing. Much had been said lately on the question of tenant-right, and upon the disputes which arose between the owners and the occupiers of the soil in that country; but it was quite clear that no law could make either a good landlord or a good tenant, and that such disputes would continue under the operation of any system of land tenure, however sound it might be in itself. There was, at the same time, no good reason why an attempt should not be made to simplify the law so far as that object could be effected. The subject of occupation and ownership of land was one which had excited disputes and discussion, as far back, at least, as the days of the Romans, and there were passages in the work of Cicero De Officiis, which would be found to be applicable to the discussions upon it which had recently taken place in Ireland. The oldest decision which he had been able to discover in connection with the disputes between landlord and tenant in Ireland arose in the days of Queen Elizabeth, when it was imposed as a condition upon the great Earl of Desmond, who came over here to answer for his rebellious conduct, that he should abolish arbitrary distraint for rent on his property, and have recourse for its recovery to the Queen's Courts by complaint to the Lord Deputy or to the President of the Council in Munster. From that time to the present day the subject had occupied more or less of attention, and for some years past the establishment of a system of tenant-right was advocated with the view of placing the tenure of land in that country upon a more satisfactory basis. He, however, had never been able to get from any of those gentlemen who were in favour of what they called tenant-right a clear explanation of what it was they meant by the term. It was supposed to have its origin in the reign of James I.; and it was believed that certain conditions were imposed on the settlers in Ulster with respect to their dealings with the dwellers on the land, which implied a species of fixity of tenure. That principle had never been recognized in law; and he might, he thought, fairly say that the views which were at the present day advocated by some of those who were the supporters of tenant-right went, in reality, to the extent of abolishing the landlord, as such, and giving the tenant the right to deal with the land as he might think fit upon payment of a fixed rent-charge. Unfortunately, the name of no less an authority than Mr. J. Stuart Mill had been quoted in support of those extreme views, and there were, no doubt, passages in his works which went to a considerable length in that direction. Those passages had, however, been greatly modified in his subsequent editions and writings, and the authority of this philosophic statesman could, he believed, no longer be fairly quoted to strengthen a position which had no foundation in justice. He had said thus much on the question of tenant-right, not because it had anything to do with the provisions of the present Bill, but because it had, in his opinion, a great deal more influence than it ought to have had with the Government of the country. He was, he might add, asking their Lordships, in the proposal he was about to make, to assent to no new principle. In the year 1850, shortly after the famine in Ireland and the establishment of the Incumbered Estates Court, which very much altered landed property there, a measure was prepared under the auspices of Sir William Somerville—the present Lord Athlumney—dealing with the subject, but owing to a change of Government it was laid aside. Again, in 1853, two Bills having reference to the tenure of land in Ireland came up to their Lordships' House from the House of Commons, which were fully discussed; but no legislation on the question took place until 1860, when a Bill was passed into law, which, although it was based on the sound principle of making all transactions between landlord and tenant dependent on written contracts, yet, unfortunately, had some clauses introduced into it, authorizing contracts by implication, which were calculated to make its operation less advantageous than would otherwise be the case. He had that very morning a somewhat extraordinary instance brought under his notice of the inefficiency of that Act for its purpose. The Act declared that a tenant might, in lieu of certain emblements, remain in possession of his holding until the end of the current year. In an ejectment case between a noble Earl a Member of that House and one of his tenants, tried the other day in the Court of Queen's Bench, Dublin, it was argued for the plaintiff that the time meant was the end of the calendar year, while for the defendant it was contended that it meant the end of the current year of the tenancy, no matter on what day it ended. The question, which was one of general importance, had been previously discussed at the assizes, and was now elaborately re-argued by Serjeant Armstrong, Q.C., M.P., and Mr. J. B. Walshe, Q.C., for the plaintiff; and by Mr. Hemphill, Q.C., and Mr. Shaw, Q.C., for the defendant. The Court were of opinion that a calendar year was not meant by the Act, but the year which would determine with the period when the tenancy was created, and they directed a nonsuit to be entered with costs There was frequently great misrepresentation indulged in with regard to the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland; and, although those relations were not in quite a satisfactory state, still they were not as bad as was often asserted. It had been represented, not only throughout Ireland and Great Britain, but also throughout the world, that the diminution in the population of Ireland had taken place principally, if not entirely, by reason of the harshness and cruelty of the landlords in evicting their tenants. That was a most unjustifiable and extravagant statement. Taking a large portion of the estates of Ireland, the landlords and tenants lived upon excellent terms, and their relations were as good as those which prevailed in any other countries. Undoubtedly in Ireland there might be here and there a bad landlord as well as a bad tenant; but apart from any ill-disposition on either side, they must expect those various contingencies to arise which would occur in all human affairs, and which would from time to time involve disputes. That could not be entirely prevented, and all they could do was to simplify the law as much as possible in order that no injustice should be done. He would call their Lordships' attention to a comparison of evictions and emigrants in the ten years ending in 1862. In that period the number of evictions in Ireland was 12,350 and the number of persons evicted, allowing an average of 4½ for each family, was about 59,187; whereas the number of emigrants in those ten years was no fewer than 963,167. So that only about one in sixteen of those emigrants could have been driven by eviction out of the country; there were besides numbers who left Ireland for England or Scotland, and were not returned as emigrants. But let him take the number of holdings which had diminished in Ireland, with their occupants, and compare it with the diminution of the population in the twenty years ending in 1862. The number of tenements or holdings in that period had fallen off by 120,000; and reckoning that each of their occupants had a family averaging 4½ persons, that would give them a total of about 540,000 persons connected with those holdings who had left the land voluntarily or on compulsion. But the diminution of the population within those same twenty years was 2,400,000. That showed that the population were not only not driven out by the landlords, but that they actually did not leave any large number of holdings in consequence of the conduct of the landlords. The fact was that a large proportion of those people left Ireland because they found a better market for their labour elsewhere, and the wholesale accusations about the landlords driving them out were utterly unfounded in fact. The Bill now before their Lordships contained very simple provisions. It did not alter the principles of the present law in any respect. It adopted fully the recommendations of the Committee of the other House of Parliament which sat last Session, and the evidence taken before which was highly instructive. That Committee reported that they— Having examined several witnesses on the recommendation of the promoters of the inquiry, are of opinion that the principle of the Act of 1860 embodied in the 38th and 40th sections— namely, that compensation to tenants should only be secured upon the improvements made with the consent of the landlord—should be maintained. The chief object of the present Bill was to cause every agreement between landlord and tenant to be by a written contract. It gave a summary remedy in cases of breach of such contracts by providing that all disputes between landlord and tenant should be decided in the Quarter Sessions Civil Bill Court of the county, subject to an appeal to the Judge of Assize and on special points of law either to the Judge of Assize or to the Superior Courts. It would enable a judgment to be obtained easily and cheaply, whether for the tenant or the landlord. He did not propose that this Bill should be passed through the House quickly, but simply that it should be read a second time, and then be suspended until the other measure having a similar object—lately introduced into the other House by Her Majesty's Government—might come before their Lordships. The Bills could then be considered together, and probably a sound and satisfactory settlement of the question might be attained. His Bill proposed to abolish the power of distraint, which might be thought prejudicial to the landlord; but, on the other hand, it gave him a cheap and easy remedy to recover rent and enforce contracts.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Clanricarde.)


said, he was certain that every one connected with Ireland must feel grateful to the noble Marquess for the admirable manner in which he had drawn attention to the subject, as well as for the elaborate care and labour which he had manifestly bestowed upon the Bill. He thought, however, that the noble Marquess could hardly expect that the Government would undertake the responsibility of asking their Lordships to give a second reading to this Bill, when they had a measure of their own already introduced into the other House of Parliament. It would be extremely unreasonable to expect the Government to confer the right of primogeniture upon the offspring of the noble Marquess, however robust it might be, to the manifest prejudice and detriment of their own legitimate progeny. The noble Marquess seemed anxious that his Bill should play the part of the infant Jacob. It thrust forward its importunate little arms, that their Lordships might bless it, and that it might obtain a birthright over its elder brother which had already seen the light of day in another place. That Bill had been drawn with great care by the Irish Government, and it was impossible for Her Majesty's Government to commit themselves to the principle of the present measure, which was not only discordant with that of the Government, but would entail a total reconstruction and remodelling of the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland. The noble Marquess, before he asked the House to assent to the second reading of such a Bill, ought to show that the present state of the law upon the subject was intolerably bad, and that the moderate measure proposed by the Government would not provide a remedy for the evil. The noble Marquess gave their Lordships to understand that his Bill did nothing more than consolidate and amend the existing law of landlord and tenant, and that it introduced no new principle of legislation. But he (Lord Dufferin) joined issue with the noble Marquess on this point, and he failed to see any ground for embarking in so wide a labour as the reconstruction of the agricultural law of Ireland. The present law of landlord and tenant in Ireland had been in force for a number of years, and various decisions had been given upon it. The decisions which depended upon Acts of Parliament were like the down-stretching branches of the banyan tree, which partake of the character and add to the stability of the parent stem; and before any one meddled with so important a growth, which had already struck such deep root in the legal practice and constitution of the country, he was bound to prove that what he proposed would be to a great extent better than what he intended to repeal. That he ventured to say the noble Marquess had entirely failed to do. And when it was remembered that the greatest trouble had been taken with the question, that Committee after Committee had sat upon it in that and the other House of Parliament, and that after repeated failures the law of landlord and tenant had been consolidated by the Act of 1860, which was known as Mr. Cardwell's Act, and that during the whole of that time no complaint had been made with regard to the operation of the Act, and no fault found with it except in one single particular, their Lordships would probably agree with him that no reason had been shown why they should undertake the task proposed by the noble Marquess. In one single respect Mr. Cardwell's Act had remained a dead letter. The reason of that might be sufficiently explained—at all events, every gentleman without exception who was examined before Mr. Maguire's Committee concurred in the opinion—and the question was directly put to them—that, with the exception of the particular section of the Act to which he had referred, they were able to suggest no improvement in the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland. Well, then, considering that a Bill upon this important subject was under consideration in the other House, and might eventually be expected to make its appearance on the table of their Lordships' House; and taking into account a fact to which the noble Marquess had not alluded—that his Bill did not even attempt to deal with that which had been regarded as the one sole defect in Mr. Cardwell's Act, and that if this Bill were to pass to-morrow the complaints which were founded upon the unprotected state of the tenants' improvements would be as rife a source of discontent and dissatisfaction as ever—he ventured to suggest that the noble Marquess had failed to make out his case for going into so large an undertaking, that he had no locus standi, and that it would be most undesirable and contrary to Parliamentary precedent that a Peer of their Lordships' House should introduce a Bill of this importance at a time when another Bill on the same subject was under the consideration of the other House, and before their Lordships had an opportunity of ascertaining what the provisions of that Bill were. Under these circumstances, he trusted that the noble Marquess would for the present consent to relieve their Lordships from the necessity of going to a division.


said, the Bill of the noble Marquess was certainly open to very great objection. It dealt with so many subjects, its scope was so wide, and it went so much to the root of so many points connected with the rights of property, that it would be difficult even for a lawyer, after long consideration, to give an opinion upon it. How much more difficult, then, for their Lordships to do so. But there was much that was valuable in the Bill. At all events, it was superior to that which the noble Lord who had last spoken said at a future time was likely to come before their Lordships' House. It was superior in this respect: The noble Marquess' Bill would lay the foundation of vast litigation, but the other Bill would take away the property of the landlord without any litigation at all. He would appeal to noble and learned Lords, and especially to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and would ask him whether, when that other Bill conies into that House, he would say, as was said by his predecessor on a former occasion, that he "would be ashamed to take his seat on the Bench of Justice if he could support such a Bill." He would recommend their Lordships to give the Bill a second reading, provided the noble Marquess should agree to refer it to a Select Committee, and that Committee should he delayed until the Bill of the Government was before the House. There was one point, however, to which he had the strongest objection, and that was that the measure should extend to Ireland alone. In all matters of right and wrong, of law and justice, the principles of which ought to extend over the whole world, he could not think that any exception should be made in dealing with Ireland. When the time came he should be prepared to move an addition to the preamble that it was not expedient to deal with Ireland on principles of legislation different from those which would be applied to England, and in the schedule of the Bill that it should extend to England and Scotland as well as Ireland.


said, he was quite willing to adopt the suggestion of the noble Lord to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.


rose to make a suggestion with a view of saving their Lordships from the necessity of a division. The Bill had a great many good qualities, and as the noble Marquess had stated that he was willing that it should remain on the table until the measure now in the House of Commons should come up, in order that an opportunity might be given to their Lordships of going through the two together, and as that object might be attained as well by the first reading as by the second, he trusted the noble Marquess would withdraw his Motion for the second reading.


supported the Motion for the second reading. The Bill had so many good qualities that it would be ridiculous to get rid of it by a side-wind, as was proposed to be done by the noble Earl.


supported the Bill, and expressed the hope that their Lordships would not make this a party question.


said, he had listened with very great interest to the statement of the noble Marquess who introduced the Bill. To compare it with that before the other House was to do an injustice to Her Majesty's Government; but he must dissent from the suggestion that this Bill should be withdrawn. Nothing was prejudged by giving it a second reading, and it was only in Committee that its merits could be considered. He would ask the House to give a second reading to this Bill, and then to let it stand until a second reading was given to the other Bill referred to.


said, that considering the previous attempts which had been made to legislate on this question, and the ill success which had attended them, he was not sanguine of attaining any satisfactory results by this or any future Bill. If, however, their Lordships would refer it to a Select Committee, he would not oppose the second reading. It was scarcely in order to refer to a Bill before the other House. It was possible that the Government might have received kind assistance from the tenant-right agitators in Ireland, and might be inclined to defer to the wishes of that body, which might perhaps require a clause to enable a tenant farmer to make improvements in the land without the consent of the landlord. The effect of that would be that a tenant-at-will on a farm of 300 acres might build a house worth £1,500, and claim the value of the im- provement from the landlord. To such a principle as that he believed their Lordships would never consent. Under such a law without his consent a tenant might build a house opposite his own, thereby not only depriving him of a portion of his property, but destroying the beauty and value of the other. He resided in Ireland; he attended the weekly meeting of a board of guardians, composed chiefly of tenant farmers, and he took a considerable part in local matters, but he never heard a word against the law of landlord and tenant from those actually affected by it. He did hear complaints on the eve of a general election, but these were mostly made in speeches addressed to town constituencies by gentlemen, who, however able they might be in other respects, were totally ignorant of rural affairs. This Bill would be the ruin of the tenant farmers, whom it was professedly designed to benefit. There were many cases in which, on the expiration of a long lease, tenants were found to be in difficulties, and were treated with the greatest possible kindness; but if the landlord knew that his successor would be injured by poor people being allowed to remain on the property, his sense of duty would overcome his indulgence and kindness. The operations of land jobbers, who purchased property in the Incumbered Estates Court simply to sell it again, had had the effect of raising rents; and if this Bill passed, the land jobbers would depreciate the value of the property they were going to purchase, and they would spend money in buying out poor people and sending them to America. What became of the plea, then, that legislation was needed to keep the people at home? The emigration that was going on from Ireland was in no way affected by the relations of landlord and tenant. It was said that the landlord in England made all the improvements, and that the contrary was the case in Ireland. He did not believe in the general truth of this statement; but was it not proved that the landlords in Ireland wished to do their duty by the statement made the other night by the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the other House that they had applied for £5,000,000 to improve the state of their property? His own observation and experience led him to believe that the wiser course would be to let matters alone. Notwithstanding the recent conspiracy he believed that the country was rapidly improving, and that what it required was not a Landlord and Tenant Bill, but a better system of railways, the development of its mines, and the improvement of the harbours on its coast. These things would make the country prosperous and happy. The Fenian conspiracy was sometimes attributed to the state of the landlord and tenant question. The other day a friend put into his hand a list of ninety prisoners confined in Cork gaol under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and of the ninety only four belonged to the rank of tenant farmers. He believed that the origin of that conspiracy might be traced chiefly to the tradesmen of the towns, and that the population as a whole was entirely opposed to the movement. Nevertheless, he believed that a deep debt of gratitude was due to the Lord Lieutenant for the manner in which he acted at a critical moment, and that if the Habeas Corpus had not been suspended at the time it was, there might have been a most serious outbreak; but it would have taken place contrary to the wishes of the farming classes.


said, this Bill was intended to consolidate and amend the whole of the existing law relating to the tenure of land in Ireland, though, as far he could see, it did not in express terms repeal the existing statutes. He wished, therefore, to ask the noble Marquess, whether the effect of the Bill, if passed, would be to repeal the statutes now in force? It was very desirable that there should not be upon the statute book two sets of laws which might be conflicting.


replied that the existing statutes would not be repealed by this Bill, which, however, had been carefully looked over, in order to ascertain that none of its principles conflicted with the present Acts of Parliament relating to land in Ireland. Many years ago he proposed the repeal of many of those Acts, and some were abolished accordingly, though about 150 still remained on the statute book.


said, the Bill appeared to him to establish an exceedingly dangerous and inconvenient precedent, as it interfered with the fundamental principles upon which all property must rest. The title of the Irish landlord was the same as that of the English landlord, and rested upon these principles—that every man had a right to manage his own property, and that a bargain was a bargain. If those simple principles were departed from, there would be no limits to fanciful legislation. He was aware that the noble Marquess had approached the subject with the largest possible experience of it, and his opinion was consequently entitled to great weight. Yet, he must confess, he was astonished to find in the Bill of the noble Marquess a retrospective clause which would have such an application as to be not only an infraction of the ordinary principles of justice, but also of the principles on which this Bill itself professed to be based. At least that was the conclusion he had arrived at after reading the 13th clause, by which it was proposed that a tenant for a certain number of lives should have his lease continued after the last life had expired. That was a very singular conclusion to arrive at. The excuse for violating the rights of Irish landlords ordinarily was that they would never grant leases to their tenants; but here an Irish tenant would have a better lease than 99 out of every 100 English tenants. An Irishman on whose life a lease depended had a tendency to live preternaturally long, and if ever the poet's "last man" could be discovered he would be found to be the last life in an Irish lease. It appeared to him, therefore, that, notwithstanding the many merits of the Bill, this was a considerable defect. The Government Bill contained no retrospective clause, and so far it appeared to be superior to that of the noble Marquess. If the fundamental laws of property were to be interfered with, they ought to be interfered with by Her Majesty's Ministers—he meant the recognized and constitutional advisers of the Crown, and not the advisers of Her Majesty's Advisers. For Her Majesty's Ministers he entertained the respect which was due to their high office, but he could not say that he always regarded with the same feeling those who advised Her Majesty's Advisers. He confessed it was a little trying to read the statements which sometimes appeared in the Irish newspapers concerning the underground communications with Ministers. He had heard with great pleasure the declaration made in that House by the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government to the effect that, for his part, he thought it was undesirable to introduce any fresh legislation on the subject of tenant-right, and that, though he should he very happy to reform the law, he could not see his way to any measure which would be practicable and safe. Well, within five weeks after that declaration was made, the Irish papers gave accounts of what pur- ported to be two communications between the Government and certain persons in London. He thought the Irish landlords had a right to complain of such communications, because if what the Irish papers stated were true, it amounted to this—that the Ministers, in consideration of the support of certain Members of the other House, were prepared to pass four measures. The communications to which he referred were published in the proceedings of the self-styled National Association of Ireland, which was a body entitled to no weight whatever, except what Her Majesty's Ministers were pleased to give to it. It was composed exclusively of priests and a certain number of laymen of no weight or influence whatever. The permanent chairman was Alderman M'Swiney, who kept a very respectable haberdashery establishment in Ireland. The Association (Mr. Dillon stated) had put forward four claims, namely— The reform of the law relating to the tenure of land, the removal of obnoxious oaths, freedom and equality in education, and the disendowment of the Established Church. He asserted that the Government had conceded the first two points in full, and given an instalment of the third, and had asked the Association to wait with regard to the fourth, as the Ministry already had their hands full. He (Lord Dunsany) could quite understand that if Government had made such terms with them it would be very absurd for Alderman Dillon to turn the Government out; but were the landlords of Ireland to be the victims of such an understanding between the Government and Alderman Dillon? If the Government had made such a bargain it appeared to him a very extraordinary way of obtaining Parliamentary support, and it would not be unnatural if the Irish landlords looked with suspicion on any land measure coming from a Ministry who bad entered into such an agreement. Who was Mr. Dillon, who advised Her Majesty's Government on these subjects? All that the Irish proprietors knew of him in connection with the land question was, that last year he offered himself as a witness before Mr. Maguire's Committee, and that he was obliged to admit he had no personal knowledge or experience on the subject respecting which he had offered to give evidence. If Her Majesty's Government supposed that any moderate Bill would satisfy the advocates of tenant-right in Ireland, it was well they should understand what the views of those persons were. In one of the petitions on this subject, it was asked that all the occupiers of land should have a right to the possession of their holdings for ever, subject only to the payment of rent and taxes, the rate to be fixed on the average of the last seven years. It was hardly likely the Government were prepared to give satisfaction to those gentlemen; but supposing the measure of the Government, while not going that length, should give power to the tenants to make what they might call improvements despite what might be the opinion of the landlord, the Irish proprietors, by new agreements with the occupiers, would defend themselves against the consequences of such a measure.


asked the permission of their Lordships to say a very few words on this subject. It was not his intention to enter into a discussion of the merits of the Bill introduced by Her Majesty's Government in another place, and for which he was in part responsible. That Bill could not be properly discussed by their Lordships before it came up to their Lordships' House; but he felt so deeply with respect to this measure of his noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde), and all measures affecting the tenure of land in Ireland, that he thought he would be wanting in his duty if he did not make a few observations on this occasion. He could assure the House that this subject had been considered by the Irish Government—not as the noble Lord (Lord Dunsany) seemed to think—in the light of a matter of bargain or understanding, and with a view to catch a few votes from one party or the other on the eve of a division, hut as a subject which deeply affected all the interests of Ireland. The Government regarded it as a question which imperatively demanded to be settled—a question which now more than ever demanded a settlement, when they had had a state of things in Ireland bordering on open insurrection. He hoped that if the Bill which the Government had introduced elsewhere should reach their Lordships' House Irish landlords would consider it calmly and dispassionately, and with a view to seeing whether it was not such a measure as the interests of Ireland required, and as could be passed without interfering with the rights of property. Could any one suppose that he, an English landowner, deeply interested in land, would consent to any measure which would sacrifice or materially disturb the rights of property? But, on the other hand, those who supposed that the present system of land tenure and the present relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland were satisfactory, and such as could be safely allowed to remain without an attempt at a settlement, made a great mistake with regard to the state of that country. That this was one of the most difficult questions that could engage the attention of the Legislature no one would deny; because they were called upon to treat the tenure of land in Ireland in a somewhat different manner from that in which the tenure of land in other portions of the United Kingdom were dealt with. The admission that this should be done had been frequently made and made by Parliament itself. The question was how to do it without, on the one hand, infringing upon the rights of the landlord, while, on the other hand, they cured the distrust which at present existed between the holders and the cultivators of land in Ireland. Without entering into the merits of the provisions of the Bill of the noble Marquess—which provisions, he might say, were very complicated and difficult to understand—he might observe that the Bill was a permissive one, and, therefore, did not practically go further in principle than many of the Bills which had already been passed. But he thought the House would be inclined to adopt the suggestion of his noble Friend (Lord Dufferin), and wait till the measure which Her Majesty's Government had prepared came before them. He urged this course with the greater confidence because he observed that every speaker in the present discussion had insensibly left the Bill before them, and gone to that which the Government had introduced elsewhere. He concurred with the noble Lord opposite (Lord Dunsany) that a Bill of this kind should come before Parliament on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government. It would be much better for the House, and much better for the Irish proprietors, that it should so come before Parliament. Without saying any more at present on either the principle of Bills like this or their details, he again asked their Lordships to suspend their judgment till the Bill proposed by the Government came before them, and when it reached them to give it a full and dispassionate consideration.


accepted the proposition of the noble Lord behind him (Lord Dunsany), and of the noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Wodehouse), that measures affecting the rights of property should be brought forward by Her Majesty's Government rather than by a private individual. He accepted this general principle—but he accepted it with a qualification as to the spirit and temper in which Her Majesty's Government were disposed to deal with the question. He would not enter into such a discussion as that which the noble Lord (Lord Wodehouse) had just properly warned them against—the discussion of the measure which the Government had introduced in the other House of Parliament; but he confessed he was sorry to hear that the noble Lord considered himself partly responsible for it, because, from what he had heard, he was afraid that it very seriously threatened the rights of property in Ireland. He would not, however, anticipate a discussion, nor express any opinion on the merits of the Bill. He quite agreed with the noble Lord that no subject was more important or more difficult to deal with than that of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland. But he was afraid the difficulty existed in the conflicting views of the two parties, and more especially in the exaggerated views entertained by the tenants, and which they were encouraged to entertain, of their indefeasible rights to the land they held. So long as that notion was entertained it was impossible to place the relations between them and their landlords upon a satisfactory footing. The undisguised object of the tenant, and that alone, which would satisfy him that justice was done, was that he should be entitled to remain on the land so long as he continued to pay his rent, and that, in fact, the landlord should be the chief renter, and not the owner of the property. He (the Earl of Derby) was disposed in every way to enforce the rights of tenant, whether he held at will or under lease, to obtain full compensation for unexhausted improvements. That was a principle founded on justice, and enforced in this country by custom; and if it was not to be enforced by custom in Ireland, then there was a case made out for enforcing it by law. But the fact was, in a great portion of Ireland the tenants were not in a condition to carry out valuable improvements. If they expected tenants to effect improvements on their farms, whether large or small, the landlord must have the right of choosing the tenants to whom he would let his farm. When an application was made for the occupation of a farm the general rule in this country was to inquire whether the applicant possessed sufficient capital and stock for the purpose. But that was not the case in Ireland. In the part of Ireland with which he was connected he had always been willing to grant leases to tenants, but the great bulk of the tenants held their farms as tenants-at-will; and if on the death of a tenant the landlord were to say that such one of his sons as had the most capital to cultivate the farm should be put in possession of it, the whole family would be up in arms against him as a persecutor. In other cases, the eldest son, on taking possession of the farm, was found to be nothing better than a pauper tenant, every shilling of the father's property being left to those of the family who did not get the farm. Nothing was more common in the part of Ireland with which he was connected than for a tenant-at-will, having a large family, to bequeath the farm to one of the children without a shilling of money, and to make legacies to his children which were to be paid out of the landlord's rent. In such cases it was ridiculous to talk about tenants' improvements. How was a man to make improvements who not only had no capital but was subject to a load of debt which often exceeded in amount the rent which was to be paid to the landlord? Only the other day there died the head of a family who for several generations had been in possession of several farms upon his estates. He (the Earl of Derby) had not been satisfied with the way in which the farms had been dealt with, and he had given notice to the last tenant that upon his death he should resume possession of the farms. He would not trouble their Lordships with the details of the arrangements which he proposed to the heir, but the result was that he agreed to permit him to remain upon one of the farms for a year, provided that he did not break up the land that was in grass. The first thing that this man did was to break up the grass land. He proceeded against him by injunction, and he was now engaged in legal proceedings with very great doubt whether he could rid himself of his tenant in consequence of the term "current year" which had been mentioned by the noble Marquess. In addition to this, when he agreed to permit this young man to retain possession in the farm for a year he received a letter from the widow of the former tenant, saying that she thought it was the grossest injustice that he should deprive her son of the farm, because there was settled upon it a jointure of £50 a year which had been settled upon her by her husband. That views such as these should be entertained, even by persons in a respectable position in life, showed how different were the circumstances of Ireland from those in England, and they must he borne in mind when their Lordships were called upon to take into consideration a Bill for dealing with the relations between landlord and tenant and providing for the protection of the latter. He was far from saying that there were no cases in which the tenants required protection; but he was quite sure that if a balance was struck between the necessities of the two classes, it would be found that landlords required more protection than tenants. The noble Marquess deserved great credit for the pains which he had taken with the measure, and the equitable spirit in which he had approached the question of the relations between landlord and tenant. He had curiously examined the provisions of the Bill, and, although there might be some difficulty in carrying out some of them, yet its proposals were generally so fair and reasonable that if the question before their Lordships was whether their Lordships should assent to or reject the second reading, he should certainly vote in favour of allowing the Bill to pass that stage, especially as the noble Marquess had expressed his willingness to allow the Bill to go before a Select Committee. As he understood the state of affairs, however, Her Majesty's Government did not intend to oppose the second reading, but desired that it should be deferred until a Bill which they had themselves originated should come up to their Lordships' House. That mode of dealing with the question hardly seemed likely to secure that immediate legislation upon the subject which the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland said was so necessary. It was impossible to say when the Government measure might pass through the House of Commons. There was other business on hand which would, no doubt, occupy a great deal of attention, and it was very doubtful whether the Bill would reach their Lordships' House in time to permit them to legislate upon the subject this year. He did not suppose that any advantage would result from going into Committee in the month of August. At the same time if the Select Committee was to be deferred until the other measure came up, he did not see that it would make much difference whether the second reading was agreed to that night or was referred to a future date, and he should therefore recommend the noble Marquess to defer it for a short time.


said, that with regard to the mode of procedure on this important subject, the Government were anxious not to take any course which might appear wanting in respect to the noble Marquess, or to slight the important subject he had brought under their Lordships' notice. He would not discuss the Bill now before the other House, but all he ventured to say was that that Bill was founded on the principle which had been laid down as desirable by the noble Earl, that the tenants in Ireland should have some reasonable compensation for improvements effected, but that they had no indefeasible right to the possession of the land. As to the mode of dealing with this question, which the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland described as an extreme difficulty and yet of extreme urgency, he thought that it would not be wise to hold it over the head of the measure which the Government had introduced into the other House. Even those who had spoken in favour of the Bill of the noble Marquess had admitted that it was in some respects imperfect, and it was therefore in his opinion desirable that the noble Marquess should withdraw his Motion, and thus allow himself an opportunity of removing the imperfections which had been pointed out.


said, he strongly recommended the noble Marquess to adopt the suggestion thrown out, and postpone the second reading of his Bill. But be could not help expressing his regret that the course pursued by the Government left but faint hopes that this question, which had been described as important and urgent, could be disposed of in a satisfactory manner during the present Session, for the Bill introduced by the Government into the House of Commons could not reach their Lordships before August. It was to be deplored, when the Government had so much business on their hands in the other House, that they did not introduce the Bill on this subject in their Lordships' House. The subject was one which their Lordships' House was particularly well fitted to discuss, because there were several noble and learned Lords whose assist- ance in dealing with it would be most valuable. If, then, the Government had laid before their Lordships at an early period of the Session the Bill which was now before the House of Commons, it was possible that it might have been passed, or if it had not proved to be satisfactory on careful examination, then the measure proposed by his noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde) might have met with their Lordships' approval. Some of the arguments which had been urged against that measure by the noble Lord who first took objection to it (Lord Dufferin) he must confess he regarded as being rather in its favour. His noble Friend said it sought to effect a great deal too much, and that to embrace the law relating to landlord and tenant in Ireland in a single Act was an attempt which ought not to be made, inasmuch as that law depended on a variety of Acts of Parliament and a multitude of decisions, which had reduced the whole system into a state of great confusion. Now, if there was one reason stronger than another for dealing with the subject as a whole, it was, he thought, to be found in that "banyan forest" of decisions which his noble Friend described. He was also of opinion that it was, of the utmost importance that the minds of the Irish people should be set at rest in reference to the question, and that the law should as far as possible be simplified and made clear; but as it seemed to be admitted on all hands that the present Bill ought not to be proceeded with while the fate of the measure before the House of Commons remained undecided, he thought the best course to adopt would be to postpone the second reading until after the recess. He had been informed that the second reading of the Government Bill was likely to come on on an early day in the other House, and that there was great probability that it would not pass. If that should be the case the objections entertained to proceeding with the measure of his noble Friend would be to a great extent removed, and he hoped that, while consenting to postpone the discussion of it, he would not put it off to so distant a day as practically to prevent their Lordships from resuming the consideration of the Bill in the event of the failure of the rival scheme.


having defended the course which he had taken in moving the second reading of his Bill that evening by reference to a precedent of 1853, when he had pursued exactly a similar course with the approbation of the House and of the Prime Minister, Lord Aberdeen, expressed his readiness not to press his Motion, while he abstained from fixing any day for resuming the discussion.

Motion (by Leave of the House) withdrawn.