§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Mr. Speaker, the Bill, of which I have now to move the second reading, is one which seeks to supply the deficiencies of the law which at present relates to agricultural teancies. This is a subject which has been treated in this House more than once. It is one with which the House used to be familiar. I see several hon. Members now who, throwing their memory over a space of scarcely less than 30 years, can recall the time when Mr. Pusey, the Member for Berkshire, interested himself in this question, and took various opportunities of submitting it to the consideration of the House. At that time there was much agitation in the country in favour of agricultural leases—of long agricultural leases—and 451 Mr. Pusey, who was, both by his lineage, his estate, his rare accomplishments, and fine abilities, one of the most distinguished country Gentlemen who ever sat in the House of Commons, was of opinion that that was a policy which ought to be resisted. He believed that the granting of leases was not demanded at all, or only in a slight degree, by the farmers themselves; but that the demand came from a party out of the agricultural world—a party distinguished by perseverance, which contained many economists of great distinction, many philosophers, and many who took rather a cosmopolitan than a national view of public affairs. Mr. Pusey thought that leases had a tendency to divorce the proprietor of the soil from the land, and ultimately would lead to the breaking up of estates and destroy the influence of that class to whose influence he attributed—and, I believe, rightly attributed—much of the liberties and welfare of the country. With these views he moved for Committees, and subsequently introduced Bills, the object of which was to secure—Mr. Pusey was the first person to introduce into this House the term—"the tenant right" of the occupier, and at the same time to guard the just rights of the owner. His object was—to use his own words—"to secure to the tenant the advantage of his unexhausted improvements and to prevent the deterioration of the soil." Mr. Pusey was not successful in the efforts he attempted to make. His views were comparatively novel. The great body of the country gentlemen did not sufficiently sympathize with him; and they were very much influenced in the course they adopted by the fact that they knew the cry or claim for what they called leases was not one which originated, generally speaking, with the great body of farmers themselves; that it was extraneous, and they did not believe it was one which would endure. Under these circumstances, Mr. Pusey unhappily, I think, gave up much expectation of success. There were influences against his success at that period which he had not taken sufficiently into account. In the first place, that party in the country who advocated long leases of the soil, thought that if they favoured the plans of Mr. Pusey their views would necessarily not be adopted. Then, again, there was an element which even a Gentleman so well 452 acquainted with agriculture and rural life as he was had not sufficiently counted upon, and that was what he called the hereditary tenant—that is, the tenant whose fathers and forefathers had cultivated the very farm he had cultivated himself, and whose family for a long period, even for more than a century, had lived upon the soil. It was difficult—it was impossible—to persuade a class of men of that character that they were in danger of being suddenly turned out of their holdings—that they would forfeit the capital they had invested in the soil—when they were conscious of the fact that for generations upon that soil their family had existed, and still lived. These were two influences which, no doubt, very much acted against Mr. Pusey. There was another, and that was that by degrees in this country a number of usages had grown up—some of them, indeed very ancient, some of them of recent development—by which the tenant of the soil, by general agreement with the owners, was preserved from the sacrifice of his capital in case he quitted his holding. All these influences tended to prevent any enthusiasm being felt in those views—so profound, so just, and so salutary—which influenced that accomplished man in the counsels which he frequently gave to the country and to the House of Commons. When he ultimately relinquished the struggle, at least so far as the House was concerned, he said this—I am accurate in the words, for he used them to the humble individual who now addresses the House—he said "it was the only blot in the agricultural hierarchy"—the fact that the tenant-at-will had no security for the capital which he ought to be encouraged to invest in the soil. Now, many years have elapsed since those days, and for some time very little public excitement upon the subject existed. The cry for leases gradually died away—not originating, generally speaking, with the farmers themselves. But of late years the philosophers, who are a vigilant body, and the economists, who are always active, have not omitted the opportunities that were offered them of dilating on what Mr. Pusey described as "the only blot in the agricultural hierarchy;" and by a constant agitation, by speeches and by writings, a certain degree of opinion on the sub- 453 ject has been formed. Since then the question of land tenure has been much examined with respect to a neighbouring country—Ireland. We have legislated upon it, and that, no doubt, has much tended also to stimulate the feeling on the question. But the view that Mr. Pusey took of this matter is one which cannot be impressed too completely on the House. "When he came forward to advocate what was then for the first time called tenant-right, it was to protect, as he believed, the interests of the owners of the soil—to place them in a stronger position—as well as to place the occupiers in a juster position, and to remove the only circumstance which, in the arrangements of the different classes connected with agriculture, might lead to discontent, and be the pretext of ultimate changes in the tenure of land or the conduct of estates, which he deeply deprecated, and which had nothing whatever to do with the particular possible grievance which he wished to combat. Well, these views are now, as I said, still prevalent, and within the last few years have considerably extended. No doubt, if you take the case of a tenant-at-will, a yearly tenant, it is to be deprecated that he should be placed in a position in which he is not protected so far as regards the capital which he invests in the soil; and it is, no doubt, a subject to be lamented that there should be any circumstances in existence which prevent that application of capital to the soil which it is the interest of all classes alike to encourage. It is highly to be deprecated at all times that in the mutual arrangements of classes like the owners and occupiers of the soil of England—classes on whom we so much depend for the good order of the country—there should be anything which would be the cause of latent discontent or disturbance. Under these circumstances Her Majesty's Government have considered this subject. They have felt that it is of importance that we should deal with it, and that it should not be left to the speculative arrangements of classes who are not really anxious to remove the particular grievance which I am asking you to-night to consider, and who, taking advantage of the discontent which the grievance occasions, may be induced to advocate changes and views which are of a much larger and, in my opinion, of a perni- 454 cious character. Considering, therefore, this subject, we have introduced a measure which has passed through the House of Lords without a division; and I will briefly put before the House the character of the measure. The measure proposes as a principle to secure compensation to the tenant for what in modern phrase are called unexhausted improvements; and to the owner compensation for waste and for injury which result from the breaking of covenants or contracts. It proposes to compensate the tenant for his improvements, which are now, for the first time, arranged under three classes. I do not know whether the House will pardon me for reading the contents of these classes, which are, no doubt, familiar to many hon. Members, but probably they will not object to my doing so. The tenant is to receive compensation for his improvements in these three classes—
|Drainage of land.||Making or improving of watercourses, ponds, wells, or reservoirs, or of works for supply of water for agricultural or domestic purposes.|
|Erection or enlargement of buildings.|
|Laying down of permanent pasture.|
|Making and planting of osier beds.|
|Making of water meadows or works of irrigation.||Making of fences.|
|Planting of hops.|
|Planting of orchards.|
|Making of gardens.||Reclamation of waste land.|
|Making or improving of roads or bridges.||Warping of land.|
The tenant is to receive compensation for improvements in these three classes. The improvements in the first class are to be exhausted in 20 years; the improvements in the second class are to be exhausted in seven years; and in the third class the improvements are to be exhausted in two years. The tenant cannot make im-
provements in the first class without the consent of the owner in writing. He can make improvements in the second class without the consent of the owner by giving him notice in writing; and he can make improvements in the third class without consulting anyone but himself. The next important question with regard to that portion of the measure is how the tenant's compensation shall be ascertained; and in the Bill before me, it is declared that
the amount of the tenant's compensation shall be a capital sum fairly representing so much of the addition made by an improvement to the letting value of the holding as continues unexhausted at the determination of the tenancy.
The Bill then proceeds to deal, but briefly, with compensation to the landlord, and that is confined to waste or to breaches of covenant. We next come to the procedure by which the compensation is to be obtained. I will not trouble the House by too much detail on this point. The first thing, of course, is the giving of notice. The question is to be settled by the landlord and tenant themselves if there is no difficulty. If they have difficulty, they are to appoint an arbitrator; if dissatisfied with his decision, they may appoint a second arbitrator; and under certain circumstances there is an appeal to the County Court. I have now stated to the House the general provisions of the Bill—first, as regards compensation, and next as regards the procedure by which that compensation is to be determined. There are some miscellaneous clauses in the Bill with which I need not on an occasion like this trouble the House; but there are two which require your attention. One is the clause by which the usual term of notice to quit given is increased from six months to twelve; the other is the clause relating to freedom of contract, which allows the owner and occupier to enter into any agreement which they choose. Having now given the general outline of the Bill, there is one remark which, with the permission of the House, I would make. It refers to the provision which makes the letting value the basis of compensation. Now, in adopting the letting value as the basis of compensation, Her Majesty's Government were chiefly influenced by the desire and by the necessity of guarding the rights and interests of the remainder-
man; because the House has observed that by this Bill, as framed, it would be quite possible for a tenant for life to agree with a speculative occupier to the extent of a large sum to make great improvements under the first class which might, in fact, be most injudicious and add nothing to the value of the farm, so that the remainder-man, when he suddenly or naturally enters into his rights, might find that without receiving any return or any value for these great improvements, he would be bound and embarrassed by engagements to a considerable extent in consequence of the conduct of his predecessor. By taking the letting value as the basis of compensation, however, the House will see at once that there is a check which prevents such a combination of destructive circumstances with regard to improvements under the first class. Having taken the letting value as the basis of compensation in the first conception of the Bill, we were afterwards induced to take it, not merely as affording protection to the remainder-man, but, on the whole, as one on which compensation might fairly rest. We were the more induced to do that from the fact that in the Irish Act the letting value had been taken as the basis of compensation. At the same time, there is a great deal to be said in favour of the other view—namely, that the basis of compensation should be the sum, out and out, which the tenant has expended on improvements. The letting value is, to a certain degree, a fallacious test. The letting value of a farm may be very much increased by other circumstances than the skill and capital of the tenant. A railroad may increase the letting value; the development of some contiguous urban population may increase it. It is a capricious and fallacious test to a certain extent, though no doubt it has in certain cases been a complete protection to the remainder-man and those who are in the same position. But, on the whole, I confess, after the utmost consideration that has been given to the subject has been known, and from all the representations we have had from different parts of the country, I am inclined to believe that it would be better to make the basis of compensation dependent on the absolute expenditure of the tenant than upon the letting value. I therefore would place it in this way: I would say—"This compensation shall
be the sum laid out by the tenant on improvements, with a deduction of 1–20th or of 1–7th part thereof, according to class, for each year for which the tenancy endures after the outlay is made;" and if the House agrees to the second reading of this Bill, I will take the earliest opportunity of moving that it be committed pro formâ in order to have it reprinted with the Amendment which I have indicated. I believe I have now laid before the House the leading principles of the measure. It meets, I think, what is a want, and it seeks to do no more. It is complete of its kind. It does that which Mr. Pusey was unable to do in his time. It classifies the different improvements in agriculture in a manner which I think is comprehensive and complete. I feel persuaded that if passed it will act kindly and beneficially throughout the agricultural world, and that it will prove to be in every way adapted to remedy and remove those evils of which we are conscious, and which we certainly ought to get rid of. Something has been said about the introduction of freedom of contract in the clause, by which owners and occupiers will be allowed to come to any agreement they like. All I can say is that in my belief it would be totally impossible to pass a Bill which did not admit that principle. It would be repugnant to the feelings of the English people, and especially of that class with which this measure has most to do. And I may remind the House that when these questions were investigated by the great Committee over which Mr. Pusey presided, and when 80 witnesses from all parts of England were examined, including men second to none in this House for knowledge of rural and agricultural life, that Committee unanimously agreed that freedom of contract must be maintained, and Mr. Pusey himself was strongly in favour of that proposal, and in his measure introduced it. This, then, is the Bill which I ask the House to read a second time, and I believe it is one which, if carried, will act beneficially for the country.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Disraeli.)
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN,
who had on the Paper an Amendment declaring— 458That permissive legislation upon the subject of Agricultural Holdings is calculated to unsettle the existing relations between landlord and tenant, without securing to either an equivalent advantage,said, that he had given Notice of that Amendment simply on his own responsibility, and without consulting hon. or right hon. Gentlemen on the bench beside him, or with any party or section in the House. He had placed the Amendment on the Paper because he had a very deep sense of the importance of the subject. He would not go back to talk about Mr. Pusey, but would look at the question as it presented itself at the present time. Parliament was now taking an initiatory step which would lead to something infinitely greater and more important; and he had placed his Amendment on the Paper because he thought it most desirable to test the feeling of the House with regard to the main principles on which our legislation on the subject of land tenure ought to be founded. It was no light or trivial thing to deal with land tenure in a country like England. It was almost impossible to overrate the importance of this matter; and though this measure was but a small beginning, he felt that we were standing on the threshold of very serious questions connected with the land. It was most essential, in that view of the case, that Parliament should make no false step, and that the course it took should be clear and intelligible, and founded upon sound principles. There were many people who maintained, with regard to this legislation, that the land was as much the property of the individual who held it as any other property would be in which he might have invested his capital, and that there ought to be no legislative restrictions to compel him to deal with it in any other way than that which he considered most conducive to his own interests. That was a clear and intelligible proposition, but it came somewhat too late in the day. If it were true, then this Bill was entirely needless, and was but an irritating interference with the rights of property. When a Government formed like that of the great Party opposite, and supported by a majority of the landed interest and the county Members of England, brought forward a measure dealing with the relations between landlord and tenant, the argu- 459 ment that such legislation was an undue interference with the rights of property was one that had received its death-blow, and it only remained to consider in what manner legislation could be most beneficially applied. When they came to deal with the question of landlord and tenant, they admitted the right of the State to interfere with the conditions under which land could be owned and occupied within itself. That right, indeed, could hardly be denied. Every State had a primâ facie inherent right to deal with those conditions so, as far as possible, to promote the general good of the community. But in England, as in most civilized countries, the State had for a long time forborne to exercise that right, and individuals had been allowed to buy and sell without restraint or restriction. It was a strange thing as regarded our own country, that while the State had forborne for a long time to interfere with the land tenure, when that interference had been called for and obtained it had not been on behalf of the general community, at a possible loss to some individual, but on the part of some individual to authorize the appropriation of those commons and open spaces over which the general community still had some right. He supposed that the right of the State to interfere was justified by the interest which it had in the development of the productive powers of the land and the well-being of the country. Now, what was the justification for the proposed legislation? He had looked at the Bill, but it was in the unfortunate predicament of having no Preamble. In this respect it contrasted rather unfavourably with another Bill presented by the hon. Baronet the Member for Devonshire (Sir Thomas Acland), which was called a Bill to secure a fair compensation to agricultural tenants, and otherwise to amend the laws relating to agricultaral tenancies in England. That was a clear and tangible title and they knew what it meant: but when they had a Bill which was called merely the "Agricultural Holdings Bill," the vagueness of the title opened up a wide field of surmise and speculation as to what its provisions might be intended to effect. However, he would assume that the object of the two Bills was the same, and proceed to inquire what was the demand that had called for this proposal for legislation. 460 The demand had been upon the part of the tenant-farmers of England, first, for compensation for unexhausted improvements, and, secondly, for greater security of tenure. How were these demands met by the proposals of the Government? The Bill proposed to enact that, on certain specified conditions, compensation should be given to the tenant on the termination of his tenancy; but if the landlord preferred to let his land, stipulating that no such compensation should be given, he was quite at liberty to do so. Then as regarded security of tenure, one year's notice was to be given instead of six months, which was now sufficient; but if the landlord preferred six months he was to be perfectly at liberty to stand on the old principle. In fact, this Bill allowed everybody to do exactly what he could do at present without it, and compelled no one to do anything which he had not hitherto done and did not wish to do. All that the Bill did was to give an indication of the course which the Legislature thought ought to be pursued, but which Her Majesty's Government had not the courage to say should be carried out. He questioned whether this permissive legislation would ever be satisfactory. But he should be told that he had not given a fair discription of the Bill, inasmuch as it gave power to limited owners to charge their estates in respect of this compensation. So far, so good; but the question was not what should be done for the limited owner, but what should be done for the tenant-farmer; and this boon to the limited owner was not an incident of this particular Bill but one which must be given in any Bill upon this subject, whether permissive or compulsory. Then it was said that it would create a presumption in law in favour of the tenant farmer which he never had before. What did the right hon. Member care for a presumption in law which he could sweep away with one stroke of his pen? The very men who would sweep it away were those for whom they had initiated this legistation. If all landlords had been good ones no such legislation would have been required. He was not quite clear whether the letting value was to come into consideration at all or not.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
was glad that it had been struck out. But in "another place" the letting value was spoken of as the keynote of the Bill; but the Government had, perhaps, been open to conviction. If the letting value was to be in any way a criterion by which compensation was to be computed, the Bill would render certain a great and immediate rise of rent. Hitherto, a landlord when told that a certain farm would let for £100 a-year more had often been wont to say, if the circumstances permitted, that the occupier was a good tenant, and as he had had it so long, the rent need not be raised until the next vacancy; but as soon as this Bill passed, if compensation was to have relation to letting value, farmers would be put up to rack rent and fined heavily for the kindness which was done them, or else landlords would be fined heavily for their kindness in having let their land below its market value. Now, he had looked very carefully through the Bill to see what its principles might be. One principle enunciated was the great and sacred principle of the freedom of contract, and that was the golden image which the Government had set up and before which they were all expected to bow down. Now there was nothing more dangerous than to be persuaded and guided by a phrase, without fully understanding and thoroughly analyzing its meaning. Now he put it to the House that freedom of contract, or rather freedom in contract, did not at this moment really exist in the hiring of land. Freedom there certainly was upon the side of the landlord, but the only freedom which the farmer had was the freedom to decline the contract if he did not like the landlord's conditions. Yes, but that was not freedom in contract—it was freedom to avoid entering into any contract at all. What he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) called freedom of contract was freedom on both sides, or something akin to freedom on both sides; both parties starting from some equitable basis to the conditions of which both were equally bound to conform. But when the letter of land was bound by nothing but his own will and pleasure, and the hirer of the land, if he contracted at all, was bound as to the conditions by the will and pleasure of the letter, he contended that there was no real freedom of contract in the common-sense application of the words. 462 And if it was replied to him that there was freedom of contract, because the letter of land was free to make what conditions he pleased, and the hirer was free to accept or reject them, then he maintained that such freedom was only vain and illusory, and that if it was sufficient freedom and there was no need for anything else, what was the necessity for introducing any Bill upon the subject at all? But there had been lately published in pamphlet form the opinion of a noble Duke upon this "freedom of contract" question which had been sometimes quoted and to which he wished to allude. The noble Duke took the case of a vacant farm, with six competitors for the same. One man offered 30s. per acre on condition that at the end of his tenancy his claim for compensation for improvements should be recognized. The landlord declined, because he could get the same rent from one of the other five applicants without any such condition. And the noble Duke contended that what the advocates of compulsion sought was to deprive the other five applicants of their liberty of contract, in order that the freedom of the first might be secured. With great deference to so high an authority, he ventured to think that that was an entirely erroneous way of stating the case. No one asked that in such a ease any advantage should be given to the one over the five, but that all six should have a better starting-point, equally advantageous to all, before they began to bargain for the farm. Just as if six men were going into battle, one requiring a sword and the other five so anxious for the fray that they were willing to fight unarmed, a good general would insist upon their all being equally armed before the fight. And let it be especially noted that this which was asked was, though an advantage to the hirer, by no means an unfair weight upon the letter of land, because it was an advantage which would have a direct tendency to increase the amount of rent which would be offered for his land. Let them remember, moreover, that if they imposed restrictions upon freedom of contract in this matter they would be introducing no new principle in legislation. They had placed restriction upon labour in factories; they had put restriction upon labour in mines; they had passed Truck Acts, and they had interfered with liberty in the matter of educa- 463 tion. He had been told the other day, when he used the same argument upon a clause in the Merchant Shipping Bill, that there was no analogy between the cases, because in all the Acts he had mentioned they had been protecting women and children who could not protect themselves, whereas sailors—and now tenant-farmers were perfectly well able to do so. But he maintained that the Truck Acts were exactly a case in point. What were the Truck Acts? It was complained that certain manufacturers paid their workmen partly in kind and that the workmen thereby got an inferior article. Parliament interfered and directly broke in upon freedom of contract by enacting that wages should be paid in the current coin of the Realm. And he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) put it to the landowners and country gentlemen whether it was quite honest and consistent to join heartily and readily in this interference with the manufacturers, and then, when it became a question of aiding the tenant-farmers, who, through the competition for land were just as much at the mercy of the proprietors as were the workmen at the mercy of the manufacturers, to turn round and declaim against the wickedness of interfering with "freedom of contract?" Were they quite honest, moreover, in saying that they did not so interfere in this Bill? Its advocates were for ever saying that although the Bill was permissive, landlords would not like to contract themselves out of it when it was once passed. They would be ashamed to do so in the teeth of the public opinion in favour of what was now to be given. Well, what did that mean in plain English? That they were going to bring the weight of public opinion to bear upon freedom of contract, and to try to effect that indirectly which they had much better do directly, and in a fair, open, straightforward manner. Now, since he had placed this Amendment upon the Paper, he had been told two things from several quarters. First, that compulsion in this matter was impossible. Secondly, that it would be distasteful and injurious to landowners, many of whom would take their land into their own hands sooner than submit to it. Well, he did not believe in the "impossible" argument. He had seen so many things happen which had been deemed "impossible" and things had 464 gone on just as well. Of course, it was impossible to legislate for every case, or to provide for every detail in dealing with such a subject as that before them; but when once they had settled the general principles on which they thought the occupation of land should be based, and upon which compensation should be given, it was no more impossible to say it "shall" than to say it "may" be based thereupon. And his main objection to this Bill was that, having declared what those principles should be; having told the tenant-farmers of England that there was something which the existing law did not give them, but which they ought in justice to have—having defined that something and dangled it before their eyes—it then turned round and said—" You shall not have it unless your landlords in every case agree." To his mind such a couse was directly calculated to create discontent, to disunite landlord and tenant, and to give rise to an agitation which might eventually not be appeased by such a concession as would be deemed sufficient at the present moment. But why should compulsion be injurious—and if not—why distasteful to landowners? If it was distasteful, and if its effect would be to induce landowners to farm their own lands, he was not sure that such a result would be entirely unfortunate. There were many who thought that the severance of the ownership and the occupation of land was by no means desirable, and that laws which would tend to reduce the extent of that severance would be wise and good laws. But however that might be—as a matter of fact, although some gentlemen might take into their own hands land near to their residences, the truth was that the amount of capital required to farm land was so considerable, and the risks of a gentleman farmer so many and so great, that he was not all afraid that the mild measure of compulsion now under discussion would have the supposed effect to any appreciable extent. But—whether distasteful or not—how could it be said that it would be injurious to landowners? So far as rents were concerned, that would certainly not be the case. Let it be well understood that compensation for improvements and increased security of tenure, meant higher rents. That was a certain and undeniable fact. If he (Mr. Knatchbull- 465 Hugessen) let his land to a tenant who was subject to a six months' notice, and who was obliged to leave in and on the land, for his (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen's) benefit or for that of the succeeding tenant, all improvements which he might make, he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) could not expect so high a rent as he should obtain if the notice was extended to one year or two years, and the tenant had secured to him compensation for his improvements. It was plain, therefore, that they would have higher rents under a system of compulsory compensation, and they would not have long to wait for them. So much as regarded any fears which might be entertained on behalf of the landlords. But would a permissive measure satisfy the tenant-farmers? He would only quote one authority, that of the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Bead), who was one of their most faithful advisers. Speaking at a meeting of the Farmers' Club, at Salisbury Square, reported in The Times, April 6th, 1875, Mr. Bead showed his ideas upon the present state of things in the following words. He said—A short time since he saw a lease which had just been signed.… He (Mr. Read) went through the lease with the farmer, and of all the monstrous and humbugging restrictions upon farming he ever knew these were the worst. The tenant happened to have a lease of the year 1800, and, except that the rent in 1875 was about double what it was before the wording of the lease was exactly the same. It was quite time that these restrictions in leases were done away with, and all that could be said for them was that he did not think they were ever enforced, or, indeed, ever thought of, by landlord or tenant.But on May 4th, at a meeting of the same body, he thus spoke on compulsion—He most cordially agreed with the eloquent Professor (Professor Fawcett) in his views as to the necessity for a compulsory measure. … But he was one of those who, if they could not get all they wanted, would take what they could get.Let the country gentlemen mark these and the following words—As it seemed the fashion to have permissive legislation, this might be taken, and a future Parliament asked to make it compulsory. … The present state of things was that half the farmers of England were holding their farms on a six months' notice to quit without any agreement for unexhausted improvements.Then, as might have been expected, 466 there was a Resolution passed as follows:—This club also desires to express its conviction that any legislative measure which unsettles the existing relations of landlords and tenants, and does not, at the same time, fix them upon a secure and uniform basis, is more likely to prove injurious than beneficial to the great body of tenants holding from year to year.Thus much for the opinion of the tenant-farmers! And, now, a few words as to the wording and intention of his Amendment. He had heard it objected to as being double-edged, intending to catch the votes both of those who desired a better Bill, and those who desired no Bill at all. For his own part, he thought that rather a merit than an objection. If he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) wished to knock down a wall, he did not stop to inquire whether those who helped him were persons who desired that there should be a better wall built in its place, or that the wall should be destroyed altogether. He wished to knock down the wall of permissive legislation. If no legislation was required, permissive legislation was too much. If legislation was required, permissive legislation was too little. Those who objected to legislation could hardly refuse to condemn that species of legislation which was avowedly only accepted as an instalment, and which could not be considered as a final settlement of the question. Those who desired legislation could hardly be satisfied with that which apparently gave something with one hand which it actually took away with the other, and which could only possibly be accepted as a stepping-stone to something else. He feared it was strictly true that whilst this Permissive Bill would give to nobody an advantage which he could not obtain without it, it would unsettle the relations between landlord and tenant from one end of the country to the other. It would create expectations which it would fail to satisfy, and it would disturb a condition of things which it would do nothing to re-settle upon a surer basis. He (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) spoke as a landowner—nine-tenths of all that he possessed came from the land, and he was not anxious to injure the class to which he belonged. But he believed that a compulsory enactment upon this question, based upon clear and sound principles, would work the very reverse of 467 injury. Moreover, he could not shut his eyes to to the state of the whole question of land and land laws in England at that moment. He saw much land in the country urgently requiring the expenditure of capital upon it, and plenty of capital ready to come to it, but that our land laws—our laws of entail and settlement—prevented the one from reaching the other. Could such a state of things be either satisfactory or permanent? England was in a peculiar position as regarded her land. The surplus lands were in her distant colonies; but over those surplus lands she had long ago relinquished her control. But the surplus population was here at home, rapidly increasing in numbers and intelligence. That population consisted mainly of persons who were not landowners, and to whom our land laws held out little hope that they ever would be landowners. Did not the House think that, among that population, many of whom had been, by recent legislation, newly endowed with a share of political power, there were many who regarded with something akin to envy that comparatively small class which owned the land of the country? Did they not suppose that they—the landowners were narrowly and jealously watched as to the manner in which they discharged those duties entailed upon them by the possession of land? And, now, that the Government had called special attention to the matter of land tenure, was it not probable that the landless part of the population would consider the question as well as they—the House of Commons—and that there might arise within their breasts thoughts and feelings with regard to the interest of the general community in the soil of the country which might, one day, clash somewhat rudely with their ideas of the sacred rights of property? They might call this a visionary fear, and tell him that it was founded upon revolutionary and Communistic theories. But he would tell them respectfully, but boldly, that they could not get rid of an idea by calling it revolutionary, neither could they demolish a theory by applying to it the term Communistic. He (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) did not know why the Government had initiated this legislalation. Perhaps it was at the behest of that noble Colleague of theirs (Lord Derby), usually reputed so wise and 468 cautious, who had made a statement so opposed to wisdom and caution, as to the capacity of the land of England of doubling its present production, which, more than anything else, had forced this question forward. Perhaps, there were other reasons. There might have been hustings' pledges to redeem, and election promises to fulfil, and Her Majesty's Ministers might have desired to appear again upon the political stage in their old character of "the farmer's friends." But if they had nothing better than this Bill to give to the tenant-farmers of England, he believed that they would appear in that character, as the playbills said—"Positively for the last time." There was one thing, however, which he would venture to tell the Government and their supporters. They could not trifle with questions of this kind. They had invited legislation upon land questions, and that legislation would not stop with this Bill. It was land tenure to-day, it would be the laws of entail and settlement to-morrow. Public opinion would force them forward upon the path which they had entered. Well, then, what was the duty and the interest of the landowners in such a position as the present? Their duty and their interest both pointed in the same direction. Their duty and their interest alike dictated that they should ascertain without delay what it was that justice demanded should be given to the tenant-farmers; what it was that was demanded by the interest of the State in the development of the productive powers of the land, and, having ascertained this, that they should give it freely, give it outright, and not permit any one tenant to be deprived of it by the caprice of any one landlord, sheltering himself behind the specious plea of the sacred right of freedom of contract. It was their interest to settle this question, either by this Bill or by some other Bill, so that they might weld together in one harmonious agreement the owners and occupiers of land, and show to public opinion that they were anxious to meet and satisfy those demands the justice of which Her Majesty's Government had admitted by inviting them to legislate. If they shrunk from this, if they whined and protested against that compulsion which was necessary to make their legislation uniform and equal, they would only interpose a delay which must be 469 unwise and which might be dangerous. But if they now acted vigorously in the matter, and gave justly and generously what was asked, he believed their legislation would not be in vain. They would stimulate the productiveness of the soil, they would encourage the application of capital to the land, and whilst they would cement the bond of union which happily prevailed between their tenants and themselves, they would justify before the people their position as the privileged owners of the soil, they would immeasurably strengthen that position, and they would add one more element of stability to the constitution of England. When he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) had placed his Amendment upon the Paper he had fully intended to have taken the sense of the House upon the question of compulsion. He had, however, received advice from various friends to which he was bound to listen. It had been represented to him that many hon. Members would not consider its permissive character to be the principle of the Bill. It might be considered that its principle was the giving of compensation to the tenant-farmer for unexhausted improvements, although that compensation might not be given in the best possible manner. If this were the case a division at the present stage might not be the best way of advancing the principles which he advocated. He would therefore forbear to move his Amendment at the present stage, but would place words upon the Paper which would fairly raise the question of compulsion in Committee.
said, he desired to make a few observations upon this question, which possessed no little interest to himself and those whom he represented. He would not follow the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down into those Communistic and revolutionary doctrines to which he had referred; but he thought it would be a misfortune to allow some of the fallacies to which they had listened to remain uncontradicted. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman of one thing—that those, at least, who sat upon the Ministerial side were not to be deterred from doing what they believed to be just and right to-day from the fear of any ultimate consequences which might happen to-morrow. The Bill which was now under consideration, and the subject to which it referred, had 470 of late, no doubt, given rise to many considerable discussions beyond the walls of Parliament; and therefore he thought it, perhaps, might not be out of place if the House were to consider for a moment the grounds upon which legislation of this kind, generally speaking, had been demanded. As a justification for that demand, he thought it might be stated that much of the soil of this country was very ill-farmed; that it produced, in consequence, nothing like what it might and ought to produce; and that for that state of things the non-employment of capital to a sufficient extent in its cultivation was mainly responsible; and again that the cause of that absence of capital was to be found in the present state of the law, which did not afford to the tenant the substantial security which he ought to enjoy. There was, no doubt, a great deal of truth in these allegations. He believed that the necessity for legislation was not so great or so urgent as had been represented. The public feeling in its favour had been very much overstated. There were, beyond doubt, many districts and some counties in England where nothing of the kind was required. But, at the same time, it must be remembered that there were many other parts of this country which were not equally favoured, and where from some cause or another—partly, no doubt, owing to the absence of sufficient security—the cultivation of the soil was not creditable either to landlord or to tenant, and did not produce anything like what it might be made to do with profit. He said with profit, because some loose statements had been made, and high authorities had been quoted, to the effect that with proper security and adequate application of capital the produce of the soil might be doubled, or even trebled. Now it might very likely be true that by an unlimited outlay, if you thought fit to do so, that you might double or treble, or possibly even quadruple the produce, but then the question arose, How far would it pay you to do so? and what the tenant-farmers had to consider was this, not what was the greatest amount which the soil could be made to produce for the benefit of the consumer, but what was the greatest amount they could hope to obtain with a reasonable hope of profit to themselves. Putting aside altogether these high-flown notions of the increased amount of pro- 471 duction which might result from Parliamentary action, he was himself of opinion that some legislation was very desirable, and believed that a well-considered and business-like Bill on the subject would result in the development and improvement of agriculture throughout the country, to the advantage of all the parties concerned. High farming could not in these days be conducted without great outlay on the part of the tenant; no tenant was justified in such an outlay unless he received sufficient security for his capital; and it was, moreover, as much for the interest of the proprietor as for the interest of the tenant that this security should be forthcoming. Regarding the question in this light, he could honestly say he heard with very great satisfaction that Her Majesty's Government had made up their minds to deal with the question, and it was with proportionate regret that he witnessed the opposition of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugues-sen). From the Amendment he should have inferred either that his right hon. Friend was opposed to all legislation, or else that he desired to see legislation of a compulsory character. He gathered, however, from his speech that it was the latter of these propositions which met with his right hon. Friend's approval. He was sorry to say he could not agree at all with his right hon. Friend. He should have thought it would be a sufficient answer to his right hon. Friend to say that to suspend freedom of contract in a country like this, especially in their business relations between any two classes of the community, was an evil which ought at all times to be avoided, unless there existed a serious necessity for taking such a step. Without denying that occasions might arise when to suspend freedom of contract would be a necessary evil, he maintained that this was certainly a measure which ought not to be lightly adopted. Besides, his right hon. Friend had altogether failed to-night to make out a case for compulsion. With the experience we possessed, it was difficult to comprehend on what grounds his right hon. Friend's propositions could be seriously brought forward. They had heard a great deal about the Lincolnshire custom, which had been found to work by experience remarkably well, and which practically governed all the relations between landlords and tenants 472 in that part of the country. But that custom, which possessed the whole force of law in that part of the country, was only permissive, and, in that respect, stood on precisely the same footing as the Bill which his right hon. Friend condemned, and Lincolnshire stood by no means alone. Similar customs existed in Nottinghamshire, in Yorkshire, to his own knowledge, and in many other counties. Now, all these customs were wholly permissive, and he could not see why, if customs which were permissive answered so remarkably well in many parts of the country, a Bill which was likewise permissive should be a disastrous failure in every other part of the country. Why was this Bill to be a dead letter? When he heard it scouted and talked of as being nothing but waste paper, he wished to know whether those who made such remarks could deny that we were making a great, nay, even an enormous concession—though he admitted it was but a just and righteous concession—when by a stroke of the pen we reversed the whole presumption of law, and created on the part of the tenant a right to, and a property in, everything which he put into and left in the land, and which, though it now belonged to the landlord, would in future belong to himself. After we had done so much for the tenant, even if his landlord should be foolish enough to ask him to do so, what was there to induce the tenant to enter into any agreement that would deprive him of the substantial benefits which the Bill was intended to confer? The measure was for the mutual benefit of both, and they were both of them perfectly well aware of that fact, and when his right hon. Friend said that a contrary state of things under this Bill would always prevail, he must be pardoned for remarking that his right hon. Friend assumed that the tenants and landlords throughout the country were fools, and that the landlords were knaves into the bargin. He would now make a few remarks with regard to the measure itself. First, with respect to the announcement made this evening by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, he thought it was satisfactory as far as the first and second class of improvements were concerned. With regard to the third class of improvements, which 473 were divided into artificial manures and feeding stuffs, there was one alteration which he thought ought to he made. In his opinion, compensation for artificial manures and for feeding stuffs ought not to be given on the same scale, because in regard to the latter the tenant recovered half the outlay by the increased value of the animals which used them. Again, in the 35th clause he found a provision by which, under certain circumstances, a tenant was to receive his compensation only by instalments. This provision was exceedingly hard and injurious to the tenant, and he hoped Her Majesty's Government would devise some way of altering it on a future occasion. As regarded the 42nd clause, extending the notice to quit, he confessed this was a matter on which he had always held a most decided opinion. He objected altogether to extending the notice to quit from six months to 12 months. If the Bill were a good Bill, as he believed it to be, additional security was wholly unnecessary; if it were a bad Bill, the additional security was not nearly sufficient. Six months notice to quit had always been the custom in the county of Lincoln, and it had been found to answer remarkably well. The effect of extending the notice to quit to 12 months would be that the farm, in 99 cases out of 100, would be left in a condition from which it could not recover for two or three, or even three or four years. He was heartily glad the Government had brought in the Bill and made an honest and statesmanlike attempt to deal with a question which had lately attracted much public attention. It was in that spirit that he hoped it would be received by the House—it was in that spirit in which it would be met by the country—and it was because he believed it would have the effect of developing and improving the condition of agriculture throughout the country that he should cordially support the second reading.
§ MR. LOWE
said, the First Lord of the Treasury, in introducing this Bill, did not give any reason why he brought it in. The right hon. Gentleman represented it to the House as a Bill consisting mainly of compulsory compensation for improvements to be made by landlords to tenants, and also as a Bill to maintain freedom of contract. Such was the sketch given by the right hon. Gentleman of his own measure. If that were 474 a perfectly correct sketch of the Bill, he thought nothing would be easier than to demonstrate its futility in one sense or its unfairness in another. He thought it would be eminently unfair to pass a Bill stating that, in the opinion of Parliament, such and such a thing ought to be done, without Parliament taking upon itself the responsibility of making it compulsory. If this were the correct view of the Bill, it would be open to very grave objections indeed. But there was another view which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to take of the Bill, and which, in his opinion, was equally objectionable. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that it might be a right and a good principle that we should force upon landlords in general the giving of compensation for unexhausted improvements. Now, such a measure, taken by itself, must be either futile or unjust. It was unjust if it imported a new term into a lease or a contract which was entered into between the two parties; it was futile if it endeavoured to insert a new term in a contract in which both parties were perfectly free. In other words, if they insisted upon putting into a lease a compulsory term that the landlord should give compensation to the tenant for unexhausted improvements, that landlord would certainly take care that he himself was compensated in rent for what he thought he would lose in the other direction. Therefore, such relief offered to a tenant was nugatory, for what he gained on one side he was certain to lose on the other. If, then, this Bill was what its introducer described it to be—namely, a Bill in which we legislated with one hand and took away that legislation with the other by means of freedom of contract—he thought it would be an unjust or a futile Bill. But he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had done justice to the provisions of his measure. He had risen to speak, although very little competent to deal with the greater part of the question, in order to show what seemed to him would be the result of this measure. The Bill did not apply to existing tenancies at all; where there were leases it did not apply, and of course it never would apply, because when a lease came to an end two or three words inserted in the new lease would exclude its operation. Therefore, as far as leases go, the 475 Bill was entirely out of the question. The sole point in this Bill was its application to tenancies-at-will, and with reference to them it had a very serious application indeed. There was an important clause in this Bill which lengthened the notice to be given to the tenant from six months to a year. Then what the Bill said was this—That after the expiration of the first complete year of the tenancy which shall have expired after the passing of this Act, the tenancy-at-will shall be a new tenancy with a twelve months' notice.Look at what position the landlord would he in at the end of that period. He would have fastened upon him a compulsory clause for compensation for tenants' improvements, with all the vexatious details which were necessarily attendant. Besides that, he would have fastened upon him the necessity of giving double the time of notice he was compelled to give before. These things were not only grievous to the landlord, but they would work into each other. When the landlord and tenant were in dispute about unexhausted improvements the great length of notice required must give considerable advantage to the tenant, while at the same time the annoyance to the landlord was increased. That was the position in which the landlords would find themselves if the Bill passed into law at Michaelmas, 1876. Now, what would the landlord, under such circumstances, do? Would he go on with the tenancy from year to year? It was to his (Mr. Lowe's) mind clear that the landlord would not, and that the effect of this Bill would be to drive the landlords, many of them against their will, to give up the present tenure from year to year, and have recourse to leases. A great many persons thought this would be an improvement. He was not arguing that point. He was pointing out the effect of this Bill, which was supposed to give compensation to the tenant—a feature which could easily be got rid of by a clause in the lease. The real effect of the Bill would be to abolish the tenancy from year to year. That was a very serious matter. He ventured to ask for whose benefit was this to be done? Was it for the benefit of the landlord? No, it was not, for it was competent for the landlord now to put an end to the tenancy from year to year, and 476 give the tenants leases. There was, therefore, no enabling power wanted so far as the landlords were concerned. The landlord was a very considerable loser by the tenancies from year to year. In some parts of the country with which he was acquainted land was very considerably underlet. The landlord was surrounded by neighbours, and something was due to good-fellowship with those whose families had lived on the land as long as his ancestors. Something was due to indolence, to the intense dislike of the annoyance of changing the old system, and something was due to a wish to preserve political influence, and to a desire to live on good terms with neighbours, and to be well thought of and spoken of. All this had combined to make landlords tolerate and go on with this system of underletting. This system was the creation of the Courts of Law some 200 years ago, when men wished to have a tenure which would not require lawyers to settle the terms, and it had answered the expectations of landlords and tenants to a great degree. It was quite clear the change was not to be made for the sake of the landlord. Then, was it for the sake of any great or abstract principle? Was there anything wrong in tenancy from year to year, that they should load it with penalties, so as to drive people out of it? He held this to be the falsest of all legislation, and he, for one, entirely objected to it. He was not going into the question of freedom of contract; but he thought it unwise, where the thing was perfectly innocent in itself, to try to put it down merely because parties not concerned in it thought they could do better in some other way. It was this meddling in a shallow, interfering spirit which made legislation objectionable, and even mischievous and contemptible. Though there might be an opinion that the Scotch system was better, or that other systems were better still, it was a subject to be worked out as things had hitherto been worked out between the parties principally concerned. Their interest was that the land should yield the best return it could, and he thought they had much better be left alone, unless they were doing something palpably wrong or something injurious to public policy. The third case remained—Was this for the interest of the tenant? It was put 477 forward as in the interest of the tenant. Now, look at what would be the inevitable result if the Bill was carried into law. At Michaelmas in 1876 the landlord would be burdened with the onerous conditions already described; he would find himself singled out for burdens which were imposed on no one else, and he would say—" I will no longer submit to these burdens which Parliament has devised; I will get out of it by giving leases." Was that all? Did they suppose that the landlord would submit to the trouble of putting all his tenants under leases, of altering the system which had been adopted in his family for 100 years, and take nothing for his pains? These lands were very much underlet, and the landlord would say it was impossible the rents which existed under a tenancy from year to year could remain the same if he was to give a lease for a number of years. The effect of this Bill and the end of all the professions of friendship for the tenant would be this—that rents would be considerably raised, and the tenants now holding on easy terms would be considerably impoverished. This would be the necessary result of the measure they were asked to pass. It was because he felt this strongly that he ventured to go out of his own sphere to put his views before the House. He maintained that the great effect of this measure was limited to tenancies from year to year, and the weight of it would fall entirely on the tenants who now hold from year to year; and on this point, having been brought up in early life among farmers, he thought he knew something of their feelings. He ventured to lay this proposition down, that there was no contingent benefit so brilliant as to recommend a farmer to a rise in his rent. Next to that, because it necessarily implied it, there was nothing a farmer held in so great a horror as a re-valuing of his holding. These were the two things which they were going to accommodate the farmers with by way of making them happy, and establishing good-will between them and their landlords. The Bill, in fact, would force landlords, by the two clauses requiring a year's notice instead of six months, and compensation for unexhausted improvements, to give up yearly tenancies at rents comparatively low, and to substitute leases; and as regarded tenants, it would raise their 478 rents and destroy the tenancies under which they had lived happily and comfortably for generations. He thought this Bill, so far from allaying agricultural discontent, must greatly increase it.
§ MR. PELL
said, that the House had been ably addressed by two hon. Gentlemen who were connected with counties in which the custom of tenant right existed—namely, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. He would ask those hon. Members, whether, in their opinion, the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken was well-founded in his apprehension that the introduction and operation of the custom would have the effect of raising rents. For his part, he was not aware that rents were higher in the two counties he had named than they were in counties in which the custom did not exist. But custom was of slow growth; and, in his opinion, Her Majesty's Government had taken a wise and prudent course in proposing to step in and endeavour to supply an existing want. As far as he was able to judge, their proposals had given satisfaction to the tenant farmers of the country. What was wanted was freedom to the landlord to enter into an agreement with his tenant which should be binding upon all comers. The misfortune of the present law with respect to limited owners was that any agreement they entered into was binding only as against themselves, and was net binding upon purchaser or mortgagee. A charge even for permanent improvement fell solely upon the personal property of the limited owner. The Bill, however, would enable a landlord to agree with his tenant as to certain improvements of a permanent nature, the charge for which would fall upon the estate and not upon the personal property of the landlord. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) said, he was in favour of compulsory legislation, and intimated that he would endeavour to embody his views in a practical form in Committee. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would do so, and he had no doubt he would find that any effort to make the Bill compulsory would fail in England as it had already failed in Ireland. As long as rent was an open question, any attempt in the direction of compulsion must fail. Suppose that a compulsory clause were inserted in the Bill, and became law, what would be easier than 479 for a landlord to say to his tenant—"You can have your farm for nine years at £1,000 a-year for the first eight years and £3,000 for the ninth if you avail yourself of the compulsory clauses of the Act; if you do not, the rent for the ninth year will be £1,000." To his mind it was quite obvious that compulsion would not do. It would involve a valuation by a Government valuer, or someone else, who would fix the rent and convert the landlord into a mere rent-charger. He deprecated much of the discussion on this subject which had been carried on during the winter by hon. and learned Gentlemen and other Members of that House, and he challenged them to try and put their notions into a practical form. Do not let them rest with endeavouring to propound to simple-minded men coming out of the country ideas of law and legislation and political economy which he believed could never be reduced to practice. The effect was to unsettle the mind of the tenant farmer, and to lead him to believe that his landlord was not willing to enter into fair conditions with him, but rather entertained a wilful desire to keep, so to say, the whip hand of the tenant's capital. The House had been told that capital was kept off the land—that all that was wanted was a large expenditure of capital in the cultivation of the land. Well, he had cultivated land as a tenant for, many years, and for a man of moderate means had some considerable stake in its cultivation, and he ventured to say that what he and tenants like himself endeavoured to do was, not to keep as large a capital as they could upon the land, but just as much only as would bring them the best return for their money. He asked hon. Members to consider whether there were many tenant farmers in England who had a surplus of capital which they were desirous of placing on the land. For his part, he did not think that tenants would better their position by diverting some of their capital from the cultivation of the land and devoting the money to its purchase. The return they obtained for the cultivation of the land was, perhaps, 8 per cent, while the landowner had to be content with 3 or 3½ per cent—[An hon. MEMBER: 2 per cent.]—in many cases, 2 per cent; and a co-partnership, in which one partner obtained 2 or 3 per cent, and the other 8 per cent, 480 was not an unsatisfactory one, at all events for the latter. One reason why they could not expect much surplus capital to be invested in land was that better investments could be found. Cultivation was found at its best where there were no other industries competing with it, as in Norfolk. In counties where there was no other industry but the cultivation of the land there was the best mode of cultivation, whilst in counties where there were many other industries the cultivation was of the worst kind. As one interested in the cultivation of land, he expressed his thanks for this measure. He did not believe that landlords would be eager to contract themselves out of the Bill. He happened to hold two farms—one under lease and another under yearly tenancy—and he believed that his landlord would be glad to avail himself of this Bill. If he wanted a cottage built, his landlord would be very likely when this Bill was passed to tell him to build it himself. If a few hundred pounds were wanted for draining, his landlord would probably recommend him to do that also. So far from landlords being anxious to contract themselves out of the Bill, they would, he believed, be anxious to keep within its limits. It was, however, important to know whether either landlords or tenants would have the power to contract themselves out of a part of the Bill, leaving all the other parts intact. It should be, if possible, left to the landlord and tenant to make an agreement as to particular items, and when it was agreed that no claim should be made for those items, that the Act should operate in other respects. He trusted that as little time as possible would be spent over this preliminary discussion, and that the House would go into Committee on the Bill.
§ MR. W. C. CARTWRIGHT
said, he thought that the cardinal principle of the Bill—that substantial security should be given to the tenant, was one that was most desirable. It was another question, however, how far the provisions in the Bill would carry out the principle so as to make the Bill acceptable to both parties. The Bill was brought in to alter the assumption that all improvements effected in land should belong to the landowner, and a Bill of this kind should be based upon a few simple prin- 481 ciples, and should be elastic so that it could be applied to the country at large. If, however, they went into details, then the Bill could not be applied to all the various circumstances which existed in different parts of the country. Great care also should be taken to avoid terms that might be ambiguous and which would lead to misapprehension and misconception between the landlord and the tenant. He thought that the Bill erred upon both these points. The Bill mixed up two matters that should have been kept separately—namely, the operations that came within the ordinary course of cultivation and those which had nothing to do with the cultivation, but rather with the improvement of the soil, and anything that encroached upon the duties hitherto performed by the owner might create anomalies which, as in the case of Ireland, would require to be remedied by exceptional legislation. The House had heard from the Prime Minister that the "letting value" was to be removed out of the Bill. He had not, however, been able to satisfy himself whether it was to be entirely removed, or whether it was not still to be retained as a gauge and test of the compensation to be given in the larger class of operations. In the latter event, it would be very likely to operate against the end and aim of the Bill, which was to secure fair and equitable compensation to the tenant for what he might have put in the soil, but of which he had been unable to reap the benefit in consequence of the determination of his tenancy. If letting value was to be retained as the measure on certain improvements, then this difficulty would arise. Collateral circumstances might improve or deteriorate the letting value; and in the latter event a tenant who had sunk a great deal of capital in the land could get no compensation because there was no improvement in the letting value. According to the Bill the second class of improvements might be undertaken by the tenant of his own will and discretion, and all that was reserved to the landlord was the power to make a note either in his memory or otherwise of what was done. The landlord might go down and see how, perhaps, a young and theoretic farmer was doing what might prove of permanent mischief to his property, and would not have the slightest power to stop the mischief. That was an inva- 482 sion of the rights of property which could hardly recommend itself to Members on either side of the House. Well, then, if the question of the letting value was brought into the Bill or retained in it, it would be likely to militate against the end and scope of the Bill, which was relief to the tenant. If the provision with regard to the second class of improvements was retained the inevitable consequence would be that to the majority of landlords the Bill would be a dead letter, because they would immediately contract themselves out of it. Was it wise, he asked, to pass a Bill with such provisions in it? He would advise Her Majesty's Government to reconsider this matter; but he did not think it for the interests of either landlord or tenant that the measure should be suspended for another year, and that the country should be subjected to a declamatory agitation in the meantime.
§ MR. M'COMBIE,
speaking from a practical Scotch farmer's point of view, could say this Bill would do no harm—therefore it would do no good to oppose it. It gave nothing to the tenant-farmers, but it took nothing from them. In his humble opinion, it was one of the most innocent Bills ever brought before that House. But what they had to do was to judge of the Bill before them. There was no doubt the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) who introduced the Bill to the other House would give his previous consent in writing to his tenants for compensation in respect for improvements in the first, second, and third classes in the Bill. But who would follow his good example? Not one in a hundred. Why, their proprietors laughed at the very idea of giving their written consent for the payment of improvements to which they were entitled by law on the bankruptcy of the tenants, or on the termination of their leases. The tenant farmers at present could not even move the materials of the buildings they had erected—all went to the proprietor. That was an every-day occurrence in Scotland: without a compulsory clause the Bill was a dead letter. He thought the classification of improvements had not been drafted by a practical farmer. They were very badly arranged, some being in the second class that ought to be is in the first. He would refer to two—namely, undissolved bones and 483 liming. Instead of seven years, undissolved bones it was well-known took 40 or 50 years to dissolve themselves in the land. They should have been at the very top of the first class; and lime did not exhaust itself in less than 20 years. Drainage, if properly executed, ought to be almost permanent. Then they had the erection and enlargement of buildings. Instead of 20 years, they all knew that well-built barns and cottages would be but little worn in 50 years. Then they had bridges. He knew bridges hundreds of years old, and as substantial as the day they were built. They had fences; their stone walls were permanent. Then came the reclamation of waste land; the advantages would only be coming into full operation in 20 years. Speaking as a Scotch tenant farmer, and knowing the opinion of the farmers of Scotland in regard to this Bill perhaps better than any Member of that House, and as a duty he owed to his constituents, he must take that opportunity of informing the Government and their supporters of the universal opinion entertained of them by tenant farmers of Scotland, and it was this—that the Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to give nothing, and were fully resolved to give nothing, for the relief of their grievances. They might well observe that the tables were fast turning against the landlord's interests. An offer could scarcely be obtained for farms of an inferior land with us, even at a reduction of rent, and for 10 or 20 applicants they had for such farms six years ago, now it was difficult to find one. If the price of labour continued, as there was every prospect, instead of the tenant farmers having to bow, scrape, cringe, and be the humble servants of the landlords, the landlords would have to come down. They would have to alter their overbearing conduct; they would have to relax the tyrannical conditions of their leases; and they would have to submit to reductions of rent. The House might depend upon it they were fast drifting to that state of matters. With them it had fairly begun. Their best farms would always let; but the farms of bad land must go out of cultivation, or the proprietors must take them into their own hands. But before he sat down he must inform the Government what their tenant farmers thought of their Bill— 484 they thought it unworthy of notice, and viewed it with contempt.
§ COLONEL BRISE
thanked the Government for bringing in the Bill, which he believed would be highly appreciated by the tenant farmers of the country. He thought that legislation was necessary to meet exceptional cases in which great hardships were suffered. The law now gave many improvements to the landlord to which he had really no moral right. This Bill would put custom in force uniformly where custom now prevailed. There were many varieties of custom in the Midland Counties. He had had experience both as an outgoing and incoming tenant, and he had always been paid for outlay in manures on root crops in the last year of his occupation. This, however, was not always the case, and the custom was not to have root crops in the last year of a tenancy, but to have a long fallow. That was a great disadvantage to the country, especially in instances which he had known comprising one-fourth of the tenant's occupation. He had been practically compensated as a farmer by long leases and low rents, and the Legislature, in introducing this Bill, had done it to meet exceptional cases. He thought security of tenure was the best compensation that could be given to tenants, for with it they could best compensate themselves. If the system of leases prevailed generally, they would not have felt so much the need of this Bill. The Earl of Leicester recently, in a speech, advised the farmers of Norfolk to contract themselves out of this Bill, if it ever passed into law. If they could get leases, no doubt they might do without such a Bill; but he did not know any good landlord who would object to have the provisions of this Bill inserted in his leases. He had been an advocate for very long leases, and in the early part of his life he granted them for 21 years. He had lived long enough for many of them to expire, and having outlived that time, he now granted them for only 14 years. The Earl of Leicester, in the speech he had referred to, said he had spent £250,000 on his estates in Norfolk; but he admitted that the outlay had been unremunerative, and in some respects he recommended the acceptance of this measure by the farmers, in order that they might be induced to invest their money. He also hoped and believed that 485 they would. They did not want legislation in the general sense for improving the position of the landed interest. They did not want unnecessary laws or restrictions. The laws made to better the condition of the agricultural interest had failed to be of any advantage to them. They had derived advantage, not from the enactment, but rather from the repeal of legislation intended for their special benefit. The principle of this Bill was fairness and justice, and therefore he gave it his support. This Bill said to the tenant farmer—" Make your own terms; if you do not, we will make them for you." He should like it to be made a little more stringent. In the case of annual tenancies, the adoption of the Bill ought to be made compulsory in respect of the third class of compensations. If landlords were so arbitrary or dictatorial as to say that they would not have this or that, they ought to enter into leases, even if they were only for a very few years. If a tenant was not to be entitled to come under the Bill, there was every reason why he should have a lease for a certain number of years, in order that he might have some opportunity of reclaiming the capital he might put into the land.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
rose to move the following Amendment:—That the relations between landlord and tenant will not be put on a satisfactory footing by any measure which does not make it obligatory on landlords to give sufficient security to tenants either in the shape of a right to compensation for capital sunk in the soil, to be paid in the event of a determination of the tenancy, or by lease of sufficient duration.He was encouraged in the bringing forward this Amendment by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), which defended the principle of it better than anything he could say. The right hon. Gentleman had told them how the question had been considered by that eminent man Mr. Pusey, and how he came to the conclusion that leases were all very well, and had numerous advantages, but that there were a great many men who did not desire to have leases. There had sprung up in England a system of yearly tenancies which had proved agreeable to both landlords and tenants, many of whom therefore desired to continue it; but, as the right hon. Gentleman had shown, that system of yearly tenancies was hampered by the fact that when a tenant had invested his capital 486 in the land he was liable to eviction at short notice, and thus to the confiscation of his property. It was therefore desirable and necessary that when landlords let their lands without leases some security should be given in the shape of compensation for unexhausted improvements. The right hon. Gentleman had said the necessity of compensation for the tenant existed, but must be tempered by the necessity of maintaining the great principle of freedom of contract. But what argument had he brought forward for the maintenance of freedom of contract in this particular case? None whatever. He had simply told them it would be impossible to carry compulsory clauses because they would be repugnant to the land-owning party. There was nothing to contradict the assumption that the right hon. Gentleman did recognize the necessity either for landlords consenting that their contracts should be in the form of leases, or that the right to compensation should be an actual legal right, and not merely a permissive allowance at the will of the landlord. The Amendment he had put on the Paper had been conceived in no spirit of hostility to the Bill before the House; on the contrary, he thought that, so far as the Bill recognized the principle of compensation for unexhausted improvements, it went in the right direction, and if he could get no more he was inclined to accept the Bill as better than nothing. He agreed with the right hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), that if they got so much now they might get more hereafter—that if a permissive Bill was now passed, then the necessities of the case would probably lead to a compulsory Bill by-and-by; and he had heard nothing from the right hon. Gentleman to make him believe that he dissented from that view. He regarded the Bill in its present shape as framed for the most part in the interests of the landlord. It was a concession which the landlords of the country were willing to make, and in their hands its provisions had been so whittled away or counteracted by safeguards that it almost ceased to be a boon to the tenant. The object he (Sir George Campbell) had in view was by the most moderate means possible to give some vitality to the Bill, and to satisfy the farmers, with the least possible disturbance of the existing order of things. 487 He was quite sincere in that expression of moderation, and he had ventured to put his Amendment on the Paper because he thought some of the other propositions made inside that House and out of it went too far. The Bill, as it now stood, must be ineffectual in securing any considerable boon for the farmer. As to the larger class of permanent improvements, it was nothing more than a delusion and a mockery. To begin with, the farmer had no right to compensation unless, beyond and outside the Bill, he obtained the written consent of his landlord. Suppose the landlord consented, what sort of a bargain had the tenant got, then, under this Bill? It was something like "Heads I win, tails you lose." If the improvements should prove a failure—and all improvements involved some risk—the loss fell on the tenant; but if it proved a success, the principal gain would be to the landlord. The changes which the Government had announced its intention of making in regard to the letting value principle, might to some extent obviate that objection; still, this difficulty remained—that improvements, some of which, as testified by the practical Member for Aberdeenshire (Mr. M'Combie), might last for 50, 60 or 100 years, were all to be treated as lasting for only 20 years. What man would build a house in London on a 20 years' lease? Nobody; and it was unfair to set so short a duration on farm improvements. The tenant had to get the landlord's written consent; but if the tenant had to go through that process at all, he would probably insist on making a much better bargain than was provided for him by this Bill. Therefore, in regard to those permanent improvements, he repeated that the Bill was a mockery and a delusion. In regard to the second class of improvements, the Bill was spoiled by the fact that, in order to get the advantage of its provisions, the tenant must give written notice to his landlord. The result might be sometimes to place the landlord and tenant at variance, and thus to detract from the usefulness of the clause. The general effect of the provisions of the Bill in regard to compensation was that the minimum of compensation called for by the necessities of the case should be paid by the landlord, provided the landlord did not object. The compensation clauses were 488 almost entirely nullified by the permission given to the landlords to contract themselves out of the Bill, which there was good reason to believe many of them would do. The practical effect of the Bill when it became law would probably be, as had been stated in "another place," that the landlords would insist on new contracts and new valuations, and the old state of things would be disturbed, and a new order of things introduced, to the profit of the landlord, no doubt, but not to the contentment of the tenants, to whom the consequence would be hard terms, onerous conditions, and increased rents. He agreed with the hon. Member (Mr. M'Combie) who had said the Bill would not content the farmers, and that their last state would be worse than their first; so that such discontent would ensue as would render it impossible for this measure to be regarded as a final settlement. He admitted that, in some parts of the country, where the relations of tenant and landlord were based entirely on contract, viewing the question from the standpoint of strict political economy a great deal might be said in favour of hard bargains and high rents. Where farming was conducted strictly on commercial principles, and rent was driven to the utmost, they sometimes got higher agriculture; but he confessed that on these questions and some others he was, to a very considerable degree, Conservative. He was not anxious very rapidly to disturb the existing arrangements, which satisfied the parties even if they did not lead to higher agriculture. He should be content if they could get rid of the worst evils of the present system, and allowed improvements to be effected gradually with the consent of the parties. They must not forget what the right hon. Gentleman had so forcibly reminded them of, that through the greater part of England yearly tenancies prevailed, and the tenants were generally unprotected in regard to improvements. In some counties they were protected by leases, and in other counties, such as Lincolnshire, by a custom which gave them a legal right to compensation; but in the greater part of England it was as he had stated. The tenant was entirely dependent on the will of his landlord, and was always liable to the confiscation of his property without compensation. That constituted a social and 489 political as well as an economical evil. It was true that landlords did not frequently evict their tenants, and it was also a fact that, thanks to the social influences prevailing in England, landlords were generally good. At the same time, there were exceptions to the rule, and sometimes even a good landlord was misled and prevailed on by political or personal feelings to do injustice to his tenants. They had had a case of the kind in Scotland. A landlord, probably not a very bad one, did evict a farmer, one of the first of his class, because he had offended him on certain public and political matters. It was a gross injustice that tenants should be liable to eviction because of political excitement. Although the confiscation of tenants' property was not the rule, yet the very liability to the exception constituted a state of insecurity which was a great and real grievance, and which Government had admitted the necessity of trying to remedy. The dependent condition of the tenant farmer was a social and political evil which ought to be removed. On grounds of public policy they ought not to allow a man to make a contract which placed him in a condition of dependence contrary to the freedom of an Englishman. He wished to apply the minimum of compulsion, but the landlord ought not to be able to escape the equitable obligation to compensate his tenant in cases of eviction. Though he proposed that it should be optional that compensation should be given in the shape of long leases, or in some other shape, he must guard himself from saying leases were alone and in themselves sufficient security. That was still an open question. Scotland, no doubt, was a more advanced country than England. ["Oh!"] Well, that was his view. Scotland being a more advanced country, they had reached there the more advanced stage of leases. But whether they were sufficient in the advanced state of agriculture was open to doubt, and he would say this, that long leases made the farmers in Scotland what they were not in England—independent men, who could hold their own with their landlords. For social, political, and economical purposes, leases were, at all events, far better than yearly tenancies unaccompanied by the right to compensation. He was not so prejudiced in favour of 490 leases as to suppose nothing else could be satisfactory, and he was aware that in many parts of England there was a preference for yearly tenancies; but if they wished to stop agitation, they must make some concession on this question of compensation, and do something to restore the tenant-farmers to the position of free and independent Englishmen. The present system necessarily made the farmers a poor hereditary caste, and no energetic men of capital would embark in the pursuit while there were no leases and no tenant right. It was true under a commercial system of farming they had a lot of "retired tinkers and tailors," as they had been termed, who settled down as farmers, and in Scotland the sons of retired shop-keepers were often most successful farmers; but so long as the present system continued, men of energy and capital would not in general invest it in agriculture under the English system. He believed that wherever there was superior farming in England, it would be found that as a necessary condition some protection had been given to the tenant in the shape either of a lease or tenant right. What he sought by his Amendment was to put so much compulsion into the Bill as would set England generally on the same footing either as Scotland or Lincolnshire. The great objection urged to compulsory compensation was that it interfered with what seemed to be regarded as the religious principle of freedom of contract; but he contended that there were various precedents for interfering with freedom of contract, and other kinds of freedom as well, and there was a growing necessity for such interference on social and political grounds. It was a fact that the tenant farmers in many parts of England had been subjected to a tyranny—["Oh, oh!"]—he meant an economical and social tyranny—which deprived them of the character of free men and free agents, which led to discontent, and which would ultimately lead to much stronger measures than these now before the House. He asked hon. Gentlemen, therefore, to consider whether it would not be advisable to take the "stitch in time," which might "save nine," and whether it was not very likely that a small concession such as that which he suggested might content the farmers for a long time to come, and thus stop 491 agitation, and effect that which, the Bill of the Government certainly would not do.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the relations between landlord and tenant will not be put on a satisfactory footing by any measure which does not make it obligatory on landlords to give sufficient security to tenants either in the shape of a right to compensation for capital snnk in the soil, to be paid in the event of a determination of the tenancy, or by lease of sufficient duration,"—(Sir George Campbell,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he wished to say a few words on this question. In Mr. Pusey's Committee, so far from a lease being considered an equivalent for tenant right, the strongest got-up evidence—that which was undoubtedly prepared and got up by large associations of persons—was to the effect that tenant right was more needed under a lease than where there was no lease. Therefore, in his opinion, the Amendment which had been moved was no answer at all to the Bill of the Government. Considering the way in which the public mind had been agitated on the subject during the last few years, he felt thankful to the Government for having, under all the difficulties of the case, brought in the present Bill. Anyone who reflected on the great variety of circumstances with which they had to deal—circumstances varying in every county and in every parish—must recognize that any general measure which was universally compulsory must work the greatest injustice to the largest number. It was impossible to frame a general Bill which would give satisfaction to all classes. The Government proposed a measure which sketched out and laid down all the great principles of tenant right that had been contended for, and nothing could be plainer or simpler than the means by which the various matters in question might be settled as easily and inexpensively as possible. To those persons who did not want a Bill the option was given to come under it or not, as they pleased. He did not see why landlords and tenants should not be allowed—as they were most competent to 492 do—to settle their own arrangements without State interference; and he believed that if the whole of England were polled, 80 out of every 100 persons would be in favour of that view. But whilst the Bill allowed free contract, he feared that, as it was drawn, it would drive persons against their will to make fresh contracts. That, he thought, was unnecessary and unfair, and he hoped the Government would consider whether a short clause and a Schedule might not be introduced in Committee, by means of which parties who wished to keep out of the operation of the Act might do so without going to a lawyer or having stamp duty to pay. He was not one of those who hoped that any measure could be framed on this subject which would give satisfaction to everybody; but he believed the present Bill was calculated to give reasonable satisfaction and to bring to an end an agitation which had for some time threatened to lead to anything but peace.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND,
who had given Notice of the following Amendment:—That it is desirable to consider, without further delay, the proposals now before the House for amending the Law relating to capital invested in Agriculture, with a view to pass, during the present Session, a measure which may be accepted, without reserve, as a settlement satisfactory to the classes interested in the profitable cultivation and permanent improvement of land,said, that when he put on the Paper this Amendment upon the Motion of the right hon. Member (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), it was not with any idea that in the face of such a powerful majority as that by which the Government was supported, that Amendment would be agreed to. He wished simply to put upon record his view of the main question at issue. It had been said that this was the first effort to do justice to the tenant farmer. Had the right hon. Gentleman forgotten the Irish Land Bill? He hoped they would hear no more of that kind of talk. He would remind the House that the Protectionists and the so-called farmers' friends had stood in the way of Mr. Pusey's Bill being carried, although the right hon. Gentleman had in 1849 given the most cordial support to its principle, which was that tenants should have the right to demand compensation for unexhausted improvements. They had been told that the present Bill 493 came from the House of Lords, where it passed without a division; but it had been greatly altered in its passage through that House, and he ventured to predict that in the House of Commons it would be subjected to a more searching examination. The land agents and stewards were gradually teaching the landlords that they must not be unreasonable with their tenants, and the old hereditary tenants that they must move with the world; and he should be very much surprised if those gentlemen had been consulted by the Government on the subject. They were men well acquainted with every county in England, and who held a very important position between the landlord and the tenant. He was convinced that if any attempt had been made to obtain information from them the present Bill would never have been introduced. It certainly was drafted with consummate skill; but he doubted very much if the draftsman knew anything about land. The Members of the Government were all connected with land, and he was astonished at the manner in which the measure had been put before the House of Lords. It had at first been received with suspicion and distrust, and in "a nagging spirit," and as being utterly repulsive to the body of the tenantry, who looked upon it with utter scorn, but that feeling had now given way to one of indifference. The defence set up by the promoters of the measure was not that it was a good, but that it was not a bad Bill; whereas the contention of those who opposed it was that, whether good or bad, it would drive landlords into making fresh agreements with their tenants. The Bill professed to be founded on two principles—that of giving security to capital and freedom to somebody. Now, the security proposed to be given was not secure. It was entirely dependent on the will of one man. The freedom was all on one side, and that freedom, even of the landlord, was hampered by an artificial system through which the Prime Minister did not appear to see. To attempt to lay down rules in relation to the whole of this island upon principles of classification would be most objectionable. With respect to the necessity for the further investment of capital in the soil, that he believed was thrown in as a sort of rhetorical justification of the Bill. The necessity for 494 such investment had been very much overstated. It appeared from high authority that from the time of the repeal of the Corn Laws down to the year 1872 over £10,000,000 had been invested in the land by landowners, and that since that time over £750,000 had been similarly invested under the powers provided by the present law. It had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that Mr. Pusey was the first advocate of tenant right. [Mr. DISRAELI: In the House of Commons.] Well, he believed that Lord Portman in the year 1843 introduced Bills in the House of Lords on the subject; but being opposed by country gentlemen and hereditary Peers, he had to abandon his attempt to do justice to the tenant-farmers of the country. The question was then taken up by Mr. Pusey, who advocated this principle—that no outlay or improvement by the tenant should be chargeable upon the estate without notice to the owner and his assent obtained, except cake and manuring; and his next principle was this—that, as far as possible, the amount of compensation should be defined beforehand. These were principles which he hoped Her Majesty's Government and the House would bear in mind in the consideration of this Bill, so that everything might not be left to depend upon the conflicting decisions of valuers, and that there might be no necessity for the landlord going to law with his tenants or resorting to arbitration to settle questions which ought to be settled amicably in the first instance. It should be remembered, too, that the farmer now needed time. He was allowed six months after sowing his seed; but, that he might be able to reap as well as sow, he should have, in the first instance, 18 months to get his land into condition. There were now men in this country who were speculating in land, and who wished to drive the tenants off their land in order that they might build upon it. That ought not to be encouraged. What farmers required was a certainty that they would be entitled by law to realize the capital which they had sunk in the ground. They were now between two fires—the upward tendency of wages (the possible development of agricultural unions, of which he desired to say nothing), and the increase of rent. These things made them all the more anxious that legislation should 495 secure to them the fruit of their industry and a due return for the investment of their capital. The farmers were rather ready to follow the leading members of their body, and some of them had got the idea that when a farmer took land by contract, carried out his agreement, and made his profit, he was then entitled to turn round and say—"I have added to the value of your property, and that increased value is mine." He did not believe that the farmers of England, as a general rule, held this view or wished to see it carried out, and there should be no endeavour to transfer from the landlord to the tenant the ordinary interest in the improvement of the soil. Were the Government prepared to transfer the management from the owner to the occupier? If not, do not let them pretend to do it. Let them say plainly that the improvement of the land rested with the owner, or else prove the owners to be incapable. It was a delusion to pass this Bill in the belief that the farmers could be induced to invest their money in the permanent improvement of the soil. A farmer had sons to put in business, and daughters to marry, or he preferred to make investments of his own selection, and he wanted to get a higher profit upon his savings. Mr. Pusey was the first to speak of tenant right, but the state of affairs had changed since his time. There were more needy landlords in his day. A great deal of land had since been sold to railway companies, and had otherwise changed hands, and as landlords as a class had now more capital than they had then the ground for a modified tenant right no longer existed. He might be thought to be Communistic in his views; but if the Government thought that the landlords of England were in the destitute condition that had been represented and unable to manage their own property, let them appoint a Royal Commission to examine the matter and consider whether the Irish Land Bill was not necessary on this side of the water. A good deal of alarm had been expressed as to the exorbitant charges to be brought upon the landlords. The Government might advantageously consult the reports of the surveyors' meetings on this subject. As an example of the average allowance for cake and artificial manures they gave the following proportionate figures:—Extent of acres, 5,155; 496 cake, 1,500; manure, 1,400; land, labour, or fixtures, 7,250; total about 10,000. The average charge for cake was 5s. 10½d.; manure 5s. 5d.; land, labour, improvements, &c, £1 8s. 1d.; total, £1 19s. 4d., or less than £2 per acre. The average rent being £1 10s. 4d. If the Government would pass a Bill giving security to the farmers for those ordinary charges that passed between landlord and tenant in Lincolnshire, they would do a great deal of service, and remove much of the alarm that at present existed. If the truth were known, the Bill was a few weeks ago detested by hon. Members on the Ministerial benches. Since the letting value had been taken out of it, it was acquiesced in by hon. Members opposite, who now believed that the Government were about to pass a very useful measure. The practical course would be to legislate frankly about cultivation, to alter the present presumption of the law, but require obedience to its spirit, and to allow an equivalent agreement, but to legislate distinctly, firmly, and honestly. He wished the Government would explain in what position owners would be placed who had yearly agreements with full tenant-right for cultivation—a special contract for improvement and perfect freedom of cropping. It was placing landlords in a painful position when they were obliged to say to their tenants—"We must call upon you to contract yourselves out of the Bill or else we must give you notice." It was a very serious matter between landlord and tenant when these contracts became a piece of waste paper. He did not like to indulge in predictions; but the farmers were beginning to find out that this Bill tended towards re-valuation. He was told by many landlords that they intended to contract themselves out of the Bill. The whole of the House of Lords intended to do so, and a large landowner said to him—" I have no course to pursue, if this Bill passes, except to re-value all my estates, and I shall be obliged to do so." It would be a result much to be deprecated if the Bill caused a disturbance of good understanding between landlord and tenant, and if it led to harsh treatment and disrespect of the law. What the Government meant to give let them give frankly and unreservedly, and let them put landlords and tenants in a position not only to 497 accept the Bill, but to contract themselves into rather than out of it. Above all, let the Government leave both landlords and tenants the greatest freedom of contract as to the mode of carrying out the law. If the Bill were amended in the direction he had indicated, it would then become a beneficial measure.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he thought the opposition to the Bill had taken a very curious course. When he first looked at the Notice Paper for the second reading, he found that a distinguished Member on the front Opposition bench (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) intended to move—That permissive legislation upon the subject of Agricultural Holdings was calculated to unsettle the existing relations between landlord and tenant, without securing to either an equivalent advantage.The right hon. Gentleman had been kind enough to inform the House that he had framed the Amendment so as to secure the largest possible amount of support; that his object was to knock down the wall without caring whether anything was set up in its place or not. Indeed, the candour of the right hon. Gentleman was not confined to that statement, for he said he had framed the Amendment without consultation with any Party or section of a Party in the House; and he was, he must confess, surprised to hear a Member of so much experience make such a declaration with respect to an Amendment so important as that which he had announced it to be his intention to move. Looking at the result, the experiment was one which, in his opinion, the right hon. Gentleman was not likely to repeat. This Bill being confined to England, no other English Member had put down an Amendment in opposition to it, and the right hon. Gentleman had found that he must retire from the field. An Amendment had, however, been proposed in opposition to the Bill; and it was moved by an hon. Gentleman who had recently entered the House from the North of Scotland, and seconded by another who represented an Irish constituency. They might, therefore, fairly assume that the Bill had met with the general approval of the House, or, at any rate, of the English Members. [Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL: I did not move the rejection of the Bill.] When the hon. Gentleman had greater experience in the House he 498 would know that if such an Amendment as his were carried the result would be that the Bill would not be read a second time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sandwich used some very strong language against the Bill, but not so strong as the hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland), who said the measure was received with scorn. Where did the scorn come from? The hon. Baronet certainly was scornful; but not the farmers of England. Then it was said that this Bill had been brought in not to assist but to delude the farmers; and surely to charge a Government with deliberately introducing a measure to delude its supporters was to make use of language that was scarcely within proper bounds. The hon. Baronet was, he might add, no doubt, an acute man; but the farmers of England were quite as acute and shrewd as he was, and in at least one part of England they had lately afforded a test of their feeling with regard to this Bill. The hon. Member who had recently been returned to that House for West Suffolk was returned upon the very principle upon which this Bill was founded, and the candidate who opposed him expressly challenged the opinion of the constituency upon the question whether legislation on this subject should be permissive or compulsory. His hon. Friend was returned by a majority of 1,700 odd over his opponent. He knew something of that constituency in early life. It was one in which the tenant farmers exercised a preponderating influence. When the hon. Baronet talked of their voting for their landlords he seemed to forget the Ballot Act which had been passed under the auspices of the late Government. Now, on the question of compulsory and permissive legislation there would, of course, be great difference of opinion; but he would remind the House that in a Bill, which had been brought in some time ago by Mr. Howard, though it contained a compulsory clause, still the compulsion was not absolute, because the landlord might contract himself out of its provisions by giving a lease to the tenant; and when the right hon. Gentleman opposite talked of the present measure as not being worth the paper on which it was written, he would suggest that it was somewhat absurd to suppose that the landlords, if it was passed, would at once rush to their soli- 499 citors to get their estates exempted from its operation. For his own part, he did not believe there would be anything of the kind. His hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), in his able speech, had pointed out that customs in more than one part of England were compulsory where there was no contract to the contrary, but that, as a rule, the landlords and the tenants did not contract themselves out of the custom. It was true that in many counties estates were contracted out of the custom, and that stipulations were made to suit the condition of those estates; but what was the present Bill? It was a Bill to establish an universal custom for England. It would operate to produce the same effect by statute as a custom based upon long usage. Nor did he think there would be any more attempts made by the landlords to contract themselves out of its provisions than in those counties where certain customs prevailed. The right hon. Member for Sandwich had made a most extraordinary statement for one who ought to know something of this subject. He said there was a great desire on the part of capitalists to apply capital to the land, but landlords wished to keep capital away from the land. For a landlord to make a charge of absolute idiotcy against the whole of the class to which he belonged was one of the most extraordinary of the many extraordinary things that occurred in that House. Did it never occur to him that there was something in the existing law which operated as a bar, and that this Bill proposed to remove that bar to the application of capital to the land? The greater part of the land of England was held by limited owners. In some cases the deeds under which those owners held their estates provision was made for proper compensation to the tenant for his improvements; but in the greater number of cases there was no such provision, and the limited owner, however desirous he might be to have capital applied to the estate, was wholly powerless to attract it, because he could not charge the inheritance for the outlay. This Bill removed that impediment, because the limited owner could consent to improvements, and charge the inheritance with the compensation paid to the person making the outlay. If that was the only provision of 500 the Bill, it would be a great advance in the direction of the improvement of the land, and an immense boon to both the tenant and owner, in whose favour it would ultimately work. There was more than one class of limited owners in this country with reference to whose estates this Bill would work beneficially. There were limited owners under trust-deeds and marriage settlements, and in the case of ecclesiastical corporations-sole—namely, clergymen. In his county tithes were rare; in lieu of tithes rectorial lands were set out for the clergyman. There was no power to give compensation to the tenant who made improvement in such lands, and it was easy to pick out the rectorial lands by reason of the great difficulty there was in such cases of attracting capital to the soil. There was another provision in this Bill which had not yet been noticed; it was the power to a landlord to advance his own money and get a charge in favour of himself on the land. Taking the case of a limited owner who had means at his disposal, but having a large family, suppose he invested in improvements on the estate the money he intended to leave to younger children. Under the present state of the law, the money so expended would go to the inheritor of the property, and he would deprive himself pro tanto of the means of providing for his younger children; but under this Bill he would be able to invest his money in the estate by compensating the tenant for improvements and take a charge upon the estate for the amount. In this way he would be enabled to improve his estate without robbing his younger children. That was a provision of great value in the Bill, and he had no doubt it would operate very largely. Some extraordinary statements had been made to-night, and there was none more extraordinary than that made by the right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe). That right hon. Gentleman professed not to be a great master of the subject, and if he had not made that admission it would not have been difficult to gather it from his speech. He said when this Bill came into operation there would be a great rush for leases, and the only effect of it would be a great rise of rents. There was no question that where leases obtained there the rents were higher. In Scotland farms were much nearer 501 their value than in England under a system of leases. The system of leases was not popular in this country. It was not popular among landlords, and he did not think it was popular among tenants. A few years ago an Act was passed enabling limited owners to grant leases. That Act had been very little used; at the same time, it was the only means by which, so far as he was aware, a limited owner could give security to a tenant for the outlay he made on land. The Act had been pretty much a dead letter, and it seemed desirable to have some machinery to give security to the tenant without the necessity of granting leases. He knew that leases were considered the summum bonum of agricultural tenure; but it was difficult to persuade either farmers or owners to adopt the system. In his own county leases were exceedingly rare, the land being held from year to year. But the improvements which had been made in the system of husbandry had necessitated fresh legislation. There was a time when the chemistry of the soil was little understood; when the mixture of the different strata on the same farm was little resorted to; when any manures beyond those made in the farm-yard were little used, and when the actual cash outlay of a tenant, except for wages, was almost nothing. The improved knowledge of agricultural chemistry, the improved style of farming, had introduced a state of things in which it was necessary to make a much larger outlay on the land, both in bringing up sub-soil on to the surface, and using artificial manures, and the farmer naturally asked how he should be expected to make that outlay if he saw no return for his money. Something had been said of hereditary landlords and hereditary tenants, where estates and farms had gone from father to son for generations. There mutual confidence supplied the place of law, and in such cases it was very rare indeed that a tenant had injustice done to him. But in other cases, there was no security to the tenant that the land would be continued in the same family; and in others, as he had pointed out, the means of limited owners did not enable them, though willing, to give security. In such cases this Bill was very necessary, and would be very advantageous, and he ventured to say it would come largely into operation. They had been told 502 that such a Bill would do nothing unless it was compulsory; but all the argument on the other side was to the effect that a compulsory Bill would be wholly inappropriate. The hon. Baronet had ridiculed the notion of laying down Schedules or classes in the Bill for all the different subjects for which compensation should be paid, and yet he seemed to think there would be danger of parties contracting themselves ont of the Bill. There were such varieties in different localities and in different circumstances of the same estate that it would be quite ridiculous to make a Procrustean rule for every case. The hon. Baronet seemed to think the Government had brought in this Bill without consulting any eminent authority on the subject of agriculture. Even among the ranks of the Government there were no mean authorities on that subject, and it was not likely that they would propose such a Bill without taking the counsel and advice of those authorities. The Bill, with certain modifications, had passed the other House of Parliament. [Ironical cheers.] The noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) seemed amazed at that observation; but he (Mr. Hunt) should have thought that the heir to a Peerage would not have been inclined to sneer at an Assembly in which he himself might yet have the honour of sitting. That Assembly certainly contained as much agricultural knowledge as could be found elsewhere, and it had passed this measure without a division. The right hon. Member for Sandwich said the Government professed freedom of contract, but freedom of contract only for the landlord. He compared the relations between the tenant farmers and the landlords of this country and the relations between labourers and their employers, and he referred to the Truck Act as an instance in which freedom of contract was infringed. He (Mr. Hunt) thought it was an insult to the tenant farmers of this country to say that they were so dependent, so ignorant, so wanting in manliness that they could not make a bargain for themselves. He believed the majority of the tenant farmers would repudiate such doctrines. He did not wish to allude to so bad a precedent as the Irish Land Act, the principle of which, he hoped, would never be extended to the other part of the kingdom. But what said the Irish Land Act on the 503 subject of freedom of contract? The 12th clause of that Act declared that persons whose holdings were rated at an annual value of not less than £50 should not be entitled to make any claim for compensation under any provision of the Act in cases where the tenant had contracted in writing with his landlord that he would not make any such claim. So even a poor Irish farmer, whose valuation was £50, was declared by the framers of that Act to be sufficiently independent to make a bargain with his landlord. And yet the House was now told that the farmers of England, whose rents or valuations, he believed, were seldom so low as £50, were so dependent, so servile, that they were not to be trusted to contract themselves out of the provisions of this Bill. He really could not understand how anybody could cast such a slur upon the tenant farmers of this country. He believed this Bill would fairly and fully meet the defects now existing in our law, and that it would be acceptable to the tenant farmers of this country, and be received generally by the landlords. He also believed that it would be a means of attracting more capital to the soil, and of increasing the produce of the land.
§ LORD GEORGE CAVENDISH
said, this question had hitherto been discussed altogether in the interests of the great landowners and the large tenant farmers. In his opinion, those two classes were quite capable of taking care of themselves. He very much doubted whether any legislation at all was necessary. He knew well the times were marching, and that we must march with them; but he thought it was questionable whether it was altogether for the interest of this country that this Bill should pass. He believed the tendency of it would be to throw the ownership and the occupation of land into fewer hands, and that, he thought, would be a great evil. There were many small resident landowners who in their districts well discharged their duties, and acted on the old principle of "Live and let live." He feared these men, finding themselves deprived of the benefits of their estates, would say that the Bill was one-sided in its operation; and there was a danger lest they might be led to say—"The best thing we can do will be to throw all these holdings into one or two large occupations;" or "We 504 had better sell our estates to some millionaire and double our income." It was a phase of things which had occurred to M. de Tocqueville, who, in referring to the smaller class of proprietors in France, finding themselves deprived of their political importance in the country, had withdrawn themselves to the towns, spoke of the loss which France had suffered in connection with her rural population. It seemed to him that the small class of occupiers were a very valuable class of men, men of most laborious habits, who lived very hardily, and who, although not possessing much capital, made up for that by thrift and toil. He would defer what further observations he had to make till a future occasion.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
As one of the few Members of the House who served on the Select Committee of 1848, I wish to make an observation or two on this Bill; and perhaps I may be permitted, in the first place, to correct the historical references of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister by stating that it was I who moved the appointment of that Committee. Now, I consider that this Bill proceeds upon the lines which were laid down in the Report of that Committee. The origin of that Committee was, that the late Mr. Pusey had brought in successive Bills in this House, but was unable to obtain the assent of the House to any of them; and the aim of all of them was to ensure compensation for the unexhausted improvements of the tenant farmer. The tendency of the feeling in this House was that no interference was necessary; and that feeling has been justified by the result, that there has been but one change of the law since the appearance of that Committee's Report, and that that change of the law was in the same sense as the recommendations of this Bill. Before the appearance of that Report the presumption of the law was against the right of the agricultural tenant to any fixtures that he might erect during his tenancy; whereas the law was in favour of the right to possession of any fixtures that might be erected by a commercial or manufacturing tenant upon commercial or manufacturing premises. In consequence of the Report of that Committee, the Emblements Act was passed, whereby the right of the agricultural tenant to the possession of the fixtures erected on 505 his holding was recognized and acknowledged. Now, I hold, Sir, that there is a distinct occasion for this Bill; inasmuch as the presumption of law is against the recovery of compensation for improvements by the agricultural tenant; and unless either custom shall have grown up and given him a right, as is the case in Lincolnshire, or unless in the terms of the agreement or lease under which he holds, his right to compensation is asserted, the law is against the recovery of compensation for unexhausted improvements by the agricultural tenant. The real merit of this Bill consists in two facts. It is that it reverses the presumption of the law which is against the agricultural tenant. Its second merit is that it is permissive. In the first place, it recognizes the right of the agricultural tenant to compensation for unexhausted improvements—a right which is analogous to the right already existing in the commercial or manufacturing tenant; and, in the next place, inasmuch as it is permissive, it affirms the freedom of contract and the right of property in the landlord. These two points do not seem to be clear either to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen); but I think that any lawyer who peruses the Bill will admit' that I have rightly stated its purpose in these two points. I rejoice, however, to find that the terms of this Bill which pointed to the recovery of compensation according to the improved letting value are to be struck out, and for this reason. If there was any evidence that was stronger than the rest brought before the Select Committee of 1848—and there has been no Committee since—it was as to the necessity of regulating the system of valuation. I wish particularly to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to this subject, even though they have abandoned that dangerous provision which would have given compensation upon that which might be an imaginary basis, instead of upon the actual expenditure of the tenant, which I think so vicious a principle, that if it were retained I could scarcely have voted for the second reading of the Bill. Having given my attention to this subject for more years than most of the hon. Members of this House, I will venture to 506 draw the attention of the Government to the difficulties and uncertainties connected with valuation, and which are increasing rather than diminishing. This I say, speaking from the experience and observation of some of the leading land agents and surveyors in this country, and I point to it particularly on this account. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty has stated that this Bill will establish a custom where no custom, or adequate custom now exists, as is the case in various parts of the country, but there is this difference between the operation of the Bill and the operation of custom. The operation of custom is this—that the transaction with reference to the sum to be paid for unexhausted improvements is not between the outgoing tenant and the landlord, but between the outgoing and the incoming tenant. Such is the custom in Lincolnshire, and such is the custom in several other counties, and it makes this great difference—that where the owner is a minor or not acquainted with agricultural matters, he is protected by having the interests of the incoming tenant identified with his own in guarding against the award of excessive compensation. Now, that safeguard is lost in this Bill, and as the Bill contemplates dealing with the property of minors, and with properties beyond those of the tenant in possession, it is especially necessary that precautions should be taken against any abuse of that arrangement. Now, Sir, my own opinion is this: that one of the great merits of this scheme will be that where small properties change hands, or are held merely as investments in districts where there is not a sufficient agricultural custom, the passing of this Bill will render it to the interest of the owners of those small properties to enter into specific contracts with their tenants, whereby I believe that both the landlord and the tenant will be gainers, because that specific contract will, in all probability, be drawn with reference to the special requirements and the cultivation of the estates, and the special character of the property in the neighbourhood. In this way the tenant, who now has the greatest reason to complain—the tenant of property which the landlord has never visited, or never considered, except with a view of obtaining the largest possible rental—will find it to his interest to enter into a 507 specific contract; in fact, to contract himself out of the operation of this Act; but, in doing so, securing to his tenant adequate compensation for his outlay of capital in the improvement of the farm. I do not wish to detain the House; but these are the products of considerable reflection on the subject on my part. I should regret the result if it turned out to be such as the noble Lord opposite (Lord George Cavendish) seems to apprehend; that is, if the result of passing this Bill should be to throw the smaller properties into the market; but I own I cannot see the probability of such a result. Bather, I believe that, by inducing the owners of such properties to contract with their tenants, and giving the security to the tenant which this Bill affords, you will facilitate the retention of their properties by these small owners. It is not on large properties, generally speaking, that the hardships resulting from the eviction of tenants occur, and that the tenants will derive advantages from the measure. It is rather, in the ease of small properties, purchased it may be simply as investments, and with respect to which the landlord has no sentiment but to secure the greatest possible money return. This Bill is, I think, rather ambitious in its scope and details in some respects; but I believe that Her Majesty's Government have done well in proposing it, and that the period has arrived when the system of compensation is sufficiently understood to justify their originating a measure in favour of the claim to compensation by the tenant farmer.
§ MR. D. DAVIES
said, he was not going to oppose the Bill, although it was not exactly what he should wish to see. At the same time, the Bill came from that side of the House in which the tenant farmers had confidence—from those who were professedly the representatives of the tenant farmers—and the House ought not to be too severe on the measure. He had some experience of farmers, and had a little land of his own at the present time, for which he paid very dear. There were three classes of landlords. First, there was a large class who did not require any Act to improve their relations with their tenants; secondly, there was a class having only a limited interest in their property, and he thought this Act would do good to them. There was another class 508 —a bad class—and he was afraid this Bill would do no good to them. It was with regard to this class that there was a feeling on his side of the House that the Act ought to have gone a little further. If landowners generally adopted the Bill there would be no necessity to make it compulsory; but probably at the next Election those who sat on his side of the House would promise the farmers to amend the Act if they were placed in power.
§ SIR WALTER BARTTELOT
said, he thought the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, having bought a little land, and being so well satisfied with the Bill, would be very much inclined to buy a little more, and then he would not despair of seeing the hon. Gentleman come over to that (the Ministerial) side of the House and stand up strongly for the rights of property. Having listened most attentively to nearly the whole of this debate, he was bound to say that he had not heard any sufficient reason given for dealing with this question. He frankly admitted that there was a certain compensation which out-going tenants ought to receive; but it should apply only to what would be of real benefit to the incoming tenant. Now the incoming tenant had hardly been mentioned during the whole course of this debate, and he of all others was the person who ought to have the most serious consideration of the House. They had heard there had been certain talk about the Bill. Every one knew where that talk came from. They knew that through the length and breadth of the land Agricultural Chambers had risen up and demanded that there should be some legislation. But he was not absolutely clear, and no one had pointed out that Agricultural Chambers represented the views and wishes of the tenant farmers of this country. He would like to know where the gross injustice had been, where the evictions had occurred which led to the introduction of this Bill. He would ask his hon. Friends who represented especially the agricultural interest—he would ask those who were tenant farmers themselves—whether they would get up and say that evictions were rife in any portion of this country? He heard some one say "Of course, not." That he believed to be the true answer. He was glad to see the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) in his place, because he had been talking a little in 509 Agricultural Chambers, and had been laying down the law. But what did he say? He said he would have nothing to do with the matter, unless in the interest of the general public and for the improvement and increase of produce. It had been said by a high authority that the produce of this country could be doubled. Now, he ventured to affirm there was not a practical farmer in the country who would say that, taking England through, it could be increased 20 per cent. He would go further, and say, that in a large part of the country farming was in the highest and most efficient state, and that in other parts where it was not so good 20 per cent was as much as the produce could be increased by. He could prove by statistics, if necessary, that there were certain classes of land in this country on which large sums of borrowed money had been laid out to put up agricultural buildings, where two or three farms of 100 acres each had been thrown together, and where now, taking the interest into account, the land did not pay as well as it did before when the smock-frocked farmer paid 10s. an acre for it. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) who was all in favour of small tenants, and would ask whether it was his wish or the wish of the House that small farmers should not exist? It should not be forgotten that the heavier compensation you gave to the outgoing tenant the worse you made it for the incoming. The great object was that the incoming tenant should have means to devote to the cultivation of the land; but if it was taken out of his pocket before he entered on the land, how could he have it except by borrowing? And that brought him to another argument—that the farmers would not invest their money in the soil because they had not proper security. Now, he would appeal to his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) and the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) to say if they knew one who was absolutely and solely a tenant who had not invested all his capital in the cultivation of the land. [Mr. PELL: That was exactly my argument.] The difficulty in the tenant's case was, not that he did not invest his money in the soil, but that he had not got sufficient capital to invest in it. With regard to the Bill itself, looking at it as he did 510 when it appeared first in "another place," he must say he had never seen a Bill so badly drawn. It was a Bill which seemed never to have had any regard to the condition of England at all. The First Lord of the Admiralty, who had made an excellent speech from his point of view on the subject, had said that the Bill did not intend to do away with yearly agreements. When he read it first he said that the Bill was drawn up by a Scotchman, or one who knew nothing of the manners and customs of England. Perhaps there was a little touch of the Irishman about it also. The whole tenour of the Bill then, was to exclude from its provisions all those who took leases, and bring under its provisions all those who had yearly agreements, which amounted to certainly two-thirds, if not four-fifths of the whole. The farmers of England were perfectly satisfied with a yearly tenancy, because farms were occupied from generation to generation by the same family under old landlords. Those who bought property at a moment's notice wanted to get as much as they could from it in as short a time a possible; but after a few years they found that they must go on in the same way as others in the neighbourhood, and they fell into the custom of the county. A yearly tenant in England had his land 20 per cent less than was the case in Scotland. Therefore it followed that if the question of the letting value had been allowed to remain part of the Bill, every landlord in England would have been compelled to have a complete re-valuation of his estate. He was, therefore, glad that the proposals, as to letting value, which appeared in the Bill as originally drawn had been omitted from the measure before it was submitted to the House of Commons. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty had tried to grapple with the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) as to the application of the Bill to yearly tenants; but he had not succeeded in demolishing the force of the arguments which heen adduced by the right hon. Gentleman. He did not think the Bill would absolutely drive the country into a general system of leases; but it was clear to his mind that every man who had a yearly agreement would be compelled to enter into a fresh one, if he 511 chose to contract himself out of the Bill. He hoped this part of the Bill would be so amended in Committee as that all landlords who had agreements with their tenants would, by that fact, be exempted from the provisions of the Bill. It was proposed in the Bill to adopt the Lincolnshire custom, but he ventured to say that all practical men would agree with him in thinking that that custom was not and could not be made applicable to the country generally. This fact seemed to have been dimly visible to the draftsman of the Bill, who had attempted to cure his error by a proposal contained in the 5th clause in the third class. This, however, was not by any means satisfactory, and he hoped the proposal would be struck out of the Bill when the Committee stage was reached. The proposals with regard to the manner in which the compensation to outgoing tenants was to be assessed, again, were not what they should be. They were by far too intricate, and ought to be so amended as that the outgoing tenant should only be compensated for such improvements as were perfectly clear and apparent to the incoming tenant, who otherwise might have to pay for that which never could be of benefit to him. What he wanted was, that the Bill should not be treated in any way as a matter of Party, but as a measure which was intended to be of real practical value to the country; that it should be just to the outgoing tenant, fair and reasonable to the incoming tenant; and, above all, that it should respect—as the measure of a Conservative Government ought to respect—the rights of private property.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Before I make any general observations on the Bill, I wish to say one or two words upon the alterations in the measure which were announced by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. He has informed us that considerable alterations have been made as respects the clauses in which the principle of the increased letting value is introduced. In "another place," when the Bill was introduced, it was announced that the principle to which I am referring was not only the definition of an improvement, but also was the principle upon which the compensation for such an improvement should be assessed. Although 512 two Members of the Government have spoken, I am still in ignorance whether the increase of letting value has altogether disappeared from the Bill, or whether it has only disappeared from the 7th clause. It is of great importance to the House to know whether the principle has disappeared from the 5th as well as the 7th clause; and if any right hon. Gentleman can inform me on that point, I shall be glad to be informed Before I make any further observations upon it. It does not appear that any Gentleman is able to inform me whether the letting value is in the 5th clause or not.
§ MR. DISRAELI
It is taken out of the 5th clause and out of the 7th, and wherever the letting value is the basis of compensation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) when addressing the House also asked me the question. It is rather an inconvenient process to be listening to a speech and also to have questions addressed to you; and, therefore, I did not, perhaps, reply with sufficient accuracy. The letting value is omitted from the 5th and 7th clauses, and wherever it is made the basis of compensation; but the phrase "letting value "is in one clause introduced as a check.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
The right hon. Gentleman informs us now that it is also omitted in the 5th clause. But the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) informed the House of Lords that the increase of letting value was the "keystone of the Bill."
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the noble Lord that the House of Lords is not a proper subject of debate in this House.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, I must apologize if I have inadvertently transgressed the rules of debate. The principle of the increase of letting value was declared by a high authority to be the leading principle of this Bill, which we are asked to read a second time; and we are informed that it is to be omitted when we go into Committee. I should like to ask the attention of the House to the effect of this alteration. As I have said, the addition to the letting value was made the definition of an improvement.Where, after the commencement of this Act, a tenant executes on his holding an im- 513 provement adding to the letting value thereof, he shall he entitled, subject to the provisions of this Act, to obtain, on the determination of the tenancy, compensation in respect of the improvement.In the 7th clause this addition is made the basis upon which compensation was to be given. I am allowed to refer to the "Votes and Proceedings of the House of Lords," and I presume I am therefore allowed to refer to the Bill as introduced into that House, and as it is now laid before us. In the course of its passage through the other House an addition was made to the 7th clause by which the compensation which the tenant might in any case obtain was limited to the amount he expended on the improvement, and, at the same time, the letting value was made the basis of compensation. Now, as we are informed, the cost has been taken as the basis of compensation, but letting value is to be retained in some shape in the Bill, and I presume it will be retained as a limitation of the compensation which, in certain cases, the tenant may obtain. The effect of the alteration announced to-night appears to be this—that the tenant is in no case to have what he had a reasonable right to expect from the Bill as it came to us from the House of Lords; that is to say, within certain limits he would be entitled to a share in the increased letting value of the holding which had been effected partly by his own exertions. ["No, no!"] That is what the tenant was entitled to expect from the Bill as it came from the House of Lords; it is not what he gets as the Bill is to come before us. Under the Bill as it stands now he will get nothing at all unless the letting value is increased; the tenant is to have all the risk and none of the advantages of the speculation. I say none of the advantages, because you cannot call it an advantage to be repaid a portion of the sum you have expended in speculation. If the speculation fails, under the Bill as now amended by the Government the tenant is to lose all his money; if it succeeds, he is to obtain only such portion as the valuer may think expedient. I want further to call attention to the manner in which these alterations have been made. We are told that the Bill has been passed unanimously by the Lords. The First Lord of the Admiralty referred, in terms of considerable exulta- 514 tion, to the great agricultural knowledge possessed by that body, and he seemed surprised when I gave him an ironical cheer. I entirely share his respect for the agricultural knowledge possessed by the House of Lords; but I want to point out that this Bill is not the Bill passed by the House of Lords. It is a Bill of which I have an impression—I am not permitted to say more—that the keystone is not precisely that which was presented to the House of Lords; therefore it appears to me to be somewhat bold to present this Bill to the House of Commons as the product of the great agricultural knowledge and experience of the House of Lords. It has been passed unanimously in the shape in which it appears before us to-night; but not in the shape in which we are asked to pass it. What has happened since the Bill came to us from the other House? It has been discussed, to a considerable extent, in the country; but the discussions have not turned upon the points in which alterations have been made. The discussions in the country have turned upon the subject of the permissive or the compulsory character of the Bill. As far as my knowledge goes, very little has been said in the country about these clauses relative to the principle of the letting value, which we are informed are to be altered. What has happened to alter the decision of the Government? We have heard something—and I hope I am not out of Order in referring to it—of meetings which have been held, of more than one meeting which has been held within the walls of a celebrated building in Pall Mall; we have heard rumours of a preliminary meeting which was held in Pall Mall, at which considerable objection was taken to the principle of the letting value as embodied in this Bill. What passed there I am, of course, unable to say; but, considering that the Bill was passed unanimously by the House of Lords, and that there was no open discussion of the alterations proposed in the country, I do not know that I am taking an erroneous view when I attribute those alterations to one or other of the meetings which have been held in Pall Mall. But this is not the first time the course of the Government has been altered in reference to the measures which they have introduced. There is another Bill before Parliament, the principle of which 515 has been affirmed not by the House of Lords only, but by both Houses of Parliament, and not only by one Parliament, but by two, and again in the present Session in the House of Lords. Somehow or other, nevertheless, that Bill was withdrawn after it passed a second reading—I am not sure that it had not passed through Committee—not in deference to anything which occurred in either House, but in deference to some opposition coming no one knows from where and no one knows from whom. Now, I think it is time that Parliament made a protest against such meetings as those to which I an alluding. The precedent immediately under our notice, though objectionable, is not so much so as that to which I have just referred; for that was a precedent virtually repealing a statute passed by Parliament without affording Parliament an opportunity of expressing its opinion on the subject. The alterations now proposed by the Government in this measure will, no doubt, come before Parliament for discussion; but I cannot help thinking it is a course extremely inconsistent and altogether unprecedented that Bills should be altered between leaving one House and appearing in the other, not in deference to any public discussion or any public expression of feeling, but in obedience to wishes emanating from some secret convention. I feel inclined to ask in whom the legislative power of the country is vested at the present moment? It is not vested in either House of Parliament, it is not vested in the Cabinet; but rather, it would appear, in some body which has more confidence in its secret influence in the Cabinet than that which it possesses in Parliament after free and open debate. I wish now to make one or two observations on the Bill as it came down from the House of Lords, especially as I do not concur in some of the opinions which have been expressed with regard to it on either side of the House. In my opinion, the thanks of Parliament and the country are due to the Government for having undertaken to deal with this subject. I feel, however, by no means certain that the thanks of the tenant farmers are particularly due to them. It has been pointed out that the Bill must have the effect of leading to a revision of valuation and to an increase of rent. Indeed, I believe that must be the tendency of 516 any Bill, on whatever principle it may be founded, which professes to re-adjust the relations between landlord and tenant. I am of opinion that under the present system there are not many cases of actual hardship. I do not think there are many cases in which the tenant loses the capital he may have invested in improvements or in which he is debarred from investing his capital in the land. I do, however, believe that there is a vast number of cases where tenants who are not possessed of great energy or much capital to lay out on the soil are for a great number of years in the occupation of their farms at a rent very much below their value. The natural tendency then of any measure, good or otherwise, will be that the landlord in each case will say—" It may be perfectly true that you have obtained full security for the capital you have invested in improvements; but if we are to start on a new basis it is also perfectly fair that I should inquire whether my land is let at its full, or nearly full, value, and we must therefore begin with a re-valuation." Then tenant farmers then, in my opinion, will have received a boon, if this Bill passes, which they very little expected when they returned their friends to Parliament. But I am, on the whole, perfectly willing to admit that although the measure may not be beneficial to the great majority of the tenant farmers, it ought to be beneficial to the public at large, who are not interested so much in having the land let at the lowest price as that it should produce all the food for the support of the people which it is capable of producing, which is to be effected by the exertion of greater energy, and by the application of more capital to the cultivation of the soil. But while I admit that the object of the Government is a beneficial one, and that they deserve thanks for dealing with the subject, I think there is something wrong in their mode of proceeding. It appears to me that almost every landlord who has indicated any opinion on the point has shown it to be his intention not to avail himself of the provisions of this Bill, but rather of those which will enable him to contract himself out of it. That fact was apparent through the whole debate on this Bill in the House of Lords. I trust, in saying this, that I shall not infringe the rules of debate; 517 but from the very moment the announcement was made that freedom of contract was not to be interfered with, a sigh of relief escaped from certain persons sitting in "another place." Until the very last moment of the discussion in Committee that feeling on the part of landlords was perfectly apparent in the discussions of the other House. And, Sir, to avoid that dangerous ground, I may say that I have not seen a landlord who has informed me that it is his intention to abide by the provisions of this Bill. I may state from my own personal knowledge that many landlords think, and many land agents have advised their employers, that it would not be safe and expedient for them to remain under the provisions of this measure. And what makes me believe that there must be something wrong in the manner in which the Government undertook to execute their purpose is that it is not bad landlords who have expressed this intention of contracting themselves out of the Bill, but some of the very best landlords in England have done so. I do not know that it has been referred to to-night; but I should like to read a very short passage from a speech, not made in the House of Lords, by a noble Lord who is, perhaps, an authority inferior to none on this question. Lord Leicester, speaking at the dinner of a Norfolk agricultural society, said—We are indebted to Her Majesty's Government for the principles contained in this Bill." (So I say.) "And I trust that the majority of landlords will adopt those principles. But if they are wise, as soon as the Bill is passed they will contract themselves out of it, selecting those clauses and making those arrangements which are best adapted to meet their wants.Well, I do not in the least wish to infer that Lord Leicester or any other landlords who have expressed the intention of contracting themselves out of this Bill have any intention whatever of withholding from their tenants anything which this Bill proposes to give them. The reason why they intend to contract themselves out of it is that they think the particular arrangements prescribed by the Bill are not the arrangements—perhaps they are much less liberal than the arrangements—which they deem best adapted to the management of their estates, and they very much prefer the 518 agreements or leases by which they have hitherto conducted the relations between themselves and their tenants to the provisions of this measure. But it seems to me all the same that it cannot be a well-constructed Bill out of which the best landlords express at the outset their intention to contract themselves. A Bill, if it is to be a good one, ought to be a Bill to which every landlord will be able to consent; to which he might be able, indeed, to make alterations and additions, but out of which he ought not to be under the painful necessity of contracting himself before making arrangements he thinks best in dealing with his tenants. Look at what the effect of such an example will be upon landlords not so liberal as Lord Leicester. If Lord Leicester and other landlords as good as he deem it necessary to contract themselves out of the operation of the Bill for the purpose, perhaps, of dealing far more liberally with their tenants, does not the House see that that example will be taken advantage of by landlords for contracting themselves out of the Bill probably with totally different intentions? Well, what are the reasons which can induce landlords almost with one consent to express the intention of contracting themselves out of the Bill? They appear to me to be these:—The Bill defines a great deal too much; it goes into far too much detail, and attempts to lay down by far too hard-and-fast a line the mode of dealing in cases the circumstances of which differ in almost every conceivable respect. At the same time that it does that, the Bill seems to me to commit a very great error and leads to a great amount of confusion by confounding together under the one expression of improvements two things which in their nature are essentially different. Improvements, as defined by the Bill, include both those of permanent character, which are generally known in this country as landlord's improvements, and also those of a purely temporary character which are usually and, indeed, must be made by the tenant, and which really cannot be described as improvements at all. They may rather be described as expenditure incurred, or as ordinary acts of husbandry which are essential to the proper cultivation of the land. Although the Bill thus divides and classifies improvements, and lays down the compensation 519 which is to be given for them, it contains no clause that I can find recognizing the distinction between landlords' improvements and tenants' improvements, which, in my opinion, is absolutely vital. I may be told that the precedent is borrowed from an Act to which I was a party—the Irish Land Act. Well, it is not necessary that I should maintain that the Irish Land Act was perfect in every respect. I should, however, like to remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Irish Land Act was passed for a totally different state of things to that which now exists in England. But what we were thinking of—what Parliament was thinking of—when it passed that Act was that class of improvements known as landlords' improvements, which in Ireland were to a very great extent executed by the tenant, although in England that was the exception. If I am not misinformed, some inconvenience and difficulty has arisen in the working of the Irish Land Act from the indefiniteness of the term "improvements" as used in it. I maintain that any well-considered measure on this subject ought to treat these two classes of improvements as entirely distinct. As to the first class—the class of landlords' improvements—I very much doubt whether, under any circumstances in this country, it is necessary that Parliament should, to any considerable extent, interfere. Those clauses of the Bill which enable limited owners to charge their estates with improvements of this nature I entirely and heartily approve; but where the landlord is the entire owner of the estate, I very much doubt whether it is necessary for Parliament to interfere. As I have said, these improvements are in England generally executed by the landlord; and if, under any peculiar circumstances, it should be expedient or desirable that they should be executed by the tenant, I do not think there would be any inconvenience in the tenant going to the landlord and making a special agreement with him on the subject. But this case is totally different from that of the other class of improvements which I have ventured to describe as necessary acts of husbandry. There it is practically impossible for the tenant to enter into a special agreement with his landlord. Although on the best estates agreements are entered into in the 520 absence of a sufficient custom, yet on estates where the same practice does not prevail it would be a great deal too much to put the tenant in a position to force this particular agreement upon the landlord. Even if it were otherwise determined, it appears to me to be quite unnecessary to go into all the intricate and complicated details which are dealt with in the Bill, and that it would be quite sufficient to lay down a simple rule of law, which I believe would coincide substantially with the practice on the best-managed estates, and certainly with every principle of equity and justice, and that is, that money expended upon acts of husbandry, necessary for the good cultivation of the farm, should, so far as the tenant has not obtained the benefit of them himself, be his property, and not the property of the landlord. In fact, all that is necessary, in my opinion, is that the present presumption of the law should be altered, and that instead of everything in the soil belonging to the landlord, as now, the presumption should be that that which is put into the soil in the course of the ordinary operations of agriculture belongs to the tenant. I do not profess that I should be able to draw up a clause which would exactly carry out my meaning; but I do not believe it would be impossible to frame a simple clause which would so alter the presumption of law as to meet the whole case with which it is necessary for the Legislature to deal. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatcbbull-Hugessen) spoke in somewhat contemptuous terms of the effect of merely altering the presumption of law. I do not agree with my right hon. Friend. I do not think the effect would be so small as he supposes. I believe that if the presumption of law were altered, even if it were in the power of the parties to contract themselves out of it, very soon such a practice would be entirely abandoned. It is in the power of the parties to contract themselves out of any right which the law confers upon them, but we find in practice that it is very seldom done. I would lay down, as I have said, a simple rule of law, and would leave it to the two parties to enter into such agreement as they might think expedient for the purpose of carrying into force that rule of law, and in the absence of any such agreement, I would simply 521 leave it to the tenant to establish his claim against the landlord in the same way as he would maintain any other legal right. If a system of reference were introduced the referee ought not to be limited and restricted, as proposed by this Bill, but should be allowed to value the improvements which the tenant has left in the soil in the best way that a man of sense and experience can do it. After what I have said there is no need for me to detain the House long on the subject of freedom of contract. It is unnecessary to interfere in the arrangements between landlords and tenants. If this Bill should pass, I believe it would be the exception rather than the rule that any tenant would contract himself out of any right which the law gave him. But if that were not the case, and if in subsequent years it were found necessary to declare that any contract made in contravention of the rule of law should not be valid, I should have no objection to an enactment to that effect. I should have very great objection to see the provisions of this Bill made compulsory or the provisions of any other Bill on this subject made compulsory; because I believe this or any other Bill if made compulsory would limit in a most injurious manner the arrangements which ought to be made between landlord and tenant. I was very glad to hear a very enlightened sentiment from my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) in answer to something said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich. He begged to assure the House that he was not to be deterred by the apprehension of what may happen in future from doing what he thinks right to-day. That was a most encouraging sentiment, to emanate from the other side where have been often uttered most alarming statements about the introduction of the thin end of the wedge, and about the dangerous consequences of doing something to which no great objection might be taken at present, but which might be unduly extended in the future. But I am not quite so liberally disposed as my hon. Friend. I think it very dangerous for Parliament to pass a measure containing a principle of which it would be afraid if it were made compulsory. I am glad my right hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich did not move the Amendment of which he had given Notice. I trust 522 the hon. Member who has moved an Amendment (Sir George Campbell), and who has had an opportunity of expressing his views upon the subject, will not think it necessary to put the House to the trouble of a division; because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich has pointed out, this Bill contains a valuable principle—namely, that a tenant shall be entitled to compensation for unexhausted improvements; and I cannot help thinking that the opinion of the House is that no division should be taken on the second reading. At the same time, I do think it would be wise on the part of the Government—especially in the present state of the Session and the great amount of work which remains for them to do—not to press forward this Bill in the present Session. I have given credit to the Government for bringing forward this question and for the spirit in which they have done so; but I doubt whether the Government or any party really interested in this question in the country have even now thoroughly considered it in all its bearings. Sir, I think there can be no doubt that the Bill which we are asked to read a second time is different from the Bill which the other House has already passed. I very much doubt whether the discussions which have been held throughout the country do not show that there is a very great impression prevailing that the landlord and tenant would rather gain than lose by the postponement of the question; and I believe the Government will be able to introduce a far more satisfactory measure if they would allow this Bill to be withdrawn for the present Session, and allow it to receive the consideration of the country during the Recess. I have to thank the House for the attention with which it has listened to me, and I must express the hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press his Amendment to a division.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, the noble Lord has laid down the constitutional principle to-night that if a Bill comes down to this House from the House of Lords it is not open to any party in this House, or to persons outside of it, to offer an opinion or to express their sentiments on the subject, and that it is not open to the Government of the day to receive the honest expression of opinion by those who may support them in this House, 523 or those who may sympathize with them in the country. Now, I entirely protest against this principle of the noble Lord. The Bill before us has been in this House for some time. Hon. Gentlemen have had the opportunity of studying its provisions. An expression of opinion upon those provisions has been freely and fully given without the walls of this House. To say that Her Majesty's Government have not the privilege of availing themselves of that expression of sentiment and that result of reflection appears to me a monstrous proposition. I have known, I may say, innumerable cases in which, when the second reading of a Bill was proposed, the Minister who had proposed it has announced some change which appeared to be, in the opinion of the Government, advantageous, and at the request of the Minister the House has gone into Committee pro formâ when the Bill would be reported in order that the opinion of the House might be taken on the Bill in that form. What is this monstrous claim upon which the noble Lord has dilated? He says that it is the principle of the Bill? [The Marquess of HARTINGTON: The keystone.] The noble Lord has, in an irregular manner, quoted some expression with which I was not acquainted. I hope both Houses of Parliament will make no reference to what is irregular; but this I will say—that I know that in "another place" the expression of letting value was proposed by a "Whig" Peer (Lord Penzance), and the proposition was inserted in the Bill. ["No, no!"] You may say "No, no," but it is upon that definition that we are arguing. We know that the principle of the Bill is to secure compensation for unexhausted improvements. That is the principle of the Bill to which the noble Lord himself has appealed in the latter part of his speech, and upon which he says both sides of this House are agreed, and therefore he trusts that the second reading will be assented to. The noble Lord then goes into an argument which appears to me to be inconsistent with the very purpose of the Bill, and the complaint was that the improvements which ought to be executed by the landlord should have been so mentioned in this Bill. But this Bill does not in any way assume that there are improvements to be executed by the landlord. The landlord has power to execute such, and it is unnecessary to in- 524 sert them. But there are improvements which, according to the argument, ought to be executed by the landlord, but which are executed by the tenant; and what we have done is to indicate the mode by which compensation should be given to the tenant for executing those improvements, provided he executes them with the consent of the landlord; and therefore nothing in my mind can be travelling further from the scope of the Bill than the proposition of the noble Lord that we should provide in this Bill for the fulfilment of these improvements by the landlord. The noble Lord says there is not the least doubt that every landlord will contract himself out of this Bill with the tenants. Well, the noble Lord must have an extensive acquaintance with landlords to authorize him in giving so general and sweeping an account to the House. My experience is of a contrary description; but if the noble Lord is correct in the latter part of his speech, that one of the great features of this Bill is that it changes the presumption of the law and changes it in favour of the tenant, it is not very probable that the landlords would find their tenants so ready to contract themselves out of the Bill when that great change in their tenancy has been effected. No doubt that provision is a beneficial one; but it was denied at the beginning of the evening by the right hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen). The Government have, indeed, no great cause to complain of the manner in which this Bill has been received by the House when we remember the thunder with which the Government were menaced and the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, which he introduced in a style and tone that could not fail to act upon the nerves of all who were sitting on the Treasury Bench. We were promised debates upon the principle of agricultural compulsion which should not be unworthy of those scenes which many of us remember. It now appears that, after all, this was only a loud and bustling surrender. The right hon. Gentleman indulged in a series of objections which is certainly a safe manœuvre of rhetoric. When the time arrives that these criticisms are falsified, some of us, perhaps, may not be here; but whatever changes may occur it will be found that the English people will be then, as they are now, hostile to com- 525 pulsion in such legislation. It may be all very well for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to treat with affected contempt the notion that our legislation should be founded on permission, but permissive legislation is the characteristic of a free people. It is easy to adopt compulsory legislation when you have to deal with those who only exist to obey; but in a free country, and especially in a country like England, you must trust to persuasion and example as the two great elements, if you wish to effect any considerable change in the manners and customs of the people. Eight hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite seem proud that on all occasions they are the advocates of compulsion in legislation. I do not envy them the lordly attributes they arrogate to themselves. I am not sorry if they pursue a policy founded upon the principle of compulsion, because I think that so long as they do there is less chance of their changing their position. I trust that those who are sitting on this side of the House will give no encouragement to a policy which I believe to be so pernicious—that they will advocate that course upon public measures which they believe to be beneficial to the country; and that they will trust to example and persuasion to induce a free and intelligent people to adopt their views and to follow their example. Well, Sir, after the speech of the right hon. Member for Sandwich, which covered the whole ground of compulsion, we listened to a most remarkable address from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe); and if I am unable to reply to that speech, it is really because—although it was confined to one point which was apparently argued with great logical acumen—I could not, under any circumstances, succeed in ascertaining what the right hon. Gentleman intended to impress upon the House. So far as I could understand, the right hon. Gentleman had formed an imaginary clause that was certainly not in the Bill, and upon that imaginary clause, which he connected with one in the Bill, he arrived at a conclusion of peculiar perplexity. Twice in the course of his argument he adverted to something which I had not noticed and which I had omitted to explain. No wonder that I had omitted to notice a clause that does not exist. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to show—if he 526 showed anything—that the treatment of the tenants under this clause must be compulsory, and that it must be inevitably so to such a degree that they could not extricate themselves from it, although the right hon. Member for Sandwich had proved that compulsion did not exist, and was, indeed, shamefully wanting in the Bill. He was suspicious that he had involved himself in some logical eccentricities which the House had not understood. So the right hon. Gentleman said—" I will recapitulate my position." I watched the right hon. Gentleman, and listened with intense attention to him, and this I can say, that when he recapitulated his position he did not use a single word, expression, or argument which he had used in the former part of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman was followed by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland), who was rich to-night in the peculiarity of his rhetoric which so particularly distinguishes him. The moment he sets up a position he always qualifies it. If he makes an assertion it is, to use a common expression "watered down." For a considerable period of time the hon. Baronet went on making wild charges against this measure, treating it with the utmost contumely, sparing no expression of scorn, and then ending by saying that he was perfectly ready to give his best exertions to render it a measure which would be satisfactory and useful to the country. I trust the House will not hesitate as to the course it will take. We are no longer threatened with a division to-night, but we have had some counsels given to us which would, if followed, paralyze our future actions. I trust the House will not be influenced by them. Rest assured that we are embarking in this Bill in a business which is dear to a great portion of the people of this country, and which, if with skill and temper it is carried into effect, will, I believe, remove many causes of discontent and misunderstanding, and confirm and increase those relations of confidence and amity which have for so long a period, and so greatly for the advantage of the country, existed between the owners and occupiers of the soil.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, that perhaps it would facilitate business if he withdrew his Amendment, which was not made in any spirit of hostility 527 to the Bill, but merely, as lie supposed, as an instruction to the Government.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Main Question put, and agreed to. Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.