§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (Earl CARRINGTON)
My Lords, in rising to move the Second Reading of the Land Tenure Bill, I should be the last person in the world to attempt to deny that when this Bill was first introduced there was a certain amount of unpopularity about it in some quarters, and I might go so far as to say that it excited a certain amount of apprehension. I am glad to be able to say that that feeling 864 has to a great extent died down. But there yet seems to be a good deal of misunderstanding on the subject, and the Bill apparently still causes a certain amount of unnecessary alarm. One reason for this apprehension possibly lies in the name "Land Tenure Bill." People seem to think there is something mysterious in the name. Personally, I think it ought properly to have been called the Agricultural Holdings Act Amendment Bill, 1906. One reason given why the Bill should not be allowed to pass into law this session has been that it was a private Member's Bill. But if my memory does not fail me Mr. Balfour himself in 1897 carried through the Workmen's Compensation Bill giving agricultural labourers compensation. While it was a private Member's Bill that measure was watched in the House of Commons by Mr. Long; it was passed through that House as a private Member's Bill, and taken over as a Government measure when it reached your Lordships' House, and passed into law, to the great advantage of all concerned. I venture to suggest that that is a precedent, and not at all a bad one, for the action His Majesty's Government have taken on the present occasion.
I may remind your Lordships that the Land Tenure Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 9th March by Mr. Agar-Robartes, the son of the Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, a Member of your Lordships' House, who also owns a large and well-managed estate in the west of England. It passed its Second Heading by a majority of 253 votes, and was then sent up to Grand Committee, where it remained nine days, being well threshed out and a good deal altered. It was then brought back to the House of Commons, where it was discussed for nine days on Report, and, after a hostile Amendment moved by Sir Henry lumber, who could rally to his standard only twenty-seven Members, of whom only seven were county Members, against a majority of 260, there was no division on the Third Reading. The Bill occupied seventeen Parliamentary clays, so that I do not think anyone can say that, consisting as it does of only twelve clauses, it was not properly and fairly discussed in another place. Another reason urged against the Bill—which, if it had been well-founded, would have been 865 a potent and cogent objection—was that it would interfere with something your Lordships have very much at heart—the creation of small holdings. With all respect, I hold, on the contrary, that it will facilitate the creation of small holdings. If this Bill becomes law landlords will be more careful than ever of the kind of men they select to put on these small holdings, and at the same time the men themselves will be more secure in the holdings given to them. That this is a necessity has been shown by the legislation passed by both Parties in the House for the benefit of small holders—the Allotments Act, 1887; the Allotments and Cottage Gardens (Compensation for Crops) Act, 1887; the Small Holdings Act, 1892; and the Market Gardeners' Compensation Act, 1895.
Perhaps the most serious difficulty experienced by the supporters of the Bill has been the organised opposition of that great practical agricultural body, the land agents, surveyors, and tenant-right valuers of England, who at first took up a decidedly hostile attitude towards the Bill, but who, I am glad to say, like other persons, have considerably modified their opinions. Within the last two days, the Surveyors' Institution have been courteous enough to send me a memorandum in which those words occur—That the apprehension against the Bill originally felt is to a great measure removed.Different bodies have sent deputations to interview me on the subject. I well remember the first deputation I had the pleasure of receiving. It was introduced by Mr. Elias Squarey, a well-known and respected member of the Surveyors' Institution, who went so far as to say that he considered the Bill simply as spoliation. I need not quote other hard words which he used, but that is the attitude he took up. He was supported by another past president of the Surveyors' Institution, Mr. Arthur Vernon, of Great George Street, a man of great knowledge and highly thought of in the agricultural world, who maintained that not one farmer in a hundred cared three straws about the Bill. That was the opinion of a past president of the Surveyors' Institution in March, but when I think of the support that the Bill has received in the agricultural world, I 866 am not quite sure that that distinguished gentleman is right. I am not going too far when I say that the Bill has received the practical support of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, that great body which represents the different Chambers of Agriculture throughout the country. I openly confess that the Central Chamber of Agriculture did not agree with Clause 7 as it originally stood, but that was the only clause on which they disagreed with us, and, as that clause has been materially altered, I do not think I am stretching language when I say that, practically speaking, the Central Chamber of Agriculture supports the Bill. Then the Farmers' Club, a large body consisting of 915 farmers, had a special meeting to discuss the Bill, and passed a Resolution in its favour. Further, I was present at a mooting of the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture, and, though it would not be correct to say that they were in favour of the Bill as it stood, I can truthfully say that they were in favour of all the principles save one contained in the Bill, and they even wont further in some respects than the Bill itself. What they objected to was the compensation for disturbance clause, very properly saying, "That is no good to us; we do not want compensation for disturbance, for the simple reason that we have nineteen years leases, so that we are never disturbed." They were in the same category as the northern miners, who objected to the Eight Hours Bill for the simple reason that they worked only six-and-a-half hours. I took the opportunity of pointing out to the Scottish gentleman that though they were, so to speak, in clover, they ought to think of their less fortunate brethren south of the Tweed, and give them the chance which they themselves did not need. Another great body, the Land Law Reform Association, met in London; they collected a great body of opinion from different parts of agricultural England, and also from representatives of towns, and they saw that the Bill would do something—I do not say a great deal—to help to stop the terrible congestion in our great manufacturing towns which is so great a menace and danger to the future.
I now come to the opinion of the farmers. There was a meeting at New-castle of 600 tenant farmers of the North of England. They did not 867 discuss the Bill; like the Caledonians, they would not give any opinion about the Bill quâ Bill, but I must point out that all the principles of the Bill were highly approved of by these hard-headed Northern farmers. ["No, no."] I speak under correction, but my opinion and recollection are that the main principles embodied in this Bill were approved generally by those tenant farmers. Like the Scotsmen, they went even further than I did, and recommended agricultural reforms that are not to be found in the Bill which I have the honour to bring before your Lordships. Then thirty Essex farmers came to see me. Most of them were of a different shade of politics from those of us who sit on this side of the House, and several of them farmed from two to three thousand acres of land, and they also were in favour of the Bill. Last, but not least, I had a deputation from 1,600 Lincolnshire farmers, who had bound themselves into a union, called the Lincolnshire Farmers' Union, and they said, "We are in deadly earnest over this Bill." Therefore, I think I can fairly say that the great consensus of agricultural opinion, especially of the farmers, is in favour of this Bill. I do not wish to exaggerate in any way or to create a false impression, but I believe that if you were to poll the tenant farmers of the country, at least 70 per cent. of them would be in favour of the Bill I am introducing. ["No, no."]
The object of the Bill is in no way to make an attack on any single landlord or on landlords as a class. Its sole and only object is to make a bad landlord, if there is such a person, do by law what all good landlords for years and years have done by grace, by favour, and by instinct. If I may be permitted, I should like very briefly to run through the main points of the Bill as it stands. Clause 1 simplifies and cheapens transactions between landlords and tenants and does not alter existing arrangements. I would call to your Lordships' attention one fact, namely, that where a tenant has made on his holding any improvement comprised in the first Schedule to this Act he is, at the determination of his tenancy, on quitting his holding to be entitled to obtain from his landlord as compensation for the improve- 868 ment such sum as fairly represents the value of the improvement to an incoming tenant. There are two points to be noticed in that provision. In the first place, by the insertion of the words "on quitting his holding" the sitting tenant is taken out of the Bill. Personally I am sorry for that, because if most landlords have a warm corner in their heart it is for the man who sticks to the ship, and I have never been able to see why the man who goes on with his farm on a new tenancy should not be treated as liberally as the man who leaves the estate, having perhaps made his fortune. However, the Conservative Party knocked out the sitting tenant, so it is no use talking about him. Your Lordships will observe that from the first subsection of Clause 1, the phrase contained in the Act of 1900 about the inherent capabilities of the soil being taken into account is omitted. The question of the inherent capabilities of the soil was well threshed out in the House of Commons and in the Royal Commission, so that without detaining your Lordships on the point I will pass to the next important part of the clause, viz., that all questions to be determined by arbitration should be determined by a single arbitrator. There has been a great deal of discussion about this single arbitrator, and as much diversity of opinion as to whether the provision is right or wrong has been expressed, I should like to read a few words written by one of the cleverest law officers of the Crown which explain the operation of the clause.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
It is Mr. Clark, the lawyer of the Board of Agriculture He says—The clause would operate only in case the landlord and tenant failed to settle. It would not prevent them from arriving at any agreement without going to arbitration. If the parties did not come to an agreement the operation of the clause would be that there must be a single arbitrator, and the arbitration procedure must be that which was set up in Part I of the second Schedule of the Act of 1900.I think that is all I need say about Clause 1.
Now I come to Clause 2, which is known as the game clause. Here I 869 should like to make a personal statement. Many of those for whom I have the greatest respect and affection have for the last few months bombarded me with the question, Why on earth do you want to do away with sport? My Lords, I will ask one question in return. Is it likely, if that was either my wish or the wish of the promoters of this Bill, that I should be supported by noble Lords who sit on this side of the House? is it likely that I should be supported by men who are well-known in the hunting-field and are celebrated for their prowess with the rifle and the shotgun? On the contrary, the object of this clause is simply and solely that British sport should be carried on in a sportsmanlike and British manner, and in that I feel certain I shall have the sympathy and support of both sides of the House. We do not wish to interfere in any way with either game preserving or game letting under proper conditions. Personally, I maintain that under some conditions game preserving is an absolute benefit to a neighbourhood. May I give an instance? Many of your Lordships travel by the Great Eastern Railway, and will have noticed that dreadful Peru-like piece of country between Thetford and Brandon, land only fit for growing rabbits and firtrees, nor fit for any decent sort of cultivation. In the old days that land had upon it only a few starved sheep and a few still more starved people, and a few stunted roots. But some gentlemen have settled in the neighbourhood and preserved game to some extent, and what is the result? Cottages have been built, churches erected, a water supply laid on, roads made, and, if I may use a Scriptural quotation, that one-time desert now seems to blossom as the rose. I do not for one moment say that game preserving should be initiated in any highly cultivated country. Far from it; but I defy contradiction when I say that there are portions of England where game preserving might be carried on without any great injury to the community at largo, and, in such instances as that I have quoted, with great benefit to society in general.
But, my Lords, on the other hand, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that a great deal of game preserving is carried on under circumstances which are not at all good for farming or for 870 tenants. I should like to give an instance of what I moan. There are several shooting places to be let, and doubtless your Lordships from time to time receive particulars. I take one at random. It is a small estate of about 10,000 acres, which to some of your Lordships is a very small modicum of land, and the shooting is to let. The advertisement states that 10,000 head of game is annually killed on it, including 5,000 pheasants and it goes on to say that the property would easily carry 15,000 pheasants. I ask the House to consider what would be the position of the tenants on that estate if there was brought in a shooting tenant who decided to increase the pheasants by 200 per cent., and, instead of 5,000,15,000 were to be reared. What would happen? The shooting tenant on going down in November would be at once met by a deputation of the tenants who would say, "Mr. So-and-So, we greatly regret it. but it is impossible to farm against the great weight of your pheasants; we must have some compensation." The shooting tenant would naturally say, "I am an agricultural compound householder; I have paid a large sum of money for this amusement and this shooting; do not come to me; go to the landlord." If the estate happened to be the property of an ordinary landlord, of course he would at once give compensation to the tenants. But it might be one of those estates which are either in Chancery, or in Lunacy, or in a hopeless state of insolvency, the rents hardly covering the interest required by the society which had lent the money on mortgage. The wretched tenants would try to find the landlord, but they would never succeed: they would have to go to the lawyer who managed the estate, who would naturally say, "We cannot be bothered with you; the shooting tenant is of far greater importance; you have your remedy at common law; you can go to the county court if the damage is under £100. or to the High Court if it is more; take your remedy, but do not bother us" Moreover, he would most likely say further, "This is a tiresome litigious tenant; we must get rid of him;" and the man would lose his farm, because the shooting tenant on an estate of this sort—and it 871 is not an isolated case—would be of far greater importance to the people who had tent the money on mortgage. This game clause says that the amount of compensation should in default of agreement be determined by arbitration and should be recovered from the landlord. After all, what the clause does is to carry out the recommendation of the Majority Report of the Royal Commission of 1897, which stated that more effective and less expensive means should be provided whereby farmers can recover compensation for damage done by winged game.|
There is only one more word I need say on this clause, and that is in reference to the insertion, in the House of Commons, of the word "deer." I have grave doubts whether the Scottish Members of your Lordships' House will be inclined to allow the word to remain in the Bill. I believe it was originally inserted on account of the west country deer. There is very fine sport in the west of England, and the word was inserted to preserve the deer and prevent their being shot by the tenant; farmers in the hard weather.
Now, my Lords, I come to Clause 3, which deals with freedom of cropping. Is this wrong? Can your Lordships have any objection to allowing a tenant, under proper safeguards, to do the best he can for his farm, cropping it as he likes, provided, as is the case in this clause, the rights of the landlord are properly safeguarded? The clause simply carries one step further the provisions of the Act of 1900 which abolished penal rents and confined the amount of damage which the landlord could recover to the amount of damage done. I think that, without exception, every Chamber of Agriculture and every fanners' club is in favour of this proposal. I might point out that the section does not apply to the last year of leases nor to the year before a tenant quits a yearly holding. That is, as your Lordships will see, to bring back the farm into the state of cultivation in which it would be taken over by the incoming tenant, and under the clause I may fairly say that the expenses of the incoming tenant are not in any way increased.
872 I come now to the only really new proposal in the Bill, viz. Clause 4, which gives compensation for disturbance. The great objection urged against this clause is that it tends to dual ownership. I contend that it does nothing of the sort. What is dual ownership? It only exists where a tenant has the power to sell his tenant-right, and this Bill confers no power of free sale of improvements of any sort, condition, or kind. Of course, the difficulty in the clause was to define when a farmer without good and sufficient cause evicted a tenant. I believe the whole House is with me when I say that if a tenant were evicted capriciously, maliciously, or cruelly he ought to receive compensation for disturbance. I daresay that Lord Kenyon, who was with me on the Welsh Land Commission, will remember that it was calculated that in Wales a change of tenancy meant a loss of 20 per cent. on. a man's holding. It is not like a change of lodging. When a man is evicted from his farm, it must mean a serious loss, and we contend that this clause is perfectly fair, right, just, and honourable. I do not expect to find any noble Lord standing up in this debate for the power of a landlord capriciously or maliciously to evict a tenant who may have teen for years and years on the farm, without the tenant having some right to claim compensation for disturbance. The words we have put into the clause meet the difficulty, I think, as far as it can possibly be met; they are—Where a landlord for reasons inconsistent with good estate management, terminates or refuses to grant a renewal of the tenancyand so on. "Reasons inconsistent with good estate management" would be very well known to any ordinary valuer. I believe they would allow the desire of the landlord to take back his land for the purpose of creating small holdings or allotments, planting, working minerals, railways, or any public undertaking. I was extremely pleased to see in the memorandum from the Surveyors' Institution, to which I have referred, that these practical hard-headed men, who were so antagonistic a few months ago, say that no Amendment is suggested to this section.
873 The remaining clauses call for no special comment. I shall be glad to explain them in detail at a later stage if necessary, but I am afraid I have already trespassed too long on the time of the House. Clause 5 makes the Market Gardeners' Act retrospective, carrying out the original intention of Parliament which was nullified by a recent legal decision. This provision was not originally in the Bill, but was inserted on the motion of a highly respected member of the Conservative Party, Colonel Long, M. P. for the Evesham Division of Worcestershire; it is demanded by the fruit growers, and recommended by Mr. Griffith Boscawen's Departmental Committee. Moreover, I had a deputation from the nurserymen of London, composed of Mr. Veitch and other gentlemen, who told me that, while they were in no way supporters of the Party to which I "belong, they thought it only right that they should be included in the Bill. I told them it was too late to meet their wishes, but I was glad to receive them, because, after all, it showed that these men of position and respectability, and above all, of different political opinions from myself, could not have considered the Bill to be one of spoliation, or rascality, or robbery, or they would not have wished to be brought within its provisions.
Clause 6 enables the tenant of an impoverished landlord to carry out repairs to farm buildings. He has to do two things. He can execute the repairs himself and claim compensation for so doing, but he must give notice in writing beforehand to the landlord and give the landlord a reasonable opportunity of doing the repairs himself; then if the landlord neglects to mend the roof or make the house watertight or do whatever repairs may be necessary, other than the repairs the tenant is obliged to do for himself, the tenant may execute the repairs and claim compensation at the end of his tenancy. I do not think anybody can say that that is a hard or unjust principle.
I have one other remark to make before I sit down. It has been said to me over and over again, "Why do you bring this Bill in at all? What is the good of making all this stir? Why do 874 you not let sleeping dogs lie?" With all respect I would ask, Is it not better to propose moderate legislation when things are quiet than to have to bring forward hasty and ill-considered legislation in time of stress and storm? Let me give an example, of what I mean. Your Lordships may remember that 1892 was a year of bad harvest; there had been two bad harvests, and the harvest of 1892 was the third bad year in succession. Wheat fell to 17s. a quarter. Agriculturists and farmers were frightened out of their wits, thinking the end of the world had come, and all over the country, especially in the north of England, meetings were held, a very strong anti-landlord feeling sprang up, and strong measures were advocated, In Lincolnshire, Cheshire, Wales, and Northumberland they advocated land Courts for the fixing of judicial rents and Irish legislation generally as a remedy for the bad state of things that obtained, and the movement culminated in a great national agricultural conference where Irish legislation was openly advocated, and the Mark Lane Express urged the formation of a "farmers' Party." What happened? The Government at once appointed two Royal Commissions;, one a Welsh Commission, of which I had the honour of being Chairman, and the other an English Commission, which brought out an interim report recommending as a panacea for all the evils of the tenant fanner the Agricultural Rates Act, which cost the country £1,500,000 annually. I am not going to argue whether or not that Act was a success, but I hold that it was legislation hastily brought forward. What is the opinion of the President of the Surveyors' Institution on the point? In an address on 8th November of this year, he says—This Act has been frequently quoted by Conservative Members of Parliament, to show what the Unionist Government did for the tenant farmer, but I am sorry to say it has not been as much use to him as was at first anticipated.Therefore, I think that we should not be blamed for trying in times of peace to bring forward moderate legislation which can be discussed and argued and put on a proper footing instead of waiting till bad times come, as come they must, when 875 perhaps hasty and ill-considered legislation would again have to be brought forward.
My last words, in thanking your Lord- ships very sincerely for the kind attention you have given me, are these. All we ask is that the recommendations of Royal Commissions and the declarations of Unionist statesmen should be carried into effect. We simply ask that the ordinary estate management practised by the House of Lords should be practically adopted all over the country. It has been said, I believe with truth, that your Lordships own one-fifth of the land of this country. So far as I know, there has never been any protest against these vast possessions—except perhaps from socialists who are genuinely anxious to see the nationalisation of land— because of the belief that these great estates are wisely and humanely administered. Of that there cannot be the slightest doubt. Some hard things have no doubt been said of your Lordships' House, but the severest critic of this House has never been able to attach any blame with regard to the manner in which these great agricultural estates have been administered. Why and how is this? It is simply because your Lordships, to your great credit, have managed your vast estates on the just and humane principles which you have initiated and carried out, and these are the principles which His Majesty's Government have copied and embodied within the four corners of the Land Tenure Bill, which with great respect and still greater confidence and hope I ask your Lordships this afternoon to read a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(Earl Carrington.)
* THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, the noble Lord opposite has introduced this Bill in so sporting a speech that I feel I owe some apology to your Lordships for inviting you to consider a matter of such great importance to; the country in a serious fashion. I rise to make some remarks upon this Bill, but not for the purpose of asking your Lordships to deny it a Second Reading. I, as a land-owner, gladly accept at the hands of my friends small favours, and I am equally pleased when 876 at the hands of my enemies I receive but light punishment, especially when I know that their opinion in regard to minorities is that suffering is the badge of all their tribe. The noble Lord opposite has had an advantage which I did not possess when I had the honour of occupying the position he now holds. By the aid of a bumper majority in another place, by a not illiberal use of the power of the closure, and by the advantage of an autumn session, he has succeeded in passing into law several measures which he found in the pigeon-holes of the Board of Agriculture. But he did not find this Bill in any of those receptacles. It is not the child of the noble Earl at all. It has had a very chequered career, and its original ancestry is lost in the mist of ages, though I believe that since it has been sponsored by so respectable a person as the noble Earl opposite it has been claimed by several Members of the other House. At any rate, it | was brought in originally by an hon. I Gentleman who now sails the main in company with the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty but I suppose he thought that an agricultural Bill was scarcely racy of the soil of the quarterdeck and therefore he dropped it. Another gentleman who, having dipped his hand in the lucky bag and drawn the first place in the ballot, and having no particular Bill he wished to bring in, took charge of the Bill now before your Lordships.
No wonder the Bill is somewhat imperfect in its drafting. It does not bear upon it the marks of those intelligent lawyers who are always at the command of Government Departments. But no sooner had the noble Earl taken the Bill under his charge than he was told from all sides that nobody wanted it. He has informed your Lordships to-night that he has the support of the hard-headed farmers of the north, and of a great many other people. If you offer to give somebody something which he never expected and never asked for. it is not unreasonable to suppose that he will not throw the proposed gift back in your face, and I think it was under these circumstances that it was approved by certain Chambers of Agriculture in this country. But I read with great care the report of the 877 proceedings of the meeting at Newcastle, to which the noble Earl referred, and I do not think that anybody reading that report would consider the noble Earl was quite justified in saying that the hard-headed farmers of Northumberland were entirely in favour of the Bill. The noble Earl himself went down and addressed several meetings, at one of which he made a pathetic; appeal to the farmers "not to leave him in the lurch." and I suppose those to whom he has alluded this evening are those who have not left him in the lurch. I am glad that he has had some support, at any rate, from his own county, because there the noble Earl is well known and much respected. Everybody knows that the management of his estates in the county of Lincolnshire commands universal admiration; a deputation of Lincolnshire farmers were the first to approve of this proposal introduced by the noble Earl.
I must ask for this measure respectful consideration, because it emanates from His Majesty's Government; serious consideration, because the matter with which it deals is of considerable importance; and, perhaps I may add, not unfavourable consideration because the noble Earl opposite at any rate is of opinion that it will confer great benefit upon the country. I was glad to hear that the noble Earl did not entirely approve of the title of the Bill. It is called the Land Tenure Bill, but really it has very little to do with the tenure of land as we know it. Tenure of land in this country has gone through a time of trial, and, perhaps, the greatest tribute to our system of land tenure is the fact that, notwithstanding the depression in agriculture of the last twenty or thirty years, you may find on the same farms the children and the children's children of the men who occupied them fifty or 100 years ago. That points to the fact that the system of land tenure in this country is not one that can be seriously cavilled at. That position has been achieved by dint of many sacrifices on the part of those who own the land, with the desire to share the hardships and the difficulties of those who stood in the relation of tenants to them.
878 There are some Acts of Parliament called after their authors, such, for example, as the Ashbourne Act, passed by my noble friend Lord Ashbourne, Lord Campbell's Act, and the one with the somewhat singular name of Michael Angle Taylor's Act. The noble Earl opposite has exercised self-denial in not endeavouring to secure that this Bill should be called Lord Carrington's Act. He has suggested that it should be called the Agricultural Holdings Act Amendment Bill. I hope his intention, although he did not state it, is. if your Lordships pass this Bill, at a very early date to introduce that which is really" seriously needed by the agriculturists of the country, namely, a Bill to consolidate all the Agricultural Holdings Acts. I think that such a measure would be more acceptable than the Bill now before your Lordships.
Clause 1 provides for the appointment of a single arbitrator. All through the Bill the arbitrator is the star actor of the piece. He must be a man of great talents, almost an omniscient Solomon, and he must be remunerated accordingly. He must not only understand all about farming and the value of farm-stock, but he must know all about the habits of game; he must be able to tell whether damage is done by pheasants or by wood-pigeons, whether it is done by winged game which the tenant may not kill or by hares and rabbits which he may kill; he must have that rarest of all gifts, the gift of prophecy, because he must be able to say whether, when a tenant quits his farm, the loss which he makes by an immediate sale of his live and dead stock is greater than he might have made had he been allowed to sell it at a later period Then he must know all about estate management, because he has to decide whether, when a tenant quits a holding on notice from his landlord, the landlord is acting in, or contrary to, the interests of good estate management, and he must, above all, be able to interpret the very difficult words "good and sufficient." I think the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack must be looking with equanimity, if not a little more, upon this Bill, and especially upon these particular words, in view of the rich 879 harvest which lies ready to be reaped by the gentlemen of the profession of which he is at once the head and the principal ornament. The arbitrator must also be able to define exactly the word "loss," and on that point I will quote an authority at which noble Lords opposite will not cavil. The Solicitor-General in the present Government says—Nothing looks easier to interpret than 'loss' but Highly trained and highly renumerated minds can find a dozen meanings for it.I think it will be necessary very highly to remunerate the individual who is to decide all these abstruse and intricate questions.
Then the arbitration is to be before a single arbitrator. There has been a good deal of doubt in the minds of many people as to how far this will introduce a change into the existing practice. Personally I do not think it really means very much. In fact, there is a good deal in this Bill which I do not think means very much. If there is anything in this provision, I think it is a change for the better. We have been making use of misnomers. We talk about two arbitrators and an umpire, but what we really mean is two valuers and an arbitrator, and I do not think there will be any difference in the practice under this clause. You will have your two valuers or rather two advocates, one on each side, just as you have now, and they will go before the single arbitrator. If the noble Earl is anxious, as I am sure he is, to confer a benefit upon the agricultural community, might I suggest that he should do that which requires no Amendment to this measure, but is a purely executive act, namely, appoint throughout the country men of high standing in the valuers' profession who should be known as the official arbitrators ["No, no."], selected by the Board of Agriculture and above suspicion? I venture to think that that would be more satisfactory than the present method. ["No, no."] As I hear a noble Lord say "No, no." I would point out that I am not making that proposal on my own initiative; it has the support of the late President of the Surveyors' Institution and of the Lincolnshire farmers who waited upon the noble Earl. 880 I do not know what may be the opinion north of the Tweed, but I am certain that in this country there would be much more confidence placed in a person who had a responsible official position than is placed in a man chosen by the two valuers appointed by the parties.
I will not detain your Lordships at any length on Clause 2. The noble Earl tells us that the noble Lords behind him are all sportsmen. I hope they are. Of this I am perfectly certain, that neither they nor noble Lords on this side of the House nor anybody else are likely to have a good head of game on their property unless they are on good terms with their tenants. I really do not think it matters a snap of the fingers what you put into your Bill with regard to game; if you cannot agree with your tenants they will take very good care that you do not get sport. There is one point to which I would direct attention, and that is the provision that in awarding compensation the arbitrator is to take into account any agreement specially made providing for an allowance for damage by game. I am afraid that unless that provision is in some way amended there will be a danger of some tenants getting compensation twice over, because it is a matter of common knowledge that many farms are let to tenants it being well known that there is a certain amount of game on the farm, and the rent is fixed accordingly. Although the rent is fixed accordingly there may be nothing said in the agreement that, say, 15s. instead of £1 an acre has been agreed upon on account of the possibility of damage by game, but under the Bill as it stands, unless there is an actual amount stated in the agreement, the arbitrator will be bound to award full compensation for damage by game, notwithstanding the fact that the tenant has already been allowed for it in the amount of his rent.
Then I come to the next clause, which deals with freedom of cropping. The noble Earl said a great deal about the way in which your Lordships' estates are managed. I do not know of any estate on which freedom of cropping is not allowed, of course subject to the land being brought back into proper heart before the tenant quits the holding. 881 Therefore I see no objection to this clause, provided the words really carry out what the clause purports to do. I observe that it is to operate notwithstanding any contract or custom of the country. If you are going to override all contracts I think the noble Earl is right in saying that you must also override the custom of the country—for this reason: in many parts of England land is let without any agreement at all; in fact, some people are so suspicious that, if they have an agreement, they think the landlord wants to get something out of them, and they prefer to hold under the custom of the country, and these are principally the small men, especially in Wales and the West of England. Therefore, if you are going to override contracts of tenancy, I think it is a logical consequence that you must also override the custom of the country also.
Then there is one other point which, perhaps, in another place was not sufficiently considered. I observe that the tenant is to be required to return to the holding the manurial value of all the crops sold off the holding. That means that he is in some way to return the manurial value of the threshed corn sold off the holding, but that surely is not the intention of the Bill. Every farmer sells off the corn, but what he has to return to the holding is the bay and the straw, and I understand that the intention of the clause is to provide for that.
I now come to Clause 4, which, I confess, filled me with considerable misgiving. I do not profess to be able to give any exposition of the law of the land to your Lordships' House or anybody else, but I think I may go so far as to say that this is the first time that legislation has been proposed by which compensation is to be paid at the expiration of a contract where there has been no breach of that contract; although I readily admit that the noble Earl at the instance of friends of mine in the House of Commons, has largely modified the clause, and made it of such a character that perhaps in practice it will not work any injustice, I still think it is introducing into the law of the country a very dangerous precedent. The noble 882 Earl stated his belief that the effect of the Bill would be to encourage the creation of small holdings. I have been sitting now for some years on a Committee considering the question of how small holdings can best be provided. The Report of that Committee will be in your Lordships' hands in the course of, I hope, a few days, but, without in any way anticipating what will be the findings of the Committee, I think I may say at once that it certainly will not suggest that having to give compensation to a large farmer for giving up his farm to be turned into small holdings is one of the ways in which you can encourage the creation of small holdings.
The noble Earl believes the clause will prevent landlords from capriciously evicting their tenants, and I am glad to think that tenant-right valuers share his opinion. I hope that it may be so. But there is one point to which I should like to draw the noble Earl's attention. If your Lordships consider how it will work out in practice you will see that there is some danger of hardship, not only to the landlord, but also to the tenant. The question of whether or not compensation is payable can only be determined after the tenant has been turned out of his holding, and then by a valuer, a man without legal training and not accustomed to weigh questions of "good and sufficient" reasons, which are familiar to lawyers. I would suggest to the noble Earl whether he might not see his way to introduce some machinery whereby, as soon as notice is given to the tenant to quit, the one point of whether or not it has been given for good and sufficient reason should be determined at once by some legal tribunal. It would then be possible for the landlord, if the Court found that the reasons were not good and sufficient, to withdraw his notice. In every case the landlord would think the cause good and sufficient, and the tenant would invariably be of opinion that the cause was bad and insufficient. That is simply human nature. But there are many cases in which a landlord might think it his duty to his neighbours and to the property to get rid of a bad, dishonest, or perhaps immoral tenant. Is that a good 883 and sufficient cause, or not? If a landlord were told it was not, he would probably say at once, "That has been decided by a Court of Law; my hands, at any rate, are clean, and I shall not make any further attempt to turn out the tenant." I strongly hold that the question of good and sufficient cause ought to be determined by a legal mind and not by a mere valuer.
Then I come to the final clauses of the Bill. The noble Earl proposes that repairs should be made a matter for which the tenant may receive compensation. I do not think that clause is likely to be made use of often, as repairs in this country, at any rate, are almost invariably done by the landlord. Then there is the clause providing for a record of the condition of the holding. I note that while the record is made at the commencement of the tenancy or after the passing of this Act, there is no provision for maintaining the record. Surely it would hardly be equitable in a case where a tenant goes into a property in bad condition, being let off, as sometimes happens, a year's or two years rent on that account, and the landlord should subsequently come in and put the farm into good condition and good repair, that then the tenant should be able to say on going out, "Oh, when I came in the farm was in bad condition, it is in a much better condition now, and I am entitled to claim compensation for the alteration." I think the record ought to be maintained, and everything done and by whom done should he endorsed upon the record.
Then I wish to say a word on a point which is not in the Bill. There is no provision for waste, by which I mean that there is no provision for those omissions whereby a landlord's property is diminished in value by the action of the tenant. I maintain that the law as it stands provides ample compensation for the outgoing tenant. Everyone of your Lordships has had experience of what compensation to an outgoing tenant. means. It is generally admitted that the compensation is certainly equal to and often in excess of the increased value of the farm to the incoming tenant. I have had some experience of farming land myself and of bringing round farms which have been exhausted, and my 884 experience—which I do not think can differ from that of the majority of your Lordships—is that when the tenant goes out you have to pay full compensation for the value of his improvements, and it generally means that in addition you lose a year's rent before you can relet the farm. One person has been too little considered in the framing of this measure. It has been looked upon throughout as a Bill dealing with the relations between the outgoing tenant and the landlord. But there is another person to be considered, and that is the incoming tenant. It is quite true that the liability lies upon the landlord primarily, but in practice when a farm is re-let it is the incoming tenant who has to pay even-thing which is payable to the outgoing tenant. In these days we know only too well that the farmer is not over well supplied with capital, and anything which tends to swallow up the capital of the incoming tenant in paying the valuation of the outgoing tenant must necessarily diminish the amount he has available for the purpose of stocking his farm.
The noble Earl said that the Bill has nothing to do with dual ownership or fixity of tenure. I agree that it is difficult to put your finger on any provision in the Bill and say "This is dual ownership," and "this creates fixity of tenure," but I do say, in the words, I think, of my noble friend near me when he was Minister for Agriculture, that it is a mild flirtation with both those principles, and I believe it will create an inconvenient precedent. Notwithstanding all the noble Earl has said—and he cannot prove his statement without taking a poll of all the farmers of England—I do not believe that this Bill is bona fide desired by the farmers of the country. I believe it will interrupt some of those pleasant relations which have hitherto existed between landlord and tenant, and make the management of property more difficult than it has been in the past. Although I do not ask your Lordships to refuse to give the Bill a Second Reading, because I recognise the conciliatory spirit of compromise which has actuated the noble Earl, I do say to him in the words of a great statesman who preceded him on that side of the House, "Why could you not leave it alone?"
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
My Lords we have heard from the noble Earl opposite, who speaks with great authority, having himself been Minister for Agriculture, a speech which makes my task in following him considerably easier. I gather that while the noble Earl does not see much necessity for the introduction of this measure, and while he does not agree with many of its provisions, yet he is not going to take the course of advising your Lordships to reject it. To sum up the noble Earl's speech, it appeared to me that he did not actually damn the Bill with faint praise, but be blessed it with a sort of tepid disapprobation. My noble friend said that the history of the Bill was a very ancient one, and he went back to the Parliament of 1895 and the Bill introduced by Mr. Lambert who is now Civil Lord of the Admiralty. I would venture to take the history a little further back in the same Parliament. There was a Resolution passed nemine contradicente in the House of Commons in 1893 in which all and even more than the principles contained in this Bill were embodied and accepted by Parliament. The Parliament of 1892–95 did not contain a predominant number of Radical members, the majority reaching a maximum of forty, while towards the termination of our career, as I well remember, it generally ranged between about seventeen and seven. Therefore it cannot be said to have been in any way a Radical Parliament, and yet it accepted that Resolution unanimously—I admit there were some Members who spoke in opposition to it, but they did not vote against it. The Resolution declared that it was desirable to obtain adequate compensation for all agricultural improvements. The House of that day was not content with the compensation given by the Act of 1883 or other Acts, but considered that larger compensation should be given to tenants, and it is the object of this Bill to bring about that end. The Resolution proceeded to emphasise the necessity of giving greater security of tenure, thus going further than the present Bill, and then went on to say that tenants should have freedom to make improvements, and freedom to cultivate and sell produce, and that the landlord's 886 right to distrain for rent should be abolished. That improvement was advocated by Lord Randolph Churchill I do not know how many years ago, but even that old agricultural friend of ours is not included in this Bill. The Resolution also urged the importance of simplifying and cheapening the settlement of compensation cases and other differences between landlord and tenant, a result which, in the opinion of the promoters of this Bill, is brought about by the appointment of a single arbitrator. That Resolution was followed by Mr. Lambert's Bill of 1895, which, in many respects, was not nearly so moderate a measure as that now before the House. It was accepted by the Government of the day, and carried by more than the usual majority of the House of Commons. I would remind your Lordships that the Liberal Government of that day compared not unfavourably even with the present Government in regard to the agricultural authority of its Members. It contained two prominent statesmen whose absence we all regret to-day—the late Lord Kimberley, who was well acquainted with all agricultural matters and whose views would have carried great weight with your Lordships, and Lord Spencer, whose absence from our debates we so bitterly lament. Therefore, seeing that such a Parliament passed so far-reaching a Resolution and accepted that Bill, it cannot be said that the present Government are taking a very despotic course in asking your Lordships to agree to the present much more moderate measure.
Some dissent was expressed when my noble friend the President of the Board of Agriculture intimated that in his opinion the farmers of the country were in favour of the Bill. But if the Central Chamber of Agriculture and the Farmers Club support it, I think that is an indication at any rate, that the farmers, if not unanimously, at least so far as a great proportion of them are concerned, do conceive that the Bill will confer upon them benefits which they are willing to receive. Since some noble Lords cried "No, no" so vehemently when my noble friend expressed his opinion, I would say from my experience that if farmers are not in favour of the Bill, it is because it does not go far enough, but that, so far from being 887 a reason why your Lordships should reject it, is rather a reason for your welcoming it. For my part, if the farmers of the country are willing to accept the measure as a settlement, at any rate during the duration of the present Parliament, of this long-debated, difficult, and technical subject, I can only say that if I had the honour of a seat on the other side of the House, I should vote for it with equal freedom and alacrity.
The noble Earl opposite drew attention to several defects, as he considered them, in the Bill. He referred to the single arbitrator. I would remind the House that we owe the invention of the single arbitrator, like the London County Council and other progressive blessings under which we live, in its original idea to noble Lords opposite, because the single arbitrator was brought in in the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1900, for which the Party opposite were responsible. Lord Onslow expressed some approval of the single arbitrator in words which I should have used if he had not done so, and then went on to express the view that the arbitrator would bring about a greater amount of litigation than arose at present. There is in the Bill, besides the provision dealing with the single arbitrator, a proposal to do away with the agreement in existing leases with regard to any arbitration that may be necessary. I am informed that these agreements, instead of leading to peace, often result in litigation, and that tenants and landlords when they come to a dispute, instead of at once proceeding to arbitration, often pass a long time contending between themselves, and even go to law on the subject, as to what the clauses in the lease in reference to arbitration really mean. I have heard of such a case in which the law-suit was carried not only through the ordinary Courts, but right up to your Lordships House, during which time, on account of the so-called agreement as to arbitration in the lease, the unfortunate tenant and landlord were waiting for an urgent question to be settled.
My noble friend then went on to refer to Clause 2, which deals with compensation for damage by game. 888 Those who have had any experience of the shooting of game in this country know that in 999 cases out of 1,000 those questions are always settled by agreement between landlord and tenant. In my opinion that state of things will continue almost universally, notwithstanding this clause in the Bill. I agree with my noble friend who preceded me in this debate that there might be some difficulty with regard to compensation if allowance was not made for a previous arrangement between landlord and tenant whereby the farm was let at a lower rent because of the possibility of damage by game. It does seem that there is a possibility, as Lord Onslow pointed out, that when the arbitrator comes in and the valuation is made the tenant may possibly obtain double remuneration it he had in the first case received it in the shape of a reduced rent and subsequently received compensation for damage to crops. I do not know whether by noble friend behind me (Earl Carrington) would accept my suggestion, but I think that in these circumstances the clause might be deferred in operation for some time, so that landlords might come to some decision with their tenants as to whether damage by game was considered in the rent or not. If that course was adopted I think it would, to some extent, meet the objection of my noble friend Lord Onslow. Lord Onslow found some fault with the last two lines of sub-section (1) of Clause 3, with regard to the full manurial value of all crops sold off or removed from the holding. I admit that those lines might receive further consideration, but I would point out that this proviso—it is a very valuable proviso from his own point of view as governing the whole of the section regarding the freedom of cropping—was put in by a Conservative Member in the other House. It was obviously drawn up after full consideration and probably after consultation with landowners, and it was on that ground, I imagine, that His Majesty's Government accepted it. I fully admit that this Bill does not go so far as many ardent land reformers would wish, but surely that is no reason why your Lordships should not give it a Second Reading and pass it into law. As I have said, this 889 Bill is more moderate than any of the preceding Bills on this subject. I would draw attention to one important clause which received very considerable alteration during the passage of the Bill through the other House. I refer to the clause which gave the tenant the right of making certain improvements and receiving compensation for them without either the consent of, or giving any notice to, the landlord. All the substantial improvements were struck out in another place. The only one which remains under this clause is repairs to buildings, which my noble friend described to your Lordships in his opening speech; and even repairs to buildings are not put, as was as first proposed, under Part III. of the First Schedule of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1900, for, as will be seen from the proviso, notice has to be given to the landlord. I could illustrate many other points in which this Bill is far more moderate than any of its predecessors.
I think your Lordships as landowners ought to welcome this Bill as a settlement of a long outstanding dispute, and for my part I cannot understand why any opposition to the Second Reading or to the passing of the Bill in its entirety should come from noble Lords opposite. I commend the Bill because I really think that the farmers will be content with it as a settlement of this question. I commend it also because it will in no way interfere with good landlords. I do not think there are many bad landlords. That you should bring in a measure which might have some detrimental effect upon a good landlord in order to punish a bad landlord may be a right or a wrong principle; but I noticed that during the somewhat lengthy debates on the Education Bill reference was continually made by noble Lords opposite, by noble Lords below the gangway, and by right rev. Prelates, to the local authorities. It was said that the great majority of the local authorities were the best and most excellent in the world, but that there were a few bad ones, and we were told that it was against those bad local authorities that we must safeguard ourselves and the schools. Now, that is the principle contained in this Bill. It safeguards the farmers from the proble- 890 matical case of a bad landlord, and I do not think it goes any further than noble Lords on the other side of the House vehemently advocated over and over again in the case of the problematical bad local authority. I venture with some confidence to hope that your Lordships will pass the Bill in its entirety.
I know there was one clause which aroused considerable opposition—the clause with regard to compensation for disturbance. It is true that as that clause was originally drawn, whether in Mr. Lambert's Bill in 1895 or in the later Bill, it was wide and somewhat difficult to work. I pointed out in 1895 that the word "unreasonable" was a very difficult one to interpret, and I would remind your Lordships that in this Bill the words have been very materially altered. The words now are "good and sufficient cause." My noble friend Lord Onslow dwelt on the difficulty of defining those words, but he did not read on. The governing words are "and for reasons inconsistent with good estate management." I think that those words to a very great extent safeguard this clause from unreasonable interpretation, and I consider them a very valuable addition to the measure itself. The original compensation for disturbance in Mr. Lambert's Bill covered a much wider field and allowed compensation for a sentimental grievance. It also left to the arbitrator no direction as to the amount of damages to be paid in compensation to the quitting tenant, and therefore it followed that if the arbitrator took a partial view he might have penalised the landlord. But this clause very materially limits the action of the arbitrator, and limits the sum which the landlord has to pay. I think the noble Lords will see that that is a very material difference, and I imagine that in their opinion it is a substantial improvement.
As a rule this clause would never be put into operation, and if it were it would be against a man who had almost avowedly put himself in the wrong, who had almost avowedly said he was turning out his tenant for some cruel reason. I think that is a case that is likely very seldom to occur, and so far as this section is concerned I think your Lordships 891 need have no fear that it will do any material damage. If I might presume to give advice to your Lordshps in this matter I would advise you to accept the Bill, in the first place, because the farmers of the country to a large extent desire it; in the second place, because of the very long agitation extending over a great period of time which there has been on these very difficult and technical subjects; in the third place, because these claims and far wider claims have been advocated on agricultural platforms during the past six years; and lastly, because considering the present composition of the other House, your Lordships will not be making a bad bargain in accepting this Bill.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
My Lords, this is the first time that I have ever heard the fact that Bills have at various times been introduced dealing with a subject brought forward as evidence that there has been considerable agitation with regard to it. It is an abuse of the word agitation. There were one or two statements made by the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture which I think should be noticed at once, and upon which I can speak with some special knowledge. I refer to the support which the noble Earl says he has obtained from skilled opinion in favour of his Bill. I cannot help thinking that, it is rather an inconvenient custom that Ministers should come down to this House and narrate what has passed between themselves and deputations which have come before them. Your Lordships will not, and I am sure the noble Earl will not, suspect me of wishing to hint for a moment that his version of what passed was not absulutely fair and correct. Still, these conversations are very often taken in a different spirit by the parties, and I think it will be within the experience of your Lordships in other matters that those who interview Ministers come away and give a very different account of the impression left in their minds by what has passed than that which bona fide rests in the mind of the Minister.
The noble Earl mentioned three societies which had waited upon him at the Board of Agriculture. One was the 892 Surveyors' Institution, another was the Land Agents' Society, and the third I forget. I could not find that he received much support from the Surveyors' Institution, and he told us nothing about the conversation of the other societies. With regard to the Land Agents' Society, I can say with absolute certainty that they do not approve of the Bill, and I must complain of the noble Lord's having mentioned these societies in a string, one of which he-represented as having been more or less converted to his Bill without saying a word about the other societies, thus leaving the House, of course quite unintentionally, to draw the natural inference that the other societies were in favour of the measure. The Council of the Land Agents' Society passed a Resolution declaring that in the interests neither of landlords nor of tenants were the provisions of the Bill required, nor was there evidence of a demand for it on the part of those whom it affected. It is most extraordinary, if 70 per cent. of the farmers of England, as stated by the noble Earl, are in favour of the Bill, that the Land Agents' Society should be in absolute ignorance of the fact.
The noble Lord who has just sat down did not place it quite so high. He said there was a certain feeling in favour of the Bill, and that in his opinion a majority wished for it, but that is very different from 70 per cent. I should like to know what means the noble Earl has taken to ascertain this 70 per cent. of opinion. I admit that the noble Earl has been very active in trying to obtain it. He has travelled about the country very much. I hope he will not think that I am saying anything very offensive if I venture to suggest that he has been rather acting the part of the political commercial traveller. I will take an instance within my own knowledge. He came down to Newcastle, and was most cordial and most pleasant to everyone there, as he always is, and naturally the farmers were extremely glad to see him. Acting in the political commercial traveller line, the noble Earl said, "I have a little article in my bag which I am sure will commend itself to you. It is not an invention of my firm; it is another gentleman's patent, but we 893 have taken it up, and here it is." Then he laid before the fanners this measure. I have great respect for the farmers of England, and especially for those in my own part of the country. They are hard-headed men; but I do not think they are capable of altogether understanding a measure of this kind, which is not without its intricacies, upon an occasion of that sort, merely with the opportunity they then had of dealing with it. But if I remember aright, the farmer who got up to propose or second the resolution in favour of this measure took care to say that he did not agree with a great deal of it. I am reminded of the story of a gentleman who, wishing to do his fellow creatures good, went to preach them a sermon in a Scottish church. At the end of his address he asked all who wished to go to heaven to stand up, and when they had all stood up, he then said—Now anybody who wants to go to the other place will kindly stand.No one rose for a time. At last one gentleman got up, and when the preacher said to him—Do you really know what you are doing? Do you really wish to make the journey which I indicate?the answer was—I have no particular leaning that way, but I do not like to see you standing alone, and you have come such a long way.I have no doubt something of that spirit actuated the farmers of Newcastle when they gave the very limited amount of support to the noble Earl which he received. Really, my Lords, where does the support come from? It comes from the Central Chamber of Agriculture and the Farmers' Club. Do they really represent the feeling of 70 per cent. of the farmers of this country? Does anyone in this House believe it? For the rest, the noble Earl has the support of the thirty farmers of Essex, and, I believe, a deputation from Wiltshire.
THE EARL OF GAMPERDOWN
My Lords, like the noble Lords who have spoken I have no intention of opposing the Second Reading of this Bill, and I am sure my noble friend Lord Burghclere need not feel any anxiety on that account. The Bill is quite certain to be read a second time; the discussion that 894 will take place upon it will be in Committee. But it is important to know whether this Bill which is now before us represents the whole mind of the Government on the very important question of agriculture, because this is, as we have been told, an entirely different Bill from the one which was originally introduced into the House of Commons. As the noble Duke said, the noble Earl in charge of this Bill has been acting the part of a political commercial traveller. From the moment that the Bill was introduced in another place the noble Earl made speeches in its favour and received deputations, and it was therefore impossible to know whether the Bill was a Government Bill or the Bill of a number of private Members. The noble Earl went down to Scotland on 10th October, and I think he learned something while in Edinburgh. But the Bill which he then recommended to the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture is not the Bill, or anything like the Bill, which is now before your Lordships. What I want to know is whether this Bill represents the whole mind of the Government on this question, or whether it is the first of a series of Bills. I think every one of your Lordships will be of opinion that it is most inadvisable that Bills should be perpetually introduced dealing with the relations between landlord and tenant. Agriculture, as we know, is at the present time in a precarious position, and it depends for its future largely on the good relations which exist between landlord and tenant. The prosperity of agriculture also depends on the amount of capital invested in the soil, and that again must necessarily depend on the confidence of the owners in the security of their investments. I maintain that the Bill will have a prejudicial effect on the relations between landlord and tenant, and that it will increase the cost of management of land by bringing in lawyers, arbitrators, and valuers. It forbids contracts and limits the application of the custom of the country. I put it to those of your Lordships who understand agriculture, and I know I am speaking to an assembly as well acquainted with that subject as any assembly which could be collected in this country, is it not the fact that the farmers of England look far more to the custom of the country than they do to any legislation that Parliament may pass? For that reason 895 it seems to me to be a very dangerous policy to interfere with the custom of the country.
The noble Earl in charge of the Bill omitted to state a most important fact with regard to it. He described the Bill without informing your Lordships that it is intended to refer to leases as well as to yearly tenancies, and to apply to Scotland as well as to England. But I venture to say the difference in the agricultural circumstances of Scotland and England are such as to make it very difficult indeed for any one to comprehend those two countries in one Bill. If an illustration of this wore wanted I would not ask for a better one than this Bill. When we reach the Committee stage I daresay I may have to trouble your Lordships with some Amendments and possibly with some remarks on the matters to which I have called attention.
In respect of Clauses 3 and 4, dealing with the method of cropping arable land, I would ask whether the words "arable land" include permanent pasture on a holding. This is particularly important, as the clauses affect Scotland. I will not labour that at this moment, but, in passing, let me say that most mistaken notions exist with regard to the systems of cropping which are inserted in leases. It is commonly supposed that a system of cropping is an arbitrary act of the landlord imposed on his tenant, whereas we who are familiar with nineteen-year leases in Scotland know perfectly well that the system of cropping is invariably the outcome of discussion and settled arrangement between the landlord and the incoming tenant before the lease is entered upon. The tenant would not think of cultivating his farm except on a recognised system. Let us suppose that a good tenant wishes for some reason to alter his cropping. In practice we know perfectly well that he has no difficulty whatever in doing so.
Reference has been made to bad landlords. It should not be forgotten, also, that there is such a such a thing as a bad tenant, a tenant who starves his farm, and as soon as it is ruined leaves it. It will be necessary to interfere with the procedure of such a tenant, while it will be more than ever essential for the landlord to watch more closely than hitherto the actions of his tenantry. 896 Everyone knows, however, that the less interference there is on the part of the landlord with the tenant, the better it is for the good relations existing between them. The noble Earl said he proposed that there should be a year left before the expiration of the contract of tenancy, during which the tenant could replace the land in a state suitable for the incoming tenant. Does the noble Earl mean, when the course of cropping has been broken for several years, when the land has been cropped in any way the tenant has seen fit, and more especially under a lease, that one year is sufficient to reinstate the land in a condition suitable for an incoming tenant? That may be so in England, though not in the part of England in which I live. But I can assure your Lordships that it is not the case in Scotland.
The noble Earl told us of Chambers and associations of farmers who had approved of his Bill, but I notice that he said very little of his experience in Edinburgh. He learned a good deal while in Edinburgh, not merely with regard to this Bill but with regard also to a Small Holdings Bill with respect to which he was wise enough to say nothing there. At the meeting of the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture on 10th November, which the noble Earl attended, a Mr. Craig carried a resolution declaring that the Land Tenure Bill, as amended by the Grand Committee on Trade, contained provisions which it was not expedient to extend to Scotland. That was the opinion of the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture. In fairness I must add that in addressing the meeting the noble Earl said—I understand that it is thought that the clause is not absolutely necessary in Scotland because the general tenure in Scotland is nineteen years.But I notice that Scotland is, nevertheless, in the Bill. The noble Earl continued—But I would ask you to think of your brethren in other parts of Britain who are not in such a good position as yourselves, and not prevent this portion of the Bill being carried.A Scotsman generally thinks a good deal about himself, and I do not think the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture are likely to be converted to the noble Earl's view.
I would suggest that a Court instead of an arbitrator would be the better 897 authority to determine the "good and sufficient cause" for getting rid of a tenant, the arbitrator coming in afterwards to assess the damages. I must call the noble Earl's attention to the method by which he proposes to calculate the compensation. The tenant, in addition to everything else, is to be entitled to compensation for the loss or expense which he sustains or incurs upon or in connection with the sale or removal of his goods, implements, produce, or stock. How can anyone say what is the amount of loss that a tenant sustains? Presumably there will be a sale, and the tenant will receive a certain sum as the produce of the sale, but "loss" means the difference between that sum and the sum that he ought to receive. I hope the noble Earl will endeavour to clear the point up in Committee; but I ask, how is the amount of loss to be ascertained? How can yon say what amount a man ought to have obtained for his implements, produce, or stock? The day of the sale might have been a wet day; fifty different things might have happened. How anyone is to determine what a man ought to receive I am at a loss to imagine. Then I suppose "expense" refers to goods. What are goods? Does the noble Earl mean household goods? If so, let him say so. Did the noble Earl ever hear in any trade or business, or in any transaction, of a man being entitled to be paid the carriage of his goods? Those are practical points which I hope the noble Earl will consider between this and the Committee stage. I trust His Majesty's Government will give us an assurance that the Bill as now presented expresses their full and deliberate opinion on the subject of agriculture, because I am sure every well-wisher of agriculture would desire that there should be as few Bills as possible passed by Parliament affecting that important industry.
§ * VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, if I venture to detain your Lordships with a few observations upon the Second Reading of this Bill, I can assure you that I do so with considerable diffidence. In the first place, I have not the official experience as President of the Board of Agriculture which has fallen to the lot of the three noble Lords who first addressed your Lordships; nor, on the other hand, can I claim to be the possessor of a great estate 898 like the noble Duke behind me or the noble Earl who has just sat down. I am one of those humble persons who, I am afraid, are little regarded, according to what he has said, by the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture, who have an estate of less than 10,000 acres. It is a small estate but it is my own, and I have managed it personally, as many landlords in England happily do, for nearly fifty years; and, therefore I do speak, if I may venture to say so, with some experience which perhaps has not fallen to the lot of all the Members of your Lordships' House, however large landowners you may be, and which certainly is not shared by many Members of the House of Commons, or by many persons who, whether belonging to a land law reform association, or banded together in other societies, talk very glibly of land law reform, while they know very little of the real relations between landlord and tenant in England, or what our land system really is.
The noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture commenced his speech by pleading that there had been a great change of opinion in certain quarters—he instanced, I think, the Surveyors' Institution as one — with regard to the merits of this Bill. I do not think that change has been on the part of the Surveyors' Institution. It has been in the Bill itself. This Bill is utterly different from the Bill which was introduced into the House of Commons. That was a measure apparently designed by its authors—I am not speaking, of course, of His Majesty's Government—to take as much as they thought safe at the moment of the property of the landlord and give it to the tenant, and practically to deprive landlords in England of control over their property. A great deal, no doubt, may be said as to defects in our English land system. I do not deny it for a moment. It may be capable of improvement in many ways, but this I think any fair-minded person must admit, that it has tided the country through a great agricultural crisis during the last thirty years. I am speaking of what I know pretty well—the condition of agriculture in the corn-growing districts in the south and east of England. I will venture to say that but for our English land system there would have been the widest 899 possible distress, not merely among owners of the land or farmers of the land, but among the agricultural labourers. I believe whole tracts of country would have absolutely gone out of cultivation. I speak for a part of England where to my own knowledge rents have gone down more than 50 per cent. in the last thirty years, while the expenses of maintaining agricultural property have greatly increased; and I say that but for our English land system that would have been the unhappy result. What is that system? It is one under which the owner of the land practically does all the permanent improvements, erects all the buildings, provides fences, roads, and drainage, and does everything that is wanted for putting the farm into the condition in which a tenant may farm it with no expenditure of his own capital except for ordinary purposes of cultivation. And why do owners of land do this? Because of the magic of property, because of the pride and pleasure of ownership; and that pride and pleasure depend, I venture to say, upon the power of control of that property. If the Legislature should ever be so unwise as to deprive landlords of that control for a fancied advantage to their tenants or anybody else, there is one class that will suffer by it more than any other, and that is the class of English tenant farmers. English tenant farmers know this very well. Something has been said in this debate of the anxiety of English tenant farmers that this Bill should pass. I do not believe there was any anxiety that the Bill should pass in its original shape. English tenant farmers are honest men. They do not want the Legislature to give them anything of their landlord's property. They know very well what advantage they derive from his expenditure upon that property, and if this Bill had not been modified as your Lordships now see it, I venture to say it would not have had the support of any great number of English tenant farmers.
The Bill has been modified. It has been changed, I should think, out of recognition by its original authors, to the evident dislike of some of those extreme land reformers to whom I have alluded. If His Majesty's Government are satisfied with it, as I presume they are, if they look upon it as the reform 900 they would desire to make in the law between agricultural landlords and agricultural tenants, so long as the Bill clearly states what it means, which it does not quite do now, I do not think that we on this side of the House need raise any very great objection to its provisions. But there is just this to be said. The relations between English landlords and their tenants as a rule are not of a business character. They are the relations of friendly neighbours. Is there any kind of industry or commercial dealing in this country in which a creditor would say to his debtor, "Oh, you have been unfortunate; I will remit to you half of your debt to me?" And yet everybody knows that in a bad agricultural year remissions of this kind are constantly made by English landlords. There are many other minor amenities between the two which, I think, as a whole place the tenant in a better position with regard to his business than any conceivable legislation could possibly place him. What Act of Parliament could empower a tenant who had contracted to give his landlord a fair rent for his farm to claim from that landlord half or perhaps the whole of that rent back again because he had had a bad season? I do not think that we ought in considering this matter entirely to neglect the possibility, for I think it is a real possibility, that in attempting to place tenants in a better legal position than that which they have hitherto occupied we may, so to speak, stiffen the relations between them and their landlords and thus do them more harm than we do good.
Now I come to the question as to what course I should like to see taken with reference to this Bill, By all means let your Lordships give it a Second Reading. The noble Lord, Lord Burghclere, advised us to do so, first of all because some of the farmers desire it. I have not seen in my part of England that the farmers take much interest in this Bill even in its present shape. The noble Lord then suggested that we should Stop an agitation by giving the Bill a Second Beading. I have not observed in the district with which I am acquainted that any such agitation exists. Then he told us that if we did not pass it we should go further and fare worse, and he held out the terrors of another place. My Lords, the House of Commons 901 have shown their good sense by converting this Bill from its original shape into that which it now assumes. The real reason why, in my opinion, we should give a Second Reading to this Bill, and, after it has been properly considered in Committee, pass it into law, is that there will be no harm in it at all.
Now let me deal with what I may call the two principal clauses of the Bill—the game clause and the clause giving compensation for proved loss on removal. First with regard to the game clause, I hope His Majesty's Government will consider the suggestion made to them by Lord Burghclere that the commencement of the Act should be fixed at such a date that it may be possible, where agreements have been made between landlord and tenant allowing something for anticipated damage by game, for those agreements to be reconsidered by both parties in order that a tenant may not be compensated twice over by that clause in the Bill. That seemed to me a fair suggestion which deserved consideration. Then I come to the more important clause dealing with compensation for loss on removal. Lord Burghclere recommended that clause to your Lordships by suggesting that it would probably never be put into operation. I think that is a most remarkable reason for passing any clause.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
What I said was that it would only he put into operation in the problematical case of a bad landlord.
§ * VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
Bad landlords are very few and far between. I should like to know what sensible landlord during the last thirty years would have turned out a good tenant, whatever his politics or his religious creed, in such parts of England as I have been alluding to, where it is not easy to got a now tenant if, unfortunately, a farm is vacant. I speak as one who has never turned out an agricultural tenant in his life, although I have had tenants of all opinions in politics and 902 religion, and by no means always good agriculturists. I would venture to suggest to your Lordships that a clause which is comparatively rarely put into operation ought, perhaps, for that very reason to be as definite as possible. Take the point which has been alluded to by the noble Earl Lord Camper down. In his speech this evening the President of the Board of Agriculture referred to an interview which he had with some Scottish farmers on the subject of this Bill, and told us that they objected to this clause—that, I suppose, was in its original shape—because they held under nineteen years lease, and, therefore, they felt the clause did not apply to them in the same way as it did to yearly tenancies. But the clause does apply to leases. I invite your Lordships to look at the clause. It says—Where the landlord, without good and sufficient cause, and for reasons inconsistent with good estate management, terminates or refuses to grant a renewal of the tenancy.I suppose the words "refuses to grant a renewal" must moan a renewal at the termination of the lease, because a year to year tenancy is always terminated on one side or the other by notice to quit. Do His Majesty's Government mean that this clause shall apply to leases, although the noble Lord agreed with the Scottish farmers that they were in a different position from English farmers in that matter; and, if so, do they mean to treat leases on the same footing as a year to year tenancy? Anybody who is acquainted with the practice in this country knows very well that it might be fairly argued that a year to year tenancy, although it may be terminated by twelve months notice to quit on either side, is practically regarded on both sides as almost akin to a life tenancy. A lease for a term of years, on the other hand, is entered into by parties both of whom are well aware that the tenancy is open to reconsideration at the end of the term. Is there the same ground for compensation for loss on removal in the case of a lease for years in these circumstances as there may be, I admit, when a yearly tenancy is determined by an unexpected notice to quit? I thought that when this matter was under discussion in another place some Minister, speaking on behalf of the Government, had definitely promised that the question of leases should be reconsidered, and 903 that in fact an Amendment should be moved in your Lordships' House dealing with this particular subject. The noble Earl did not allude to the matter in moving the Second Reading, but I hope that we may be made acquainted with the intention of His Majesty's Government before going into Committee.
Subject to the working of this clause being in some manner more clearly defined, and certain Amendments inserted in other clauses which would not take away anything that the Bill gives to tenants, but would merely make it more workmanlike in drafting and show more clearly what it means—subject to that I agree with the hope expressed by Lord Burchclere that the Bill may pass into law. I trust, as my noble friend Lord Camperdown has said, that we may take this Bill as representing the whole view of His Majesty's Government in the matter of dealing between English agricultural landlords and their tenants. I am aware that they have much wider and larger views on the general subject of agricultural land. They, I think, are pledged to changes in the law relating to the land which would increase the number of small holdings, which might give greater facilities for the building of labourers cottages and matters of that kind. I am quite sure that in anything which may tend to the real restoration of the population to the land they will find support on this side of your Lordships' House. But this Bill will have no such effect. If this Bill touches that question at all, it rather throws an impediment in the way by deterring a landlord from dividing large farms, or providing sites for labourers' cottages, on account of a possible liability for compensation to an existing tenant for his loss on removal. I trust that at any rate no further impediment will be imposed by legislation in the supposed interests of tenant farmers on the extension of small holdings, and the increase of good cottage accommodation in our country districts.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord TWEEDMOUTH)
My Lords, in all the speeches we have heard to-night the great importance of agriculture in this country has been recognised. It is the greatest interest that we have, and the speeches that have 904 been made have shown that Members of your Lordships' House are very much alive to the necessity of maintaining good relations between landlord and tenant, and of doing the best for agriculture to make it both productive and agreeable to landlord and tenant alike. The noble Viscount who has just sat down has expressed a desire, which I cordially re-echo, that this Bill may obtain a Second Reading. The question, I think, that we have to put to-day is not whether this Bill is perfect in detail, whether it cannot be improved in many places, but whether on the whole it will be useful in maintaining good relations between landlord and tenant, and have the effect of easing and improving the conduct of agriculture. The noble Viscount drew a very pretty picture of the relations which existed between himself and his own tenants.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
I was going on to say that I believe the picture which the noble Viscount drew is one which is common throughout the length and breadth of the land, and especially in the case of Members of your Lordships' House. I can assure you that, as far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, what they wish to do is to level up to that high standard. I believe the good landlord will be little affected by the Bill. The object of the Bill is to raise the level of the standard of the bad landlord, and by legislation to obtain in that case the same advantages for the tenant as are now freely obtained from the good landlord. But, after all, I think the provisions of this Bill are only matters of ordinary estate management between a good landlord and tenant.
Now, what are those provisions? Clause I provides that the inherent excellence of the land should no longer be taken into account in cases where disputes arise. That is a provision which has been very much debated in the past, and which I think on the whole agriculturists are agreed should be abolished. The next provision is that there should be but a single arbitrator to decide in all these cases. That provision does not interfere with the ordinary practice which now exists of having a valuer on each side 905 and an arbitrator to decide between them. The clause only comes into effect when there is a difference of opinion and when the Board of Agriculture has to intervene, and then the Board appoint a single arbitrator to decide between the disputants. That also appears to me to be a plan which is desirable, and which will save both time and expense.
I now come to the game clause. I do not wish to put any improper check on sport, but I think your Lordships will all recognise that of recent years there has been an enormous increase in winged game in this country. By all means let noble Lords who are fond of shooting have good sport and let them kill as many head of game as they can, but do not let them do it at the expense of the tenant, who at any rate to a certain extent feeds that game. The shooting tenant and the proprietor to a large extent feed the game, but great damage is from time to time done to tenants, and it is only fair that they should be compensated for that damage. Then I come to the provision that the land should be cultivated by the tenant to the best advantage. That I think is very clearly stated in the Bill. If the tenant exercises his rights under the section in such a manner as to injure or deteriorate the holding, or is likely to injure or deteriorate the holding, the landlord will be entitled to recover damages in respect of such injury or | deterioration. Under the Bill I think the landlord is amply safeguarded, and will receive proper compensation if his tenant does not farm in a proper manner.
Then with regard to the question of compensation for unreasonable disturbance, there is no doubt that that clause as at present drafted does apply to leases as well as to year to year engagements. I myself am best acquainted with the nineteen-year leases, and I should like to suggest to my noble friend Lord Carrington that it might be well to consider whether we should not introduce certain provisions that would specially meet the case of nineteen year leases. As noble Lords know, of recent years the practice | of nineteen-year leases has been a good deal modified in Scotland, and we are coming more to year-to-year agreements; but I think the case of the old nineteen-year leases ought to be considered At the same time, I do think that if 906 the tenant is turned out, or does not get his agreement renewed on insufficient ground, it is only fair that the loss to him should be made up by the landlord. I think the time when the Act is to come into operation is a very important matter. That, again, is a point on which my noble friend might be able to give some concession. I think that if the Bill did not come into operation until January, 1909, instead of January, 1908, that would give time for the consideration of the conditions under which the Act is going to work, facilitate its operation and make things go much smoother.
I should like to assure the House that the Bill, as it stands, does represent what the Government think is desirable in the way of adjusting the relation between landlord and tenant. They believe that by adjusting it in this way no inconvenience will be caused either to one party or the other; that in the case of the good landlord and the good tenant the Bill would hardly operate at all, and the present system would work as it does now. At the same time they believe that by introducing these provisions they will cause the bad landlord, if there be such, to have considerable pressure put on him to come up to the level of the good landlord; and from that point of view the Bill will help rural life in this country, do a great deal to sweeten the relations between landlord and tenant, and help landlord, tenant, and labourer alike throughout the length and breadth of the country.
* LORD BALFOUR OF BUKLEIGH
My Lords, I think perhaps it would not be inconvenient, as a large part of the First Lord's speech was taken up with questions which perhaps more directly affect the northern part of the Island, that I should say a word or two after what has fallen from him. I am not going to discuss the question whether or not this Bill has caused unnecessary alarm among those interested in land; nor do I desire to touch upon the question of good and bad landlords, and the difficulties which the latter class may sometimes create. I recognise at once, and I think most of your Lordships, at any rate those who are connected with Scotland, will have recognised the reasonable and conciliatory way in which 907 the noble Lord who has just sat down referred to some of the points upon which he touched. I was very glad indeed to hear him say that the Government were prepared to reconsider the question of applying what I still call the compensation for disturbance clause to leases. For my part I cannot see the slightest foundation for giving any compensation for disturbance to a man whose whole interest in the land has been for a period of years. If he has been taken as a tenant from year to year, and it has been going on for a long period of years without any revision, his position is allied to that of the English year to year tenant; but the great majority of those who hold land for farming in Scotland hold it on agreements for a period of years. I do not think that in ray part of the country any man would look at a farm unless he was to have it for a period of years. If on both sides there are adult men able to make bargains, and they make a bargain for a period of years, what possible justification can there be for saying that at the end of that period, if by the lapse of time the agreement is terminated, there should be any compensation? Why should not the presumption be that unless an agreement is renewed the whole arrangement is to come to an end? Those are my views, but, of course, after the speech of the noble Lord, we shall wait with willingness to see what the proposals of the Government are.
Perhaps while I am on that point I may just say this additional word, that there was during the passage of the Bill through the other House, at one of the early hours of the morning when the House was sitting late to pass the Bill, a distinct promise given on the part of the Secretary for Scotland, in answer to a question by the Member for Leith, that questions affecting Scotland would be dealt with in this House. I understand that a distinct promise was given that the Government would put down Amendments. I am far from supposing that all these Amendments will be in favour of landlords. Some of them will no doubt be in the nature of applying this Bill to Scotland, and some, for all I know, may tell in favour of the tenants. Whatever they are, I urge very strongly on the noble Earl in charge of the Bill that they should 908 appear on a very early date. I make this request on two grounds. We are anxious to consider the proposals of the Government perfectly fairly. We are anxious to see what they are in order that we may know what to say when the time comes; but it is even more necessary for us to have them at an early date than it would be if our advisers were with us in London. We shall have to refer some of the technical questions involved to those having technical knowledge of land management in Scotland, and it will take us a day or two to collect the opinions of those with whom we desire to act. Therefore, if this Bill is to go through Committee next week, as we understand it is, I urge strongly that before this week is out we should see the Amendments that are going to be suggested for our consideration.
The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty gave us a very comforting version of how he thinks the provisions about the single arbitrator are intended to apply, but I confess that with my lay man's mind I read the conditions of the Bill in a different way. I regard Clause 1 as enforcing the single arbitrator appointed by the Board of Agriculture upon every landlord and every tenant whenever they have a dispute. I see the noble Lord shakes his head, and I will defer any further remarks on that till I see the Amendments on the Paper. But I am not alone in the view I take. I have received many communications from those who are apprehensive on that point. As far as I am concerned, in forty-two years of estate management I have only once had to have reference to arbitration, and it is some satisfaction to me that the arbitrator gave my opponent less than I had offered him before entering upon the arbitration. I attach the greatest importance to the maintenance of the present system of friendly arbitration conducted by a couple of neighbours, one upon each side. It is of great importance for this reason, that about half of the holdings in Scotland are under £50 in value; some of them are as low as £15 and £20, and if you inflict expense which is not absolutely necessary on changes of tenancy, you will do harm not only to the landlord but to the outgoing and incoming tenants, who will have to share those expenses.
909 The noble Lord said the Bill provided ample safeguards against landlords' property being deteriorated under the cropping clause, and the remedy which he suggests we should rely upon is that when our land is damaged the outgoing tenant who has damaged it, or the tenant, whether outgoing or not, should be made to pay. I suggest that that is a very flimsy safeguard indeed. The man who does that sort of thing is generally a man of straw out of whom you can got nothing at all. This is one of those cases in which every practical man will tell you that prevention is better than cure, and that you ought to be able to stop mis-cropping and damage before it has gone so far as to cause detriment to the holding. It is obviously for the public interest, as well as for the interest of the landlord and tenant, that the soil of the country should be maintained in the highest possible state of fertility.
I have boon asked to put one question to the noble Earl in charge of the Bill. I have been approached by gentlemen who are connected with the nursery and seed business. I think the noble Earl in his introductory speech alluded to a deputation he had received from these persons. I am bound to say I think they have a grievance if their apprehension is well founded, and I understand that the law officers of the Crown have said it is well founded, that they do not come under the compensation clauses of the Market Gardeners' Act. If a nurseryman's business is interfered with, say, in the summer time, and he has only a right to six months notice to quit and cannot choose his own time for removing his stock, he is liable to suffer serious loss. The subject has been explained to me and I think there is a grievance, but I am not quite certain whether the amending of it is really germane to this Bill. I think what is required is an amendment of the Market Gardeners' Act and other Acts read with it, but the only plea which I urge on the noble Earl is that he will allow me either to see himself with some of those with whom I desire to act, or the Permanent Secretary, to discuss whether it is possible to make an Amendment in this Bill which would be satisfactory to them, and if so, to endeavour to arrange the terms of such an Amend- 910 ment with him. I think there is a grievance, though I have grave doubts whether it is possible to remedy it in this Bill. At any rate, I think both those for whom I desire to act and the Board of Agriculture would wish to come to an understanding in regard to the matter.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, after the discussion which has taken place I do not think any one will contradict me when I say that it is advisable that this Bill should be given a Second Reading. The measure as it appears now is very different from the measure as it appeared in another place. There have been great changes. Clauses have boon dropped and important modifications made. I should like to ask whether, in suggesting that the coming into force of the Bill should be postponed until January, 1909, the noble Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, was speaking on behalf of His Majesty's Government.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
I said it would be considered, and that it probably would be so with regard to some of the provisions of the Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
That is an extremely important point and I should like to ask whether the First Lord was only expressing his own opinion or speaking on behalf of the Government.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
The noble Marquess overstated what I said. I did not point to January, 1909, as the final date of the coming into force of the whole of the Bill, but only certain provisions of it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Then perhaps when we get to a later stage the noble Earl in charge of the Bill will point out to us which of the provisions it is proposed should not come into force until 1909. In spite of the alterations that have been made in another place, I cannot but think that the principle of the Bill is based upon the theory that a landlord and tenant cannot enter into a contract without the interference of the State. If a contract is not allowed to be entered into amicably between landlord and tenant it must tend to a certain extent to antagonism. I cannot help thinking that if this Bill should become law it will press very hardly upon good landlords. 911 There may be landlords who are good landlords, but who, owing to lack of resources at the moment, would not be able to pay the compensation demanded for improvements. Although considerable alterations have been made in many of the clauses of the Bill, I still think serious consideration will have to be given in Committee to those clauses.
I turn to Clause 1. It has been alluded to but not dwelt upon at any length. The omission of the proviso that in estimating the value of any improvement made by the tenant there shall not be taken into account the inherent capabilities of the soil, is to my mind an omission which ought to be remedied in Committee, because the absence of this provision is naturally a serious prejudice to the landlord. Under this Bill a tenant might obtain from a landlord compensation due to his having a good holding, and not to his own efforts or expenditure. Then Clause 2, giving compensation for damage to crops by game, opens a way for needless disputes between the landlord and the shooting tenant and the agricultural tenant. Unless some alteration is made to simplify this clause, there will be endless wrangling between those who at present are working well together.
But the most important clause, to my mind, is Clause 4, which gives compensation for unreasonable disturbance, and I cannot help thinking that it contains the germ of dual ownership, which many Governments at great cost have done their best to abolish in Ireland. The clause destroys freedom of contract. The tenant has a right to determine his holding, but the landlord can only get rid of his tenant at pecuniary loss. The noble Earl in charge of the Bill has said that there is a demand for this measure. I ask the noble Earl, by whom is the Bill demanded? He himself stated in the country that it would be impossible for him, when he brought the Bill forward, to get it through your Lordship's House if some Member could get up and say the tenant fanners of England did not care three straws about it. I have yet to learn that the tenant farmers do care three straws about the Bill. My noble friend Lord Camperdown has given a graphic description of the meeting at Edinburgh, and from what he 912 said it is clear that the Bill received a very lukewarm reception there. Then we heard from the noble Duke behind me that at his Newcastle meeting the noble Earl's references to the measure were most chillingly received, and it was only the great courtesy and charm of manner of the noble Earl that prevented those North Country farmers expressing in forcible terms the views they held with regard to it. I find that in Lincolnshire, in spite of what the noble Earl said, the Chamber of Agriculture passed the following resolution—That this Chamber, while welcoming the freedom of cropping clauses consider the Bill will an a whole alienate the sympathy and help of the landlords from their tenantry, and lead to litigation only to the benefit of valuers and lawyers.At a meeting on the borders of Buckinghamshire and Oxford shire the noble Earl, with that generosity for which he is famous, stood the tenants champagne first and addressed them afterwards. A tenant farmer who was present on that occasion, subsequently wrote a letter to the local paper in which he said—I desire to express my opinion on the Land Tenure Bill, a right which was denied to me at the one-sided and unfairly conducted meeting last week at which Lord Carrington was the only speaker. When the Minister for Agriculture was first appointed, the idea was that he should find out the views of agriculturists, but here we have Lord Carrington cramming his views down our throats without giving us a chance of replying. Lord Carrington, seeing the tide was not in his favour, artfully filled up the time to the last moment, talking a lot of silly twaddle about Tommy Atkins's rations and hanky panky, and then rushed off, like a thieving dog out of a butcher's shop, to catch a train, he said, but I think because he would not face the music.This tenant farmer declared that his class did not want the Bill or "any Government tinkering" between themselves and their landlords, whom they looked upon as their best friends. I cannot help thinking that, despite the alterations that have been made in the Bill, it will create friction between owners and occupiers, and may be the means of putting an end to those friendly relations which have existed for so many years. In the district in which I live the tenant farmers do not care about the Bill for the simple reason that they know full well that if any friction arose between themselves and their landlords it is they, and not the landlords, who would suffer. The Bill would jeopardise good relations 913 and discourage the outlay of capital. Look at the manner in which landlords have assisted tenants to tide over times of depression. This has been the result of the friendly relations existing between them, and in many directions there has been evidence of the hearty co-operation and good will between landlord and tenant. At present, agriculture is in a comparatively satisfactory condition, but depression may return, and, without good feeling and co-operation between landlords and tenants, how is it to be met?
§ * EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, I have to ask for that indulgence which your Lordships always extend to one who addresses you for the first time. My excuse for doing so must be that I am associated with a part of the country distant from that to which most of the previous speakers belong, a part of the country where nobody will say "Thank you "for a lease, and where families of ton continue on the same farms for generations on yearly agreements. I fully recognise the friendly spirit that characterised the speech of the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty, but I think many of your Lordships must have been disappointed by the manner in which he passed over some of the objections that have been taken to the Bill on this side of the House he gave no answer, for instance, to the suggestion that this Bill is more likely to benefit lawyers, valuers, and bad tenants than to benefit good tenants. A good deal has been said about the arbitration clause, in regard to which I hope His Majesty's Government will be prepared to give very serious consideration to the suggestions made by Lord Onslow. I think it is most important that the arbitrators who may be appointed by the Board of Agriculture under this Bill should be men of high character and of good repute in their localities, and that there should not be many of them. At present, in the West of England, the usual thing is for the umpire between the two arbitrators to be the local auctioneer. Under the provisions of this Bill the arbitrator appointed will have to give important and far-reaching decisions, which will involve considerable sums of money and lay down principles of wide application throughout the neighbourhood. It is most important, therefore, that they 914 should be men who would take an independent line, and be guided by the justice of the case rather than by partiality for either party connected with it.
There is a small, but deserving class of farmers whom this Bill will benefit; those who, by some sale, find themselves transferred from a considerate landlord to an arbitrary and capricious one. Such farmers are, I think, deserving of consideration, but I do not think a man who deliberately takes a farm under a landlord who has a bad name deserves any consideration at all. Land hunger is a good platform cry, but practical people know that there is very little in it indeed. The character of every landowner and land agent for miles around is known in every market town, and if a man takes a farm on an estate belonging to a person who is notoriously arbitrary he does so with his eyes open, and is not deserving of special consideration. Practical people know that in the majority of cases farmers are paying little or nothing for the land, their rent being a moderate interest on the cost of the buildings and the equipment of the farm. It is important, therefore, that the clause relating to freedom of cropping should be carefully scrutinised when it comes before your Lordships in Committee, and I hope the noble Earl in charge of the Bill will be prepared to accept an Amendment limiting that freedom to what is consistent with good husbandry. The maintenance of the fertility of the estate in the public interest is not the least important of a landlord's duties; and as the clause now stands the freedom given by it might very easily be abused. As to tenants' improvements, if a tenant is in a position to lend money to his landlord, for that is what the sinking of tenants' capital on matters outside the cultivation of the land involves, he is in a position to make his own terms for the loan.
There are a good many small landowners still left in the West of England, and I should like to say a word or two as to the way in which this Bill will affect them. They do not, as a rule, get the best class of tenants, and they are less able than larger owners to protect themselves against an unscrupulous tenant. I think, therefore, that the Bill may deal hardly with small owners. 915 The noble Lord said that he thought this Bill, far from putting any difficulty in the way of creating small tenants, would, if anything, make it easier. I fail to see how a Bill which makes it more difficult to get land into hand is likely to promote the creation of small holdings; but apart from that, one great difficulty about small tenants is that these men, as a rule, have little capital beyond their muscles and their brains, and it is not uncommon, when a labourer, having saved a little money, and wishing to rise in the world wants to take a small farm, for him to bring with him to the estate office some friend or relative who is in a small way of business, and who is prepared to be put into the agreement as a joint tenant, and thereby to give greater security for the rent. But nobody is likely, after this Bill is passed, ever to take a joint tenant. As the Bill stands at present, the only chance that a landowner is ever likely to get of dealing with a farm without the possibility of interference by some outsider, is in the case of a tenant dying, or giving him notice, or failing; and the possibilities, except in the second of those events, are very much limited it you take in a joint tenant. And the same argument applies as affecting continuous occupation. Continuous occupation is a thing which everybody must wish to encourage, but nobody will be very much inclined to put in a son as a joint tenant with his father if the consequence is that it will be more difficult for the owner to deal with the farm in any way that may be desirable on the father's death.
I have to thank your Lordships very much for the indulgence you have accorded me. I only wish to say, in conclusion that though I do not think the Bill will do much harm, I fear it will do very little good, and those who, like the noble Lord opposite, anticipate that it is to a new Golden Age for agriculture will, I am afraid, be profoundly disappointed.
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords, in the few remarks which I have to make I can undertake only to occupy a very few minutes of the time of your Lordships, but I think this is so peculiar a Bill that all of us, who have an opportunity of dealing with this 916 subject, are entitled to say a few words upon it. I think everybody in this House is agreed that legislation in the past has always been brought forward by the Government of the day in accordance with the demand—the articulate demand—of some large body of public opinion and, despite what has been urged by noble Lords opposite, I think the House has quite made up its mind that this Bill has behind it no bulk of public opinion. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, quoted just now what I think, with all respect for the noble Earl the Minister for Agriculture, is rather the typical point of view of the farmer with regard to this Bill. There were a few words in a letter from Mr. Rider Haggard to The Times the other morning which I should like to be allowed to quote as corroborating the view expressed in the letter read by the noble Marquess. Mr. Rider Haggard, in his letter to The Times of 16th November said—The tenant farmer, in nine eases out of ten, would be the first to declare—indeed, he does declare loudly, although those who are intent on his salvation will not listen—that he is perfectly able to protect himself—that is to say in entering into a contract with his landlord for taking a farm, and dealing with his landlord and his landlord's agent during the period of his tenancy. This Bill seems to go on the assumption that the British farmer is blind, deaf, and dumb. But I think those of your Lordships who know anything of country life will be of a very different opinion. I doubt very much whether, in the history of this country, landlords have ever been able to dictate terms to their tenants; but I am perfectly certain of this—as I think previous speakers have mentioned—that during the last thirty years, certainly, they have not been in a position to do so. And the way in which British agriculture has managed to pull through all the difficulties and trials of the last thirty years has, no doubt, been due to the system of land tenure which at present prevails.
Now, my Lords, of course there may be—I do not deny that there are—in certain parts of the country hard cases; there are bad landlords here and there. But I am sure that the noble Earl the Minister for Agriculture will be the first to acknowledge that hard cases make bad law, and that it would not do, 917 as a rule, to ask this House to legislate for the exceptions. I think the noble Earl said that the object of this Bill was to make bad landlords in future behave like good landlords do at present. But I am very much afraid that the tendency of the Bill will be rather this, that good landlords in future will be more inclined to follow the course pursued by the few sporadic bad landlords at present. I think the noble Earl would be surprised if he knew the amount of disturbance and anxiety that the introduction of this Bill has brought about in many parts of the country. There are a certain number of landlords—I do not say there are many, but there are a certain number—who, I am informed, have already given notice to a number of their tenants to quit their holdings, thinking it will save them an infinity of trouble and expense if they at once get back their property into their own hands. Those cases may be few in number, but there are many more landlords who, at this moment, are hesitating, or who are disinclined to make further capital expenditure, or to make improvements in their estates, because of their fear of the results of this Bill. And, although under the compensation clause, you may at present make the landlords pay compensation to tenants, eventually I am perfectly certain of this—that the compensation will come, not from the landlords but from the land, because the continual extension of the application of the landlord's capital to the land is, as every landowner is aware, absolutely necessary for the proper cultivation of the land, and for the prosperity on the land of the two other classes, the tenants and the labourers; and the result, I firmly believe, of this compensation clause will be to divert in future from the land portions of the landlord's capital which at present he is willing to put into it.
Now, my Lords, this Bill, tears up all existing contracts. On that I will not dilate. But your Lordships know that in England at present the amount of the landlords' capital invested in buildings—as my noble friend Lord Fortescue has just mentioned—is a very considerable item, and that the rent that is paid is, in many cases, really only a small interest on the capital which the landlord has put into the farm. Your Lordships will all agree, I am sure, 918 that, at the expiration of a farm tenancy, the outgoing tenant should receive full compensation for the unexhausted improvements that he may have made during his tenancy. But I contend—and I believe everyone in this House who knows anything of farming will agree with me—that, when the tenant goes out, he does receive, under the existing law, full compensation, and perhaps even more ample compensation than he is entitled to, for the improvements he has made.
Now, my Lords, a remarkable letter appeared in the Spectator of 1st December, from Mr. Munro Ferguson, who I think is still a Member of the other House, on the subject, not of this Bill, it is true, but of a very analogous measure, the Small Landholders (Scotland) Bill. Mr. Munro Ferguson said that in the event of that measure passing (and I think the same result will be likely to be brought about if the present measure passes) the question would be:—Where will the money for land equipment come from in the future? It is now provided to an extent of many millions a year by landowners, who for various reasons—chiefly because all return from the immense capital irrecoverably sunk in the land depends on a continued expenditure—are willing, both in England and in Scotland, to make an unprofitable investment. Responsible ownership being abolished, the capital expended on the land being no longer regarded as private property, and the re-allocation of land by compulsory leasing being entirely at the discretion of Land Commissioners, owners' expenditure will obviously cease, as no man will care or can be forced to develop another man's property.With regard to the clause in the Bill called the Compensation for Disturbance Clause, it is true the word "reasonable" has been struck out, and "good and sufficient cause" substituted. But the effect, it seems to me, is very much the same, and it will be extremely difficult for any arbitrator, unless he has received a full legal training, to say what that "good and sufficient cause" will amount to. I confess that personally I should have been prepared, if I could have found any measure of support on this side of the House, to have voted against the Second Reading, because I am perfectly certain of this—that it will cause a great deal of friction between landlords and tenants, who have hitherto lived upon the most friendly terms in all parts of the country. It can only benefit lawyers and 919 valuers, and in the end I am convinced it will not be for the benefit of the farmers for whom it is ostensibly designed. On the other hand, the noble Earl the Minister for Agriculture, and the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty, I fully admit have made very conciliatory speeches on the subject, and have held out hopes to us that certain Amendments will be put down in the Committee Stage, and therefore perhaps my original objection to seeing this Bill read a second time has been to a certain extent removed. I apologise to your Lordships for taking up so much time, but, to one who lives in the country on his own property, and who takes a great interest in topics such as this, the subject of this Bill cannot be indifferent.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
My Lords, in acknowledging the courtesy and the fairness of all the speeches made and criticisms pissed on the Land Tenure Bill to-night, I hope I may be permitted to congratulate the noble Lord opposite, Lord Fortescue, upon the excellent speech which he has delivered on the occasion of his addressing the House for the first time. I do so with all the greater pleasure because we recognise in him the son of a very old friend, whose memory many of us cherish with feelings of respect and affection. I need not detain the House one moment, except to express the satisfaction that we all felt at the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, and at his assurance, as far as I understood him, that any Amendments that may be proposed will not take away the advantages to tenant farmers which we hope to confer by the Bill. We are very grateful for that, and I need hardly say that anything which we can do to facilitate the passing of the Bill, without interfering with its principles, we shall be only too happy and pleased to do. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour asked me to put down the Amendments as soon as possible, and I can assure the noble Lord that that will be done with the greatest speed possible, and, as the Committee Stage will not be taken till next Thursday, I hope noble Lords opposite will have every facility for putting down or considering Amendments; and if the Board of Agriculture can be of any use in considering Amendments, I am your Lordships' most humble servant, 920 and shall be only too pleased to do what I can in that direction.
The noble Lord also asked about the inclusion of nursery men in the scope of the Bill. I think it will perhaps be useful if he will allow me to confer with him as to that. While I am afraid I cannot hold out any great hopes of being able fully to meet the noble Lord's wishes, I will, at any rate, see how far the views of the London nurserymen can be met, and I would only now express once more the regret I have felt at not being able to extend to them the acknowledged benefits of this Bill. I have only now to thank your Lordships once more for your reception of the Land Tenure Bill, of which I have moved the Second Reading.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday the 13th instant.