HL Deb 14 August 1883 vol 283 cc439-48

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 1 (General right of tenant to compensation).


, in moving, as an Amendment, to insert the words— So far as such improvement is not due to the inherent capabilities of the soil or to extraneous circumstances, said, the objection which had been taken to the clause as it stood was, that it would suggest to the valuer to take into consideration other circumstances than the mere value of the improvement which might have resulted from the exercise of the skill, industry, and capital of the tenant—such, for instance, as the erection of a new railway station in the neighbourhood. This was an extremely reasonable Amendment, and would obviate the objections which he understood the Government entertained.

Amendment moved, In page 1, line 14, leave out from ("tenant") to end of Clause, and insert ("so far as such improvement is not due to the inherent capabilities of the soil or to extraneous circumstances.")—(The Earl of Milltown.)

On Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill?"


said, he had no doubt any form of words might be invented by ingenious persons; but he was very unwilling to consent to any change in the words as they stood, and as they came from the other House. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Milltown) had spoken of the advantages arising to the tenant from the erection of a new railway station in the neighbourhood of the holding. Did he suppose that a valuer performing his duty under this clause, and endeavouring to ascertain the sum that fairly represented the value of the improvement to the incoming tenant, would consider such an extraneous circumstance as to whether the general value of a farm had been increased by the erection of a railway station in the vicinity? He could not conceive a valuer taking any such circumstances into account, as his business would be to ascertain the value of the improvement itself.


said, he would call their Lordships' remembrance to the fact that this was substantially the same Amendment as the one which he moved when the Bill was in Committee; but as it appeared to him the majority of the House, though it was a full one, did not favour the proposal, he did not press it, and he should be sorry to go on with it now, when there were fewer Members present. He could not, however, agree with the noble Lord opposite (the Lord President) in thinking that it could have no effect, and that extraneous circumstances could not in any case be taken into account. Suppose there was a bad bit of pasture which the tenant had improved, and the improvements were not exhausted when the tenant left. There might have been a rise in the price of wool. Would not that make that bit of pasture of very much more value? He did not mean to say that that was an exact illustration; but he repudiated the principle that no case could arise of an improvement in which extraneous circumstances would add considerably to the value of an improvement.

Resolved in the affirmative.

Clause 4 (Notice to landlord as to improvement in schedule, Part II.)


moved, as an Amendment, in page 2, line 30, to leave out the words ("a specification"), and insert ("manner in which he proposes to do the"). The noble Lord said, the Amendment was proposed in fulfilment of the pledge given by the Government; and its object was to prevent the consequences which might have followed from the words as they stood, of the landlord being bound down to the specification of the tenant, which might be a very imperfect and faulty one.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved, In page 2, line 35, after ("may"), insert ("unless the notice of the tenant is previously withdrawn"); and in line 36, after ("himself"), insert ("and may execute the same in any reasonable and proper manner which he thinks fit.")—(The Lord President.)

On Question, "That those words be there inserted?"


said, that, before the words were put, he should like to ask his noble Friend (the Lord President) to explain them. He (the Earl of Camperdown) apprehended either that the parties might agree, or the landlord might undertake to execute the work himself.


said, he thought his noble Friend (the Earl of Camperdown) would see that the words were perfectly reasonable. They were in the Scotch Bill, and were merely for the purpose of avoiding the result that the tenant, having once given notice, should be absolutely bound by that notice. It was surely reasonable that when the landlord elected to do the work himself and in his own way the tenant should be allowed to back out if he chose.

Resolved in the affirmative.

Words inserted.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 (Reservation as to existing and future contracts of tenancy).


, in moving, as an Amendment, to omit that part of the clause which directs that the compensation for improvements provided by any future agreement shall be fair and reasonable, and to substitute the following Amendment:— Where in the case of a tenancy under a written contract beginning after the commencement of this Act such contract shall contain an agreement as to the manner in which compensation shall be made to the tenant for improvements made by him, then in such case the compensation in respect of such improvements payable in pursuance of the agreement so made shall be deemed to be substituted for compensation under this Act, said, that the proposal was not really his own; but that it had been suggested by a Liberal of the old school, whose name could never be mentioned without honour in that House. He alluded to the noble Earl (Earl Grey). That noble Earl, in a letter to The Times of June 4, said that a tenant might obtain a farm in preference to another man in consequence of an agreement, and having entered into that agreement he might afterwards turn round and repudiate it as not fair and reasonable, so that the Bill would become a direct premium on dishonesty. He would at once admit that his object was to get rid of the words "fair and reasonable;" and he believed his proposal would protect the country from a large amount of litigation, as those who had watched the course of events in Ireland would readily understand. It was stated that the farmers needed this parental or rather grandmotherly legislation. He did not believe it. Mr. Hope, of Fentonbarns, 15 years ago declared that the farmers of England had no need to come cap in hand to the Legislature. No doubt some tenants were foolish, and some landlords drove hard bargains; but, on the whole, he thought the interests of both classes would be best served by adopting the words he had suggested.

Amendment moved, in page 3, leave out lines 16 to 24, and insert— ("Where in the case of a tenancy under a written contract beginning after the commencement of this Act such contract shall contain an agreement as to the manner in which compensation shall be made to the tenant for improvements made by him, then in such case the compensation in respect of such improvements payable in pursuance of the agreement so made shall be deemed to be substituted for compensation under this Act.")—(The Earl of Wemyss.)

On Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill?"


said, that the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Wemyss) had taken the second-reading ground for the express purpose of getting rid of the element of compulsion. His arguments went to absolute freedom of bargaining in respect of the tenants' improvements in Part III., and to the absolute exclusion of any element of compulsion with respect to those improvements. The real effect of the Amendment was virtually to repeal all that portion of the Bill, though that was not distinctly proposed. He was aware that the words applied literally to agreements providing compensation in some manner or other; but, for all practical purposes, the noble Earl might just as well have taken the bolder course, and made all agreements, even prohibitory agreements, equally valid. No matter how evasive or illusory the agreement might be, it would oust the Bill, under the words proposed. As long as the agreement for compensation was not unfair and unreasonable it would stand, under the Bill; but, if the Amendment were accepted, an agreement which was inadequate, illusory, and evasive would be equally protected. He could not imagine that any of their Lordships who had accepted the principle of this measure could support the Amendment.


said, he could not possibly support the Amendment, as it was not consistent with the principle of the Bill. It appeared to him that if it was now to be accepted, the better course would have been to have rejected the clause in Committee, or to have thrown out the Bill on the second reading, because the whole Bill proceeded on the assumption that the agreement was to be compulsory. If it were permitted, there was nothing to prevent both parties contracting themselves out of the Bill by making a bogus agreement. If that were to be permitted, he would prefer to stick to the Bill of 1875; and, at the same time, he would point out that the House had been giving itself a great deal of trouble for nothing.


said, that, in his opinion, it was impossible to have such a clause as this without the certainty of fraudulent claims. He would suggest that, instead of the Amendment of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Wemyss), assuming their Lordships would not accept it, it would be a better thing that, instead of having this clause as it stood, and waiting till the parties to the agreement had fallen out, there should be some arrangement by which they should be prevented from falling out—that was to say, that the landlord and tenant, having come to an agreement, should have some power to ratify it, as it were, by getting some imprimatur put upon it or some sanction to it, so as to make it a binding agreement on them thereafter. They might provide, for instance, that any proposed agreement between landlord and tenant should, by the consent of the two parties, be submitted to a County Court Judge, or to some other functionary, who should say whether or not, in his judgment, it was fair and reasonable, and, if he held that it was, from that time forth it should bind the parties. Though objecting to interference with freedom of contract, he was inclined to think the Bill would not work so unjustly as his noble Friend feared, inasmuch as the Courts would always have the power of determining what was "fair and reasonable."


said, he thought it was desirable, in the votes they gave on that Bill, that there should be a certain sequence and consistency. In view of political circumstances—that was to say, the state of opinion—noble Lords on his side, who supported the Bill, were agreeable to sacrifice the principle of freedom of contract to a certain extent; but they were not prepared to agree to provisions which were in the nature of confiscation, or that interfered with existing agreements. He sympathized with much that had been said by his noble Friend (the Earl of Wemyss); but he must say it appeared to him that the Amendment was one distinctly directed to the same point as his Amendment to the second reading of the Bill—namely, to the principle of freedom of contract in the future. It would, therefore, be a departure from the votes they had hitherto given now to accept that Amendment; and, on the whole, while acknowledging that the proposal of his noble Friend was not without its advantages, he could not support it without acknowledging that he was wrong in not supporting him in opposing the second reading. He did not doubt the correctness of his noble Friend's and the noble Earl's (Earl Grey's) general principle. It would, he thought, be much better if the words "fair and reasonable" were not in the Bill. As to the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord who spoke last (Lord Bramwell), it was on all-fours with one which Sir Michael Hicks Beach had moved in the other House. There was a good deal at first sight in the proposal that attracted him, and a good deal that repelled him. It would, however, involve the setting up beforehand of a Court with power to deal with agreements between landlord and tenant. He was afraid that that would be what they called a germ, out of which future legislation would be developed to an extent they could not judge of, and he thought it would be better for their Lordships not to venture on such dangerous ground as that.


said, he fully agreed with what had fallen from the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury). He had himself gone carefully into a suggestion such as that which had been thrown out by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell). It had come to him from a high legal authority, and he must confess that, on casually looking at it the first time, it had a very plausible appearance; but after more fully considering it, he arrived at the result that it would lead inevitably to the erection of something in the nature of a Land Court. They could not constitute an authority to decide what was fair and reasonable, without giving some discretion as to what was to be held fair and reasonable. Then they would, of course, have the germ of a Land Court; and the question of rent might enter into the fairness, or otherwise, of the agreement. He was afraid, therefore, that no Amendment of that hind could be framed which would not be open to serious objection.

After a few words from Earl FORTESCUE,

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 56; Not-Contents 20: Majority 36.

Selborne, E. (L. Chancellor.) Kimberley, E.
Milltown, E.
Morley, E.
Richmond, D. Northbrook, E.
Westminster, D. Shaftesbury, E.
Sydney, E.
Salisbury, M. Verulam, E.
Beauchamp, E. Hawarden, V.
Camperdown, E. Hood, V.
Carnarvon, E. Sherbrooke, V.
Clonmell, E.
Derby, E. Aberdare, L.
Devon, E. Alcester, L.
Granville, E. Botreaux, L. (E. Loudoun.)
Haddington, E.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.] Norton, L.
Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)
Carlingford, L. Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)
Carrington, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Reay, L.
Ribblesdale, L.
Crewe, L. Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)
Emly, L.
Fitzgerald, L. Rowton, L.
Gerard, L. Sandhurst, L.
Haldon, L. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Harris, L.
Hopetoun, L. (E. Hopetoun.) Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.) Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll)
Lovat, L. Templemore, L.
Lyttelton, L. Thurlow, L.
Methuen, L. Truro, L.
Monson, L. [Teller.] Wrottesley, L.
Manchester, D. Bateman, L.
Blantyre, L.
Winchester, M. Bramwell, L.
Forbes, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Lamington, L.
Lyveden, L.
Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Feversham, E.
Fortescue, E. [Teller.] Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Lucan, E.
Redesdale, E. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.) [Teller.]
Stradbroke, E.
Westbury, L.
Melville, V. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the affirmative.

Clause 7 (Account of outlay during last and three preceding years of tenancy).

Amendment moved, in page 4, line 39, at end of Clause, add— Nor shall there be taken into account any outlay in respect of any purchased artificial or other purchased manure applied, or any cake or other feeding stuff consumed on the holding more than three years before the determination of the tenancy."—(The Earl of Feversham.)

On Question, "That those words be there added?"


said, it was impossible to accept the Amendment, for it would introduce, with regard to this particular class of improvements, the principle of compensating periods, which was not contemplated by the Bill. It would say that, at the end of three years, whether any value remained or not, there should be no compensation.

Resolved in the negative.


, in moving the in- sertion of a new clause, to follow Clause 17, said, its object was to put into a proper shape the provision for references to arbitration of agreements under the Bill, so far as concerned compensation which might be substituted for the general compensation in the Bill; and that with respect to this substituted compensation, it should be ascertained by the same system of referees and umpire, so far as the terms of the agreement between the parties admitted of it.

Amendment moved, in line 2, after Clause 17, insert as a new Clause:— (Award in respect of compensation under sections 3, 4, and 5.) ("In any case provided for by sections three, four, or five, if compensation is claimed under this Act, such compensation as under any of those sections is to be deemed to be substituted for compensation under this Act, if and so far as the same can, under the terms of the agreement, if any, be ascertained by the referees or the umpire, shall be awarded in respect of any improvements thereby provided for, and the award shall, when necessary, distinguish such improvements and the amount awarded in respect thereof.")—(The Lord President.)

On Question, "That the said Clause be there inserted?"


said, the clause was singularly drawn, and he must confess that he had great difficulty, if he could be said to have been even successful, in understanding it now. He had also submitted it to a high legal authority, who had experienced the same difficulty in arriving at a conclusion upon it. It was impossible to overrate the importance of the words "fair and reasonable;" it was the most vital part of the Bill. The other night be had contended successfully that an agreement was not a proper thing for the referees to determine upon, and that it would be better to reserve it for the Court. To that principle he was very anxious to adhere. He did not believe that the main machinery of the Bill would act at all, or that the principle of value, as against the principle of outlay, would be found to work well. Practically, they would find landlords and tenants reverting to the principle of agreements, which would be based on outlay, and which would oust the principle of value. But he thought that, as it was, it was important there should be a proper means of determining the validity, the meaning, and the effect of the agreement on which so much would depend, and which he was loth to leave to the valuers entirely; for he still had a prejudice in favour of Courts of Law. Though he did not profess to understand the Amendment, he gathered from the explanation of the noble Lord (the Lord President) that it would have a useful effect, and he, therefore, would not object to it; but he hoped the noble Lord would allow these words to be added—"And an award given under this clause shall be subject to the appeal provided by this Act"—of which he had given Notice.

Resolved in the affirmative.

Clause inserted accordingly.

On the Motion of the Marquess of SALISBURY, the said Clause amended by adding the words ("and an award given under this clause shall be subject to the appeal provided by this Act.")

Clause, as amended, agreed to, and ordered to stand part of the Bill."

Clause 60 (General saving of rights.)

On the Motion of the LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL, the following Amendment made:—In page 20, lines 25 to 30, leave out from ("compensation under this Act") in line 25 to ("under this Act") in line 30, both inclusive.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Bill to be read 3a on Thursday next, and to be printed, as amended. (No. 192.)