§ LORD WAVENEY
rose to call the attention of her Majesty's Government to resolutions adopted at a meeting of tenant right delegations in the Province of Ulster, and to move that resolutions 2 and 3 be incorporated in an Act supplementary to the Land Act, 1881
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMOER,
interposing, said, he rose to make an appeal to his noble Friend (Lord Waveney), of which he had given him private Notice. He was sorry he was not able to give the noble Lord longer Notice; but he did not feel entirely to blame in the matter, because he understood that the words of the resolutions to which the noble Lord desired to draw attention had only a short time ago appeared on the Notice Paper of the House. They had only come to his knowledge two hours ago, and when he saw their form he was astonished, and felt that it would not be desirable to discuss them at the present time. Those resolutions were as follows:—
§ Resolutions moved at Land Conference in Belfast, Friday, 26th January 1883.
§ "First.—That, in the opinion of this Conference, it is incumbent on the Government at the assembling of Parliament to bring forward a measure, and have it passed with the least possible delay, amending the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, in the following respects:—
- 1. To effectually protect the tenant against any rent being charged upon the value of his tenant-right or improvements:
- 2. To provide that the judicial rent shall commence on the gale-day next after the date of the application to the Court:
- 3. To enable leaseholders to come under the Act of 1881, and to have a fair rent fixed:
- 4. To define town parks, and limit their exclusion from the Land Act to proper cases:
- 5. To improve the purchase clauses, enabling the Land Commissioners to advance the whole of the purchase money, payable by instalments extending when required over a period up to sixty years, and at proportionately reduced rate of interest; as we believe the permanent solution of the Irish Land question can only be attained through the occupier becoming the owner of the soil:
§ Second.—That all unnecessary restrictions on the sale and transfer of property in land should be removed, and a system of easy and simple registration of ownership in each county establised:
§ Third.—That the gross abuses so long existing under the present grand jury system demand the immediate attention of the Government; and this Conference declares that in any new scheme of county government, the county boards must be elected by the direct voices of the ratepayers voting by ballot; and that, in addition to county boards, provincial councils shall be established for determining, amongst other things, all such local matters as are now dealt with by tedious and expensive private legislation:
§ Fourth.—That this Conference deplores and condemns the violence and outrage which have stained the country, and urges upon all citizens to aid in the prevention of crime and the restoration of peace and industry:
§ Fifth.—That, for the purpose of securing prompt and concerted action in regard to all questions affecting the interests of the farmers of Ulster, a committee be formed, to consist of five representatives from each county in Ulster, nominated by the several tenant-right associations."
§ The appeal he had to make to the noble Lord was not to move the resolutions, and for this reason. There had of late been some very striking controversies on Irish questions, and facts had come to light which showed that the state of the country was extremely serious. In these circumstances they had heard repeated appeals from individual Ministers, that Ireland should be allowed some calm and tranquillity, in order that the country might have a chance of reverting to a state of peace and tranquillity. It appeared to him that the discussion of the resolutions referred to by his noble Friend would not serve any useful purpose at the present moment, and would form, outside their Lordships' House, the subject of comments which might increase the difficulty of the task of those who were responsible for the peace of Ireland. There were other points he might go into, but he would refrain from doing so. He 691 therefore asked his noble Friend whether, in the present grave condition of Ireland, keeping in view the necessity of giving that country some rest from agitation, he thought it wise to propose the Motion on the Notice Paper—a Motion which must tend to foster and strengthen agitation?
§ LORD WAVENEY
said, he thought it was fortunate that his noble Friend had made that appeal, because he was thus given an opportunity of clearing the ground for the consideration of the question at large. In regard to the opportunities their Lordships had had of considering the subject, it would be recollected that some 48 hours ago a noble Lord put a Question to him as to the particular form in which he intended to bring forward his Motion, and he had replied that he should stand on certain resolutions. He regretted the state of things in the House of Commons, and in Ireland; but it appeared to him that the discussion could not very well be postponed. He knew the feelings and sentiments of the tenant right associations which met on the occasion in question, and he was sorry that he could not meet the views of his noble Friend in the way he desired. He, however, only intended to move two of the resolutions, the second and third of the first branch; and he might point out that there was a discussion on Irish affairs upon the Address to the Throne.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
rose to Order. The Notice as printed did not apply to the measure of which the noble Lord spoke. The Notice mentioned resolutions 1 and 2; whereas the noble Lord now referred to the sub-sections 2 and 3, and it did not appear that they corresponded with the intention of the noble Lord.
§ LORD WAVENEY
said, what he proposed to do was to call the attention of the House to the resolutions on the Paper as a whole, the whole having been considered by the delegations; but he only intended to move that those numbered 2 and 3 should be additions to the legislation on the subject.
§ THE EARL OF REDESDALE (CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES)
said, that the noble Lord proposed to call attention to resolutions passed at a meeting of tenant right delegations in the Province of Ulster. That might be very well; but 692 it would be perfectly out of Order to move that resolutions 2 and 3 should be incorporated in an Act. That would be legislation.
§ LORD WAVENEY
said, he was at a loss to see how he should be out of Order in making the Motion he was about to propose. The Motion only referred to a desire for legislation by the Government in the usual way.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he believed the noble Lord did not understand the objection taken by the noble Earl. Any Member of the House had the privilege of laying a Bill on the Table and moving its first reading; but it was a different thing to move that certain resolutions be incorporated in an Act.
§ LORD WAVENEY
said, that when he had proceeded with his Motion, any noble Lord might move that he should proceed no further. He conceived that it would be of very great importance that the resolutions should be placed before the country through the Legislature. He had observed with very great regret that the most important Province of Ireland seemed to have fallen almost entirely out of the purview and knowledge of the people of this country. They heard enough of the people of other Provinces who had objects tending, almost without exception, to disturb the public peace, or, at all events, to advance the objects of the promoters in a way that their Lordships could not approve. It was, therefore, that he desired to call attention to these resolutions as tending to the improvement of legislation. The 1st was—That, in the opinion of this Conference, it is incumbent on the Government at the assembling of Parliament to bring forward a measure, and have it passed with the least possible delay, amending the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, in the following respects:—1. To effectually protect the tenant against any rent being charged upon the value of his tenant-right or improvements.The Conference to which reference was made was a very important one. It took place in the large Province of Ulster—a Province which did not often come under the view of the people of this country. The delegations came from the eight counties, and represented many tenant right associations. The resolutions approved by that Conference might else-whore have been of an agitating and 693 disturbing character, and might have drawn forth expressions of hostility to the Government and to this country; but no syllable of the kind was whispered on the occasion to which he referred. The tenant right associations met, they listened with attention to what was said, and they decided with judgment. The 1st resolution was simply an expression of opinion on the part of those associations. But he now came to points which he hoped he might hear now or later in the Session would be added to the list of subjects of additional legislation for Ireland. The object of the 2nd resolution wasTo provide that the judicial rent shall commence on the gale-day next after the date of the application to the Court.All in Ulster to whom he had spoken considered that this was equitable; and he would observe that, if this principle were not followed, a landlord would get more than he was entitled to, and the tenant would have to pay more than was just. The next resolution, the object of which was to enable leaseholders to come under the Act of 1881, and to have a fair rent fixed, comprehended more than might at first sight appear. With regard to leaseholders simply there was no great difficulty. But there was another class in which the case was not quite so simple. Let them take, for example, a Corporation having land in Ireland, which they had administered for nearly 300 years, and one to which Ireland was greatly indebted for the spread of knowledge and science—he meant Trinity College. It had been found necessary for the Corporation of Trinity College, like other Corporations, to delegate a large part of their power to middlemen. The very name of "middleman" was a word of evil omen, because the middlemen had in too many instances shown a disposition to abuse their powers; but that was not the case with those who administered under these great Corporations. The property of Trinity College, Dublin, consisted of something like 300,000 acres, in three counties. The custom of the administration of this property remained unchanged till the year 1851, when an Act was passed defining and regulating the whole of the custom, and the toties quoties clause of this Act established a continual chain of responsibility and liability from the College to their immediate grantees, and 694 from the grantees to the sub-tenants. Now, the land being leasehold, the grantee was outside the operation of the Land Act and, while the sub-tenant had all the advantage of that measure, suffered a double loss from the reduction of the tenant's rent by the Court and the increase of his own rent and fine in consequence of the rise of prices. For example, in 1850 the rent and fine of a particular property was £821; in 1851 prices rose, and the rent rose with them to £951; in 1866, under the influence of the same rise in prices, the rent rose to £1,128, and by the year 1876 it had become £1,241; the total increase in 21 years being 32 per cent. Thus, while the sub-rents were being reduced by the Commission, the head rents were being steadily increased by the rise in prices. The reasonable conclusion was that such leases ought to come under the operation of the Act. The other resolutions related to the better defining of town parks; the question of the improvement of the Purchase' Clauses of the Act; the removal of unnecessary restrictions on the sale and transfer of land, with respect to which he believed that everyone was agreed; the reform of the Grand Jury system; the scheme for county government, on which points he need say nothing; and a warm condemnation of outrages and violence, the expression of which well became the farmers of Ulster. He desired to place on record his opinion as to the action that he deemed to be essential; and he believed it to be essential that two points omitted in the Land Act should be attended to—namely, the commencement of judicial rent and the placing of leaseholders under the Act of 1881. It would be enough if a measure consisted of these two clauses only. They would be accepted as evidence of the determination of the Government to fill up any blanks in our legislation. It was not to be expected, considering all the difficulties of the question, that the Land Act should have been perfect at first. He believed in the honesty and sincerity of the men who approved the Resolutions which he desired to press upon the attention of the House.
§ THE EARL OF LEITRIM
said, he only became aware of this Motion on Wednesday, and on deciding to speak upon that part of the noble Lord's Motion which referred to Trinity College, Dublin, he at once telegraphed to the College to inform the Board of his intention, with the object that they might be represented by their Chancellor, who had a seat in their Lordships' House. The statement he desired to make, and which he had wished should be an ex parte one, was on the subject of the Trinity College leases. The tenure of the land held under that Corporation was somewhat peculiar and complex. The perpetuity leases embraced about 158,000 acres and about 41 immediate tenants of the College, with a rental of about £33,000. The perpetuity tenants had under them perpetuity sub-tenants, who had again perpetuity sub-tenants under them, and under them again were tenants-at-will, who were subject to the operations of the Land Act of 1881. But this condition of things did not prevail upon all the College estates, and in his own case there was only himself between the College and 800 odd tenants. Prior to 1851 the properties were held under leases of 21 years, which were renewable every year on the payment of a fine of 5s 6d. on every pound of rent. As far back as the Reign of Charles I. an Act of Parliament was passed to bind the College not to let their lands at leas than half their letting value. Now, before he passed on from this, he begged particularly to draw their Lordships' attention to the fact that at that early date the letting value, and not less than half that, was to be the test of their rents. How could that letting value be ascertained? It could only be ascertained by the amount that their sub-tenants paid to them. Well, then, again in the Reign of George III. another Act was passed in the interests of the tenants, and of the College as well, to enable the College to take less rent than half the letting value from their tenants, provided that that rent should not be less than the rent paid during the preceding 20 years. The next and the last time that Parliament intervened was in 1851, and the cause of the intervention was that while the tenants were paying the College their yearly rents they were unable to pay the yearly fine of 5s. 6d. in the pound. 696 During the years of famine from 1846 to 1848 they had difficulty enough to live. And the result of their ceasing to pay was, that the Board and senior Fellows, so to speak, were starving, the fines being the chief source of their in-some. On his grandfather's estate the fines were three years in arrear. In 1849, in response to an appeal from the College, the Government gave powers to the Board for a period of two years to pay themselves out of the general funds of the College. That the College did not see the propriety of communicating with the tenants before appealing to the Government excited grave suspicions in the minds of the tenants, who immediately represented to the Government that the change would destroy the security of their tenure, inasmuch as the dependence of the Board upon their renewal fines would be a perpetual motive for their renewing their leases. The tenants relied on the two Acts of Parliament to which he had referred, and they also relied on the good faith of the College, which had always declared that the tenants' interests and improvements should be respected. He supposed they relied most of all upon the guarantee of the self-interest of the Board, who were dependent upon these renewal fines. It was hardly to be expected that the tenants would relinquish this substantial and almost perpetual guarantee without receiving some further security in return. On these representations of the tenants, the Government of the day, when Lord Clarendon was Lord Lieutenant, very justly only gave temporary powers to the Board to pay themselves out of the general funds of the College, and in the meantime the Government determined to investigate the matter and to decide upon legislation. The result of the investigation was the Act of 1851, under which 21 years' leases could be converted into perpetuities in consideration of the payment of a certain sum annually in addition to the rent and renewal fine, which was arrived at by a notarial calculation. The Act also provided that the rents should afterwards be settled at the end of every decennial period according to the increase or decrease in the price of the following commodities:—wheat, oats, beef, mutton, and butter, whereas all valuations of land in Ireland had up to that time included four other commodities—namely, barley 697 potatoes, flax, and pork. The Act made the rents of the toties quoties sub-tenants liable to revision under the same system, but was silent as to the yearly sub-tenants, obviously because the immediate or intermediate tenant could, in the then state of the law, raise their rents if he thought fit. The absurdity of the standard fixed by the Act was shown by the circumstance that on a large estate in the county of Donegal, consisting of 28,700 acres, there was not a single bushel of wheat grown, and yet that was one of the commodities specified for the raising or lowering of the rent. It was also provided by the Act that the party who called upon the other for a revision of rent should bear the cost of the arbitration. There was nothing to complain of in the spirit of the Act, but how had it worked? The perpetuities having been taken out, 10 happy years slipped away, but after that there were no more happy days for the tenants. His predecessor in title was the first tenant who was called upon by the College to pay an increased rent, and the arbitrators ascertained in 1863 that in nine of the principal towns in Ireland the commodities showed a rise of no less than 34 per cent on the perpetuity rents arrived at 10 years previously. In these circumstances, the tenant very wisely compromised for a rise of only 25 per cent. How was that arrived at? The arbitration cost the College £3,000. What would be the effect upon the exchequer of the tenant who claimed to have an abatement of rent—supposing even that prices shrunk, whereas it was well-known that they did not shrink—in the case of the exceptional commodities named in the Act? The College was compelled to pay £3,000, and would retort upon the tenant to make him prove again before the arbitrator, and put him to the expense of £3,000 at least—perhaps more. That would be practically ruinous to the tenant. What was the effect on the College? They were not going again to be mulcted in costs? So, when the decennial period of other tenants expired, they wrote to say that they could prove that there had been an increase in the value of land of 34 per cent, but that if the tenants would admit a rise in prices to the extent of 20 per cent, and save the College the expenses of an arbitration, they would agree to accept an in- 698 crease of only 20 per cent, instead of 25 per cent, as in the case of another tenant. There was, of course, nothing for it but to accept that offer. The perpetuity tenants were, of course, entitled to demand from their sub-perpetuity tenants a proportionate increase. The perpetuity tenants were gentlemen living on their own properties, and they knew more about the condition of the land and of their sub tenants than the Board of Trinity College could know. It was only fair to say that they did not exact a proportionate increase of rent from their sub-tenants, but only such an increase as would compensate them for the increased amount which they had to pay to Trinity College. The second decennial period arrived in May, 1876. The College stated that there had been an increase in value of 22 per cent, but that if the tenants would signify in writing their consent to an award that would give an increase of 10 per cent, the Board would consent to remit such increase for the first three years. The 10 per cent rise had not yet been exacted, but the liability remained, and was still maintained by the Board. How could land be properly developed under such a tenure, or satisfactory settlements with sub-tenants be arrived at? Then the Land Act of 1881 was passed, and the Commissioners decided that there had been a great depreciation of the value of land. Yet the College continued to exact in one case 25, in all others 20 per cent of rent above the rents of 1863. The depreciation was brought before the Board, and the tenants asked for a reduction corresponding to the depreciation in the value of land; but their answer was that there had been no such depreciation in the value of land as to justify the reductions of the Commissioners. But the evidence given by their own valuer before the Commission showed that in Kerry the value of land had decreased of late years by 25 per cent. Moreover, on their own estates, where perpetuity tenants were not concerned, the College had made abatement of rents to a larger amount than 25 per cent. In the case of perpetuity tenants, however, they denied that there had been any reduction in the value of land, and they held those unhappy tenants to their bond. He was afraid that he had gone a great length into this very dry, but to those con- 699 cerned a deeply interesting, subject. As an illustration of the result of the action of the College with regard to one of their Kerry estates, he might say that the judicial rents were now 25 per cent below the pre-perpetuity rents. Yet on that estate the College had demanded an increase of 20 per cent on the old head rent. In Donegal, again, the College was demanding an increase in the pre-perpetuity head rent of 32 per cent, while the Sub-Commissioners were fixing the rents of the under-tenants at only 9 per cent above their pre-perpetuity rents. These facts wore likely to be made still more startling by the future decisions of the Sub-Commissioners. In conclusion, he wished to point out that the Government had incurred a grave responsibility in this matter, inasmuch as the position of the tenants with regard to the College was arrived at entirely through the action of the Government of Lord Clarendon with respect to the Act of 1851, which had entirely broken down in its working.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
said, he doubted whether the oldest inhabitant of their Lordships' House had ever listened to speeches which were more irregular in their character than the two which had just been delivered. The speech of the noble Earl who had just sat down was founded upon the Notice of Motion of the noble Lord behind him (Lord Waveney), which occupied a whole page of their Lordships' Paper, and was certainly of a most unusual kind, and which the noble Earl had used for the purpose of bringing forward the grievances which with great pains he had just laid before the House. The noble Lord's Notice of Motion, which was probably an historical event, contained a number of resolutions which had been adopted at a public meeting in Ireland, and called upon that House to embody them in an Act of Parliament—a method of legislating which, he heard from a high authority, our ancestors were in the habit of adopting. Upon that Notice the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Leitrim) had founded his own statement, which, if he understood it rightly, was simply a statement of his own personal grievance.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRIVY SEAL)
Well, that was, at all events, a feeble attempt on his part to guess at the drift of the noble Earl's observations. In doing that the noble Earl had taken a course which was very much opposed to his own interests, and one which was very unjust to the great body he attacked. It had been painful to listen to some portions of the noble Earl's address, which had been so elaborately prepared under circumstances in which it could be of no use to himself, and was unjust to Trinity College, Dublin. It so happened that that morning he (Lord Carlingford) had received a large document from an official of Trinity College, Dublin, with a letter which stated that the noble Earl was about to make an attack upon the College in that House; but, finding no announcement to that effect upon the Notice Paper, he had put the document on one side, as it had never occurred to him for one moment that this attack was to be made under cover of the noble Lord's Notice. In these circumstances he must plead utter inability to go into the matter. As to the Motion of his noble Friend (Lord Waveney), he hoped he would excuse him if he followed him in very few words indeed; and for this reason, that he absolutely refused on the present occasion to go into the merits of any one of all these points enumerated in the Notice Paper. He was not quite sure whether the noble Lord invited the Government to legislate on all those points, or only on one or two. If all the resolutions enumerated by then able Lord were to be incorporated in a Statute it would be one of the most colossal Acts of Parliament ever passed. To deal with one or two of the resolutions only would make a large demand upon the time of Parliament, and the controversies that would arise would probably occupy a large part of the Session. Into the merits of the noble Lord's proposals it was not at present his business to enter; but this he would say, and it was the one point of agreement he had with his noble Friend, that the body from which the resolutions emanated was one eminently worthy of the respect of that House. He heartily 701 agreed with his noble Friend as to the excellent spirit in which the tenantry of Ulster put their proposals before Parliament and the Government, and it was evident, on the face of it, that these proposals, whatever they might think of them on their merits, had on them the stamp of perfect loyalty and a thoroughly Constitutional spirit. That was a fact which in Ireland in the case of a great public meeting dealing with the burning subject of the Land Laws all should recognize, as he himself did; but beyond that he was not able to go. He did not for a moment intend to contradict the statement of his noble Friend that such an exceptionally difficult Act of Parliament as the Irish Land Act could not be supposed to be totus teres atque rotundus,and that it might some day require correction. The Government, however, were not now prepared to introduce such legislation as the noble Lord advocated. If they were to attempt to do so, it would be absolutely impossible to limit the time which would have to be devoted to the subject. He trusted that the noble Lord, now that he had done justice to his friends in the county of Antrim, would refrain from asking their Lordships to come to any decision upon the matter before them.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, he did not propose to make any remarks with respect to the substantive proposals of the noble Lord opposite. If they had been made in any serious spirit, and with any prospect of being brought to a definite issue, he imagined that the Benches of their Lordships' House would hardly have been so denuded of tenants. The Motion referred to some very burning Irish questions, and whenever those questions should come before Parliament, they must be the subject of very serious consideration. But with respect to what the noble Earl near him (the Earl of Leitrim) had said in reference to Trinity College, he might state that he had received a telegram from his noble and learned Friend (Earl Cairns), which said that it was unfair and irregular to make an attack on Trinity College without sufficient Notice, and that he would be ready to meet any Motion which the noble Earl should choose to make after due Notice given on the Paper. The noble Earl had dealt with documents and figures relating to 702 the lands of Trinity College, and to the occupiers and leaseholders and middlemen connected with them, but into these he did not propose now to enter. The noble Earl should repeat his arguments in the presence of the Chancellor of Trinity College (Earl Cairns), giving due Notice of his intention to do so.
§ THE EARL OF REDESDALE (CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES),
said, he concurred with the Lord Privy Seal as to the character of the speeches delivered by the noble Lords. He must protest against the irregular way in which the subject had been brought before the House, especially when, as he understood, there was an Act of Parliament specially affecting the lands of Trinity College in force. If any alterations were desired, a Bill should be introduced. He supposed the Trinity College rent was something in the nature of what might be called a quit rent, or something of that sort.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Waveney) could not be put in its present form.
§ LORD WAVENEY
said, he reserved to himself the right of bringing in a Bill dealing with the subject, if it should appear to be desirable; they should not wait on events, but make events wait for events, especially when they had opportunities there which the other House did not possess. He begged to withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Six o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.