HL Deb 16 March 1880 vol 251 cc1080-6

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee upon the said Bill."—(The Earl of Haddington.)


said, that for the same reason that he objected to the second reading of the Bill last night he must now object to going into Committee upon it. This was a Bill which proposed to entirely change the relations between landlord and tenants in Scotland, and, therefore, was a measure which ought not to be hurriedly considered. He saw that the noble Earl who had charge of the Bill proposed to strike more than one-half out of it, and introduce new provisions of a different character. He thought a measure of that character ought not to be treated in that way, but ought to be thoroughly considered by their Lordships; and, therefore, he should say "not content" to the Motion to go into Committee.


said, the Amendment to which his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees referred was one of great length; but it really was only an alteration of page 2 of the Bill, and was an improvement upon the words in the measure. He thought the matter could be better discussed in Committee.


thought the Bill ought to pass, but agreed with the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees (the Earl of Redesdale) that the Amendment was a very large one. The effect of it appeared to him to be to give the tenant compensation for unexhausted improvements.


said, that when the Bill was on the Paper for second reading their Lordships had more particularly assembled to hear a debate upon two Motions—one referring to the disturbed state of Ireland, and the other to the Eastern Question—one of which had been down on the Paper before the Bill had reached the stage of Committee in the other House of Parliament. Owing to that state of circumstances, he (the Earl of Galloway) would not venture to discuss the merits of the provisions of the Bill last night. It was true that, by the Forms of the House, the time for discussing the merits of the Bill had now passed, and he would not transgress the Forms in that respect. But he wished to remind their Lordships that the Law of Hypothec, as originally enacted, was not enacted in the interests of the landlord. It was perfectly true that the Act referred to the landlord's right of hypothec; but the object of the Bill was to protect the interests of the tenant. It was also perfectly true that there had been a great clamour in Scotland for the abolition of the Law of Hypothec; but he himself believed that the clamour was past. He thought that the tenants, in clamouring for the abolition of the Law of Hypothec, did not seem to know what was good for themselves. There had, however, been a clamour, and that was the reason that Her Majesty's Government acquiesced in passing the Bill. But he still maintained that it was clearly not a matter for the landlords at all. He believed that the Law of Hypothec was really a matter of benefit to the agricultural tenant in Scotland, and was not a measure that was really in the interests of the landlord. To prove that he believed that the Law of Hypothec was really in the interests of the tenant, he was ready to give his cordial support to any Bill proposed for giving compensation to the tenants for unexhausted improvements.


said, his contention was that, agriculturally, the interest of the landlord and the tenant were identical; and, therefore, in that respect, he did not agree with his noble Friend behind him (the Earl of Galloway). Where a tenant was ejected from his holding, he would be entitled, under the Bill, to receive compensation for unexhausted improvements.


said, he must confess that he thought an important Bill like this, which proposed to change the custom—which was the custom which existed in almost every country in Europe—would not have been taken up by the Government except that the Members of the other House of Parliament were going to their constituents, and wanted this measure as a part of their programme.

On Question? Resolved in the Affirmative.

House in Committee accordingly.

Clause 1 (Landlords' hypothec to cease after 11th November, 1881).

Amendments made, in page 1, line 12, by leaving out ("passing"), and inserting ("commencement"); and in line 24, by leaving out ("and payable at any term of payment thereafter").

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 (Landlords' remedy when six months' rent is due and unpaid).

Amendments made, in page 1, line 24, after ("sheriff"), by inserting ("or sheriff-substitute"); in line 26, after ("notice"), by inserting ("by registered post-office, letter, or otherwise"); and in line 27, after ("nor"), by inserting ("in an action for caution and removing").


said, he would now move the Amendment which had been described by the noble and learned Earl (the Lord Chancellor) as merely an alteration of the phraseology of the Bill.

Moved, in page 2, line 1, to leave out from ("caution") to end of clause, and insert— Provided also that in the event of the removal or rejection of a tenant from such land in any year under the provisions of the Act of Sederunt anent Removings of the fourteenth day of December one thousand seven hundred and fifty-six, and of this Act, on account of being in arrear of rent for six months or twelve months, as the case may be, the following further provisions shall have effect:

  1. "(1.) A tenant so removed or ejected shall not thereby forfeit the rights of an outgoing tenant to which otherwise he would have been entitled if his lease had naturally expired at the date of removing or ejection, or at the last preceding term of Whitsunday or Martinmas in the event of the removing or ejection taking place between these terms.
  2. "(2.) When the removing or ejection takes place between the before-mentioned terms, the tenant shall be entitled to payment of or credit for the expenditure made by such tenant since the last preceding term on the labour, seed, and manure applied to any crop, other than an away-going crop, falling within the immediately preceding provision.
  3. "(3.) Where a tenant is removed or is ejected between the before-mentioned terms, he shall not, except as herein-after provided, be liable to pay for the occupation of such land after the immediately preceding term of Whitsunday or Martinmas, more than a proportion of the rent effeiring to the period between such term and the date of removing or ejection: Providing always, that where any away-going crop to which a tenant is entitled is immature at the date of such removing or ejection, neither the tenant nor any one deriving right through him shall be entitled to carry away such crop at maturity until payment shall have been made to the landlord of the proportion of rent effeiring to the period between the date of removing or ejection and the separation of such crop from the ground."—(The Earl of Haddington.)


wished to call attention to the first part of the clause. The words were— From and after the commencement of this Act, the landlord of any land exceeding two acres in extent, and let for agriculture or pasture, shall, subject to the provisions of the pre- ceding section of this Act, have the same rights and remedies against his tenant when six months rent is due and unpaid, as is now provided by the law of Scotland when twelve months' rent is due and unpaid, and shall also have the same rights and remedies against his tenant when twelve months' rent is due and unpaid as is now provided by the law of Scotland when two years' rent is due and unpaid. If they looked at the first part of the clause, they would find that, before and after the commencement of this Act, the landlord should have the same rights and remedies when six months' rent was due as he now had where 12 months' rent was unpaid, and the same rights and remedies when 12 months' rent was due and unpaid as he now had when two years' rent was unpaid. He questioned whether anyone in that House except the noble and learned Earl (the Lord Chancellor) knew exactly what the state of the law was at present with regard to that part of the clause. It was now proposed to take away from the landlord the exceptional right which he had hitherto had, and place him on the same footing as all other creditors. But if the exceptional right was taken away from the landlord he would not be placed in the same position as other persons, because a merchant, if he found his customers did not pay him, could stop the supplies; but in this case, if the tenant could not pay the rent, the landlord could not stop the supplies. The tenant continued on the farm, and the landlord, so to speak, continued to supply the article, and received nothing. He was supported in the view he took by the Committee of their Lordships' House. Under the present law, a tenant, if he became insolvent, might retain possession for a long time. It might be said that that might be altered by having a covenant in the lease that if the tenant could not pay his rent he should quit the farm; but there seemed to be some doubt as to the legality of such contracts. A noble Friend of his in the North of Scotland had brought forward a new set of regulations for the management of his estate, and had given up altogether his right of hypothec, but had introduced a condition into his leases that if a tenant became bankrupt, or if he failed to pay his rent within a certain time, the farm was to be given up. He wished to ask the Lord Chancellor what was the present law, and what was the precise effect of the alterations made by this part of the 2nd clause?


said, in the first instance, the Bill had no operation whatever upon existing contracts, which were left just as they were now. With regard to future leases, the tenant, if he failed to pay the rent, was taken before the Sheriff, and security was taken for the payment of the rent. The noble Earl had asked what could be done by agreement, and had mentioned the case of a noble Lord in the North of Scotland, who, he understood, had made agreements by which, in the event of the rent not being paid by the tenant within a certain time, or in the event of a tenant becoming bankrupt, the lease was to become void. As he understood the law of Scotland, he believed such a stipulation was legal; but he should not like to give a positive opinion on it off-hand. In England such a stipulation would certainly be legal. He would merely state to the noble Earl what he understood the Scotch law to be. Any agreement was valid; but to enforce it an action must be instituted, and what was called a declarator had to be obtained in the Court of Session. But he must also say that other things could be done which did not require the intervention of the Court—for instance, an agreement for the payment of the rent in advance, or to provide sureties for payment. The law of Scotland stood thus—if the rent was in arrear the landlord might take proceedings against the tenant, which were known by the name of caution. He called upon the tenant to give security for payment of the rent. That security might range over five years, if the rent was in arrear for 12 months. The Bill reduced the period of 12 months to six, and gave the landlord power to take measures to avoid the lease and eject the tenant after one year's arrears had accrued. The provisions now existing when the rent was in arrear for two years were made applicable by the Bill to one year's arrears of rent. The landlord might take summary proceedings to make the lease void and remove the tenant after one year's arrears became due. But the tenant in such cases was not to be deprived of the rights of an out-going tenant. The principal change made by the Bill was that the periods he had referred to of two years and one year were shortened to one year and six months respectively.


remarked, that the language of the Bill clearly implied that what the noble and learned Earl (the Lord Chancellor) had said could be done.

On Question? Resolved in the Affirmative.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 (Provisions of 2nd section not to apply in addition to hypothec) agreed to.

New Clause (Short title) agreed to, and added to the Bill.

House resumed.

Report of Amendments to be received To-morrow; and Standing Orders Nos. XXXVII. and XXXVIII. to be considered, in order to their being dispensed with.