HL Deb 27 July 1869 vol 198 cc774-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.

LORD DUNSANY, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that though this was a very unpretending measure, he believed a single instance of its successful operation would considerably extend its usefulness. Its object was to enable tenants, with the consent of their landlords, to purchase the fee simple of their holdings, the purchase money being payable by instalments. It did not in any way interfere between the owners and the public who might be purchasers; it was not in the remotest degree a tenant-right Bill, but simply assumed that the landowner was the best judge of the expediency of the sale, and that the tenant might be the best and, perhaps, the only purchaser; and, while establishing no new principles and conferring no new powers, it would render practicable that which was now virtually impossible. It would operate in this way—If a landlord who did not succeed in selling property in the usual way ascertained that one of his tenants was willing to purchase, the payment of the first instalment would entitle the latter to a certificate as provisional holder. At the end of five years he would pay a second and at the end of ten years a third instalment, being thereupon entitled to a conveyance from the Landed Estates Court. If after paying one or more instalments the tenant failed to complete the purchase, both landlord and tenant would revert to their former position, such instalments being held equivalent to the payment of so much rent. It might, perhaps, be thought that a landlord would not enter into such a contract; but to meet this objection he would be entitled to increase the rent, so as to make it somewhat penal in the event of the purchase not being completed. It would be necessary to add a clause debarring the tenant from subletting or injuring the property. The first step on entering into a contract was usually a very expensive one, but the Bill would simplify and cheapen it. Mr. Bright the present President of the Board of Trade had proposed that the landlords should be bought out by the Government; but his wish would rather be to keep the landlords at home, and he should not favour any Bill which would tend to lessen the already too small number of resident landlords. He thought, however, it might be an advantage if they were induced to sell outlying and distant properties—for it was a fact, which history perhaps might explain, that the owner of land in one county generally held land in one or more other counties. The measure would not require a single shilling to be advanced by the Treasury as the scheme proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would do. Mr. Bright contemplated the creation of a class of small proprietors, by converting the present occupiers indiscriminately into proprietors; but under this Bill the occupiers who would become proprietors would be a picked class, being those who by their industry and thrift had saved sufficient money to pay a first instalment. Even those, however, who agreed with Mr. Bright's views might support this Bill as a step in the right direction, while it was free from the objection that it infringed upon the rights of property. He believed that noble Lords on his own side of the House did not look forward with much confidence or hope to land legislation for Ireland, and would be glad if there was no prospect of any; but the Government had promised to introduce a measure next Session, and a very excellent Bill was about to come before their Lordships this evening. Should, however, any subsequent legislation be proposed, this Bill would not in any way interfere with it; and if there should be none it would, in a small way, accomplish some useful ends. At this period of the Session he could not hope to proceed further with this measure, but he hoped the House would give it a second reading, since it did not profess to touch the question of tenant-right and would not stand in the way of more comprehensive legislation.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—{The Lord Dunsany.)


said, he would readily acknowledge the noble Lord's intimate acquaintance with Ireland, and his attention to his duties as an Irish landlord entitled any proposal he might submit on this subject to respectful attention. He had, however, in common with more competent persons whose opinion he had consulted, been unable to discover in the Bill any power which the landlord did not already possess of entering into any description of contract with his tenant. Considering the late period of the Session, and that the Government would probably introduce, at the commencement of next Session, a Bill affecting the tenure of land, or at all events for placing on a more satisfactory footing the relations of landlord and tenant, he would appeal to the noble Lord, whether it would not be better to defer till then any suggestions he might have to offer.


also recommended the withdrawal of the Bill. It appeared to him to be perfectly innocuous, for it pointed to arrangements which might be very desirable; but he was not at all certain that everything which it contemplated might not be already done by agreement between a landlord and a tenant, if they were so disposed. It purported to facilitate the purchase of land by tenants, and though it only pointed to a sale by agreement, it might, if read a second time, give rise to an impression that it went in the direction of a compulsory transfer of land from one person to another. He hoped the noble Lord would be satisfied for this Session with having submitted the Bill.


said, he was willing to withdraw the Bill, remarking, however, that as the law now stood it was impossible to induce Irish farmers to enter into such contracts.

Motion and Bill (by leave of the House) withdrawn.