§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. D. TAYLOR
said, that at that late hour of the day, he should in a very few words move the second reading of the Bill—the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act (1870) Amendment Bill —lie had the honour to introduce. He should not have undertaken to bring so important a measure before the House, were it not that lie felt that it was only required to make a simple statement of the effect of the present Land Act, to convince the House it was necessary to make some amendment in it. The Bill which lie had the honour to introduce was almost similar to the one that was introduced to the House by the late Mr. Sharman Crawford, and that was a Bill pretty well known in the House, and thoroughly known throughout the length and breadth of Ireland, and which would for ever be associated with the name of Sharman Crawford and the cause of 1229 tenant right. Every Irishman was persuaded of the importance of the Bill, and the opposition to it came from the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory), who was living away from the country, and was unacquainted with the habits and conditions of the Irish people. He (Mr. D. Taylor) knew it was very difficult for an Englishman to conceive the possibility of a tenant being part-owner of his farm. Nevertheless, there could be no doubt of the fact that by the erection of buildings, by drainage and improvements by the tenants, a real interest was created in the land. The Land Act of 1870 he looked upon as the greatest boon ever conferred by legislation upon Ireland. It was a great thing to promote the improvements and the industries of the country, and at the same time, in a great measure, the interests of the tenant in the farm. But now, after about eight years of action, the Land Act had been found to have failed in several points, and it was with the object of remedying the defects that the present Bill was brought before the House. It consisted of two parts. The first represented exclusively the Ulster tenant right, and the other referred to general previsions, and dealt with the Land Act throughout the whole of Ireland. With regard to the former, he might say the first object of the Bill was to charge the presumption of tenant right in Ulster in favour of the tenant, and the reason of that was this — it was well known there were few farms in Ulster that the custom did not apply to, and the farmers believed it was very hard whom the custom, as was well known, did apply, that they were compelled to bring proofs that the custom did apply. And besides that, they did so under great difficulties. Sometimes a tenancy existed for a very long time, the farm having gone from father to son; but, in other cases, the tenant had come there and taken up a new position. These were the difficulties; but not one of these difficulties would the landlord have in proving the tenant right did not exist, because he, either himself or his agent, and others had records that were in existence, and, therefore, to him the difficulty would be very small in proving that the claim did not exist. He would just read a few words delivered by the Chairman of the County of Enniskillen with regard to 1230 the difficulties of proving that the tenants had the rights. Speaking at Enniskillen, he referred to the prosperity of the district, and mentioned the fact—That in the year 1872 there was lodged in the Savings Bank at Enniskillen the sum of £154,000, deposited by depositors, and there was now in the same hank the sum of £169,000, an increase of £15,000 upon the deposits, and there were nearly 4,000 depositors. The savings banks were chiefly supported by the farming class; and, therefore, no man need tell him that the country was in a state of poverty and want whilst there was the fact staring the in the face. He had been under the impression that it would have been better for the to expend their capital in improving the land when protected by tenant right; but on account of the difficulties of proving their claim, he had given up encouraging a tenant to lay out his money on the land.Now, nothing, he thought, could show more than that the amount of injury it did to the tenant farmer. The next object was to give the right of sale to the tenant whom he had a bonâ fide interest in the soil. He could not understand how there could be any objection to that, with the condition that, whom the sale took place, every shilling that the previous tenant owed to his landlord for rent, or for any advance he might have made to bins, should be discharged the first thing out of the money received; and the only matter that might be found to be difficult was this— that the landlord should have power to object to any tenant that he considered was not suitable. As a rule, it was of the greatest advantage to landlords that farms should be allowed to change hands, and it was, of course, an advantage to the tenant. The majority of the cases whore it would be so advantageous was, whore a tenant fell short of capital; and, in such cases, it was also an advantage to the landlord that the tenant should be allowed to sell his farm, so that another man of more energy or means could take it and cultivate the soil, and that also would be an advantage to the country as well as the landlord. There was one point in which the Land Act told very hardly on the tenant, and that was this— that if the tenant were disturbed by his landlord, either by a notice to quit or with the view of getting him out, a tenant could go to court and claim his compensation; but if a tenant wished to leave his farm, no matter how much lie might find for his tenant right or for his farm, if he 1231 wanted to leave of his own free will, from any cause, either from inability to continue the work of the farm or a desire to go to any other place, he could not ask his landlord by right of the Act to pay a single farthing for all the interest which he had in the farm, and his landlord could refuse him anything lie demanded as tenant right claims. He could refuse to let him sell the farm, and the tenant might be compelled to leave everything, supposing the circumstances were such as to make it necessary for him to leave. He asked the House, if that was the condition to leave tenants in, and, above all times, whom the general depression was so great? Now, the fact of the landlord being able to refuse the tenant liberty to sell gave him enormous power, either with respect to fixing the amount of his tenant right or making any other conditions. It was a very hard thing for any man who wished to sell his farm. A man wishing to sell went to the agent and told him, upon which the agent said lie should ask from the new coiner an increase of rent of, say 5s. or 10s. an acre. There was a man living upon an estate upon which there was a property valuation at intervals, say of 10 or 20 years; but the moment he wanted to sell his farm a barrier was put on his farm that did not exist upon any other farm upon the estate. He was glad to say that, although these incidents were frequent, and were well known by the number of cases that were reported from time to time as existing throughout Ulster, they were not so frequent in the other parts of the country with respect to other tenants. Some landlords did all they could to assist their tenants; but he was sorry to say that there were others who Mowed out an opposite course, and said to their tenant—" You have now got your Land Act; stand on your rights. We will stand upon ours." And they took every advantage the Act gave the to try and set aside what the landlords would have granted before the Land Art was passed and became law. Now, with regard to the other clauses referring to leasehold tenant right, he need not say anything, as the House had passed, at formers times, a Bill of the nulls) Cord the Member for Down (Lord Arthur Hill-Trevor), which stood for second reading. As a general rule, lie thought it was in the interests of 1232 landlords that every encouragement should be given to the tenant farmer to create improvements, and until they gave an undoubted security they could not expect tenants to put their capital into the farms. He could not better illustrate the value of tenant right than by reading a line or two from a letter he hid received upon the question from a farmer. The farmer said—The tenant's right suffers. It is the sliding scale that must stand the pressure between good and bail times. The landlord knows if his rents run behind in bad times they are perfectly secured by the tenant right of the farm, which will be sure to realize all he has against it whom times improve. But the poor down-trodden farmer has no security, or comparatively none, for his investments in the soil.That was the feeling which was in the Lind of the tenant, and which prevented him from investing his money in the ground, and which caused a great deal of the capital to flow into the savings' banks, because the savings' bank of Enniskillen was no exception. In the borough which he had the honour to represent—Coleraine—although only a small place, there was a sum of money nearly equal in amount, and that amount, as lie knew very well, was from tenant farmers. The security that the tenant right gave could be seen from the comparative security given in Ulster at the present this. In Ireland they had nothing like what they had in England, with regard to tenants noticing their landlords and giving cup their farms. An hon. Member of that House told bins, a few days ago, lie was in charge, of a number of farms— he (Mr. D.Taylor) believed, in Kent— and he said that one of the tenants gave notice lie was obliged to leave the farm, of which he lied been tenant fur a number of years. The hon. Member said he regretted to lose so good a tenant, and urged him to remains; but time tenant said he could not afford d to continue longer in possession of the ferns. Whom asked to make an offer lie declined, and further said he could not continue on the farm, even with a reduction in the rent of 25 per cent. At last, he offered to take a reduction in the rent to 45 per cent, and refused to increase his offer, and left, stating he could not afford to remain longer. Au-other hon. Friend told him he had three farms, the rental of which was upwards of £1,200, and the whole of the three farms were under notice to quit, and he 1233 did not know whore he should get a I tenant to succeed these who were leaving. Therefore, in times of great depression, lie thought the principle of tenant right was a good one for landlords. Then his Bill provided general powers applicable to all Ireland. There were powers with regard to the arrangements of rent without going through the process of notice to quit, and there were greater facilities introduced in what were called the Bright Clauses. All these were most important provisions, and he trusted that they would consider that everything that could be done by any possibility for persons in the present state of agriculture ought to bed done. He thought the time had fairly arrived whom the House might well deal with the question. The Land Act had done a great deal; but, in the opinion of everyone who had seen the working of it, it required some important alteration, and for that purpose he introduced the Bill, the second reading of which he now begged to move.
Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr.D.TaYlor.)
§ MR. GREGORY,
in moving, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, said, he objected to the Bill as containing provisions of a very objectionable character, and as being of too general an application to carry out the results professedly contemplated. The Bill was not one at all in the character of local application; but one which was of such an elastic nature that it might generally be applied to the relations of landlord and tenant, not only in Ireland, but throughout the United Kingdom. Instead of being an amendment, as it professed to be, of the Land Act of 1870, it appeared to him to be a violation of the principle on which that Act was framed. That Act was intended as a settlement of the Land Question, and this disturbance of its conditions was prejudicial to the interests of Ireland. The Bill proceeded on the assumption that one general custom prevailed throughout the Province of Ulster; but that assumption was negatived by the Land Act of 1670. According to the present law, the onus was thrown on the tenant of proving that the right in respect of which he claimed existed; but, by the present Bill, if it became 1234 law, the onus in question would be shifted from the tenant to the landlord. The presumption that the custom existed was to prevail, unless the landlord could disprove its existence. Then, again, the Bill sought to give the tenant a right to go to the Quarter Sessions Court and have his rent re-assessed by the Chairman of that Court. What did that provision really amount to? It would simply transfer the land to the tenant, arid reduce the landlord to the position of owner of a rent-charge on his own estate, the amount of the rent-charge to be fixed by a Court. Surely such a provision as that could not meet with the approval of the House of Commons. \Veil, it was said that the operation of the Bill was to be confined to the Province of Ulster. Did any hon. Member think for a moment that such would he the case? If the principle of the Bill were once established, could there be a doubt that there would be an effort made to extend it all over Ireland, if not all over the United Kingdom? The Preamble of the Bill stated that difficulties had arisen in the carrying of the provisions of the Land Act into effect. He (Mr. Gregory) had listened in vain to hear what these difficulties were. There might, no doubt, be difficulties in proving the existence of the custom or usage; but they were no greater than occurred every clay in proving disputed claims set up in respect of other matters. The hon. Member for Coleraine (Mr. D. Taylor) had stated that large deposits of money were being made by the tenants all over the Province, and he spoke of the flourishing condition of the tenantry. Well, were these reasons for changing the state of things under which the tenants so flourished as to be able to make large deposits? Little pressure, the hon. Gentleman added, was brought to bear upon the tenants. Was that a reason for passing such a Bill as the present? Could it be doubted that if the Bill were passed it would be used as a lever for its extension to the Provinces of which it could be said that the tenant farmers were not so prosperous as were these of the Province of Ulster? There were other grounds of objection to the Bill, one of which was the provision that the tenant's claim for compensation was not to be defeated by the fact of his accepting a renewed letting of his laud. But what could be a greater proof of his 1235 waiver of all claim for compensation than his voluntarily surrendering one contract and entering into another? Another objection was to be found in the proposal to alter the provision of the Land Act as to the amount to be advanced to the tenant, an alteration which he feared would leave a very narrow margin of security for the advance. The Bill was, in short, a violation of the rights of property. It would introduce a totally new principle into the relations between landlord and tenant by creating a new law and usage as against the landlord, and by practically reducing him to the position of an annuitant or owner of a rent-charge, and depriving him of all the incidences of ownership; and the House could not doubt that if these provisions were applied to Ulster they would soon be extended to the other Provinces of Ireland. He begged to move the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this clay three months."(Hr. Gregory.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word ' now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. LAW
in rising to support the Bill, said, with reference to the observations of the last speaker (Mr. Gregory), he (Mr. Law) would admit that it was difficult to get English Members to understand the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland. They seemed, in fact, to require fresh explanation every year. Accordingly it had been just stated that no ground existed to justify the introduction of this Bill; but he (Mr. Law) hoped to show that there were good reasons for the proposals of his hon. Friend; and reasons which had been given, and more than once admitted to be sufficient even by hon. Members opposite. It was objected by the hon. Gentleman that the Bill contained a clause providing that the amount of money to be advanced by the Board of Works to tenants for the purchase of their holdings should be increased. He (Mr. Law) did not know if the hon. Gentleman was aware that the Committee which sat to consider the subject had unanimously recommended an increase, and, by a majority, an increase to the extent of four-fifths, as proposed by the Bill. The substance, However, of the proposal was that the 1236 amount should be increased. A still stranger mistake was made with respect to another provision, which was also unanimously recommended by the same Committee— namely, the repeal of the clauses of the Land Act, which forfeited the holding if the tenant assigned it without the consent of the Board. Prohibition of sub-letting and sub-division might be reasonable; but what difference did it make to the Board or the Treasury whether the mortgaged holding still remained vested in the original purchaser or his heir, or had been transferred to another subject to the charge? However, the Bill on this point also was founded on the Report of the Irish Land Act Committee. He would now refer to the leading provisions of the Bill, with respect to the Ulster custom of tenant right. The framers of the Bill had attempted to describe what was the essence of the Ulster custom, and he (Mr. Law) thought they had successfully made that attempt. Whom the Land Act of 1870 was under consideration, it was admitted that, whatever might be the subordinate variety of details in connection with the custom of tenant right, there was this in it under all its variations— namely, the right of sale. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) on that occasion observed, in reference to the custom, that although, as insisted by these who resisted the measure, the tenant right might wear a variety of forms, still these forms were all based on one common model; were all modifications of one substantial right, and that was the right of the tenant to sell his occupation. He (Mr. Law) too was glad to find that his right hon. and learned Friend opposite (the Attorney General for Ireland) did not disagree with that description of tenant right; for, in a speech which he made in that House some three years ago, he said it might he stated that under these tenant right usages the tenant had always a right of sale subject to the approval of the landlord. It therefore seemed to him (Mr. Law) that the Bill of his hon. Friend very properly took the right of selling as the thing to be described. Well, Then, if that rightly described the essence of tenant right, was it a reasonable thing to impose on the tenant the obligation of proving that the custom existed on his particular holding? It was notorious 1237 that the custom existed in 99 cases out of a 100 holdings in Ulster, and it appeared to him (Mr. Law) to be only in conformity with common sense to make the presumption in favour of what was general, and not in favour of what was exceptional. However notorious its existence might be, there was often difficulty in the tenants proving it. Difficulties, too, were thrown in his way now which did not exist originally; and it could not be denied that he had not the same facilities for proving that the custom existed which the landlord had for proving its non-existence in any particular instance. One of the County Court Judges, in Ulster, said, in a case brought before him in 1875, that since the passing of the Land Act every case was contested, and that the tenant right, which, before 1870, had been universally admitted, was now almost as universally denied. Another Judge said, in 1876, that though he felt bound to say that in the case of the large estates no difficulties were placed in the tenants way, yet, whore there were new proprietors, especially of small estates, he almost invariably found that efforts were made to baffle and render nugatory the Land Act of 1670. Just consider for a moment the position of the tenant. An estate, for instance, might be sold in small lots, and years afterwards how was the tenant on one of these lots to prove that his holding was once part of that large estate, and that the custom prevailed on the estate whom it all belonged to one landlord? He could produce none of the title deeds. The only means he had of proving the original unity of the estate was, that as long as persons lived who remembered the payment of rent by all to the same landlord he could bring the forward; but, surely, that could not be regarded as a satisfactory foundation for the tenant's title. Accordingly, another County Court Judge, the other day, said that in Ulster the law ought to provide that the presumption should be in favour of the tenant right in its largest form, leaving to the landlord the onus of disproving its existence or restricting it, and added that he hoped sincerely there would be legislation upon this point. It was notorious that in Ireland the tenants generally made the improvements; and, therefore, in the Land Act of 1870, the Legislature very properly enacted the presumption that they belonged to the tenant, unless the contrary could be 1238 proved by the landlord. Now, in reason land fairness, on whom should the burden of proof in this case rest? Should it rest on the tenant, in a tenant-right county, or should it lie on the landlord to disprove it? He should like to know how this matter stood in Lincolnshire; and whether it was in each case necessary for a tenant to prove that the custom of the country affected his holding. But, However that might be, he (Mr. Law) submitted that it was desirable and right to make the presumption in favour of the custom which Parliament had declared to be "prevalent in the Province of Ulster," as was proposed by the 2nd clause of this Bill. But exception had been taken to the part of the description of tenant right which qualified the right of selling in two respects; first, that it must be subject to a "fair rent:" and, secondly, to a person to whom the landlord should not make "reasonable objection." Here, again, the hon. Gentleman had fallen into au error. The Irish Courts had repeatedly laid down that the rent could not be indefinitely raised, and that the landlord could not object to a purchaser without good cause, and thus, in effect, prevent the tenant from selling. Was it an unfair thing to ask that the landlord should make only a reasonable objection? That was what the Ulster custom always was. He did not believe that any Ulster landlord, many of whom he saw on the benches opposite, would support the hon. Member for East Sussex in his view. What was the language used by two Lords Chief Justices, both of whom were taken from the other side of the House? Chief Justice Whiteside used the same language as Chief Justice Morris—" It must be a reasonable objection, otherwise the right of the tenant might be absolutely destroyed." That was simply a true description of the existing tenant right. Under these circumstances, he did not think any hon. Member would say that the proposal contained in the clause was a very extravagant one. With respect to the principle of the 4th clause, that had been affirmed by the Courts over and over again. His right hon. and learned Friend (the Attorney General for Ireland) knew that the mode of transferring these holdings was not by deed, but by what legally amounted to a surrender to the landlord and a re-letting to the new tenant or assignee; and whom, in 1870, it 1239 was proposed to make the non-payment of money inconsistent with the existence of tenant right, it was shown that the adoption of such a clause would tend to abolish the custom in the majority of cases. With regard to office restrictions on the price for which a farm was to be sold, he would remind the House that it had long been a crime for officers in the Army to take more or give more than a regulated price for their commissions; and yet, after more than a century of trial, that prohibition was found and admitted by Parliament to he futile. As the Report of 1870 truly said—Where one man has something of value to sell which can legally be sold, and another man is desirous of purchasing it, it has been found useless to prescribe by lay or regulation the precise terms on which the sale shall be effected.Accordingly, whom Purchase in the Army was abolished, compensation was given by the Legislature, not on the regulation prices, but on the actual value of the Commissions. Just in the same way with respect to tenant right— no matter what regulation prices might be prescribed by some landlords or agents— everyone knew that in fact the full market value was paid by every purchaser; and before the passing of the Land Act, if the landlord took up a holding from his tenant, he paid the full price for it, or, if he did not, was regarded as having violated the custom. He now came to a clause of considerable importance. applicable to the whole of Ireland, and that was the one with regard to the ascertainment of fair rents. There was no doubt that, so far as his inquiries went, the grievance of the tenants was not so much wholesale eviction, but having to undertake to pay more for their farms than they could really afford to pay. Landlords were forced by the existing law, though they merely desired to raise the rents of their tenants, to serve ejectments upon the; but along with the ejectments went notices to the effect that they would not be proceeded with in the event of the tenants agreeing to an increase in their rents. Now, what the Bill proposed was this— it gave the Chairman power to arbitrate between the parties and to fix a fair rent. At present, he could only order the eviction of the tenant, which the landlord did not desire, and give to the tenant compensation for disturbance, which he did want. His hon. Friend proposed to provide machinery whereby 1240 the Chairman could do for each party that which each desired to have done. In conclusion, he (Mr. Law) submitted that this and the other provisions of the Bill which was applicable to all parts of Ireland would work substantial good, and would tend to the mutual good understanding of landlord and tenant. He must say it was somewhat curious that the first to take up the discussion should be the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for East Sussex; but lie trusted that before the debate closed the House would be assisted by some of these hon. Gentlemen opposite whose connection with Ireland, and especially with Ulster, enabled the to speak with authority upon the subject. Meantime, he ventured to express a hope that the House would favourably consider the measure of his hon. Friend.
MR. A. GATHERNE-HARDY
said, that after listening to the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Law), he did not feel more favourably disposed towards this Bill than previously. The statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the 2nd, 3rd, and clauses of the Bill were merely declaratory of the existing law could scarcely be accepted as correct; although the right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to have established the fact, as far as he himself was concerned, that the measure he supported was unnecessary. The hon. Members in charge of the measure (Mr. D. Taylor) had objected to the opposition to it proceeding from England; but until hon. Members representing Irish constituencies were successful in obtaining that Home Rule for which they sought, English Members could not divest themselves of responsibility whom great principles were at stake, merely because the measure was one relating to Ireland; although, of course, the opinions of hon. Members from that country should receive special consideration whom advanced on the subject of land tenure. The course which had been taken of late by hon. Members opposite was not calculated to induce the House to make concessions to the sister country. Some years ago, in the time of that eminent man, Sir Johan Gray, whose services would never be forgotten by his country, whom £80,000,000 were handed over from the landlords to the tenants, the Land Question was practically settled, and he (Mr. A, Hardy) protested 1241 against the course adopted by hon. Gentlemen from Ireland who came to the House year after year, like Irish Oliver Twists, asking for more. The question, therefore, was, could that House in fairness, justice, or prudence, make any further concessions to the Irish tenants at the expense of their landlords? He thought not. As had been already stated, the so-called Ulster tenant-right custom was, in truth, no custom at all, but a mere collection of varying usages, which differed in every county and in every parish in the North of Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Law) said that one usage was common to the whole of the Ulster custom— namely, the power to sell. Now, granting that was so, though there was the power to sell, yet the way in which that power was exercised widely varied in the circumstances and the manner in which it was exercised. The principle of the measure was contained in its first five clauses. By its 2nd clause, which might be said to be the most important, it was intended to shift the burden of proof from the tenant on to the landlord; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite considered that reasonable, because, if the customs were known and notorious, there would be no difficulty in the tenant proving this. But, nevertheless, he (Mr. A. Hardy) could not see the justice of throwing on the landlord the burden of proving a negative, and he could not conceive how, except in cases where the estate had been in the same family for a very longtime, the landlord could satisfy a tribunal that the custom did not exist, especially whore the general feeling was strongly in favour of the Ulster custom. With regard to the 3rd clause, in the absence of proof of special custom, the existence of a lease ought to be accepted as the strongest proof that the custom did not apply. In reference to the 4th clause, he did not object to the continuance of the right of sale where that right already existed; but he objected to the custom being forced upon the rest of the country. The 5th clause proposed to effect a change in the law which was most objectionable, in as much as it altogether took the control of their property out of their hands, by compelling the to accept any tenant who might purchase the right of succession to a farm, irrespective of his solvency. Surely there was no justification for removing from 1242 the landlord, in the manner proposed, all restrictions over his tenant, all control over his property in this respect. As to the question of valuation and rent, he did not see why that element should not be settled by contract rather than by arbitration. For these reasons, he should support the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory).
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
took exception to the remarks made by the last speaker, the hon. and learned Member for Canterbury Mr. A. Hardy). The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to what took place some years ago, when £80,000,000 was handed over to the tenants of Ireland from the landlords, and he stated that it was unfair to come to the House year after year to seek to amend the Land Act. In his (Colonel Colthurst's) opinion, the Bill was not intended in any way to interfere with the Act of 1870; it merely sought to confer on tenants the privileges intended to be granted by the Act of 1870; but which, by some obscurities in the Act, and by decisions of the Courts, tenants did not receive. In doing that he contended that they were only endeavouring to obtain what was just and fair. He thought that in this question of rent the privilege they gave to the landlord should be given to the tenant; and he, therefore, hoped the House would favourably consider the Bill. The essence of the Ulster custom was, that the rent should be a fair and reasonable one in accordance with the custom of the neighbourhood; and though it might be subject to a rise, owing to a sudden increase in the price of land, or any, commodity, rent could net be raised by any act of the tenant or his predecessor on the farm. Therefore, if they recognized tenant right at all, they must recognize some arbitration outside either the tenant or landlord, by the establishment of tribunals for the settlement of fair and reasonable rents. The Ulster custom imperfectly provided for that; but in other parts of Ireland there was no such provision; and if a landlord wished to increase his rent, he must do so by means of a notice to quit. These notices might be, and often were, misunderstood, and many notices to quit had been quoted as instances of eviction. Therefore, in the interest of the landlord, it would be an advantage to have a tribunal to settle these disputed questions otherwise than by notice to quit. The 1243 Bill also provided for an appeal by the tenant in these cases whore his rent appeared excessive; and he should have been glad if his hon. Friend the Member for Coleraine(Mr. D. Taylor) had gone further, following the advice of Chief Justice Whiteside, whose words were, speaking of the Ulster tenant right-That the principle which had worked so beneficially in Ulster should be extended to the rest of Ireland.But the Bill as it stood would, in his opinion, work considerable good, and he would ask the House to give it a second reading.
§ The ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (MR. GIBSON)
said, that to his great regret there was but little time, indeed, only a few minutes, left to him to make some remarks upon the Bill; and he must necessarily, therefore, be brief. He was sure that everyone would be desirous of doing anything that would benefit and advance the position of the tenants of Ireland, and these for whom this Bill was intended— namely, the farmers of Ulster. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. D. Taylor) had stated that that had been his object in introducing the Bill; but he did not think that the hon. Gentleman himself, in his moderate and fair speech, had made out ally case in the circumstances of that part of Ireland to which the Bill referred to justify any considerable change being made in the state of the law. He clearly stated that there were very few cases of hardship existing between tenant and landlord, and mentioned that there was great agricultural depression existing in all parts of the country except in Ulster. Looking at these statements, he (the Attorney General for Ireland) certainly did not think that they were calculated to bring the House to think that any change in the direction proposed by the Bill was required in that part of Ireland. Then his right hon. and learned Friend opposite (Mr. Law) took two or three cases out of the records of the County Courts to show that hardships had existed, and referred to judgments—one in the year 185, another in the year 1876, and another in the year 1879; but he failed to point out that the result of these decisions was that the present law was incapable of dealing with such cases. The Courts were open to the tenants just as 1244 they were open to the landlords. If the Judges had a case of hardship brought before the, they did not hesitate to say so, and punish the landlord by giving the tenant full measure of justice. What did the Bill ask to do in the main? It sought to do what was an admitted impossibility, and that was to give a hard-and-fast definition of the Ulster tenant right custom. It must be conceded that the usages of the tenant-right custom were numerous and very extensive in their incidents, and that they differed widely even in the same county, and, he believed, sometimes in the same parish. What the Bill proposed to do was not only to shift the onus of proof, but to assume against the landlord the strictest form of tenant right. That was a very stringent proposal, especially whom it was stated by the hon. Member who introduced the Bill that there was no real necessity for it. The hon. and learned Member fur Canterbury (Mr. A. Gathorne-Hardy), in the very clear and sensible remarks lie had made, had properly said that the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Law) had conclusively shown that Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill were unnecessary. He quite concurred in the view taken by the hon. and learned Member of Clause which appeared to him to be the clause which contained largely the principle of the Bill, and to it he had the strongest objection. It provided that the tenants should have the right of sale, and not only so, lint sale by auction, and should have the right to present to the landlord a tenant not to be selected by the ordinary mode of selection, but a tenant selected at the auction, after all the statements generally made at an auction. He wished to know was that a hind of clause which could be accepted by any reasonable man, or whether it would be reasonable for a landlord to accept a tenant who had been selected for him by the rough process of an auction? The principle that right of sale by public auction should be held by the tenant was condemned in 1675 by the noble Lord the I Leader of the Opposition (the Marquess of Hartington), and the clause now appeared again at the end of five years. Therefore, be was entitled to say that the clause in question was of the greatest importance in considering the Bill. But what was the case? However important the clause, he (the Attorney General for Ireland) had noticed that the hon. 1245 Member for Coleraine (Mr. D. Taylor) had passed it over without alluding to a single syllable contained in it. Then there was another provision in the Bill, and it was that the tenant might sell without having reference to restrictions as to the price which might have been placed upon the property previously. A landlord might wish to get a solvent tenant, and, in the interests of his tenants and his estates, would not have an impoverished tenant, or one who would give an extravagant price for the land at an auction, and might not desire any person to farm his estate who had given more than five or ten years' purchase. But the clause said in effect—although a tenant might have been restricted from giving for his tenancy more than five years' purchase, yet ho might turn round and dispose of Ins holding by private sale or by auction. He could not see how this could be accepted without grave qualification, and could only imagine that these provisions had been put in the Bill merely with the object of catching a stray vote or two in Ireland. Under those circumstances, and others, he was unable to support the Bill before the House.
§ MR. GOLDNEY
regarded the measure as a most extraordinary one, and contended that it sought to interfere with a most important principle. The hon. Member was proceeding—
And it being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes before Six o'clock.