§ Clause 1 (Settlement by Land Commission of arrears of rent).
moved the insertion, in line 8, after ("applies"), of the words "being situated within the districts scheduled in the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, 1880." His object, he said, was to restrict an admitted evil to the smallest area, and the limitation was proposed by Her Majesty's present Government under precisely similar circumstances.
In page 1, line 8, after ("applies"), insert ("being situated within the districts scheduled in the 'Compensation for Disturbance Bill, 1880.'")—(The Lord Dunsany.)
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
said, that in point of form it was impossible to legislate by reference to a Bill which never became law. That was an objection which was conclusive against the Amendment as it stood. But it was equally objectionable in prin- 156 ciple. No doubt the districts included in the Bill referred to were about the poorest parts of Ireland; but there was plenty of poverty and arrears in other parts, and it was impossible to draw a line between one district and another. If the Bill was right and admissible in one district, it was right and admissible in another.
said, that the idea of illegality and impossibility mentioned by the noble Lord was ridiculous. He hoped their Lordships would remember that this was not a Government Bill, but owed its original introduction to Mr. Redmond.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said, he quite agreed with the Lord Privy Seal that it would be impossible to accept the proposal.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY,
in rising to move the omission, in line 10, of the word "either," said: My Lords, this Amendment is preliminary to another of considerable importance. I am dispensed from the necessity of troubling your Lordships at any great length on this Amendment, because we discussed it in tolerable detail when the Bill was read a second time. But the case is this. The English Government proposes to go into Ireland to buy arrears. It proposes to buy them and pay for them, limiting its operations to farms of a particular size. But its mode of paying for them is this. Some arrears are worth 20s. in the pound, and some are worth absolutely nothing. It proposes to give a sum never exceeding 10s. in the pound, and sometimes falling a good deal short of it, and to force every landlord in Ireland, whether he belongs to the first class or the second class, to sell his arrears at that price. Now, if that is a just proceeding there is a good deal to be said, for the tactics of that venerable old gentleman, Procrustes, in dealing with his captives; because, after all, he established, I believe, a very satisfactory average of the human stature, only he insisted on cutting off the legs of those who were too tall and putting them on to the legs of those who were too short. But let us apply this principle to the purchase of anything else not mixed up so much with Party controversy as arrears of rent. Suppose the Government went into the county of 157 Kent intending to buy up all the horses there. Some of the horses are worth not more than £5; others may possibly be worth £500. The Government might say— "This is a favourable opportunity for applying our doctrine of averages; we shall give £50 to everybody for his horse, and force everybody to sell for that price." Would it be any consolation to the man whose horse was worth £500, and who got only one-tenth of its price, that another man got for his ten times its value? That is the system which the Government intends to impose by compulsion on the landlords of Ireland. I may be told that the horse which is worth £500 does not come within the operation of this Bill. I shall be told that these infallible persons the Sub-Commissioners will at once decide that the tenant can pay his arrears, and will exclude him from the benefits of the Bill. Upon that subject I hardly think that anyone who hears me will require convincing. I do not refer to the known character and bias of the Sub-Commissioners. I believe there is but a very small minority among your Lordships who, if they could vote in secret, would trust anything to the wisdom and impartiality of the Sub-Commissioners. But, setting that point aside, it is impossible to ascertain whether the owner of a £50 or a £5 holding has or has not in his possession £15 or £20, which might constitute his arrears of rent. It would be utterly impossible to find it out. The tenant can conceal the sum with the greatest ease. No one can know it but his family or his neighbours, and I should have thought it hardly necessary at this time of day to insist upon the impossibility of inducing the neighbours of a tenant in Ireland to bear witness against him in a Court of Justice, however bad his case may be. Even if it be possible to discover that the tenant possesses this money, the Bill as it now stands would prevent you from doing so. The Bill deliberately excludes from the calculation of the tenant's ability to pay the two most important though indefinite quantities—the value of his holding and the amount of money which is necessary for the cultivation of his farm. The determination of those amounts depends upon the will and judgment of the Commissioners. Be they large or be they small, they are now by law liable for 158 the payment of the debt due to the landlord; and you cannot justly by Act of Parliament wrench this money from the landlord and give it to the tenant. We are told that we often use the word "confiscation," and, in truth, with this Government we often have occasion. If there be such a thing as stealing on the part of the State, if it be possible for the State unjustly to take one man's money and give it to another, I cannot understand any offence more distinctly proved than confiscation is proved against this Bill.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I think the noble Marquess is a little out of Order in turning his back to some of your Lordships and pointedly addressing the reporters in the Gallery. It is difficult to hear the noble Marquess.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, it is difficult, as the House is topographically, to prevent speaking with my back to some of your Lordships, because if I address the Woolsack I must speak with my back to some Members of the House, and if I address the Treasury Bench I should be speaking with my back to my own Friends. Resuming my argument, the thread of which has been somewhat broken by the interruption of my noble Friend, I repeat that the proposals of this Bill seem to me clear confiscation, and the only mode by which the Bill can be brought into correspondence with the principles of common honesty is to make the operation of the Bill optional on the part of the landlord as well as the tenant. I use that language because it is not a question of mere expediency. It does seem to be that the doctrine which is slowly creeping over our rulers and our legislators, that any invasion on the part of Parliament of the property of the subject is justifiable if for the moment, for a passing crisis, you can plead the tyrant's plea of necessity—it does seem to me that that doctrine requires to be earnestly resisted and stoutly refuted by your Lordships' House. My Lords, do not be misled by appeals to supposed motives of disinterestedness in the exercise of your functions in the Constitution to protect individual rights. If you neglect to protect individual rights, from any hope that you will conciliate by such conduct those whose object it is to invade them, you will simply demoralize public opinion and the public conscience, and make it 159 easier in the future to mate further and more disastrous encroachments upon the same fatal path. The alteration I am proposing is not one inconsistent with the principle of the Bill. On the contrary, it is, in the highest degree, a re-enforcement of the principles professed by Her Majesty's Government. If the object be to make no inroad upon private property, if the object be merely to release from their arrears those who are actually and utterly incapable of meeting them, you can devise no machinery fitter for that purpose than making it the interest of the landlord, who is more likely than anyone else to know the circumstances of his tenant, to assist the Sub-Commissioners in distinguishing between the true case and the false. If you accept this Amendment, and make the operation of the Bill optional with regard to the landlord as well as the tenant, the effect will be this. The landlord will not consent where he believes that the inability to pay arrears is not genuine. In refusing his consent he will not only protect his own arrears, but the interests of the State, and the funds which the State has devoted to this purpose. That there are any classes of landlords so absurd in their ideas that they would refuse 10s. in the pound for the payment of an irrecoverable debt is a thing impossible to believe. The Ministry, in the heat of debate, may possibly assert it; but it may be classed with those hallucinations which induced Her Majesty's Government last year to assure us that the rents of Ireland would not in general be reduced. We know that on these Irish questions Her Majesty's Government are not to be trusted, for they "see visions and dream dreams." They have notions as to the result of their measures without any facts to justify them, and which the history of events utterly belies. If they tell you that there are any considerable classes in Ireland which will be so blind to their own interests, which, for the sake of keeping a ridiculous control over their tenants, would refuse an offer they would never get again of 10s. in the pound for bad debts, I must treat such an assertion as a mere delusion. If there be such a state of things, it is so wildly improbable that we ought to have a formal Parliamentary inquiry to ascertain its existence, and not to confiscate the property of a whole 160 class upon so absurd and improbable an hypothesis. What are the objections to this Amendment? I listened carefully to the debate the other night. It was said that an analogous proposal was made in the Bill of last year, and that it had failed. Last year it was proposed that if the landlord and tenant should agree in borrowing, a certain sum of money could be borrowed and charged upon the estate. The noble Lord now has the courage to tell us that that is an analogous proposal to giving a man money with no charge upon the State. There may be many men who would not be inclined to borrow, especially when the loan was charged upon the estate; but very few will refuse a gift. There is no analogy whatever between the two cases; there is no ground for believing that because the loans last year were not at all made use of, that, therefore, the landlords will refuse the gift which this Bill proposes to make for arrears which are really irrecoverable. Another argument against this Amendment is that it will produce what is called a crisis. That depends upon the people who have the discretion of determining whether a crisis shall be produced or not. It is for your Lordships to determine whether the proposal is reasonable or not; and, if reasonable, it is your duty to insist upon it. I am told that somebody in "another place" has said that the principle of this proposal is contrary to the first principles of the Bill. If your Lordships admit that, whenever somebody in "another place" avers that some particular provision is inconsistent with the first principles of any measure, that is a reason for refusing to adopt that provision, it is clear that you will be ousted from any sort of co-operation in the legislation of the country. We have nothing whatever to do with what the Ministry considers are the principles of the Bill; what we have to do is to deal with the principles of the Bill as they actually stand. I venture to assert that if the Ministry really desire to carry out the objects of the Bill, which really aims at the pacification of Ireland by conciliation and by gift of arrears, that they will be able, by accepting the Bill, amended in the way I propose, to carry out the principles that it has in view; but that if they reject the Bill so amended, it will show that there has never been any real sincerity in their 161 desire to pacify Ireland by these means. I have tried in framing this Amendment, as well as the other Amendment which I shall have the honour of submitting to your Lordships, to obviate every objection, and to present it in a form least likely to raise objections, or resistance, or dislike, on the part of the authors of the Bill. I have heard it said that this principle is a vital one—that if you pass the Bill with this Amendment it would be a measure which I consider foolish, but which will do no particular harm. But I maintain that if you pass this Bill without this Amendment you will be sanctioning a doctrine of simple confiscation. Therefore, I submit this Amendment to your Lordships as one that is vital to this Bill.
§ Amendment moved, in page 1, line 10, leave out ("either").—(The Marquess of Salislury.)
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
My Lords, it is not necessary for the noble Marquess to refer to anything that has been said in "another place" as to the view of the Government with respect to the importance of this Amendment. In the view of the Government this Amendment is equivalent to the second reading of the Arrears Bill, and for reasons which I will shortly give in a moment or two. The noble Marquess has made some remarkable assumptions in the argument he has addressed to your Lordships. First of all, he has boldly assumed that the tenant' sinability to pay all his arrears, which is one of the main principles of the Bill, is a fact that can never be ascertained. He assumes that no one, under the provisions of this Bill, can be found in Ireland sufficiently capable and honest to adjudicate on that question. He assumes that the Land Commissioners will not be able to decide it, and that there will not be found among the 48 Sub-Commissioners a gentleman capable of performing that duty. Those assumptions I entirely deny. Those gentlemen will be most materially assisted in arriving at their conclusions by proper and capable persons who will be selected by the central Land Commission for that purpose, and whose report in all cases in which there is any kind of suspicion or doubt will be considered by the Land Commissioners. Power has been carefully reserved to the Government or the 162 Treasury to look after the interests of the State in this matter by the appointment of some person to represent the Treasury in the course of the inquiry— probably the Sessional Crown Solicitor of the county in which the investigation takes place. But the noble Marquess assumes that all this inquiry as to the inability of the tenant to pay will be worth nothing. That is an assumption which we are not bound to accept. Then the noble Marquess assumes that there are arrears previous to 1880 worth 20s. in the pound, and we are going to give the landlord for them only 10s. in the pound. That assumption I entirely deny. If there are such cases, they are very few indeed; and if some landlords are called on to make any such sacrifices, such landlords will be amply compensated by the effect of this Bill in general. The noble Marquess, indeed, has absolutely omitted—in a manner which cannot be thought worthy of a statesman, looking at the present condition of Ireland—he has absolutely omitted all consideration of the interests of the Irish landlords as a class—not only their interests from a public point of view, but the interests of every landlord who finds himself a member of a class which stands at this moment in such dangerous relations with the great class of the tenants, the very relations which we endeavour by this Bill to place on a better footing for the future. My Lords, I said that the Government are bound to treat this Amendment as equivalent to the second reading of the Bill, because we think that to do what the noble Marquess proposes to do would be to stultify what your Lordships have done by passing the second reading The noble Marquess says the Amendment would be acceptable to the landlords. I do not know how that may be; but it would be fatal to the tenants and to the measure. It would largely tend to defeat the purposes of this legislation. The noble Marquess actually requires that the landlord shall impose his own terms upon the acceptance of the public money—that it shall not he received on the terms of the State, but on the terms of the landlord. The veto of the landlord would come in at the very starting point. The operation of the Bill would depend, in each individual case, on the character, temper, situation, and calculations of the individual landlord. 163 I put aside for a moment whether that is a state of things which Parliament, if it adopted such a measure as this at all, ought to submit to; but is the Amendment in the interests of the landlords themselves? I submit that it is directly contrary to their interests that the responsibility of making up their minds whether they should put a veto on the operation of the Act or not should be imposed upon them. Conceive the feeling it would give rise to between landlord and tenant in every part of Ireland. This measure is intended as a message of peace; but its passage with the Amendment which the noble Marquess proposes would only tend to create further discord between the two classes. I do not know how many Irish landlords would have courage to incur the odium of putting their veto on this great offer of the State. Some would undoubtedly; but others, I believe, would find themselves under a compulsion to give their assent—a kind of compulsion which it would be very undesirable indeed that they should undergo. If the Irish landlords, or any of them, are to be subject to any compulsion at all, let it be the compulsion of Parliament and of the State, adopted on grounds of public policy. But, really, the objection to the adoption of the Amendment lies in a nutshell. We say it would stultify this legislation. In cases in which it would be desirable that peace should be made between landlord and tenant, and that means should be provided for winding up the miserable period through which they and we are now passing, your Act would, under such conditions as it is now sought to impose, be at the mercy of the landlord as to whether it should come into operation or not. This measure is intended for great public and national purposes— for the purpose of putting an end to a state of things in Ireland from which the landlord suffers more than anyone else, and for the interests of the Empire. When you have made up your minds to adopt such a measure as that, will you defeat it by assenting to such an Amendment as this? What would be the result? Parliament would have accepted and passed a measure of a most exceptional kind—a measure with all its attendant evils such as they are—but would have passed it without any security whatever for its due operation, 164 and would have left it to certain persons in Ireland to decide whether it should have any operation or not. That is what the noble Marquess wants. Such legislation as that, my Lords, would be discreditable to Government and to Parliament; and it is a kind of legislation which, so far as the Government at least are concerned, they will not be responsible for. I only hope that your Lordships, who have accepted this Bill on the second reading, will not incur the responsibility of sending it out of your Lordships' House a totally different measure, with totally different results, and that the public spirit, and, I must add, the enlightened interest of noble Lords connected with Ireland, will not allow the noble Marquess to make this radical change in the Bill.
said, he quite agreed with the Lord Privy Seal as to the advisability of establishing good relations between landlord and tenant. But was it likely that that would be the effect of the Bill as it stood? In his opinion, the proposition of the noble Marquess was far more likely to produce that result. He was quite sure that advantage would largely be taken of this Bill by a great number of landlords and tenants; but he was equally certain that there were classes of tenants to whom it was of the greatest importance to deny the provisions of the Bill —namely, those who had not paid their rent in consequence of the orders of the Land League. He ventured to say that if the Bill passed with the Amendment of the noble Marquess, it would be a most valuable Bill for Ireland; but that if the Amendment were rejected, it would be one of the greatest curses which that country had ever suffered from.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, he thought the Lord Privy Seal was well advised in rejecting the Amendment. The statement of the noble Marquess to the effect that the compulsion was all on one side was fallacious. It must be remembered that the position of the tenant was ex hypothesi that he was in arrear, and if he did not come in and pay up a year's rent, the landlord was not obliged to allow him to continue in possession of the holding. Therefore, the tenant was offered the choice between eviction and complying with the provisions of the Bill. The mode of procedure recom- 165 mended by the noble Marquess would be an admirable one if the Bill were an optional one; but the whole point of the arrangement was that it was a compulsory composition of certain liabilities. They must remember that the optional system failed last year. The noble Marquess seemed to ignore that fact. A great reason why they should not allow the arrangement to be at the mercy of landlords or tenants was that they were going to take possession of a great Irish fund, and also to ask the taxpayer for a considerable contribution. In these circumstances he thought they had a right to insist that the bargain must be as complete as possible. The whole foundation of recent legislation in dealing with Irish landlords and tenants was that there were in those classes individuals who were not fit to be trusted to make their own bargains. The landlord and tenant had already been placed in statu pupillari, and this Bill was entirely consistent with that principle. The noble Marquess objected to confide the responsibility of ascertaining inability to pay to the Land Commissioners; but surely such a responsibility could not be placed in the hands of the landlords. That would be out of the question. He had a strong feeling that any important alteration in that respect would throw out of gear the whole machinery which the Government had applied for dealing with the great difficulties which confronted them in Ireland. The Government were proceeding on a two-fold line. They had obtained effectual measures for dealing with disorder, and they were now endeavouring to do something to relieve the pressure which had, no doubt, tended to increase crime. He should greatly regret if, on the one hand, they accepted that legislation, which was directed against crime, and, on the other hand, left unmitigated that pressure which was calculated to lead to increase of crime in that unfortunate country. The position of Ireland was serious; but he believed there had begun an improvement which might yet lead to a complete restoration of order. If, however, the passage of the Bill were jeopardized, or if it passed in an unsatisfactory condition, he must say he thought the House would incur a grave and serious responsibility.
THE EARL OF LONGFORD
said, he was really surprised that the Govern- 166 ment should object to accept the reasonable Amendment of the noble Marquess. Under the Bill as it stood, the creditor would be required to submit to such terms as his debtor might think fit to enforce. The reason that the Loan Clauses of the Bill of last year had failed was because the terms of the loan were too stringent, and imposed a liability for the repayment of the loan upon the landlord in the event of the default of the tenant.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, whatever differences of opinion there may be among us—and I can easily understand that there are such differences of opinion—with regard to the question whether this Bill ought to pass or not, there is one point on which I apprehend, after the speech made by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), and the expressive declaration of the Lord Privy Seal (Lord Carlingford), there can be no difference. We shall all agree that the Amendment which we are now discussing is not one of mere detail, but one that touches the vital principle of the Bill. If we agree to this Amendment, we shall not be passing this measure in a modified form, but we shall be asking Her Majesty's Government to take their Bill back, and substituting for it another of a totally different character. If I am right in that respect, it seems to me a pity that we did not fight out the matter to the end on the second reading of the Bill. I can conceive that there may be very strong reasons alleged against the measure, and I know of other reasons stronger and more conclusive in favour of the passing of the Bill; but there is one course for which I can see no justification, and that is to accept in form the principle of a Bill on its second reading, and then destroy it by a side wind in Committee by introducing into it Amendments which are absolutely incompatible with its main object. To destroy the Bill in that way will not enable us to evade our responsibility for its rejection. Such a course will not deceive anyone, and it will not protect the House against any unpopularity which may attach to the rejection of the measure. I can well conceive that there are many circumstances in which it might become not only our right, but our duty, to do that which may be unpopular and contrary to the public opinion of the moment; 167 but I am satisfied that it cannot be wise for us to do an unpopular act in a way that looks as though we were ashamed of avowing it. What does this Amendment propose to do? It proposes, as I understand it, that the arrears shall be put an end to only with the consent of the landlord. If the landlord objects, the provisions of the measure cannot be put in force. I do not suppose that anyone will contend that the Irish tenant who is in arrear, although he has suffered severely, has any special claim to favour or indulgence, or that there is anything in his position that entitles him to a consideration that is not to be extended to other classes in Ireland. I also fully admit the soundness of the reasons which have been urged against the policy of adopting exceptional measures with regard to Ireland, because I am aware that exceptional measures are apt to become the rule, unless you make it perfectly clear upon what special ground such exceptional measures are based. I do not support this Bill on either of these pleas. But the ground upon which the recent measures are based is perfectly clear—it is to make it easier to maintain social order and peace in Ireland. If you leave matters alone, and leave the landlords in Ireland to enforce their legal rights, you will be bound to give them, not merely permission to enforce those rights, but assistance to enable them to enforce them. But suppose, while, on the one hand, the landlords were determined to enforce their rights, and, on the other, the tenants determined not to pay their rent—what would be the state of Ireland then? Should we be strong enough in such a case to enforce the law? I think not. I do not say that the Government would not be strong enough to put down open resistance to the law and to enforce evictions in isolated cases; but when we come to deal with the case of every holding on every estate in the country, I do not know what police or military force would be sufficient to protect the lives of those who were attempting to carry out the law. Without accepting as accurate the assertion that if a whole people united to resist the payment of rent, they would be masters of the situation, I believe that a general resistance to the payment of rent would produce a situation which would be most disastrous to the peace of the country. 168 In the present state of feeling between the landlords and the tenants of Ireland, I think that the State has a right to interfere in the interests of public order. It has been said that the difficulty I have pointed out would not arise, because very few landlords would evict; but, in that case, why should the minority be allowed to do that which, if the majority did it, would bring about the state of things which I have indicated? If no landlord will evict, then it does not matter whether this Bill is based upon the voluntary or the compulsory principle; if a few evict, then I say that in the face of grave public peril the small minority have no right by rash acts to compromise the public peace; and if a large number evict, then the difficulty to which I have referred will arise. But there is another alternative. Landlords who may not themselves care to evict may sell their estates. Who is to prevent that? [A NOBLE LORD: They are unsaleable.] At the present low price of Irish land it may be very well worth the while of speculators to form Companies to buy Irish estates, to clear them of non-paying tenants, and to parcel them out in small lots to meet the requirements of purchasers. The question is, would a measure framed on a really voluntary basis do away with the danger of eviction? I do not think it would. In many cases it would be better for a landlord to sacrifice his arrears altogether, and to get back the land into his own hands. If he took that view, there was no reason why he should put the provisions of the measure in force, and so the measure would become inoperative exactly in the circumstances in which it was most required. In the case of a man who would use his powers in a manner dangerous to the public safety, the State has a right, if it thinks necessary, to prohibit him from doing that which is a danger to the public safety; and if, at the same time, the State makes him a liberal compensation for the power which they temporarily take away, I do not think that the person in such a case has any very substantial ground for complaint. The measure is, no doubt, an exceptional one; but it would be a mockery of justice if, having passed a Land Act expressly in order to enable Irish tenants to hold to their land, we were to deny them 169 the means of availing themselves of the benefits offered them. I am not going to argue whether legislation of this kind is dangerous or not. There is a good deal to be said on that point. I, for one, am not very fond of it. But, having begun, you cannot stop half way. It would be folly to take away with one hand what you give with the other. I do not know whether those who support the Amendment of the noble Marquess have considered the invidious position in which they will place the landlord who refuses to take advantage of the Act. The landlord will evict, not for the reason that he cannot get his money, but because he refuses the help of the State. He rejects the offer solely with the object that he may get rid of his tenant. Surely it is no kindness to place a man in that position, even if it were partly his own doing. If your Lordships agree to this Amendment, what will be the position of the tenant when the landlord does not choose to put the Act into operation? If the tenant is evicted, he knows, and his neighbours will know, and all the country will know, that the eviction took place contrary to the wish and intention of the Executive Government, and contrary to the intention of the House of Commons. If the Government and the House of Commons had had their way in dealing with the matter, the tenant would have remained upon his farm. Now, surely in a country where the law is not very highly respected it is somewhat dangerous to strain it in that way. One great objection taken to the Bill is the alleged demoralizing effect it will produce upon the honest tenant who has paid his rent. Well, I cannot deny the force of that objection. It is certainly an unsatisfactory state of things that there should be a general distribution of public money, and that the parties least benefited by it should be the landlord who has been moderate enough to ask only a just rent and the tenant who has been honest enough to pay as much as he could. But you cannot distribute public money on a large scale in relief without the unfortunate and demoralizing result that you put the industrious and the improvident on the same footing, or rather you give the improvident an advantage over the industrious. It is so; and it must be so always. The man who has saved must spend his 170 earnings before he is entitled to relief, and he gets by so much less relief than the man who has saved nothing. But the Amendment does not deal with that part of the question; it does not provide for the removal of that injustice. Whether the Amendment is passed or not, therefore, the demoralization to the honest tenant and the advantage given to the dishonest tenant remain the same. Another consideration I would bring before noble Lords opposite is that this measure has been brought in on the responsibility of the Government, and that those who are responsible for modifying it will be responsible for its failure. I, for one, am not very sanguine about its success, even in its present form, not because I believe anything different ought or could have been done, but because I believe Irish discontent to be too deep-rooted to be readily removed. But if you alter the Bill in any material point, the responsibility for its failure will fall from the shoulders of the Government upon yours; and it does not seem to me to be evidence of good tactics for any political Party to go out of their way in order to provide for their opponents a ready-made excuse for the non-success of their policy. You cannot, in a general settlement of this kind, meet the peculiar circumstances of every particular individual and every single case; and I am not prepared to deny that there probably may be some cases of hardship under this Bill; but I believe that, as a class, the landlords will be gainers by it. I do not attach so much weight as some appear to do to the alleged danger of creating a precedent by this measure, because by the nature of things a precedent cannot be so created. The fund out of which the means of carrying out the measure will be mainly derived is the Irish Church Fund. That can only be spent once; and even if over and above what will be defrayed from the Church Fund you have to come upon the Consolidated Fund further than there is any reason to suppose will be necessary, I do not think we need object to the sacrifice if it should carry us over a very difficult and trying crisis. I should be disposed to say this if we had before us res integra. But the case is still stronger in the circumstances in which the question comes to us, because we have not to say whether 171 we should ourselves have framed or suggested such a Bill. There are some points in it to which I might have objected had the Bill been brought in by a private Member; but it has been brought in by the responsible Ministers; and we have to consider whether, when the boon has been promised by the Executive Government, and their promise has been ratified by the other branch of the Legislature, it is safe or wise for us to withdraw that boon. I do not believe that it is; and, therefore, looking at the difficulties by which we are surrounded, I will be no party to increasing those difficulties by assenting to this Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
said, he thought that in listening to the noble Earl who had just sat down their Lordships might have had doubts as to what was the use of their Lordships assembling together at all to discuss a Bill brought in by the Government. They might have been led to the conclusion that when the Government of the day brought in a measure which made promises and excited expectations, the functions of their Lordships' House were virtually to cease, and that, sooner than disappoint expectations which had been raised without their consent, they were to give their assent to principles which were practically denounced by every sentence which the noble Earl had uttered. He did not know what the Government thought of the noble Earl's defence of their Bill; but if Balaam had been called in to bless the Bill, he had certainly cursed, and cursed it especially in regard to the special ground on which it had been mainly rested— namely, that it was calculated to bring about permanent peace in Ireland—a result which the noble Earl told them he did not in the least expect from it. On the contrary, the noble Earl said that disaffection and animosity in Ireland were so deeply rooted that the Bill would only touch the surface of the evil, and, therefore, it was only a temporary measure. The noble Earl supported it because he said it could not form a precedent. Why could it not form a precedent? They had heard rumours that the Irish harvest would not be good, that the potato crop was failing, and the like. He did not know how far that was correct; but he knew that the time would come when Ireland 172 would be suffering again from bad harvests; and the same questions as they were now considering would arise again, the same arrears would accumulate, and this Bill would be appealed to as a precedent, and, although there might be no Church Fund, they would be called upon to make drafts upon the Consolidated Fund. The noble Earl said that he would not have supported the Bill if it had been the Bill of a private Member.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBROOK
said, this was the Bill of a private Member; it was the product of the information received from Kilmainham; it was the Bill of a Home Ruler; it was denounced in principle by Mr. Forster last year as demoralizing. Therefore, the Government not only came before their Lordships with an exceptional Bill, but with a Bill which one Member of the Cabinet had declared to contain a demoralizing principle. A noble Marquess opposite had the other night asked the Government where they were going to stop in legislation of that description. Were their Lordships not entitled to ask how far they would allow themselves to be led in that direction? Not the slightest attempt had been made to refute the objection taken against the dishonesty of that measure by the noble Marquess behind him. If there were anything like certainty as to the results of the Bill in giving permanent peace to Ireland—if there were anything like a hope that bad principles would ever achieve good results—he doubted not that their Lordships might be willing to sacrifice a good deal. But the experience they had had showed that such results did not follow. The further they went on the downward course of destroying the first principles of honour and honesty in order to conciliate certain classes they would find that they were demoralizing the people, confirming them in their improvidence, and teaching them not to rely on their honesty and their own ability. And when they were told that the inability of the tenant would be easily ascertained, he might remind their Lordships that a high authority two years ago, speaking in that House, said he felt some difficulty in realizing to himself the process by which a 173 County Court Judge was to come to his decision, that he should be sorry to be the Judge who had to decide the point as to the reality of the tenant's inability to pay; and he went on to ask what evidence would be accessible on that point, and how it was possible to know how many sovereigns the tenant had in an old stocking, and so forth? That was the language of the noble Earl who had just been addressing their Lordships, and which he had, to a certain extent, repeated that evening, though not with the same earnestness and force as he showed two years ago. The noble Earl told them that nothing was so inconsistent with the duty of a party of honourable men as to assent to the second reading of a Bill, and then so to amend it that it should not be acceptable to those from whom it came. Why, that was the policy which the noble Earl himself recommended on the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. The noble Earl proposed to limit the area, the time, and. the amount fixed in that Bill, matters on all of which the Government laid the greatest stress, making them essential parts of their measure. The noble Earl said—If the alternative were between passing the Bill as it stands and rejecting it altogether, I would vote for its rejection. But that is not the only alternative before us. There is the alternative between the rejection of the Bill and its modification in Committee, and I am prepared to vote for the latter, and not for the former."—[3 Hansard, ccliv. 1924.]Were their Lordships always to take the word of the Government as to the meaning of an Amendment, and because the Government said such a thing was the principle of the Bill—and it had passed its second reading—were their Lordships bound to waive their rights, and let the measure pass unamended? The passing of the second reading did not involve all the considerations which the noble Earl seemed to imagine. This Bill might be a House of Commons Bill, but it was not a Bill of the country. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) told them that when he joined the Cabinet there was no question of interfering with land in Ireland. These measures were brought into a Parliament which had no idea it was to be concerned with such matters; and now they were to be told that the House of Lords was to be coerced into passing this measure by a temporary majority in the House of Commons, as if the country 174 had expressed a wish on the subject, upon which they had not been consulted. The Government had got rid of all the principles of economy, or had sent them to Saturn or Jupiter. What had the Government done? They had taken last year to bribe the tenants, not money of their own, but money abstracted from those who had as much right to possess it as any one of their Lordships to his personal property. The landlords were now called upon to make still further sacrifices, and to sink down to a state of poverty, which it was lamentable to contemplate. It was said that this Amendment was inconsistent with the Bill; but he maintained it was consistent with the Bill—it was a question of degree and not of principle—for under the Bill, the moment the valuation of£30 a-year was passed, the Act required the joint application by landlord and tenant. Then, again, under the Bill as it stood, the affidavit of the landlord and tenant was primâ facie evidence of the tenant's inability to pay. Both those provisions were contained in the Bill. On what principle was it that the landlord, in cases where the tenant was really unable to pay anything, was entitled to evict; and yet, where he was defrauded by his tenant, and the tenant paid a portion of what he had unjustly withheld, that tenant would, if his fraud could not be proved, be able to come upon the Treasury and Church Fund, and take advantage of the Bill? But they were told by the noble Earl that a liberal compensation was given to the landlord. Yes; in some cases it might be more than the landlord was likely to be able to enforce; but that did not do away with his right to take his choice. Was it, he would ask, a wise course to enable men to stay in their holdings in a state of poverty? For they knew that many of these tenants were in such a position that in a very few years they would be reduced to abject poverty, even if they had the benefits of this Bill; nay, even if they paid no rent at all. They had pieces of land which could not maintain them in any case. The noble Earl who had spoken last had imagined there was a combination among the landlords in Ireland to evict their tenants. In the present state of Ireland, was that a probability? Was it even a possibility? It had been proved before Commissions that the majority of the landlords were considerate and just towards their 175 tenants, and yet it was said they had combined to evict their tenants. That was an argument to be left to answer itself. But the noble Earl went further. He warned the landlords of the dangerous responsibilities they were taking on themselves; it was a danger which would call forth what had been termed "the wild spirit of revenge." If it were so, the landlords of Ireland asked for justice, and for protection from the sacrifice of their rights, though they were prepared to incur some danger, in the hope that matters might be put upon a proper footing. But there would be just as much avoidance of danger, and just as much chance of union, if landlord and tenant went together, and asked for this boon on right and proper ground, and it could then be granted with some security against trickery and fraud. Besides, when it was argued that under the former Bill joint applications were not made, it must be remembered that they were to be for loans, for the instalments of which the landlord became responsible on the failure of the tenant to pay. He supposed some of their Lordships possessed the power of drawing inferences; and he would, therefore, ask if it was likely that a landlord, looking at the steady depression of property which had been going on, would charge his estate with payment of the instalments which his tenant could not pay. The noble Lord (Lord Carlingford) had assumed in his speech that Parliament had legislated, and that what would be done under this Bill would be by Act of Parliament. There was one thing which Parliament had not done, either in the Bill of 1870 or of 1881, or in the present Bill. They had not legislated on the most important points of all, but had left them to the discretion of the Sub-Commissioners. They had thrust their duty of plain legislation from them through weakness and fear, and had left it to what had been called "chance individuals," and that term applied far more strongly to the Sub-Commissioners than the landlords. It was admitted that this Bill was exceptional and demoralizing; and what hope had they, then, that it would effect its object? They on that side of the House asserted that this Amendment was consistent with the Bill, and refused to accept the ipse dixit of the Government that it was inconsistent. They maintained that the landlord ought 176 to be brought in, because he was best acquainted with the subject. He was far from saying that any of the measures of the Government under any conditions would produce a good effect. Ireland should be taught to know that there was a force stronger than all her combinations, and that should precede concession. The connivance with crime in Ireland was such that in many neighbourhoods the whole population identified itself with murder, and was as blood-stained as the actual criminal. They knew what was going on. They knew beforehand who were the perpetrators of outrage; and if the vengeance of man did not overtake them in the Courts of Law—if there was a moral Government in the world—they might depend upon it that the country itself, where so large a part of it shared in the guilt of such outrages, would not escape. If they wanted to bring peace to Ireland it must be by insisting upon the dominion of law, and by stopping the Government in their wild career against political economy, which only meant common sense and common justice. By bringing Ireland under the dominion of law and equity, and not leaving her at the will of Sub-Commissioners, they could alone hope in time to bring about reunion, peace, and prosperity.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that if there were before any doubt as to the meaning of this Amendment it had been entirely dispelled by the tone and spirit of the speech which had just been addressed to the House. The noble Viscount had made a most distinct and unequivocal speech against the Bill—a more uncompromising speech, or one more manifestly intended as a speech against the second reading, it would be wholly impossible to imagine. The greater parts of the argument—if, indeed, that word were applicable to the expressions used by the nobleViscount—seemed to him to resolve themselves into this— that because in the enormously difficult circumstances of Ireland the efforts of the Government by their legislation to restore peace and order could not be considered successful in the short space of one year, or, at the most, of two years, therefore the House was to despair of the success of those measures, and should regard them as dangerous and demoralizing. The noble Viscount had taken the opportunity afforded by this Amendment of condemning all that had been done, 177 and inviting the House to retrace its steps. Why else should he have referred to the administration of the Sub-Commissioners and all the other matters which, with the experience of one year only, had been charged against the Land Act? Why else should the noble Viscount talk of other matters, which could not, in any manner, be touched by this Amendment? As regarded the effects of the Land Act, if it produced all that the most sanguine Members of the Government had desired, it must be a business of time; it must be an exercise of patience; it would require everything possible to be done to give the measure a fair chance. The noble Viscount said that Her Majesty's Government should restore order to Ireland first. Before introducing this Bill into the House of Commons, and before bringing it up to this House, the Government had done all they could towards the restoration of law and order. They introduced a Bill, which their Lordships unanimously passed almost without debate or discussion, containing powers as strong as could be imagined to arm the Government with means for the repression of crime. To give the best chance of success to that measure and to the Land Act of last year their Lordships were now asked to assent to the provisions of this Bill. When the Land Act was passed that House recognized the necessity of dealing with the subject-matter of this Bill. No doubt the mode of dealing with it differed from the present in two respects. First, there was to be a loan payable in a certain way; and, secondly, it was to be applied for by the joint action of landlord and tenant. Everyone must, he thought, agree that this question of arrears ought to be dealt with, and effectually. The Act of last year had proved ineffectual for dealing with it, and the Government had considered what should be done to remedy that defect. From all quarters of the West of Ireland representations had reached the Government to the effect that if the land legislation were to have any chance of working fairly and efficiently, the subject of arrears must be vigorously and effectually dealt with. It was the absolute duty of the Government, therefore, to frame a proposal on the subject; and it was unworthy of the noble Marquess and of the noble Viscount to taunt the Government with having adopted this Bill from a private Member of the House of Commons, and to suggest that the 178 adoption of the measure was in consequence of something that had passed between Her Majesty's Ministers and certain persons imprisoned in Ireland. It was true that the Bill introduced by that private Member contained a scheme dealing compulsorily, and by gift, with arrears of rent; but, at the same time, it contained many other provisions which did not for a moment commend themselves to Her Majesty's Government. The statement made in the House of Commons by Mr. Gladstone on this subject was before any communication whatever took place with the imprisoned Members; and while he said that the Government would look favourably on the matter, he also said that no conclusion whatever had then been arrived at. The Government was bound to consider proposals which it thought reasonable, from whatever quarter they might come. They adopted in such a manner as seemed best to them such portions only of the propositions contained in that Bill as they considered were requisite for dealing with this subject, and they gave no countenance to the other matters proposed. What were the arguments that had been used in support of the Amendment of the noble Marquess? He might refer to the first by stating that the Bill did not propose, as some had represented, to make grants to tenants whose condition was so bad that there could be no expectation that they would be able to maintain themselves upon the land. It made it a condition precedent for obtaining the benefits of the measure that the tenant should pay one year's arrear of rent. That was a security for there being a fair chance of the tenants benefited by the Bill being able to live upon their lands. He must protest against the argument used by the noble Earl below the Gangway, that a Bill of this kind demoralized not only those who received the money, but those who did not—that was to say, that those tenants who had paid their rents would have a ground of complaint, as being placed in a worse position than those who had not. To that opinion he could not assent. This Bill was intended to make provision for tenants unable to pay antecedent arrears without loss of their holdings or of the means of carrying on their farms, and was not intended for the case of those who did not require assistance. Those who had actually paid were not, and could not be, in the category of tenants 179 unable to pay. The Bill must be a gain generally to the landlord; it was also a great relief to the tenant. He did not say—no one could say—that it was possible in every case to prove, without risk of mistake, the ability or inability of a tenant to pay arrears; but it could be done in so many cases, and to so great an extent, that it would be impossible for dishonest tenants, in any considerable numbers, to take advantage of the Bill. What was the Amendment of the noble Marquess? The noble Marquess was willing to take a gift of public money made by the House of Commons on a certain condition; he rejected the condition, and imagined that he could retain the gift. He (the Lord Chancellor) ventured to think that would be contrary to the first principle on which legislation concerning public money was founded. He regarded the Amendment of the noble Marquess as fatal to the principle of the Bill.
observed, that the Government appeared to be forgetting that it was largely in consequence of the "no rent" manifesto that the arrears had reached their present dimensions. He maintained that the effect of the Bill would be largely to demoralize the Irish tenantry, causing those who had paid their rents to ask—"What is the use of endeavouring to meet our engagements, when those who have persistently refused to meet theirs are now put upon as good a footing." If the Bill passed, with the Amendment proposed by the noble Marquess, landlords would be enabled to distinguish between tenants who could have paid their rents, but had not, and tenants who fell into arrears through a failure of the harvest. ["Divide!"] As there were symptoms that the House wished to divide, he would not enter at any length into the question.
§ On Question, "That the word ('either') stand part of the Clause?" Their Lordships divided:—Contents 98; Not-Contents 169: Majority 71.182
|Selborne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Lansdowne, M.|
|Grafton, D.||Camperdown, E.|
|Saint Albans, D.||Chichester, E.|
|Aileshury, M.||Derby, E.|
|Bath, M.||Durham, E.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Greville, L.|
|Granville, E.||Hammond, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Minto, E.||Hothfield, L.|
|Morley, E.||Howth, L. (E. Howth.)|
|Northbrook, E.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Saint Germans, E.||Lawrence, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Leigh, L.|
|Suffolk and Berkshire, E.||Loftus, L. (M. Ely.)|
|Sydney, E||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Canterbury, V.||Monck, L. (V. Monck.)|
|Eversley, V.||Moncreiff, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Monson, L. [Teller.]|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.)||Mostyn, L.|
|Mount Temple, L.|
|Powerscourt, V.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Sherbrooke, V.||Petre, L.|
|Torrington, V.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess-borough.)|
|London, L. Bp.||Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)|
|Aherdare, L.||Reay, L.|
|Ashburton, L.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Belper, L.||Robartes, L.|
|Blachford, L.||Romilly, L.|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.]||Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.|
|Brabourne, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Bramwell, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Braye, L.||Sefton, L. (E. Sefton.)|
|Breadalbane, L. (E. Breadalbane.||Skene, L. (E. Fife.)|
|Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)|
|Carlingford, L.||Stafford, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Stafford, L. (V. Enfield.)|
|Dacre, L.||Sudeley, L,|
|De Mauley, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Truro, L.|
|Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.|
|Erskine, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Ettrick, L. (L. Napier.)||Vernon, L.|
|Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)||Waveney, L.|
|Fitzgerald, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Wrottesley, L.|
|Beaufort, D.||Amherst, E.|
|Buckingham and Chandos, D.||Annesley, E.|
|Leeds, D.||Bandon, E.|
|Manchester, D.||Bathurst, E.|
|Norfolk, D.||Beauchamp, E.|
|Northumberland, D.||Belmore, E.|
|Richmond, D.||Cadogan, E.|
|Rutland, D.||Cairns, E.|
|Sutherland, D.||Carnarvon, E.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.||Clonmell, E.|
|Abergavenny, M.||Denbigh, E.|
|Bristol, M.||Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.|
|Winchester, M.||Eldon, E.|
|Ellesmere, E.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)|
|Feversham, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)|
|Hardwicke, E.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort|
|Jersey, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Lanesborough, E.||Clifton, L. (E. Darnely)|
|Lathom, E. [Teller.]||Clinton, E.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Clonbrock, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Colchester, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Colville of Culross, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Congleton, L.|
|Macclesfield, E.||De Freyne, L.|
|Manvers, E.||de Ros, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Digby, L.|
|Milltown, E.||Dinevor, L.|
|Morton, E.||Donington, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Douglas, L.(E. Home.)|
|Nelson, E.||Dunsany, L.|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E||Ellenborough, L.|
|Portarlington, E.||Forbes, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)|
|Redesdale, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Romney, E.||Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)|
|Rosslyn, E.||Harlech, L.|
|Sandwich, E.||Harris, L.|
|Somers, E.||Hawke, L.|
|Sondes, E.||Heytesbury, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Hylton, L.|
|Stradbroke, E.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Verulam, E.||Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)|
|Wharnclifle, E.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)|
|Wilton, E.||Kintore, L. (E.Kintore.)|
|Zetland, E.||Lamington, L.|
|Lilford, L. (E. Egmont.)|
|Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)||Lovel and Holland, L.|
|Cranbrook, V.||Lyveden, L.|
|Gough, V.||Massy, L.|
|Hardinge, V.||Monteagle, L. (M|
|Hawarden, V. [Teller. Sligo.)]|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore)||Moore, L. (M. Drogheda.)|
|Lifford, V.||Northwick, L.|
|Melville, V.||Norton, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||O'Neill, L.|
|St. Vincent. V.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Templetown, V.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Gloucester and Bristol, L. Bp.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Amherst, L. (V. Holmesdale||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Annaly, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Ardilaun, L.||Rossmore, L.|
|Ashford, L. (V. Bury.)||Sackville, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|Blackburn, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Blantyre, L.||Scarsdale, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Botreaux, L. (E. Loudoun.)||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Somerhill, L. (Clanricarde.)||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Stanley of Alderley, L.||Ventry, L.|
|Stewart of Garlies, L.(E. Galloway.)||Walsingham, L.|
|Stratheden and Campbell, L.||Wigan, L. (E.Crawford and Balcarres.)|
|Strathnairn, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L|
|Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)||Wimborne, L|
|Tollemache, L.||Windsor, L.|
|Tredegar, L.||Wynford, L.|
On the Motion of The Marquess of SALISBURY, Amendment made, in page 1, line 11, by leaving out ("or,") and inserting ("and"); and after ("holding"), by inserting—
Or of the tenant with the assent of the landlord (such assent to be presumed on the expiration of ten days from the service upon the landlord in the prescribed manner of notice of such application, in the absence of any notice of dissent from such landlord or his agent).
In page 2, after line 4, to insert as a new sub-section—"Provided that in respect of any holdings situated in a townland as to which it has been the custom not to pay the current half year's rent until the next subsequent gale had legally accrued due, 'The year expiring as aforesaid' shall be deemed to terminate for the purposes of this Act on the first gale day in the year 1881."—(The Lord Ventry.)
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
said, the more convenient place to discuss the Amendment, on which there was no difference of opinion between the noble Lord and the Government, would be at a later stage of the Bill. Sub-section 3 dealt precisely with the point mentioned by the noble Lord.
said, he proposed to withdraw his Amendment, with a view to bringing it forward on the Report, if he should still think the hanging gale was not sufficiently protected by Subsection 3.
§ Amendment (by leave of the Committee) withdrawn.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I have one more Amendment that I intend to move, and it is the last one that I shall propose. It deals with a matter of some little difficulty, but of considerable importance. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack told us rightly that the principle of the Bill was that it should only be applicable to those tenants who have no resources from which the arrears of rent can be paid. 183 In this respect, however, the Bill rests upon a contradiction, because last year Parliament passed an Act which gave the tenant that which he had never possessed before—the right to sell his interest in his holding. If the Bill were proposing to deal with an insolvent, it would certainly require that the person seeking to obtain a benefit under it should, in the first place, apply all his resources to the payment of his debts; but he cannot apply all his resources for that purpose unless he includes in his assets the value of his holding; and the value of that holding cannot be ascertained without the tenant's interest is sold. It is not proposed by this Amendment that the tenant's interest shall be immediately sold; but it would be unjust not to take the value of the tenant's interest in some way or another. It must be remembered that the value of the tenant's interest is frequently very considerable, amounting to 10 or 11 or 12 years' purchase, and occasionally equalling the value of the fee-simple itself; and to leave that very valuable property in the tenant's hands while you are clearing off his debts, partly by a payment from the State, and partly by an uncompensated cancelling of the landlord's claim, would be very unjust both to the State and to the landlord. Another very serious ground of complaint is that the Bill as it stands debars the landlord, and the landlord alone, from selling the tenant's interest; while it leaves it open to the tenant himself, the moment the transaction of clearing off the arrears has been completed, to sell his interest and go off to America or elsewhere with the proceeds in his pocket, or start in some other line of life by aid of the money. And what the tenant may do for his own advantage may be done by all his creditors. The tenant may owe money to his corn dealer, the local shopkeeper, or his banker, and the moment the tenant's interest in the holding is free they may step in and sell the tenant up, and so realize the whole of their debt at the expense of the State and of the landlord. This state of things appears to me to be so unjust that it need only be stated to determine your Lordships to accept the Amendment I propose, which, while, perhaps, it does not afford a complete remedy, certainly offers a simple solution of the difficulty. No doubt the Bill, as I propose that it 184 shall be amended, will still offer a considerable boon to the tenant, who will not merely retain the value of the present state of his holding, but will be able to let the arrears remain as a charge upon the holding without interest; and I do not propose to interfere with that part of the provision in favour of the tenant. The Amendment will remove a great temptation from tenants who are not really impecunious to attempt to defraud the State in order to get the Church Fund, because he would know that the moment he sought to realize the value of his interest in his holding the proceeds would go to his landlord and not to his other creditors. I beg to move to amend the clause by inserting in line 14, after the word "security," the following words: —Provided that in the event of the next subsequent sale of the tenancy, the arrears of rent not satisfied by payment under the provisions of this Act shall be a sum payable to the landlord out of the proceeds of the sale within the meaning of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881.
In page 2, line 14, after ("security,") insert—("Provided that in the event of the next subsequent sale of the tenancy, the arrears of rent not satisfied by payment under the provisions of this Act shall be a sum payable to the landlord out of the proceeds of the sale within the meaning of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881.")—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
In the view of the Government, the objections to the noble Marquess's Amendment are so serious that it is quite impossible for us to accept it. The object of the Amendment is that the antecedent arrears behind the two years 1880–1 should lie dormant, as a mortgage upon the holding, and that, of course, for an indefinite time. That is exactly the result which the Government think a most objectionable one. We want to make a clear settlement of the old arrears. If these arrears were allowed to lie dormant, they would paralyze and depress the tenant's industry and enterprize. When the tenant was obliged to sell his interest he would find an old claim revived against him in the shape of a dormant mortgage, which would probably swallow up the proceeds of the sale which were intended to break his fall, and probably find him means for emigration. These arrears under such a system would come on a man at the most inconvenient time, when they would be most grievous for 185 him to bear. On the other hand, what would the landlord gain? Surely an indefinite postponed charge, which might not be realized for many years, would not be a matter of appreciable value to the landlord. But the real answer to the noble Marquess is that, in the view of the Government, the way suggested is not the right way of dealing with the tenant right, as an asset to be taken into account for the tenant's arrears. I would remind your Lordships that there is a provision already in the Bill that the tenant right should be treated as an asset, if the Commissioners think proper, for the purpose of deciding upon the ability of the tenant to pay, and whether he is to have the advantage of the Act or not. If his assets, including the value of his tenant right, prove his ability to pay within the meaning of the Bill, then, of course, the person making the inquiry will pronounce him not to have fulfilled, the preliminary conditions under which the Bill is to come into operation, and he will then have to fall back on the other provision—that of loan instead of gift. The Government hold that indefinite postponement, such as is proposed, is likely to lead to a great deal of future difficulty; and we should lose by it the great advantage of bringing to a final settlement the period of difficulty which is comprised in the three years which are dealt with under the Bill.
§ EARL CAIRNS
My Lords, I am sorry the Government cannot accept this Amendment; but there are several reasons which induce me to support it. Last year one of the principal features of their Land Act was that it inaugurated free sale, which was in itself a novel proposition. And what was the main ground upon which free sale was recommended by those who introduced that measure? Your Lordships will recollect that it was that free sale, after all, would be an extremely valuable thing for the landlord, because it would give him a security which he never had had up to that time in any part of Ireland for his arrears. When the worst came to the worst, and the tenant was obliged to sell his holding, the landlord, it was said, would be recouped his arrears out of the proceeds of the sale. But, before a year has passed, the Government bring forward this Bill, which says that that security of the landlord shall be no security at 186 all. That is not dealing fairly with the landlord. Now, without resorting to hard words, and accusing the Government of a breach of faith, I conceive myself bound in honour to those who accepted that principle to see that they are protected in the enjoyment of the only benefit offered them last year. But even from the tenant's point of view, is the clause, as it stands, an advantageous one? Not at all. If the proceeds of the sale of a holding do not go to the landlord in payment of arrears, they will go to the tenant's other creditors— the gombeen man, the banker, and the shopkeeper—and the tenant will be no better off than before. It is simply a controversy between two classes of creditors—the landlords on the one side, who at present have the right by law, and the other class of creditors who have no right by law, but who will have it if your Lordships pass the Bill as it stands. Another reason why the Government might accept the Amendment is that it is entirely consistent with the principle of the Bill, inasmuch as it cannot lead to evictions. The landlord will not be able, under this Amendment, to evict a tenant in order to realize his mortgage. The Amendment, moreover, will possess the great advantage of getting rid in the simplest fashion of one of the most difficult questions arising under the Bill —namely, how far the value of the tenancy is to be looked upon as an asset? If the holding is worth anything, the arrears will be paid; if it is worthless, they will not. The noble Lord opposite says the payment of the arrears might fall at a time very inconvenient for the tenant. But surely the justice of the case requires at least what was provided in the Act of last year—namely, that the arrears due to the landlord should be a first charge upon the proceeds of the sale.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, the noble and learned Earl appears to forget what this Bill really proposes to do. It proposes that the State shall make a gift to the landlord in consideration of his giving the tenant certain arrears. Now, I do not see in that proposal any infringement of the Act of last year. The question is merely whether the proceeding is in itself a just one. To say again that only the tenant's ordinary creditors—the gombeen man, the shopkeeper, &c.—will benefit by 187 the Bill, is to assume that the tenant will be leaving his holding as a bankrupt, which is surely going too far. As for the question of evictions, it seems to mo that the continuance of the arrears in the shape of a dormant mortgage will give the landlord a positive inducement to evict. I hope your Lordships will not agree to the Amendment of the noble Marquess.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
said, he would remind the Government that there was a great danger of other creditors than the landlord selling up the tenant. The number of Civil Bill suits in 1879 was 149,343, of which only 9,611 were instituted by the landlords for the non-payment of rent, and in 1880 125,000, of which only 9,856 were for the recovery of land by the landlord. The noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) said that as the landlord was receiving a gift, he was, at any rate, getting some equivalent for the security that was being taken away. But it was usual to give people the choice whether they would accept a gift or not. That, however, was not done under the Bill. Moreover, the gift would be a very small proportion of what the landlords might fairly expect to receive from their tenants. The worst point in that clause as it stood was that, unless the noble Marquess's Amendment was adopted, it would go directly against the honest tenant. It was absolutely necessary that the Amendment should be accepted, even for the protection of the tenants themselves. There were many instances in which the fact of a tenant owing money to his landlord was the only protection to him against being sold up by other creditors.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, with reference to the bearing on the position of the landlord of the Amendment which had been previously carried at the instance of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), he thought that in the case of the landlord who of his own free will had joined with the tenant in obtaining a composition, it was going rather far to say that it should of necessity be a part of the settlement that he should keep a lien on the tenant's holding. Looking at the proposed Amendment from a practical point of view, what was the advantage it would give the landlord? It would hold out to him the more or less remote prospect of recovering debt from his 188 tenant after a length of time which it was impossible to estimate. The landlord would be put in the invidious position of a cat watching a mouse in order to pounce on the tenant for the part of the debt which might be due when he sold his holding. Nothing could be more likely than that to prolong the agitation, which they were all anxious to allay. The landlord would retain a lien upon the holding, and whenever the tenant wished to sell, the landlord would take part of the purchase money. Whatever they might think of the tenant right custom, one of its advantages was that it gave the broken-down tenant who left his holding the means of emigrating or otherwise starting afresh in life. But if they told him beforehand that the small sum to which he was entitled was to be appropriated for the satisfaction of those ancient debts, they would place him in a very uncomfortable and disadvantageous position indeed. He did not see why the tenant in this case should not be treated as in the case of a bankrupt who had got his certificate. The whole principle of the Bill was that the whitewashing of a tenant should be an effectual one.
§ EARL CAIRNS
said, there was no analogy between such a man and an ordinary bankrupt. He did not look upon a tenant in such circumstances as a bankrupt. He was in possession of his tenant right, and was he going to be allowed to keep that and, at the same time, get his certificate? Supposing the Bill to pass without that Amendment, and that, at the next Quarter Sessions, the gombeen man sought to sell the tenant's holdings, the proceeds of which might be £200, the gombeen man would take possession, and the landlord would be deprived of that which ought to have paid his rent. That was not a remote contingency; it might happen three months hence.
§ On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 120; Not-Contents 45: Majority 75.190
|sBeaufort, D.||Abercorn, H. (D. Abercorn.)|
|Buckingham and Chandos, D.||Exeter, M.|
|Leeds, D.||Hertford, M.|
|Norfolk, D.||Salisbury, M.|
|Northumberland, D.||Winchester, M.|
|Richmond, D.||Ashburnham, E,|
|Bandon, E.||Colville of Culross, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||De Freyne, L.|
|Belmore, E.||De L' Isle and Dudley, L.|
|Carnarvon, E.||de Ros, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Digby, L.|
|Clonmell, E.||Dinevor, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queens berry.)||Donington, L.|
|Douglas, L. (E. Home.)|
|Eldon, E.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Forbes, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)|
|Kilmorey, E.||Harlech, L.|
|Lathom, E. [Teller.]||Harris, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Hawke, L.|
|Milltown, E.||Heytesbury, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Hylton, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||Lamington, L.|
|Powis, E.||Lilford, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Lovel and Holland, L.(E. Egmont.)|
|Redesdale, E.||Massy, L.|
|Romney, E.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Somers, E.||Moore, L. (M. Drogheda.)|
|Stradbroke, E.||Northwick, L.|
|Verulam, E.||Norton, L.|
|Waldegrave, E.||O'Neill, L.|
|Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)|
|Cranbrook, V.||Raglan, L.|
|Gough, V.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Hawarden. V. [Teller.]||Rossmore, L.|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Sackville, L.|
|Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|St. Vincent. V.||Saltoun, L.|
|Templetown, V.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Gloucester and Bristol, L. Bp.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Ashford. L. (V.Bury.)|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Borthwick, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Botreaux, L. (E. Loudoun.)||Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)|
|Brabourne, L.||Tollemaohe, L.|
|Brodrick. L. (V.Midleton.)||Tredegar, L.|
|Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)||Ventry, L.|
|Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Wigan, L. (E.Crawford and Balcarres.)|
|Clinton, L.||Wimborne, L.|
|Clonbrock, L.||Windsor, L.|
|Cloncurry, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Selborne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Ailesbury, M.|
|Kimberley, E.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)|
|Morley, E.||Leigh, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Loftus, L. (M. Ely.)|
|Suffolk and Berkshire, E||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Yarborough, E.||Methuen, L.|
|Monson, L. [Teller.]|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.)||Mount Temple, L.|
|Powerscourt, V.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Aberdare, L.||Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.]|
|Braye, L.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Breadalbane, L. (E. Breadalbane.)||Robartes, L.|
|Carlingford, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)|
|Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)|
|Emly, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Erskine, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Fitzgerald, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Hammond, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
In page 2, sub-section (3), line 18, after ("rent,") insert ("not specifically appropriated to any prior gale of rent.")—(The Viscount Gough.)
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
said, the proposed Amendment would disarrange the Bill, and spoil the structure of the clause without any sufficient object.
§ Amendment (by leave of the Committee) withdrawn.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD,
in moving an Amendment in page 2, sub-section (3), line 24, said, his Amendment was to carry out the intention of the Government, as stated by the Lord Privy Seal, and to save the "hanging gale" for the landlord. The clause, as it stood at present, had exactly the contrary effect, and confiscated the "hanging gale." He thought this clause in the Bill had been drawn by an English lawyer who did not understand what the term "hanging gale" meant. If the clause remained as it stood in the Bill, landlords, in order to protect themselves, would have to refuse permission to their tenants to apply to the Court for money to pay their arrears, in order to prevent their hanging gales being lost without compensation.
In page 2, sub-section (3), line 24, leave out from ("where") to end of the sub-section, and insert ("according to the ordinary course of dealing between the landlord and tenant of a holding, the rent of such holding has actually been paid at some time after the day on which it became legally due, the rent which according to such usual course of dealing ought to be paid in the year one thousand eight hundred and eighty-one, shall, for the purposes of this section, be deemed the rent payable in respect of the year expiring as aforesaid.")—(The Marquess of Waterford.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, he thought that the suggestion of the noble Marquess opposite was worthy the consideration of the Government, and that it would be desirable if the language of the clause could be made more clear and intelligible than at present. The clause was, he believed, intended to deal with abnormal arrears which had arisen from adverse seasons, and not with customary arrears, which existed when there was a hanging gale. The Bill as it now stood would have the effect of taking from the landlord the arrears which, in the ordinary course of dealing, were left outstanding.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
said, he must admit that this was a most distracting clause. He felt sure that there was no difference of intention between the noble Marquess and the Government on this point. They wished as well as he to save the hanging gale; but he was not willing to give up words which had been carefully considered by the Irish Law Officers.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
said, he had heard that three extremely clever men read the 3rd sub-section in three different ways, and all opposed to one another; the sub-section was so fearfully complicated, and if noble and learned Lords in that House could not understand it, how could they expect the Sub - Commissioners to do so? He thought it was very hard to impose the duty of explaining such a sub-section upon the Commissioners. His Amendment would make the sub-section perfectly plain, and he must, therefore, press it.
THE EARL OF BELMORE
said, with reference to the remarks of the noble Duke, that he had not described a hang- 192 ing gale quite correctly. He had a hanging gale himself on one of his estates. It was when the rent which accrued due legally, say, on March 25th, was not asked for till after Michaelmas. It did not arise from any indulgence, but from the fact that the harvest could not be turned into money before the six months ran out, when the gale days were the old ones in March and September, instead of in May and November, as was now generally the case. Great attention was required to the clause, as it was a serious matter.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
proposed a verbal Amendment in the clause as it stood, and promised that the matter should be considered by the Government before the Report.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
said, he would accept the alteration, without prejudice to his rights on the Report to adhere to his Amendment in its present form.
§ Amendment (by leave of the Committee) withdrawn.
In page 3, sub-section 6, line 7, after ("money,") insert ("Provided always, that where two or more parties are entitled to the arrears the Land Commission shall have power to decide the rights of the parties, and the proportion in which the said arrears shall be divided amongst them.")—(The Earl of Donoughmore.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he was not sure that the particular words of the Amendment might not be attended with some difficulty, as in the case of a dispute between a mortgagor and mortgagee. He saw no objection to the principle.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Modification in case of evicted tenant when restored to holding).
§ On the Motion of The Earl of DONOUGHMORE, Amendment made, inline 13, after ("apply,") by inserting ("jointly with his landlord.")
In page 3, line 16, after ("sold,") insert ("Subject always to compliance by the tenant with the conditions in the seventy-first section of the Landlord and Tenant Law Amendment (Ireland) Act, 1860, as to the payment and lodgment of rent and costs.")—(The Earl of Donoughmore.)
§ Amendment (by leave of the Committee) withdrawn.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.