§ Commons' Amendment considered (according to order).
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (Earl CARRINGTON)
The Amendment sent to your Lordships' House from the Commons is—In page 20, line 41, after the word 'date,' to insert the words 'Provided that where such a tenancy was a tenancy from year to year, the compensation payable in respect of an improvement comprised in the Third Schedule to this Act shall be such (if any) as could have been claimed if this Act had not been passed.'It is a legal point entirely. It has been most carefully considered by the Parliamentary counsel, by the Parliamentary draftsman, and by the Board's legal advisers, and they assure me they are satisfied that this Amendment will secure the landlord's rights, which, of course, everybody is anxious to maintain. The point is rather an intricate one, and I respectfully ask your Lordships to be 1678 good enough to agree with the Commons' Amendment.
§ Moved, "That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment."—(Earl Carrington.)
§ LORD CLINTON
Before your Lordships pass this Amendment I should like to say one word upon it. This Amendment, I think I am correct in saying, is the result of an agreement come to between the Board of Agriculture and those who are desirous of continuing the existing definition of tenancies from year to year that Parliament applied to tenancies at the passing of the Market Gardeners Act, 1895. I believe this Amendment is very carefully drawn for that purpose, and I think that to a very considerable extent, and perhaps entirely, it will carry out the purpose which we have in view. While I should like to express my gratitude to the noble Earl for having managed that this Amendment should be inserted in another place, at the same time I am rather inclined to express my regret that these particular words should be employed in the Amendment. The Act itself is of really great value to the agricultural interest in that it expresses in an admirably clear manner all the details of the different Agricultural Holdings Acts, and, in fact, we are given in this one measure the whole of the law dealing with the subject. Perhaps the greater advantage of the Act is that it is simple and free from any reference to existing statutes. I am sorry, therefore, that in this particular Amendment this practice has not been entirely carried out, because reference is made to an existing state of the law on the subject. The existing state of the law on the subject is exceedingly difficult to find out. If the tenant of a market garden whose year-to-year tenancy was covered in 1895 wants to find out his exact position in the matter, he looks, no doubt, first of all to this Consolidation Act, and finds nothing at all about it. He then, perhaps, is advised to refer to the Market Gardeners Act, and again he will discover nothing as to his position, although at the beginning he is referred to another Agricultural Holdings Act, that of 1883, and he may wade through sixty clauses of that Act without finding out anything. 1679 In the sixty-first clause he will come to the matter relating to his position, but expressed in such complicated terms that no farmers and very few land agents would be able to translate it without the assistance of a lawyer. While this Consolidation Act is brought in for the express purpose of simplifying the law on the subject, I am very sorry that this particular Amendment, which does express our views, is not couched in more clear and precise terms. I was going to raise the question whether this Amendment is competent, because it refers us to certain Acts of Parliament which under this Bill are repealed. Both the Acts I have referred to are repealed; but I understand the noble Earl has consulted his legal advisers on that matter, and is satisfied that it is correct. What I should like particularly to ask the noble Earl now is whether he could not at this period of the session so alter the wording of this Amendment that it would express in clear and precise language what the Government and we intend.
§ EARL CARRINGTON
I have to thank the noble Earl for what he said about the Bill, and I can assure him that the greatest possible pains have been taken to meet the wishes of himself, the Duke of Northumberland, and other noble Lords who had doubts on the subject. Our great object has been not to bring into this Consolidation Bill any fresh matter of any sort or kind, in accordance with the pledge I gave, and our legal advisers thought that the Bill as it stood covered the whole ground; but to meet the wishes of the noble Lord and the Duke of Northumberland we proposed these words, which were shown to noble Lords opposite, and they agreed that the Amendment was perhaps in the best language that we could find. I hope the noble Lord will not object to this Amendment. It is very important that we should get it through. I can assure him that all the rights of landlords are perfectly safeguarded, and that no fresh matter has been brought into the Bill in any shape or form.
§ LORD CLINTON
I do not wish to express any objection to this matter at 1680 all. I know it brings in no fresh matter, but I think the Amendment might have been expressed in language which the ordinary farmer or other person could have understood.
§ On Question, agreed to.