HL Deb 10 May 1875 vol 224 cc378-87

Amendments reported (according to Order).


proposed to insert in the title after "Agricultural," the words "and Pastoral."


thought this change would make the title unnecessarily long without producing any effect upon the enacting clauses.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Clause 2 (Commencement of Act).


proposed to alter the date for the operation of the Act from the 31st December 1875 to the 14th of January, 1876.

Amendment moved to leave out after ("the") to the end of the clause, and insert (" fourteenth day of January one thousand eight hundred and seventy six."—(The Lord President.)


desired to give landlords and tenants, where the term commenced at Candlemas, a little longer time to consider whether they would come under the Act, and he proposed to substitute the 14th of February.

After short conversation, the LORD PRESIDENT'S Amendment withdrawn.

Then Amendment of VISCOUNT PORTMAN agreed to.

Clause amended and agreed to.

Clause 4 (Interpretation Clause).


moved to add to the Interpretation Clause the following definition:— 'The letting value 'means the value at which a holding could he or could have been let if the improvement had not been executed.


said, he would like the Government to consider what would be the effect of a stringent application of the words in this clause on a tenant's claim for compensation. A tenant might have improved by drainage or lime, and yet it might be very doubtful if he would be able to prove to the satisfaction of a Court of Justice that he had made the farm as a whole more valuable to the landlord in the matter of rent. The improvements effected might be very proper ones for his own occupation or that of the landlord; but to make it imperative on the tenant to prove that the letting value of the farm was increased would be imposing on him too heavy a burden. In the Irish Land Act which dealt with much larger matters than this Bill, the terms used were "any work which being executed added to the letting value of the holding," and in reference to tillages and manures the words were, "or other works the benefit of which was unexhausted at the time of quitting the holding." He believed that the latter was the true test in the case of minor improvements.


thought the objection which had just been stated deserved serious consideration. He was bound to say he regretted that his noble Friend the President of the Council had persevered in making the "increased letting value" of the land in consequence of the tenant's improvements, the test or measure of compensation. Now, this had been described by his noble Friend himself as the very principle of the measure. With regard to permanent improvements of an important character, he quite admitted that the letting value was an unobjectionable test; but when they applied that test to those minor improvements to which it would be applied, he looked with alarm to the encouragement it would give to litigation of the most unsatisfactory kind. He was fortified in that statement by what he found to be the opinion of practical men out-of-doors. Last week at a meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture in London, this point was discussed, and resolutions were passed condemning the proposal by a majority of four to one.


said, that it would be extremely difficult to know what would be the "letting value" of a farm at the end of 10 or 14 years. Everyone who had sat on Assessment Committees must know the difficulty of ascertaining the value of farms; and he feared the clause would lead to a great deal of litigation. He entered his protest against the principle of the Bill with reference to this point.


said, he quite agreed with the three noble Lords who had addressed the House as to the difficulties likely to arise from the present definition. He thought the words "letting value" would defeat the object the Government had in view. He thought there should be no compensation unless the whole holding was increased in value.


must remind noble Lords that they were not now discussing the principle of the clause which had been decided in Committee—the question before the House was the Amendment, which was a question of definition only. The grievance of tenant-farmers was that while they laid out their capital in improvements on the land, at the end of their lease the farm was either let to another tenant at a higher rent, or the rent was raised on the former tenant, and the difference went into the pocket of the landlord.


opposed the Amendment. Clause 5 contemplated that the improvement should be so effectual as to add to the "letting value" of the land before he should be entitled to claim compensation. This was intelligible, and as a definition of the improvement there was some value in the words. But Clause 7, making the addition to the letting value the basis for estimating the compensation, threw the whole matter into confusion, and would be difficult in practice. Suppose the landlord let his land upon conditions that the tenant should make certain improvements—or in other words borrowed his tenant's capital for improving his own property—was it right that at the end of the term the tenant should lose the capital expended, if the improvements, however, efficiently done, did not add to the actual "letting value" of the land? Or supposing the improvements were not efficiently done, was it right that the tenant should lose his whole outlay? Those remarks applied to the first class of improvements, for which the consent of the landlord was required. And that consent, to which any conditions might be attached, rendered the landlord a party to the transaction. But as to less durable improvements, when their Lordships considered all the different circumstances which might affect the letting value of a farm—competition among tenants, alterations in the neighbourhood, and various other things—they would see that it would be extremely difficult to say whether this or that particular improvement had added so much to the "letting value." Suppose, again, the particular improvements sanctioned by the landlord proved to be injudicious, and did not improve the value of the land, was it just that the whole loss should be borne by the tenant and none by the landlord? It would be much fairer to assess compensation according to the outlay than according to the unexhausted addition to the letting value.


said, he could not share in the views expressed by his noble Friends as to the possible operation of the Bill. As to what had fallen from his noble Friend (Lord Hampton), if he thought that the effect of this Bill would be to increase litigation, he should regret very much that he had any share in introducing it. But he could not think that that would be the effect of the Bill. The noble Earl who had last spoken (the Earl of Morley) thought the best way of dealing with this question would be by taking the outlay into consideration as the basis of compensation. But if compensation was to be assessed according to the outlay of the tenant, it would lead to an amount of litigation far in excess of what his noble Friend (Lord Hampton) anticipated. The noble Earl thought it would be very unfair that the tenant should not be recouped, if he did not execute the improvements in an efficient manner. But surely the tenant had no right to expect compensation unless the improvements were properly made. The first thing a landlord would have to do would be to see whether the improvements were real and efficient improvements, for, in fact, what the tenant had done might be the reverse of an improvement. He must demur in the strongest way to the assumption of the noble Lord (Lord Carlingford) that there was no other source from which the Government could derive the definition of "letting value" than the Irish Land Act. It would not require a great amount of ingenuity to discover those terms without going over the water to get them. He was never enamoured of the Irish Land Act, and certainly would never have gone to that Act as the groundwork of this Bill. Nor would he wish to lead the country to think that what was good for Ireland was good for England. But if such improvements were effected as would make the farm better, what surer proof of that could there be than that the farm should command a higher price in the market? and what was that but adding to its letting value?


thought there was great force in the objection to the words "letting value," which he believed would introduce an element of difficulty into the question: nor did he see why their Lordships should object to borrow words from the Irish Land Act. It should be remembered that in many cases the compensation to be received would be a very small sum; and that being so he could not conceive a more difficult task to impose on the arbitrator than to call upon him to say whether the improvement had added to the "letting value."


said, if £100 had been laid out by a tenant—say, on bones—leaving two years of unexhausted improvement for which the landlord ought to pay, the tenant would find a difficulty in proving that the land would let for more rent in consequence of what he had done. Land was let for long periods, and might not let for more on account of improvements which would die out in two or three years.


said the logical consequence of this argument was that a farm in bad order would let for as much as a farm in good order.


did not believe that the principle of letting value was really applicable here.


said, that when they spoke of benefit resulting to the land from "unexhausted improvements" they could mean nothing but that the letting value of the land was there by increased. In other words, if a farm was in an exhausted condition, the rent would be less; if it were in an improved condition, the rent would be more.

Amendment agreed to, on the understanding that it should be printed in the Bill, with a view to further consideration at the next stage.

Clause, as amended, agreed, to.

Clause 5 (Tenant's title to compensation).


said, that as the clause stood, the assertion of tenant-right was too broad and without sufficient limitation. On the last occasion when the Bill was under consideration the Government agreed to introduce the words "subject to the provisions of this Act;" but he thought these words did not sufficiently point out the limitations. In order that the public might see at once not only the equity of the claim for compensation, but also the equity of the general limitations, he would move the omission of Clause 5, in order to insert the following:— Where a tenant, except in pursuance of an agreement for valuable consideration, executes on his holding an improvement adding to the letting value thereof, he shall be entitled to obtain, on the determination of the tenancy, compensation in respect of the improvement.


pointed out that subsequent clauses in the Bill provided all the limitations desired by the noble Duke.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Clause 6 (Description and three Classes of Improvements).

On the Motion of the Duke of RICHMOND, the words "or of works for supply of water for agricultural or domestic purposes" were inserted.


moved to insert in the First Class ("Eradication of Fences.")


said, he did not think this was a case for compensation, especially as the tenant would have the old fences.


thought the Amendment unnecessary, agreeing with his noble Friend at the Table, for he was constantly asked by his tenants to allow them to take down fences; they were only too ready to do so for the benefit it gave them, and the difficulty was rather to prevent their taking down fences which were necessary for the proper drainage of the farm. It would be extremely inconvenient, too, to have the putting up of new fences, and the eradication of fences in the same class of improvements.


did not at all agree that the old fences would sufficiently compensate the farmer.


said, that what suited one part of the country would be unsuitable to another. In Devonshire the fences were wide banks, which could not be removed without considerable cost, and the work would be a permanent improvement.


could not assent to the proposal of his noble Friend.

After a few words from Earl GRANVILLE,


said, one of the chief merits of this Bill was that, without the consent of the remainderman being asked or required, it allowed, it might be, a limited owner to exercise the powers which it gave and thereby to create a charge upon the inheritance. He had frequently maintained that that was a right principle. He believed this was the first time that that step—a very large step—was taken. But in giving to limited owners the power to consent to these improvements, and thereby to make a charge on the inheritance, it ought to be made very clear that the matters in respect of which limited owners were to give their consent were beyond dispute substantial improvements: and he doubted whether the "eradication of fences" could in general be classed among such improvements.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.


moved, in Third Class, to leave out from ("Consumption ") to end of clause, and insert— 1. Consumption on the farm by cattle, sheep, or pigs, of cake. 2. Consumption on the farm of purchased corn or other feeding stuff not the product of the farm or district. The noble Lord said, his object was to put cake and other feeding stuffs in an entirely different category. Cake was of undoubted manurial value, but corn was not so. Linseed cake and corn, for instance, cost nearly the same price per ton; but linseed cake, and other kinds of cake, too, was of seven times greater manurial value than corn. Again, corn was a good thing for producing meat, and the farmer was amply repaid, by the sale of his fat stock, for the use of it, in most cases. It was of great importance that corn used should not be the product of the farm or neighbourhood, so that there should be no opening for fraud. Some foreign corn might be of manurial value, but corn grown on a farm, except beans, was practically of little, if of any value in that respect. This ought to be distinctly laid down in the clause.

After short discussion,

On Question, resolved in the negative.

Amendment made, by omitting the word "corn" from the articles of consumption not produced on the holding.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 agreed to, with verbal Amendments.

Clause 15 (Amount of landlord's compensation) struck out.

Clause 16 (Notice of intended claim).


moved the insertion of words enabling a landlord to give a counter notice to his tenant of his intention to claim compensation. This would only be necessary in ease the tenant gave notice of a claim. Where no such notice was given, the landlord would have his remedy in the usual way through the Courts of Law.

Moved, at end of clause, insert as new paragraphs— Where a tenant gives such a notice the landlord may, before the determination of the tenancy, or within fourteen days thereafter, give a counter-notice in writing to the tenant of his intention to make a claim for compensation under this Act. Every such notice and counter-notice shall state, as far as reasonably may be, the particulars of the intended claim."—(The Duke of Richmond.)

Amendment agreed to; Words added.


said, that no consideration had as yet been given to a numerous class—namely, mortgagees, who, having lent money on the security of holdings, might be damaged by the arrangements which the Bill facilitated. He wished to know if the charge on the holding allowed by the Bill would be a first charge, or whether it would rank after charges already existing?


said, the noble Earl's sympathy with mortgagees was thrown away. They would not be in the slightest degree injured.

Clauses 17 to 33, inclusive, agreed to, with Amendments.

New clauses inserted after Clause 33.

Clause A. (Power for landlord to obtain charge for tenant in certain cases.)

Clause B. (Duration of charge.)

Clause C. (Application of Act to Crown Lands.)

Clause D. (Application of Act to land of Duchy of Cornwall.)

Clause E. (Application of Act to land of Duchy of Lancaster.)

Clause F. (Provision where landlord incumbent of benefice.)

Clauses 34, 35, and 36 agreed to.

Clause 37 (No restriction on contract).

Clause 38 (Application of Act as regards general tenancies).


moved to leave out the clauses, and insert the following:— Nothing in this Act shall prevent a landlord and tenant, or intending landlord and tenant, from entering into and carrying into effect by any contract in writing any such agreement as they think fit, nor interfere with the operation of any such contract. This Act in the case of all contracts of tenancy taking effect after the commencement of this Act shall have full operation in respect of all matters for which this Act makes provision, except such of the same matters as shall by a contract in writing between a landlord and tenant or intending landlord and tenant be specifically excepted from its operation. A contract of tenancy from year to year current at the commencement of this Act shall be deemed to be a contract of tenancy within the meaning of this section, but only from and after the end of the first year of tenancy begun and completed after the commencement of this Act. Except as in this section mentioned this Act shall not apply to any contract of tenancy current at the commencement of this Act.


said, the Amendment was unnecessary; Clause 37 simply said that the landlord and tenant might enter into an agreement, and Clause 38 said how they might do it.


said, it appeared to him that, as the Bill was drawn, a tenant would be precluded from offering compensation unless he conformed in all respects to the provisions of the Bill, and if an owner made an agreement with a tenant involving slight differences, such departure from the provisions of the Bill would involve the forfeiture of all claims under it.


said, there was nothing in the Bill which laid down a cut and dry agreement which a limited owner might make with a tenant; but it gave certain limits within which he might make any agreement he pleased with his tenants.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Bill to be read 3a on Thursday next; and to be printed, as amended. (No. 98.)