§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.),
in rising to move, as an Amendment, at the end of the 10th paragraph, to add—And humbly to express regret that it is not proposed to inquire into the exceptional position of agricultural holders in Scotland bound under 19 years' leases, contracted and entered upon prior to the recent serious fall in the prices of all agricultural produce; a fall which has rendered stipulated rents inequitable, and in many 1416 cases impossible, under the altered circumstances of the Country; the operation of which leases, especially those still covered by the Law of Hypothec, tends to prevent the full development of the productive capabilities of the land,said that, in reference to the appeal which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, he could assure the House that he had no desire to discuss the question raised in the Amendment in a manner which might be considered in any way obstructive to Public Business. The Amendment which had been put upon the Paper by the hon. Member for Somerset (Sir Richard Paget) showed the importance of the interest taken in the subject of agriculture on both sides of the House. He should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the subject had been pressed upon Her Majesty's Government, both in the present and in the last Parliaments. About 12 months ago a Memorial was presented to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) on behalf of the tenant farmers of Scotland. That Memorial was signed by some 1,400 Scotch tenants, who were bound under leases, in the course of a very few days, and in the middle of a very severe snowstorm. The defeat of the right hon. Gentleman's Government put an end to any further progress in regard to the Memorial; but the Secretary for Scotland was waited upon by a deputation of Scotch farmers, and the right hon. Gentleman knew how strongly they had pressed this matter upon his attention. The right hon. Gentleman, who received the deputation with the greatest courtesy, expressed some doubts as to the prudence of the House of Commons interfering to put an end to existing contracts. He (Mr. Esslemont) at once admitted the difficulty of the position. About a year ago the question was discussed in that House, and the Secretary for Scotland would not deny that the vote on that occasion was of such a kind as to show that the feeling of the country was in favour of, at all events, an inquiry into the subject. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would understand that he did not intend his Amendment as anything like an ill-natured Vote of Censure upon them. It was rather a Motion of remonstrance, and appeal for consideration. He did not ask that the Government should 1417 commit itself to any definite course of conduct. All he asked was that, in some form, Her Majesty's Government might direct an inquiry into the circumstances of the tenant farmers in Scotland who were now bound under 19 years' leases. His appeal was on behalf of those leaseholders who had entered upon their leases prior to the existing circumstances of agriculture, and before the abolition of the Law of Hypothec. The Commission appointed by the House of Lords brought out the fact that the competition for farms, and the consequent high rents that prevailed in consequence of the operation of the Law of Hypothec, were admitted on all sides. Those who had entered into leases prior to 1880 were placed in a position which those who had taken their farms since 1881 could not be placed in. The landlord had an opportunity of following the stock on the farm, and applying it to the payment of rent, within a period of two years; and they had also the security of calling upon the tenant to give security for his rent, even before it was due. The consequence was that, in spite of the enormous fall in prices, the landlord was secure of his rent, although every other creditor should go without one farthing. He admitted that it should not be the purpose of the Government to interfere lightly with existing contracts; but he submitted that it might be necessary, under exceptional circumstances, for the Government to interpose to relieve one of the parties to the covenant, if there had been such a change of circumstances as to make this interposition necessary and desirable in the common interests of the country. [Mr. BIGGAR: Oh!] He understood that the Government had given an assurance to the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) that, if he had an opportunity of bringing forward his Bill on what was practically the same subject, they would be prepared to apply the Irish Land Act to leases which had hitherto been excluded. He claimed for the farmers in Scotland that they had not been riotous; they had not done any of those things which the Government said ought to militate against the people on the other side of the Channel; they had been a law-abiding and industrious people; and they had been uncomplaining and long-suffering to the very last degree. They had not brought their case before the House until they had found it to be a 1418 real necessity. Therefore, he hoped the Government would listen the more readily to their appeal, and give him the assurance given to the hon. Member for South Tyrone, that they would be willing lo apply existing law to current leases. He would now prove that the circumstances of the tenant farmer were such as could not have been foreseen or provided against by any prudent man. That he would do from the evidence given in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Depression of Trade. In that Report Sir James Caird stated that in this country the revenue for agriculture was £42,000,000 per annum less than it was prior to 1880, and that the tenant farmers, apart altogether from the proprietors, had borne £20,000,000 of that loss. Under 19 years' leases in Scotland they were bearing the burden of those £20,000,000, and were, therefore, providing a rent for the land which, on the evidence of the Commission, was not in the land, and which could not be got out of the land. The question, then, was, whether those poor farmers were to be financially bled to death under the Law of Hypothec? The landlords had a powerful temptation to keep them as long as they could, for they knew that, in present circumstances, the farms would yield them a third less rent if let to new tenants, and they were prepared to take as much as they could get. It would be said that he was advocating an interference with sound fiscal and economic law. But the Law of Bankruptcy came in, and said that when a man was insolvent there should be no preference given to one creditor over another, and that the estate should be fairly divided in proportion to the claims of the creditors. Under 19 years' leases, there was certainly the reverse of that law. The landlord had it in his power to hold the poor tenant to his lease, with just as much as would pay him the arrears and the current rent; and he had a powerful temptation to do so, because he knew that if there was to be a change he could not let his farm, except at about a reduction of a third of the present rent. He did not say that all landlords were hardhearted and obdurate. In the county, for instance, to which he belonged, the Nobleman who had held the position of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (the Earl of Aberdeen), who was a large landowner, had met his tenants fairly, by giving them the option of renouncing their 1419 leases, or taking re-valuation. He (Mr. Esslemont) would not ask so much as that. He thought it probable that if all leaseholders in Scotland had an opportunity of renouncing their leases tomorrow, there might be so many farms thrown upon the market as to place the landlords at a disadvantage. But he would give the option to the landlord, and he would say that it was perfectly fair that the landlord should meet the tenant in either of two ways—either that he should allow the renunciation of the lease, with the privileges of an outgoing tenant under the Agricultural Holdings Act; or, if he was not prepared to renounce the lease, he should submit it to some suitable tribunal to say whether the tenant was rack-rented, and whether it was possible for him to remain on the farm without ruin to himself. And if the tribunal decided that it was possible for him to remain on the farm without ruin, then the tenant ought to remain. But he held that it was not possible. The figures which were laid before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had not been disputed—they had been entirely borne out by the evidence given to the Royal Commission on Trade. It appeared from the figures given by Sir James Caird before that Commission that wheat had fallen from 59s. 2d. in 1874 to 29s. 4d. in 1886; barley, from 44s. 4d. to 24s.; oats, from 30s. to 22s. 4d.; potatoes, per ton, from prices ranging from 65s. to 100s. in 1874 to 45s. to 70s. in 1886; beef, per stone, was 9s. to 11s. in 1874, and 7s. to 8s. 3d. in 1886; mutton, per lb., was 9d. to 10¼d. in 1874, and 6d. to 8¼d. in 1886; Highland wool was 12s. to 17s. in 1874, and 11s. to 12s. in 1885; Cheviot wool was 28s. to 40s. in 1874, and 17s. to 29s. in 1885–6; cheese, per cwt., 68s. to 82s. in 1874, and 45s. to 65s. in 1885–6. In an average of 10 years, from 1871 to 1880, the average price of the three white crops was 14s. 3d., and on the 2nd of February last it was 9s., being a decrease of more than a third. Taking the prices all over, as far as he could ascertain, the yield of an acre of land was at least £2 less now than it was in the 10 years prior to 1880; and he appealed to the House whether, under these circumstances, it was possible for any existing tenant to pay a rent fixed in those years without paying it out of his accumulated savings, or out of that which belonged to his 1420 creditors? He should be met, no doubt, with the objection—and it was a fair objection—that 19 years' leases were considered, both by landlords and tenants, to be profitable in the interests of agriculture for the whole of this century prior to 1880. He did not deny that statement; but he would call attention to the fact that the rents under the 19 or 21 years' leases were originally intended to be a proportion of the produce of the land. It was found convenient for the landlords, and it was a their instigation, that this yield of at proportion of the produce of the land was turned into a money payment. If the rent under the 19 years' leases in Scotland had continued as a proportion of the yield of the land, there would have been comparatively little injustice felt by the tenants in Scotland, because the landlord of to-day would have been receiving only 9s. instead of 14s. 3d., or, practically, one-third less rent than he now received. Thereby there would have been a reduction of from 25 to 40 per cent in the present rents in Scotland. Then it might be asked—Why should you interfere with a bargain entered into by two men with their eyes open to relieve one who had made a bad speculation? He was willing to admit that both landlords and tenants were to blame for the existence of the 19 years' leases. If it could be proved that the parties entered into the bargain on equal terms, he would have little sympathy with any demand for interference; but they did not enter into the leases on equal terms. These conditions in regard to hypothec, game, and the confiscation of tenants' improvements, were universal throughout Scotland, and the tenant had no option but either to leave his farm or to accept the terms that were offered to him. It was not until the passing of the Agricultural Holdings Act that the tenant right was recognized in any shape or form by Scotch law. He thought it had been admitted that that Act had not gone far enough. It did not meet the circumstances of the country at the present time; but it had introduced an important principle, which must be applied still further before it could do justice or give satisfaction. If the Secretary for Scotland had done right in appealing to landlords to give reductions of rent, as the more humane and generous of them 1421 were doing, why could it be wrong for the House to intervene on behalf of those landlords who would not give reductions, and who insisted on exacting their full pound of flesh? Parliament must in many such cases interfere, particularly if the exaction of the law was against the interests of the country generally. His contention was that, under the existing conditions, it was impossible for the tenants to do that justice to the land which they ought to do. He did not ask that the House should go to any very great length. He would be content if he had an assurance from the Government that they would inquire into the circumstances; and if he had some assurance that a full inquiry would be made with the view of meeting the exigencies of the case, he should not press his Amendment to a Division. But if, on the other hand, the Government said that nothing could be done for these tenants, and that the landlords must go on exacting their pound of flesh, he considered the case was so urgent that he would feel himself bound to take the sense of the House on the Amendment.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn),
in rising to second the Amendment, said, he felt very much indebted to his hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont) for having brought forward such an important question. The facts were beyond dispute—that there had been an enormous reduction of prices of agricultural produce, and that under leases fixed at a time of high prices there must be an enormous loss. Suppose that a farmer eight or 10 years ago took a farm at £500 of rent. He would naturally spend in his manure and labour bill, &c, £1,000, so that £1,500 would have to be made by him out of the produce of the farm before there was any profit. Supposing the value of the produce was reduced 33 per cent—which he took to be an average reduction—that would at once make £500 of loss a-year. That had been going on for years, with the result that many farmers had been ruined, many more were being ruined, and the only men who were able to hold out were men of capital who clung on to the last, hoping for better times. If that was not a case for interference by Parliament, he should like to know what case could be mentioned in which Parliament ought to interfere? The answer given by the Scotch Secretary the other day at Edinburgh was—"Oh! you must 1422 not interfere in the case of voluntary contracts made between private individuals." Those agricultural contracts, however, were very different from the ordinary mercantile contracts. In many cases they were not voluntary contracts. The landlords had a monopoly, and when times were good and everybody was rushing into farming, they did not scruple to make the most they could out of the tenants; and farmers had no option but to renew their leases or to leave the farm on which they expended their capital, or adopt the other panacea—emigrate. If the tenant left his farm he would receive no compensation; and, as he did not wish to leave the neighbourhood, the result usually was that he signed the lease. Therefore this was a case in which Parliament might interfere. Parliament had often interfered with voluntary contracts before. The Conservative Party boasted of the part they took in the Factory and Workshops Acts. He could scarcely expect hon. Gentlemen opposite to take the same view on this question—which was one between landlord and tenant. Whenever that was brought forward, hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, who chiefly represented the landlord class, said—"Oh, you are going to interfere with the sacredness of voluntary contracts." There was an outcry when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) brought in his Hares and Rabbits Bill; but the House interfered then, and it interfered in a very drastic manner under the Agricultural Holdings Act. The question was fully discussed in the last Parliament, when the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) proposed an Amendment; and he (Mr. Anderson) understood that the alternative which the hon. Member for Forfarshire proposed—and which was supported by many hon. Members—was that, in the case of existing leases, Parliament ought to interfere for the purpose of giving the tenant the option of putting an end to the lease or fix a fair rent. That was a reasonable proposal. Everybody knew that in Scotland there was no means of settling a fair rent. The rents were all fixed by the landlords. It would be a fair proposal that some independent valuer should be introduced, and he should be curious to hear what the Government had to say to that. He (Mr. Anderson) could not help thinking that on this question of the land the 1423 right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) was at a great disadvantage. He had stated in Scotland that he was most anxious to make his tenure of Office a success. He (Mr. Anderson) cordially wished him success. But the right hon. Gentleman was under a disadvantage in respect that he did not represent a Scotch constituency, and apparently he had some difficulty in getting into touch with the Scottish people. On many matters he had made remarks and expressed opinions which were certainly not held by the majority of the Scottish people. The Member of a Conservative Government was in a great difficulty. If he went to the very select band of Scotch Tory Members, he certainly would not find from them the opinion of Scotland on many questions, and especially upon questions relating to land. The right hon. Gentleman was in another difficulty in dealing with this Land Question—namely, that he was himself a landlord, and that he looked upon all these questions about land from a landlord's point of view. If the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the land was to be directed and dictated from a landlord's point of view, it was doomed to utter and entire failure. He was afraid from what the right hon. Gentleman had said the other day in Scotland that he still adhered to the view which he had often expressed—that on land questions there ought not to be any indulgence given to tenant farmers.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he deduced it from what the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech at Edinburgh. The right hon. Gentleman had also said to a deputation which waited upon him in regard to crofters' questions that, in his opinion, the crofter was a most fortunate person, and that the crofters were the most happily situated people on the face of the earth. He (Mr. Anderson) might also refer the right hon. Gentleman to the action he had taken in all legislation as between landlord and tenant, for on every possible occasion he had adopted and urged the views of the landlords, as against the tenants' interest. The matter was perfectly notorious. If they looked back to the debates on the Crofters' Act and the Agricultural 1424 Holdings Act, they would find that the great champions on the part of the landlords were the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division (Mr. Chaplin). They headed all the attacks against the tenants' interests. He hoped that in this matter the Government would not adopt a hostile attitude on this question, and throw itself entirely on the landlords' side. There were, no doubt, many good landlords in Scotland—there were many in his own constituency. But there were also many landlords who could not be so described. In Scotland the policy of the landlords at the present time was discredited. It was a policy which was not favoured or accepted in Scotland. There was a very strong feeling that in the past the landlords had not treated their tenants in the way to which they were entitled. There was a strong feeling that the rights of the tenants should be extended. That was a burning question, and the right hon. Gentleman must not deal with it in the way he had done with former questions between landlord and tenant. Anyone who had any doubt upon the matter should compare the political map of Scotland with what it was years ago. In the North of Scotland there had been a complete clearance of the lairds from political power. One of the first things which the people did the moment they got political power was to make this return; and it was not an unjust return for those shameful agricultural clearances which had taken place in the Highlands of Scotland. The Amendment gave the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland an opportunity of at once getting up and closing the discussion. They were anxious not to waste the time of the House. The right hon. Gentleman would save time by getting up and telling them that in some form—not in the form of an Amendment to the Address, but in some other form—he was willing to grant the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont) the inquiry he desired. He should have thought that that was a course which Her Majesty's Government would have taken readily. A few months ago inquiries were the very things they seemed to desire; and he could not help thinking that, among the many inquiries they had issued, none was more important than that which was now asked for.
At the end of the 10th paragraph, to insert the words—"And humbly to express regret that it is not proposed to inquire into the exceptional position of agricultural holders in Scotland bound under nineteen years' leases, contracted and entered upon prior to the recent serious fall in the prices of all agricultural produce; a fall which has rendered stipulated rents inequitable, and in many cases impossible, under the altered circumstances of the Country; the operation of which leases, especially those still covered by the Law of Hypothec, tends to prevent the full development of the productive capabilities of the land."—(Mr. Esslemont.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
said, he did not rise for the purpose of making a speech, but to give expression to a protest. Like the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment (Mr. Esslemont and Mr. Anderson) he (Mr. Haldane) represented an agricultural constituency; and he took the side of the tenants, the miners, and the farm labourers. He (Mr. Haldane) belonged to the Radical Party, and he thought the debate on the Address had been protracted to a degree incompatible with the public interest. If the case for legislative interference which the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Esslemont) submitted was one of urgency, why did he proceed in that fashion? Why did he not bring it forward as a Bill or Resolution, or as an additional provision to one of the Bills shortly coming before the House, instead of taking a course calculated more than any other to paralyze the House and render it incapable for the performance of those duties which had been committed to it as a trust. As to the other Amendments on the Paper he (Mr. Haldane) said nothing. One of them in particular—that of the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron)—appeared to him to stand on a somewhat different footing; but, as regarded the present Amendment, he appealed to the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire not to persist in it. The hon. Member, he was sorry to find, would insist. He felt it to be his duty to protest against the course the hon. Member had thought fit to take—to protest in the interests of the dignity of the House and of the trust committed to him and others by their constituents—and, having uttered that protest, he 1426 would leave the House, and refuse to listen any longer to the discussion on the Amendment.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
Sir, I think that the protest which the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire (Mr. Haldane) has just made has emphasized the extraordinary course which has bean taken in this matter by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Esslemont). The inconvenience of raising every possible grievance on the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne is one which has been steadily growing of late years, and has now reached a point which practically debars us from dealing with the Business of this House until, at least, a fortnight after the usual time. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Esslemont) has been good enough to state that he did not mean his Motion to be taken in the nature of a Vote of Censure upon, the Government; but the fact is that the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, from the very nature of the case, can only be considered as a Vote of Censure. If it were carried we should, under Constitutional usage, feel obliged to resign. We oppose the inquiry asked for, because we believe that the House now is in possession of every information which is possible after inquiry upon the question. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment (Mr. Anderson) states that I regard the whole question raised by it from a landlord's point of view, and that I am not likely to meet his views as Minister for Scotland, partly because I am not a Scotch Member, and partly because I am a Scotch landlord. Well, I should like to tell the House what I told a deputation which I received at Edinburgh. I stated to that deputation then—and I repeat it now—that, so far as my advice and my voice can carry, I would advise the landlords of Scotland not to act strictly and harshly within the letter and the terms of contracts made in times when matters were more prosperous and prices more favourable to agriculturists; and, further, I would advise the landlords to meet their tenants half-way, and this advice I gave not only in the interest of the tenants, but of the landlords themselves. But the hon. Gentleman opposite, and those who take his view, appear to 1427 me to confound the principles of morality with the principles of the law. They ask the Government to make the landlords do that which they should do of their own accord, but which it is not desirable that the House should compel them to do. Before I come to consider the Motion which the hon. Gentleman has placed before us, I would say that there are not many landlords in Scotland who enforce against their tenants the strict letter of their contracts made in 1874. [Cries of "No, no!" and "Yes!"]
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I called the attention of the House also to the case of trustees who are not empowered to give tenants reductions on existing contracts.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
These are questions with regard to which the Government are prepared to give full consideration; but the House knows that it is not the case of the trustees of estates, but of the landlords, that the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire has raised. But I will ask this question—Does the hon. Member mean to tell the House that there are many landlords in Scotland who have insisted in dealing with their tenants upon the strict letter of the bargains they made in the year 1874, and have compelled their tenants to fulfil to the uttermost those contracts which were entered into when agriculture was in a very different condition to what it is now? I venture to say that very few landlords have acted in this spirit with reference to their tenants.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman says that many landlords have done so; but this I do not admit. I do not say that there are no landlords who have maintained the terms of their leases made in 1874 intact. All I say is that when the terms of those leases have become hard to bear in consequence of the fall in prices of agricultural produce there are very few landlords in Scotland who have not shown a desire to reconsider the terms of those contracts. Now, Sir, passing to the inquiry which is asked for by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, I may say that there are two conditions which should be fulfilled before an inquiry of this kind is granted First, the inquiry should have reference to a matter with regard to which the House is ignorant; and, secondly, it should have reference 1428 to a matter in respect to which a remedy is possible. I apprehend that neither of these conditions is fulfilled in the present case. I was amused to hear the hon. Gentleman the Seconder of the Amendment assure us that the facts are beyond dispute. If that is so, what do we want with an inquiry? My second objection is that an inquiry is useless unless you think that out of an inquiry will spring some possible remedy. Now, the Government are not prepared to suggest the only remedy of which the hon. Gentleman has given an indication—the breaking of agricultural contracts by force of law. They are not prepared to support an inquiry which must end in that suggestion or nothing. The hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn says I expressed doubt to the deputation with whom I had an interview in Edinburgh as to the possibility of doing anything; but I think he put the proposition rather more mildly than I did. I did not express doubt. I expressed a conviction that on the lines on which he would proceed there would be a considerable loss to public morality and no compensating advantage to any class in the community. To that opinion expressed, not harshly, but decidedly, I and my Colleagues still adhere. An inquiry such as the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeenshire proposes would raise hopes that cannot possibly be fulfilled, and would suggest to the minds of all connected with agriculture the idea that this House is prepared with a remedy, which, in fact, it is not. For this reason—if for no other—I would ask the House to pause before it sanctions this proposal. The hon. Member desires us by legislation to break contracts deliberately and freely entered into by independent parties. I am much astonished at some observations made by the hon. Gentleman the Seconder of the Amendment—who, I believe, is a lawyer—because he seemed to me to confound the forbidding the making of contracts with the breaking of contracts already existing. I think the House should look very jealously at the first of these proposals, and should be very cautious in saying that independent and presumably sane individuals should not enter into this or that contract; but that is a very different thing from breaking existing contracts by legislation. The hon. Gentleman quoted the Hares and Rabbits 1429 Bill—that legislative triumph, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). There are one or two other Agricultural Acts which lay down that landlords shall not make certain contracts with tenants; but those afford no parallel to breaking contracts entered into consistently with law. Nor does the Workshops' Act—to which he referred—afford a parallel to this case of 19 years' leases. The hon. Member and others dissented when I referred to these contracts as freely entered into; but how is that denial consistent with the fact, already admitted, that 19 years' leases were the favourite expedient, not of the landlords, but of the tenants?
§ MR. ESSLEMONT
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I said they were entered into not on behalf of the tenants more than of the landlord.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is admitted by the hon. Gentleman that 19 years' leases were as much liked by the tenant as by the landlord; and I say they were much more liked by the tenant than by the landlord. If the hon. Member doubts this, let him look back at the debates which from time to time have taken place here upon agricultural questions prior to the time when bad times began to come upon us. In those days tenants gained advantages during the currency of a 19 years' lease—for the value of land rose during the period—and before the end of his term he found he had made a very good bargain. In those days hon. Members were fond of drawing the comparison between the Scotch tenant farmers and their less fortunate brethren, the tenants from year to year. How, then, can we accept the proposition that the parties to the agreement did not make it freely? The truth is that in Scotland, more than elsewhere, landlord and tenant are joint capitalists working a business. They are partners in a business—each contributing his share of capital—the landlord contributing to it considerably, apart from the value of the land. If hon. Gentlemen will take the trouble to investigate the landlord's expenditure they will find the truth of my proposition, and they will find that, leaving out of account what has been called the prairie value of his land, he does not now get interest on his expenditure. If there are two contributors to the business how is it pos- 1430 sible for this House to interfere in their mutual arrangements, unless it is prepared to go much further, and to interfere in any contract between capitalists when the agreement is inconvenient to one or other of the parties? On what point of the downward track are you going to halt? How does the case of a tenant farmer under a 19 years' lease differ from the farmer who buys his farm intending to work it with his own capital? Suppose a man has laid out part of his capital in buying the farm, and the rest of his capital in providing stock to work it. Let us suppose he did this in 1874, which I take as the culmination period of agricultural prices and agricultural rents. He would have purchased at 30 years of the then net rental; and in what position would he be now? He would be worse off than the tenant farmer, for he would be unable to cast any portion of the burden on his landlord. The difference between the two would be simply this—that while the purchaser of the land has capitalized his outlay the tenant has not. The hardship would be equal, or rather harder on the man who had bought the land, than on the tenant who merely rented the farm. Shall we go back to his case, and afford him relief from the results that followed his purchase of land under the high prices of 1874? How can you draw a distinction? If you once enter upon such a course you will have your attention drawn to one hard case after another; and you cannot stop at agriculture. You must deal with wages, commercial contracts, the interest on loans, &c.; and a vast mass of agreements will be thrown before Parliament for it to say which of them shall be null and which shall be binding. The hon. Member tells us the system tends to prevent the full development of the practical capabilities of the land. That argument is used whenever an alteration is asked for in land legislation. It was used by those who tried to have the system of 19 years' leases extended to every tenancy. The reason why capital is not more largely invested in land is an obvious and very melancholy one—that capital so invested no longer pays interest. No alteration that the law yet can make will persuade people who have simply a commercial object in view to invest money in a business which has ceased to pay. You have 1431 in the past induced landlords to make large investments of capital which never paid much, and which do not pay at all now. They were ready to do so, because landed property was, at that time, supposed to carry with it certain advantages and pleasures of a more or less shadowy kind; but those shadowy benefits have vanished altogether now. Landlords were prepared to invest money for a small return. I do not know whether the recent course of legislation has tended to induce any man—tenant or landlord—to invest money in a business in which payment is so very precarious. The return is uncertain, even if there is no legislative interference. But the acceptance of proposals of the kind now before the House add to the evils consequent on bad seasons and foreign competition the still greater evils of legislative insecurity. It is because I believe that those evils, not to agriculture alone, but to every business, under the course suggested by the hon. Member, would eventually entail so much more serious misfortunes than any advantages his proposal may have, that, on behalf of the Government, I must meet the Amendment with an emphatic negative.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR (Kincardine),
in supporting the Amendment, said, it was an error of the Secretary for Scotland to inform the House that in former times the 19 years' lease was an advantage to the tenant; but it was not more an advantage to him than to the landlord. Indeed, the well-known Act which Lord Advocate Montgomery induced Parliament to pass in 1770 was solely in the interests of the holders of entailed estates, which were then so tied up by old Scotch Acts as to be left unfilled. Its great advantage was that it gave the tenant confidence, and thus was a stimulus to better cultivation of the land. On the whole, it worked more in the interest of landlords than of tenants. It was notorious that long leases on moderate rents enabled the tenants to make their improvements in land which the entailed holders had neither the power nor the money to carry out; and nearly all the reclamation, fencing, inclosing, draining, had been effected by tenants with long leases. But times had now changed. As the improvements such as the tenants formerly carried out on moderate rents ceased to be needed, 1432 the lands by undue competition became rack rented; and it was notorious that tenants who had entered on 19 years' leases before the fall of prices set in were being ruined at the present time. He (Sir George Balfour) thought that matters had arrived at such a pass that some relief should be given them. He thought that, at all events, some inquiry should be made, so that the true nature of the situation should be revealed, and that legislation should follow. He (Sir George Balfour) could not conclude without recognizing the great liberality and fairness of the Secretary for Scotland, who had in the debate and at the meeting at Edinburgh avowed his belief that landowners and tenants were joint shareholders, and should share in the diminished profits as well as losses in the farming operations. If those views were carried out by all landowners, many experienced farmers would be saved from bankruptcy and ruin.
§ MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
said, he quite agreed that the tenant farmers of Scotland were deserving of sympathy; he knew from experience that they had a wide field and fair play when they entered into these 19 years' leases. Hon. Members who seemed so anxious to get rid of the existing system of leases seemed to ignore altogether the fact that a few years ago, before the existing depression commenced, they did not hear one voice raised against these leases; and was this improving leases' system, which had existed for 150 years or thereabouts, and had worked well and successfully, to be uprooted and removed by an Act of Parliament, simply because they had depression in the country? A great deal had been said about hypothec; but if the argument held good that the landlords gained so much on hypothec, was it likely that he would let go a tenant who paid his rent under hypothec? Was it not more likely that he would treat them with leniency, and let them free of a portion of his rent. The landlords had shown great consideration to their tenants. He quite believed that there were thousands of instances in Scotland in which, if the full rent were exacted, tenants would be bankrupt in two or three years. It was proposed to put down these 19 years' leases; but he must remind the House 1433 that the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) had brought forward a Bill to have these agricultural leases made perpetual. How would perpetual leases do? Surely, if the leases were to be held in perpetuity, the tenant would fare far worse than he did now. He considered that this proposal to break up commercial obligations was so preposterous that he could not understand hon. Gentlemen coining there to advocate it in sincerity. He might be asked, being a landlord, what he knew about this question? But he wanted to ascertain who knew about the case? Was it hon. Members who went out of Lincoln's Inn, and went down to Scotland to raise up feelings of bitterness between landlord and tenant which they thought it would be to the advantage of this country to come under? He (Mr. Mark Stewart) trusted the good feeling which bad always prevailed between landlord and tenant in Scotland would long continue. If they were to have those periodical Acts of Parliament interfering with their private agreements, then they might say good-bye to capital, as well as to those friendly relations. In his view, it would be the most utter folly to bring such a question as that before the House of Commons in a responsible manner, and ask the Government to legislate upon it. He believed that the better way was to speak to such landlords as did not understand the question so well as those who were continuously supervising their estates, as he believed that if they knew the difficulties their tenants had to undergo they would do as many thousands had done—that they would amend the contracts and reduce the rents in many ways; but if they were to come into that House and say that Parliament was to interfere, he believed they would, instead of doing good, do a vast deal of harm. If such a Bill as that suggested were passed it would be simply sowing the seeds of animosity and bitterness between laud-lords and tenants in Scotland.
§ MR. SHIRESS WILL (Montrose, &c.)
said, he shared with the hon. Member opposite the desire to bring the debate to a close as early as possible. Reference had been made to a deputation which waited upon the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour); and he (Mr. Shiress Will) would read only one sentence 1434 from an opinion expressed on that occasion—Hard and disastrous times have come; and what are the equitable relations which ought to exist between two parties in business in the present circumstances? My view is that they should share the losses—that they should share the diminution of profits which have resulted from causes not under the control of either of the parties.He was happy to acknowledge that those were the words of the Secretary for Scotland, and after he read them he had great hope that the result of that discussion might be that the right hon. Gentleman would have seen his way to give some form and shape to the very excellent opinion he then expressed. But tonight the right hon. Gentleman had apparently drawn a distinction between moral law and some other kind of law. It was, in the right hon. Gentleman's view, a moral thing that losses should be shared, and that the tenant should be in some way relieved, but that it would be an immoral or in some way a wrong thing to attempt legislation in order to remedy the existing evil and bring about the moral and right thing. He (Mr. Shiress Will) was totally unable to follow the right hon. Gentleman in that argument. There was a great deal of talk on this matter about the sanctity of contract; but the fairway, he thought, was to carry the inquiry a step further back, and ask whether the reason assigned for disturbing a contract was or was not a good, sound, and moral reason; and if it was a good, sound, and moral reason, then could it be wrong to disturb a contract, provided the disturbing of it was for the benefit of the whole country? The right hon. Gentleman seemed unable to account for the fact that the Scotch tenants formerly preferred the 19 years' lease, but did so no longer. The reason was close at hand. In former times they had not the Agricultural Holdings Act to protect them, and no compensation for the improvements they made upon the land; and it was just and right that they should have a long lease to enable them to get out of the soil the capital they put into it; but now that Parliament had passed the Agricultural Holdings Act, the necessity for the 19 years' lease had, to a great extent, ceased. The Amendment of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont) was based, to a great extent, upon the exceptional circum- 1435 stances existing in Scotland. The Law of Hypothec gave the landlords great powers—much larger and more effective powers than the Law of Distress in England gave to English landlords. Besides that, the Scotch Act of Sederunt of 1756 entitled the landlord to insist on security for five years' rent if one year was in arrear, and provided for a forfeiture if two years' rent was in arrear. Such were the exceptional securities for his rent which the Scotch landlord enjoyed. Some alteration was made in the law in 1867; but substantially this exceptional security remained the law until the year 1880, when the Government of the Earl of Beaconsfield abolished the Law of Hypothec, but upon two conditions. One was that if the tenant was in arrears he should find security for one year's rent, instead of five years as before. Previous to 1880, under no conceivable circumstances could the landlord be a loser by the failure of his tenant; because the landlord had that security, and because it was no interest of his to seek for and get the best man; and all sorts of men entered the field, and there was an undue competition for the possession of vacant farms. The retired grocer or baker in the town, or some other tradesman, having possibly a fancy for a country life, desired to go into a farm, and accordingly offered an advanced rent to get it. What was the position of the farmer who had to meet this competition? He was not free to go, because if he went he left behind him the improvements he had made during his 19 years' lease. Probably he had lived on the place for 19 years, and perhaps his father before him. It was the neighbourhood in which he had made his friends. Such a man was handicapped. The undue competition to which he was subjected necessarily inflated rent. This fact was established by a Royal Commission which sat in 1865, and by a Commission which sat a few years after. It was because of the exceptional circumstances—because Parliament was, in a sense, responsible for that exceptional law—that they asked that these contracts between landlords and tenants in Scotland, made under such conditions, should be reconsidered and revised. This revisal was for the interest of the two parties themselves. Obviously it was for the interest of the landlord that his soil should be in the 1436 hands of a man competent to till it, rather than it should be in the hands of a man who was in pecuniary difficulties and was compelled to starve it. Then, surely, it was for the interest of the whole country that so important an industry as the agricultural industry should not be allowed to go to the wall as it had been doing. The condition of the tenant farmers in Scotland was as bad as in England, and in some cases worse, because in Scotland they had tenants paying rents largely out of capital, without which it was impossible to carry on large farms. If in Scotland they did not have so much land out of tillage as they had in England, it was because, as a rule, the Scottish farmers had been men of considerable capital and backbone. But if the present state of things was to go on, he was afraid that nothing but ruin and starvation stared them in the face. He (Mr. Shiress Will) had worked out a calculation to show how the fall in prices had affected farmers in Forfarshire. He took a farm of 350 acres worked on the seven years' shift. Its sale produce would be potatoes, wheat, barley, and oats, and the farmer would fatten stock. The farmer would have 50 acres under potatoes, which, at six tons to the acre, would yield 300 tons. He put aside 30 tons for seed, and he had 270 tons for sale. The price of potatoes had fallen in 10 years 15s. per ton. The loss on potatoes would, therefore, be £202 10s. Of wheat he would grow, say, four quarters to the acre, yielding him, on 50 acres, 200 quarters. He put aside 25 quarters, leaving 175 quarters for sale. The reduction of price was 10s. on the last 10 years. Hence would arise a loss of £87 10s. On barley, five quarters an acre would yield 250 quarters, and, setting aside 35 quarters for seed, 215 quarters would be left for sale. As the fall in price represented 10s. per quarter, the farmer's loss would be £107 10s. Of oats he grew, say, 300 quarters, and put aside 180 for seed, the food of his horses, and so forth, leaving him 120 quarters for sale at a fall of 7s. per quarter, or £42. Such a farm as he had supposed would fatten 60 cattle; and he calculated that, making all allowances, and reckoning that the farmer could buy half that number of cattle to fatten at £6 per head less than a few years ago, the loss in this particular would amount to £240. The total loss 1437 of the farmer, in consequence of the fall of prices in those 10 years, might be stated at £679. Advantages might be reckoned on the side of the farmer in respect of the diminished cost of wages, cake, manure, &c., to the value of nearly £100. The average rent of such a farm in Forfarshire as he had imagined was 30s. an acre. On a similar calculation, the loss on a farm of 280 acres would be £498, and on a farm of 210 acres £374. The losses he had shown, therefore, amounted to more than the rent of the farms. It would, therefore, be seen that, in these cases, the Scottish farmer had a grievance upon which he could found a fair claim for redress. They had the capital of the farmer going and the man himself being ruined. It was not for the interest of the country that this process should be allowed to go on. It was said, if prices had gone up, the landlords would not be able to ask for a revision of their contracts. But he (Mr. Shiress Will) ventured to say the cases were not on all-fours. The hon. Member for Haddingtonshire (Mr. Haldane) had refused to take part in the debate. One of his grounds of refusal was that the hon. Member for East Aberdeen should have waited for the Government legislation. That might have been very well if the Government had said that they were going to legislate; but the Government had said that they were not going to legislate. The other ground of refusal was that the hon. Gentleman should have brought in a Bill; but it only required a little experience in the House to show how hopeless it was for a private Member to get an opportunity of legislating. For those reasons he had been unable to take the same view as the hon. Member for Haddingtonshire.
§ MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
said, he also desired to offer a protest, though not in the spirit nor with the conclusion of the hon. and learned Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane). He would not, like him, take up his hat and walk out of the House; but he hoped he would be in the House, and give his vote in favour of the Amendment. He desired to speak in language of gentle resentment against what seemed the indignity put upon Scottish matters in certain language he heard to-night from the Government and their followers, that the bringing forward of such an Amendment relating to Scotland showed a want of 1438 dignity; and that the time of the House was being wasted, which might be more usefully employed. If his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddington was going to protest in that spirit, he ought to have protested when the Irish Amendments were before the House. It seemed to him—and he thought some countenance was given to it by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland—that the notion of the Government and their followers was that the House existed for the purpose of emphasizing Irish Business and English Business, but of shunting Scottish Business.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I did not say so. I gave no countenance to it.
§ MR. WALLACE
said, he accepted the disclaimer of the right hon. Gentleman, although it seemed to him he was encouraging that idea. But he did not accept the disclaimer for some of the right hon. Gentleman's Friends on the Front Government Bench, and other hon. Members behind him. If they wanted to shunt any Business, let them shunt the Irish Business to Dublin, and then the Government might have time to deal with English and Scottish Business. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland, he thought, travelled in the direction that, but for certain difficulties which were insurmountable, he would have gone in the lines of the Amendment; but, in consequence of those difficulties being so insurmountable, his position was stationary. The right hon. Gentleman's first difficulty was that the inquiry was useless, as the facts were already well known; therefore, that the inquiry would be nugatory, and that there was no use inquiring into that which they all knew about perfectly well. He (Mr. Wallace) thought the right hon. Gentleman was merely playing with the word inquiry. No doubt, it was useless for him to inquire into facts which he knows; but was it the case that the House—which would have ultimately to judge upon them—knew the facts? He doubted it very much. He questioned very much whether the English and Irish Representatives were acquainted with the facts of the agricultural condition of Scotland. Such an inquiry would not be simply to inquire into 1439 facts, and to throw them together like beans into a sack, but to collect facts—to collate, to classify, and systematize them—so that every individual who perused the Report would have a comprehensive acquaintance with the case. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had manufactured this difficulty, as persons did who did not want to know things which might prove difficult and disagreeable. The right hon. Gentleman's second difficulty was that, if such an inquiry was granted, and the facts clearly brought home, it would be impossible, consistently with certain considerations which he enumerated and amplified, to give legislation of the nature pointed at in the Amendment. Some of the reasons of the hon. Gentleman seemed to him more the reasons of the moral philosopher than the practical statesman. One of them was that if they began with agricultural contracts they could not stop there. There was no kind of commercial or private contract that the Legislature would not be invoked to revise; but he would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there was all the difference in the world between contracts where the matter was land and contracts of any other description. In our dealings with Ireland it had been established beyond recall that the revisal of land contracts was now a recognized fact in politics. [Cries of "No, no!" and cheers.] Well, it was no use going back upon that to dispute it. The whole question was argued out 16 years ago. It had been proved over and over again to the satisfaction of the country—although, perhaps, not to the satisfaction of many hon. Gentlemen on the other side—and the resolution the country came to was that, in matters of land, revisal of contract was to be considered as an established political truth, and accordingly he did not think they were called upon to enter into elaborate reasoning to show that exceptional legislation, in matters of agricultural contract was a recognized political fact and principle. He might, however, refresh the right hon. Gentleman's memory with one or two considerations that tended to remove the difficulty he felt in this matter. One was that the title to property in land rested upon a different basis to that of personal property. [Cries of "No!"] Yes; the title to personal 1440 possessions was founded on industry; the title to landed property was ultimately founded upon something which was not industry. [Laughter.] A word to the wise was sufficient, therefore he would not pursue to its utmost conclusions the distinction he had indicated. He had no doubt, however, that what convinced the country of the necessity of dealing with the land and with land contracts in a way that they would not deal with the creations of human industry was simply that the title to one kind of property rested on a foundation which was not possessed by the other. If this was an abstract consideration the right hon. Gentleman was to blame for setting him a bad example, for all his arguments had been more of a homiletic than of a practical character. Another reason why revising land contracts would not necessarily lead any practical statesman to consider that he was bound to go on to the revisal of industrial or commercial contracts was that the country might be irretrievably ruined if they abstained from revision of the land contracts, because they would thereby ruin the condition of the land. They were sterilizing the land by making it impossible for the skilled class, who were able to fertilize it, to till it successfully. There was no inevitable loss to the country if they did not interfere to prevent a merchant becoming bankrupt. While there were 4,000,000 Scotsmen there was only one Scotland. When a bankrupt manufacturer or merchant went down in the commercial struggle his place could be supplied to-morrow by another just as useful to the community as the one who unsuccessfully preceded him; but if once they ruined the country by sterilizing the land, they could not replace it by a new country—they could not get a new one. In the one case the country lost, in the other the individual lost. That was a sufficient reason for men with practical views of politics to refuse to interfere with commercial or industrial contracts, although they might find themselves bound to interfere with agricultural contracts. He was not arguing the question from the individual interest of landlord or tenant, but from the point of view of the interests of the country—a point of view which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have entirely forgotten. He would conclude by asking 1441 the question which the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Amendment (Mr. Esslemont) had asked, and which was not answered. It was this. If there was such a consensus of opinion with respect to the Bill of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), why should there be this difficulty in connection with a similar proposal for Scotland? He (Mr. Wallace) confessed his mind was so constituted, that he could not see why the public interest should be jealously safeguarded in Ireland by protecting Irish cultivators, while the public interest in Scotland did not require at all to be attended to by making the same provision for the protection of Scottish cultivators. If there were reasons, they remained occult and mysterious to him; and he trusted that if there were such reasons they would be dragged from their dark and abysmal depths by some hon. Member opposite.
§ SIR ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL (Renfrew, W.)
I think that some of the arguments of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Wallace), who has just addressed the House, are somewhat peculiar, and scarcely those which any hon. Member who has lived in Scotland, as I have done all my life, can subscribe to. I shall, therefore, only attempt to give a short answer to it. In the first instance, we are told that there is a difference between agricultural contracts and those which are made in connection with anything else. If the title to land is not founded on industry, what is to be said of the man who has earned his money and has invested in the purchase of land? If there is one thing which distinguishes Scotland more than another, it is the closeness of the tie by which the tenant farmers and the landlords have been united together in carrying on agriculture as a great business. They have always attempted to help each other as far as it has been possible, and a spirit of fairness has been manifested on either side. In recent times of depression the Scotch landlords have made large reductions in their rents; and I have no doubt they would be willing, if the necessity were to arise, to make a still larger reduction. Therefore, I cannot think that any special grievance has been made out in regard to the Scotch tenants. I know that in East Lothian reductions have been made of as much 1442 as 35 per cent, and even 40 per cent. In my county, in the West of Scotland, reductions of 10, 15, and 20 per cent have repeatedly been made, and the same course has been pursued in Argyllshire. I am not so well acquainted with Perthshire and Aberdeenshire; but I know that large reductions have been made, and that similar reductions have been made all over the country. Although I do not deprecate inquiry, I should regret it, because I believe that it might do something to impair the spirit of fairness and mutual good feeling which characterizes the landlords and tenants of Scotland. There is another thing I wish to point out. Only a few years ago it was maintained that the system of leases was the cause of the difficulties of the Scotch tenant farmers; but it must not be forgotten that the very same farmers previously pointed to that system as the basis of their prosperity. They were in the habit of priding themselves on being unlike their English confrères, in the fact that they did possess leases. What have leases done for the Scotch farmers? They have afforded a large security both for the farmer and the landlord, and the result has been that the landlord has willingly undertaken all the permanent improvements. He has put up the buildings and drained the land, and at the end of every lease he has put the whole of the farm in proper order. During the time that leases have existed much has been done, especially in the erection of farm buildings, and vast improvements have been effected, even in the last 10 years, which have been of considerable assistance to the tenant farmers in enabling them to carry on their agricultural operations. There is one thing which has brought about the existing depression in Scotland as well as in England—namely, the cheapness of foreign freights. You cannot go on running powerful steamers across the Atlantic, as is now being done, without affecting the price of agricultural produce here; but those freights have not been remunerative, and it will not be possible for the steamers to be run much longer at a loss. And every penny of arise will increase prices at home. The farmers were looking forward, when I left Scotland last, for better times. I do not think the farmers of the West have been so hard hit, 1443 probably because they have been able to work their farms cheaper. But, at the same time, so far as the inquiry proposed by the hon. Gentleman is concerned, I am bound to say that I think it would be very inopportune at the present moment, because, however much we may wish for inquiry, we know that it would be impossible to secure it by moving an Amendment to the Address. I shall, therefore, feel bound to give my vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Esslemont).
MR. A. L. BROWN (Hawick, &c.)
Sir, I, for one, feel very unwilling to interpose in a debate which hon. Gentlemen opposite regard with so much impatience, and exhibit so much disinclination to allow to proceed. But the extraordinary urgency of the question and the dire necessities of the Scotch tenant farmers have rendered the consideration of their case imperative, and must be considered my excuse for going into the matter. Let me remind the House that we have been discussing Irish grievances ever since the 27th of January. We are quite ready to concede that the tenant farmers in Ireland are suffering severely from bad Land Laws; but we maintain that the tenant farmers of Scotland are equally suffering from bad Land Laws. As yet they have not been listened to, when they have come forward to state their case to this House; and I presume the reason has been that they have never employed any political delegates to represent them here; but, on the contrary, they have been "thirl to the lairds." The Irish people have 85 determined servants prepared to ventilate their case thoroughly; but the Scotch farmers find themselves in an isolated position. They have committed their interests into the hands of the landlords, and when they come here they find a union of landlords against them, and they do not know where to go to for redress. What are the facts of the case? The state of affairs in Scotland is this—We find a great number of hard-working, decent, clever, and capable men who have been brought to ruin, we find a greater number of them are on the brink of ruin, and the cause of this is that the contracts which they entered into 15 or 17 years ago have been prejudicial to them, and if adhered to will inevitably bring these capable, honest, 1444 and industrious men into the Bankruptcy Court. We never find such things in trade or commerce. We may find a particular branch of commerce languishing, but not an entire class of capable, honest, and hard-working men who will inevitably be ruined if they keep the contracts which they have entered into. The real cause of all the mischief has been the Law of Hypothec, by means of which rents were forced up. If the contracts entered into under the Law of Hypothec are kept, the result will be the ruin of those who have entered into them. I wish the House to keep carefully in view the fact that this Law of Hypothec, which this House has since repealed, was a bad statute which forced rents up. The supporters of the law admitted that it had forced up rents. A Commission sat in Edinburgh in 1864, and witnesses, who consisted principally of Representatives of the landlord class, stated clearly that rents had been forced up by it; and that if that law were repealed rents would necessarily come down again, because there would be less competition. Surely it does not require any evidence to prove that this is how the Law of Hypothec works. If a farm is vacant, you will find 10 men applying for it, and the landlord naturally takes the highest offer. He says—"What does it matter to me what the tenant can pay? I am sure of 20s. in the pound, and if the tenant fails I can fall back upon the next tenant." I do not know whether anybody realizes the tremendous fall of rents that has taken place. In merely repealing the Law of Hypothec the House did not go far enough. Perhaps I may be allowed to mention instances of the fall of rent in the Galashiels district between 1872, 1873, and 1882–3–4, and 1885. One rent which fell in 1882 was £525 a-year; but the new rent accepted by the landlord was only £250, or a fall of more than 50 per cent. In the case of another rent which was formerly £750, it now stands at £331, a fall of 56 per cent. Taking nine farms, I find that the average reductions which have been made upon them amount to a fall of 43 per cent. These, however, are rents which were entered into 15 years ago. Let me mention the fall since 1882. One tenant offered £330 a-year for a farm in 1882. That offer was refused, and the proprietor kept the farm in his own hands. Last 1445 year he allowed the tenant who had made the previous offer to take it at a fall of 18 per cent. In other instances the difference in the value of farms since 1882 has been from 20 to 30 per cent. How are the tenant farmers to contend against a state of things like this? The Law of Hypothec has been repealed; but, as I have said, Parliament did not go far enough; it ought to have annulled the contracts entered into before its repeal. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate is not in his place. I remember the right hon. and learned Gentleman taking credit to himself and his Party for repealing the Law of Hypothec; and I think it must be generally admitted that in repealing that law the House determined that it would no longer force rents up in this artificial way. What I would ask the House to consider is, whether it will insist, in the present circumstances of the tenant farmers, upon payment in full of the rents which have been artificially forced up? Look at the present state of landlord and tenant in Scotland! It has been demonstrated, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that the tenants cannot pay their present rents. If hon. Members will put themselves in communication with any reliable persons, whether land factors, manure merchants, corn merchants, bankers, or business men, with opportunities of observation, they will be told that the capital is not slowly and surely, but quickly and surely dwindling away. Then I would ask the House if it will do anything to stop this strain upon the resources of men who form the backbone of the country? I know the case of one tenant who had a considerable amount of capital of his own. He was so independent that, whereas neighbouring tenants were getting reductions of rent, he declined to go to his landlord and ask for a reduction; but at length all his Scotch spirit of independence was starved out of him, and when he did go to his landlord for a reduction he was refused, because, as the factor told him, he had money. I maintain that the landlords are pursuing a foolish policy. They are taking all they can get and reducing the farmers to the position of men who will very soon not have a penny of capital left. It is notorious that in the South of Scotland, at least, the landlords are 1446 taking just what their tenants offer them, so that the Scotch farmers, perhaps unconsciously, are putting in force the notorious Plan of Campaign. A Scotch farmer told me that he had paid £1,000 a-year rent for a number of years; but last rent day he went to the landlord and said—"Here is £750; you can either take it or not." The landlord took it, and said never a word. Like the sheep before the shearer was dumb, and opened he not his mouth, he submitted without a murmur to 25 per cent being taken off the rent. How is it that such serious political consequences should arise in Ireland from putting the Plan of Campaign in force, and that the same thing should not apply in Scotland? It is because, in Scotland, the system of large farms prevails, and the tenants pay from £500 to £1,000 and £1,500 a-year in the shape of rent. No landlord in these hard times can afford to lose tenants who pay rents running from £500 to £1,000 a-year; and he must, therefore, take what the tenants offer. Now, it is altogether different in the case of the small farms in Ireland. Many of the Irish tenants pay only £5 or £6 a-year, and it is sometimes considered to be good policy on the part of the landlord to clear out some of them, in order to strike terror into the rest. Surely, if the Plan of Campaign is demoralizing—and I do not deny that it is and must be demoralizing, and that it will be admitted to be so by hon. Members from Ireland—surely, then, if it is demoralizing in Ireland, it is equally demoralizing in Scotland. The Amendment now before us is directed to securing the moral as well as the material wealth of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland has taken up the old attitude on this subject. I impute to the right hon. Gentleman no lack of sympathy with the wants of the Scotch tenants. On the contrary, he has always shown great sympathy with them. I know some of his Scotch tenants, and I have been told that he is not only a kind, but a considerate and just landlord. Kind landlords are so rare now-a-days that this covers, not only a multitude of sins, but almost every kind of sin. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that there have been good landlords, who have been endeavouring to meet these hard 1447 times by making wise and just concessions; and he says that we are now asking the Government to interfere in the case of a small minority of bad landlords. We say that that is not so. We maintain that there are a great number, not of absolutely bad landlords, but of exacting landlords, who take their pound of flesh. When anything is proposed to remedy the grievance, we are told that we are interfering for the sake of a few. Surely, in 1847, when the Irish Famine took place, that was a time for good landlords to show kindness and consideration. But what was the case? Why, that some 200,000 or 300,000 houses were levelled to the ground. We were told when the Crofters' Act was passed that it would have very little effect, and would only deal with a few bad landlords; but when Sheriff Brand went North and conducted his investigation, the result was a reduction of rents, which ranged from 30 and 40 to even 50 per cent. History proves that it is the good landlord who is the exception, and the bad landlord who is the rule; but there are so many things which interpose between the landlord and the tenant that even good landlords are prevented from giving complete redress. Then, what we say in reply to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman is this. If there are few bad landlords, so much the better for the right hon. Gentleman and so much the better for the Executive, because there will be fewer cases to interfere with, and the great mass of the landlords will never know that such a measure exists. We are asked by the Secretary of State whether we should require the interference of the Government in the event of times being prosperous—should we ask the Secretary of State to interfere in the direction of raising rents? Now, that is a very awkward question for those who put it. It is said that the landlords would be quite justified in raising their rents in good times—that they are entitled to participate in good times, especially if they are called upon to make sacrifices when the times are bad. But, I would ask, why should the landlords participate in good times? I ask the question in all its nakedness, Who make the good times? High prices do not bring about good times, any more than low prices bring about bad times; but good times are brought 1448 about by men being industrious, and exchanging their property wisely and cleverly. Surely, then, it is the men who make the good times who ought to enjoy them. Why should the landlords, who are mere rent-drawers, participate in good times? I did not ask the question, and I am not going to answer it; but, if the question is asked, I reply that we on this side of the House, who belong to the Radical Party, will be quite willing to answer the question, both in the towns and in the country. Another case put before us by the Secretary for Scotland was that bankruptcies occur in all the large towns, and that they are caused by exactly the same reasons as those which press upon agricultural tenants. But I contend that in the towns there never was any department of industry where men entered into contracts wholesale, and where they would be ruined if they kept those contracts. I speak as a business man, and I am utterly ignorant of failures in trade and commerce arising from any such cause at all. You meet with failures which result from laziness, from a disinclination to face liabilities, and from dishonesty. They may arise in certain branches of industry where trade is languishing; but you never meet with a great department of industry, where clever and industrious men have entered into contracts, who will be ruined if they keep those contracts; therefore, the illustration of the right hon. Gentleman altogether fails. You will never be asked, and you know it, to interfere in the same way with trade and commerce. That, Sir, is our case. I know very well that we have not much to hope for; but we protest against the attempt which has been made to stifle this Scotch grievance. I do not know why the Government should grudge the short time we asked for stating our case. It simply means that the Scotch Members do not show the grit and the determination of the Representatives of the Irish tenant farmers. We have brought our case forward at this moment because it is the best opportunity that will be available this Session for bringing before the House and the country the grievances under which the Scotch tenant farmers are suffering, and it is the best chance we have of letting the Scotch people see who are their real friends and who are not. We have brought the question forward in all con- 1449 fidence that the country will acquit us of having wasted a single moment of the precious time of the House; and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland and his Colleagues whether even such courteous and timid Conservative Gentlemen as they are cannot devise some measure of relief without incurring the danger of bringing the British Constitution about their heads?
§ MR. J. C. BOLTON (Stirling)
Sir, I will ask the indulgence of the House, while I express the great regret with which I have heard many of the speeches which have been delivered to-night by my hon. Friends. It is undoubtedly the case that the Scotch tenant farmers are entitled to the sympathy of every Member of this House; but I cannot think that the best means of bringing that sympathy to a practical result is to indulge in such exaggerations and misstatements as those I have listened to this evening. I do not mean by that that the statements as to the value of land having fallen to the extent that has been asserted by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment have been exaggerated, but that the condition of the Scotch farmer has been altogether misstated and misrepresented. I think that no complaint can be made of the Scotch tenant farmers on comparing their condition with that of the Irish tenant farmers. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. A. L. Brown), in fact, answered that proposition as completely as it is possible to do so. His proposition is that the Scotch farmer ought to have the protection of this House, and ought to be released from his contract with his landlord, because he does not find himself in a position to deal on equal terms with the landlord. Now, the hon. Gentleman told us that there are farmers in Scotland who pay rents of £300, £400, £500, and £600 up to £1,500 a-year. Are these men persons who are not standing on equal terms with the landlords in the matter of bargain? I represent an agricultural constituency, and I maintain that the farmers in my county, at all events, are perfectly able to deal with the landlords on equal terms. I mean by "able" that they are in an equal position to deal on terms of equality with the landlords throughout the country, and that they do so deal with them. The hon. 1450 Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Wallace) said that he would like to have this inquiry, because the House and the country are not aware of the position in which the Scotch tenants stand. Now, I must say that the hon. Gentleman, in my opinion, has not enlightened the country by his statement of facts. He asserts that the failure to intervene between the landlord and tenant, in order to break contracts entered into years ago, is ruining the country. Undoubtedly, the agricultural interest is a very large interest, and a very important one in Scotland; but the proposal contained in the Amendment is not to apply to the whole of the agriculturists of Scotland, but simply to apply to those cases which were entered into before 1880. I mean those which still exist. What proportion will they be?
§ MR. J. C. BOLTON
I believe, at the outside, they will only amount to one-third. We have been told by another hon. Member that we might, without any breach of economic law, interfere with the existing contracts between the landlord and tenant. But I deny that there has been any legislation in this House affecting Scotland in which existing contracts have been interfered with. No doubt, the Hares and Rabbits Bill and the abolition of the Law of Hypothec involved interference to some extent; but the Law of Hypothec still remains where it was, so far as it was in existence at the time of the passing of the Act. Nor was the Hares and Rabbits Bill made absolute There has been no legislation by this House in which existing legislation has been interfered with. [An hon. MEMBER: The Agricultural Holdings Act.] The Agricultural Holdings Act does not interfere with existing contracts. I am speaking strictly of Scotland, and I maintain that it does not interfere with, or affect, the existing tenants under their leases. [An hon. MEMBER: It does.] Undoubtedly, it gives them the right to obtain compensation for unexhausted improvements. The main argument in favour of that Bill was that it would enable tenants to farm their land up to the last day; that it would give them a right to demand and claim compensation for improvements that were not exhausted; but it also gave them the power 1451 to take the value of those improvements in another fashion. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Shiress Will) said he had a good sound moral reason for disturbing these contracts. The only good sound moral reason I can find for that is, that it would be for the benefit of the tenant farmers. But if that seems to be a sound and moral reason in the view of the tenant farmers, it would appear to be a very immoral and unsound reason in respect of the landlords. But, in reality, I am confident that in Scotland there is no necessity for a spur of this kind to be applied to the landlords. I am speaking now of landlords generally. I presume there may be exceptions; but to speak of the landlords of Scotland as men who are exacting the last pound of flesh is to make a statement for which, in my opinion, there is the very weakest foundation. [An hon. MEMBER: We only ask for inquiry.] Inquiry! Well, I am not opposed to inquiry; but my impression is that this Amendment is not brought forward with the view and intention of obtaining inquiry. The Amendment could not possibly be accepted by the Government. Everyone knows that an Amendment of this kind, forced upon the Government, and carried against them, means the upsetting of the Government. Therefore, I say that in bringing forward an Amendment of this kind, those who support it cannot have had it in their mind that the inquiry could by any possibility be granted; and, therefore, they must have some other object—some preparation for something else to follow. My impression is that it is intended to lead up to the Bill of the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay), for the purpose of setting up a tribunal in Scotland to regulate agricultural rents. To that Bill, so long as I have a seat in this House, I will give the most determined opposition. I have risen, however, for a special purpose—not to go into the merits of the case, but to express my great sympathy with the Scotch farmers in their present distress, and my belief that the landlords themselves will do the utmost in their power spontaneously to meet that distress. I believe that it will require no spur of this kind to induce them to do so; and I can only express my regret that so much exaggeration and misstatement has been made.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY (Forfarshire), rose to address the House, when—
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY,
resuming, said, the uncompromising speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) would carry dismay to the hearts of the farmers in Scotland. He (Mr. Barclay), however, would thank him for stating his opinion so frankly. The farmers in Scotland would now see that they had nothing to hope from this Government. The Scotch Members, however, had some ground for complaint against the right hon. Gentleman. He did not think it became the right hon. Gentleman to snub the Scotch Members for bringing forward this question. Upon one of the first opportunities—perhaps the only opportunity—Scotch Members would have of calling attention to this important subject the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland gave them a lecture on the waste of time in Parliament. He (Mr. Barclay) protested that this was not a waste of time. Agriculture was in a critical situation, and he did not know when there would be another opportunity of bringing the question forward. It was understood that once this debate was concluded the Government would demand the whole time of the House for dealing with the question of Procedure. When that question would be settled it was impossible to say; and he thought his hon. Friend (Mr. Esslemont), after the Notice of Motion which he gave at the close of last Session, would have been failing in his duty to his constituents if he had not seized this opportunity. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland objected to the Amendment on two grounds—first, that there was nothing to inquire into; and, secondly, that it would be impossible for Parliament to interfere in the way contemplated by the Mover of the Amendment. It was evident that there was very much to inquire into. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland said that the whole of the landlords in Scotland, with, perhaps, a small minority, had made reasonable concessions to their tenants; but he (Mr. Barclay) had very different information. He would state, with con- 1453 fidence, that not one-half of the landlords had made concessions; or, if they had made concessions, they were totally inadequate. That, at any rate, was a point worthy of inquiry. Then the question arose whether Parliament should interfere. The right hon. Gentleman said that, whatever might be the result of the inquiry, this was a question on which Parliament ought not to interfere. That was the "no surrender" cry that they had heard before; and notwithstanding which hon. Members opposite had found it expedient to surrender. Had hon. Members opposite forgotten that Parliament intervened in the case of the Irish farmers in a very comprehensive way? He thought his hon. Friend the Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. Bolton) voted for the Crofters' Bill; and that, surely, was a greater interference with contract and with the rights of landlords than was contemplated by this Amendment. Not only did the Crofters' Act interfere with contracts, but it actually took away land from the landlord, and gave it, under certain conditions, in perpetuity to the tenant. The fact was that the question of interference with contract depended upon necessity, and when necessity had been proved it was the duty of Parliament to interfere. The reasoning of the right hon. Gentleman opposite he (Mr. Barclay) was utterly unable to follow. The right hon. Gentleman said many landlords had done what was just and fair in giving reductions to their tenants; but that it would be immoral in Parliament to compel other landlords to act in a similar manner. But the existence of Parliament was for the purpose of making the unjust and unfair minority follow the example of the just majority. The Secretary for Scotland further said that if they were going to interfere with land contracts, they would be called upon to deal with other descriptions of contracts. But Parliament had asserted, over and over again, its right to deal with contracts regarding the tenure of land upon the broad principles of public policy; and these 19 years' leases had special claims to be considered outside the scope of general contracts. He would recommend Parliament to deal with those leases in the interests of the landlords themselves. No doubt, many landlords had not given concession to their tenants, and in many other cases 1454 the concessions had been altogether inadequate; and in some cases concessions had been given merely to induce the tenant to barter away his right under the Agricultural Holdings Act. Looking broadly at the circumstances, then, would it not be well, in the landlord's interest, that the rent should be reduced to what an impartial tribunal would consider a fair amount, so that the tenant should be encouraged to go on improving his farm, instead of holding his hand, and coming at last to absolute ruin? The nature of this contract was exceptional. He did not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, whom he saw opposite, could mention any other class of contracts extending over so long a period as 19 years. What would be the position of a manufacturer if he were forced to contract for 19 years for his raw material, and if, during the contract, the value of his produce were reduced by a third? That was a practical point worthy of the consideration of hon. Members opposite. When the ruin of a whole class was at issue, as in this question, he thought it afforded a strong argument why Parliament should inquire and deal impartially and equitably between the parties. It had been admitted that the Law of Hypothec had had the effect of raising rents above their natural market value, and that law had been abolished on account of its injustice; but the whole of the leases of Scotland, with the exception of those entered into during the last five years, were entered into subject to the Law of Hypothec. From that it followed that more than two-thirds of the leases were still under hypothec. Then, if that law had been condemned as an unjust law, he thought Parliament might fairly be called upon to interfere now, and do away, as far as possible, with its evil effects. His hon. Friend the Member for Stirlingshire had had the courage to tell them that farmers were in a position to deal with landlords on equal terms; but Parliament, in the Ground Game Act and the Agricultural Holdings Act, practically declared that the tenants were not in a position to make fair terms with the landlords. The 19 years' lease had been found long enough to encourage the hopeful farmer to invest largely in improvements; but it had not been long enough to enable him to get the money back again. 1455 Parliament must interfere with contracts when necessity arose. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had questioned the necessity. Well, what was the present position of the tenant who took a lease eight or 10 years ago? Could he possibly by any industry make the rent out of the land? The right hon. Gentleman could not dispute the fact that there had been a fall in the value of agricultural produce in these years which was equal to a rent of 30s. or £2 an acre. In fact, the losses, on an average, were nearly equal to the whole rent. He contended, therefore, that the necessity had arisen for dealing with this question. This state of matters could not go on indefinitely. The tenants of Scotland had brought their case before Parliament at various times. He (Mr. Barclay) last year moved an Amendment to the Address inviting the attention of Parliament to the whole question of agriculture, and afterwards the farmers placed their case before the late Prime Minister. He could have wished his hon. Friend had made his Amendment equally wide. What would the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland like the farmers of Scotland further to do, in order to persuade him of their necessity? The right hon. Gentleman could agree to legislate for the crofters of Scotland when they showed him the necessity, and when the framework of society in the West Highlands was breaking in pieces; then the Government of the day admitted the necessity. Were the farmers throughout Scotland to be forced to adopt similar or equally cogent means? He believed the farmers were honestly, earnestly, and anxiously trying to fulfil their obligations; but it was very trying and harassing for the farmers to be placed in the position of seeing year by year their capital melting away, while the landlord made no allowance for the change of circumstances. The condition of farmers under a 19 years' lease was most pitiable and most deplorable, for comparatively few landlords sympathized with their tenants to the full or even necessary extent. They laboured hard and lived soberly; but the money, instead of going to remunerate them, was paid into the landlords' pocket; and, if Parliament did not interfere, this would be continued until their means were totally exhausted. He 1456 thought it would be exceedingly unfortunate if the farmers were pushed to any greater extremity. It was a most unfortunate example which Parliament had set. When the crofters or the Irish farmers were driven to resist the law, Parliament took up their grievances and dealt with their case as justice demanded. The claim of the Scottish farmers was founded equally on justice with that of the Irish farmers or the Scottish crofters; and they were practically told that Parliament would not do anything for them as long as they were quiet. That was the lesson which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland taught them that night. The right hon. Gentleman said it would be impossible and immoral to interfere; but he did not say anything of immorality on the part of the landlord who held to his bond. Neither did Shylock. The fact was that the system of land tenure in Scotland had broken down. That was becoming more apparent every day. Its breaking down was of the nature of creeping paralysis. The extremities—Ireland and the Highlands—were attacked first; but the longer they delayed dealing with it the worse it would be for the landlords, the tenants, and for the nation at large. The system had broken down, because the British farmer, with all his burdens and restrictions, could not compete with the foreigner. The farmer must make the most he could out of the land, and, in order to do so, he must have complete freedom in his cultivation and absolute security for his capital. It was the duty of Parliament, without further delay, to consider this question; to consider how they could best allow and induce the farmer to make the most of the land. That was the most important subject with which the House could deal. It was hopeless to look for any improvement in the business of farming so long as the present system prevailed. He repeated that the statement of the Secretary for Scotland would, therefore, be very disappointing to the Scottish farmers; but he did not think it would be long before the right hon. Gentleman would see cause to modify his opinion. The Crofters' Act could not be confined to the Western district of Scotland; and, notwitstanding what his hon. Friend the Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. Bolton) had said, farmers gene- 1457 rally were anxious, and, he believed, determined, to have the principle of the Crofters' Act extended to the whole of Scotland.
§ MR. C. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)
I intend to vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont), because I am of opinion that the question of the position of agriculturists would be much better considered as a whole. Before long this House must devote its attention to the consideration of this important question. If the Scotch farmers are really supporting this Amendment, I am very sorry that it should be so, because I am sure that if it were carried they would not obtain the object which they desire. I think the House will say—"Why should we interfere in this matter, and why should it be supposed that your only remedy for the unfortunate position you now occupy is by breaking through some contract or other you have made with your landlord?" The English tenant farmers are suffering quite as severely as those in Scotland, and they ought to be accorded precisely the same privileges. I hope, however, when the question affecting the agricultural interest is discussed in this House every hon. Member, whether English, Scotch, or Irish, who may take part in it, will show that respect for contract which, up to the present, I am proud to say, English farmers have maintained.
§ MR. R. PRESTON BRUCE (Fifeshire, W.)
My hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) is a great authority on agricultural matters, and especially upon Scotch agriculture; and, therefore, any statements by my hon. Friend must be received with respect. At the same time, I think it is highly important to examine the argument which my hon. Friend has laid before the House. I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that it is sufficient to prove the case for interference with existing leases, if it be admitted that a great fall in the prices of agricultural produce has taken place, such fall having rendered it impossible for many tenants to carry out the bargain which they entered into some 15 years ago. I understood my hon. Friend to say that if that is admitted the whole of his case is proved.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
What I said was, that if there had been a fall in the 1458 prices of agricultural produce equal to the whole amount of rent, in my opinion the necessity for interference was proved.
§ MR. R. PRESTON BRUCE
My argument will not depend upon the precise amount of the fall of prices; but I contend that the fact that a fall has taken place, whether equal to one-half or to the whole of the rent or not, is not, of itself, sufficient to prove the expediency of this demand for an interference with existing contracts. But it would be necessary to show something more than that. It would be necessary to show, besides, that the parties to the contracts are not themselves taking proper steps to meet the change of conditions which has happened. Now, as to how far such steps are being taken, as to how far the landlords are making sufficient reductions in view of the depreciated agricultural conditions, it is impossible to arrive at an exact opinion. Opinions will vary on the subject; but my own belief is that gradually the necessary reductions are being made; that a very large proportion of the bargains entered into 15 years ago have already been modified; that every day more and more of them are being modified; and that the difficulty will be met in that way. But I think that, even supposing that were not the case—and I admit that there will be only too many exceptions—that there will be only too many industrious and deserving farmers driven to the wall and obliged to meet ruin—there is another thing we have to examine before we adopt the proposition of the Mover of the Amendment. We have to look at the consequences of the measure which the hon. Member proposes. We have to examine those consequences, and see whether they themselves will not be as bad, or perhaps worse, than the existing condition of things. The present proposal is simply a proposal to break existing leases in Scotland; and I know very well what will be the consequences of the passing of a measure of that kind. The simple and inevitable result would be to put an end to the system of agricultural leases for a term of years. [Mr. ESSLEMONT: Hear, hear!] My hon. Friend says "Hear, hear!" He admits this result; and, in considering the proposal, one has to consider whether it is desirable to put an end to the system of leases. Now, I confess, for my own part, that I am not at all satis- 1459 fied that it would be a good thing for the interests of Scotland, as a whole, to put an end to the system of agricultural leases. A great deal has been said to-night against that system; but the one fact which cannot be denied is that, under that system of 19 years' leases, agriculture in Scotland has reached a point of excellence which can, I believe, hardly be equalled by any other country in the world. And I can hardly think that a system which has produced such results as that can be altogether a bad one. Well, my hon. Friend has proposed to destroy the system of leases. He proposes to pass a law which would prevent anyone in future from entering into such a lease. Then I would like to know from the hon. Member what he is going to substitute, because I can well understand the view of those who think that it would be a better thing for the country, and a better thing for agriculture, if they can bring about a state of things under which the owner of the land cultivated the land himself, under which the farmer is the owner of his farm. I sympathize very much with their view myself; but I ask myself whether that is the result which is going to follow from the destruction of leases? I confess that I fail to see how such a result is to follow. In the first place, so far as my limited experience goes, the tenant farmer of Scotland is not at all desirous of purchasing his farm. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Forfarshire denies that. According to my experience, not many tenant farmers of Scotland have that in view.
§ MR. R. PRESTON BRUCE
I am glad to hear it; but that does not prove a general desire among the tenant farmers of Scotland to become the owners of their farms.
§ MR. R. PRESTON BRUCE
What is the alternative? It is that they should fall back upon a year-to-year system of tenancy, protected by some measure of compensation for improvements. Some may think that that is a better form of tenure than 19 years' agricultural leases; but that is not my opinion. I believe myself that no system which depends mainly on the valuation 1460 of improvements is ever likely to be very satisfactory; because, in the nature of things, it is impossible to value the improvements in such a way as to meet the justice of the case; or, rather, in such a way as that both parties will recognize the justice of the award. Therefore, I maintain that in driving the tenant farmers of Scotland out of this system of 19 years leases into the system of year-to-year tenancies you are driving them from not a perfect system, but a pretty good system, into one which is much worse. That is why I cannot sympathize with the step which my hon. Friend proposes to take. I deeply sympathize with the farmers who are under great pressure; and I trust that the landlords will more and more realize the necessity of meeting them and of saving them. It is not a matter of charity on their part to do this; because, if the landlords drive to the wall—drive to ruin—these men, who are the only men capable of cultivating the soil, they will be ruining themselves at the same time. I do not believe the landlords will be prepared to commit an act of such extreme folly. I apologize for detaining the House; but I cannot, under the circumstances, support the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Esslemont).
§ MR. M'LAGAN (Linlithgow)
said, the subject was well worthy of being brought before the House; but he could not, in the words of the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Esslemont), censure the Government for not having introduced it into Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, because, if the Government were to introduce into the Queen's Speech every grievance that was felt by every class in the country, the Speech would be interminable, and the discussion on the Address would last throughout the whole Session. For that reason, he (Mr. M'Lagan) could not support the Amendment, although sympathizing deeply with the subject brought under the notice of the House. Then he did not agree in his sweeping condemnation of the whole system of leases, though he admitted that the tenants under the leases to which the hon. Member had limited the scope of his Amendment were not able to pay the rents out of the produce of their farms. In fact, agriculture in Scotland owed its high excellence and superiority to those 19 1461 and 21 years' leases. It should be borne in mind that before those leases were introduced into Scotland English agriculture was so far superior to that of Scotland that men were sent from Scotland to England to learn farming. After leases were introduced in Scotland, however, so rapid became the improvement in Scotch agriculture, that the reverse applied, and young men were now sent from England to Scotland for the purpose of studying farming. If they interfered with those leases they would be interfering with commercial contracts. The tenants reaped as much benefit from these leases as the landlords. The relations between landlord and tenant were different in Ireland, England, and Scotland. In Ireland relations were based very much on vague sentimental agreements; in England they were regulated very much by equity; and in Scotland they were based on commercial contracts; and if they interfered with the system of leases, they would be interfering with commercial contracts. The result of these different forms was shown in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), when he introduced his Irish Land Act of 1870, where it was shown that in Ireland land had doubled in value up to 1870, in England it had trebled, and in Scotland it had sextupled. The tenants, under the leases entered into in 1852, profited by the large rise in the price of agricultural produce which had, from various causes, taken place during that period in this country; but when, in 1874, prices began to fall while the rents remained the same, the tenants suffered. It was this class of tenants whom the Amendment would affect; and there was no doubt that there was going on amongst such tenants a slow but certain depletion of their capital, with the result, if not checked, that they would have, first, an impoverished tenantry, and then an impoverished soil. It was, therefore, for the serious consideration of the landlords whether they should not come forward and give some timely aid to their tenants to prevent that fall which must take place on the expiration of the 19 years' lease; and this ought to be the more readily done, because the tenants of Scotland were not promoting or favouring demoralizing schemes for re- 1462 ducing their rents. On the contrary, they were struggling with all their might to fulfil their legal obligations. He had known tenants go to their landlords and tell them to take everything on their farms, as they had no more to give, and offering to give up their leases at the same time. All the talk had hitherto been in favour of the tenants, and they had not heard a word in favour of the landlords; but he believed that in some cases the landlords were worse off than the tenants. He himself knew a case in which the tenants went to their landlord to demand a reduction of their rents, and the landlord's answer was that if he gave them the reduction sought he would have nothing to live on himself. The fact was that both landlords and tenants were the innocent victims of bad Land Laws, by which the dead hand had been able to place conditions on the rights of proprietorship hurtful to the living owners and disastrous to the country; and whatever else might take place, he hoped the question of an alteration of the Land Laws would be carefully considered by the present Government. The Government had already shown that they were willing and able to consider the matter—witness Lord Cairns' Act—and if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland, with his two Legal Advisers, would come forward and remove those scandals from which many were still suffering, they would be conferring a great boon upon that class, and doing a great deal to assist agriculture. He agreed with the hon. Member for Fife (Mr. R. Preston Bruce) as to the value of leases. The Scotch farmers were far too long-headed to give up a system which had proved so beneficial both to agriculture and to themselves. At the same time, he appealed to Parliament that these were subjects for inquiry; and it would, at least, show their sympathy with the farmers if the Government agreed to appoint a Committee of Inquiry.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, he was astonished at the observations made by the hon. and learned Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane), when he remembered well last year that, upon a similar discussion taking place, he voted for a Motion of the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay), and for another Motion—that of the hon. Member for 1463 the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings)—on which the Tory Government was defeated. He (Dr. Clark) trusted before the Division they would hear something from the Lord Advocate in answer to some of the arguments which had been adduced. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland was exactly the kind of speech one would expect from him. The right hon. Gentleman was a thorough believer in the old doctrine of political economy. He strongly believed in the rights of property, but took very little notice of the rights of humanity. The usual political and economical arguments had been used. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman was accurate regarding his first argument—namely, that they had never had any interference by the House of Commons regarding contracts made between parties. There were the cases of adults, and of the Truck Acts, by which they prevented the master and workman from paying or receiving in kind. It was, however, a matter of small importance to him whether the House had interfered in the past or not, for he thought that in the future they would have to interfere, and the sooner the right hon. Gentleman thought more of the rights of humanity and less of the rights of property the better it would be for the Conservative Party in Scotland. One of the arguments used by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Esslemont) was that the Law of Hypothec affected the tenant; but in his long and elaborate reply the right hon. Gentleman never said a single word regarding that. He entirely ignored the arguments both of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. The Law of Hypothec was an unjust and immoral law, because it gave one creditor a preferential claim over all the others—namely, to the creditor who had only let his land to the tenant over the creditor who actually gave his goods; and it permitted legal robbery, because it permitted the landlord to take possession of the property of other people. One of the cases in which Parliament had interfered was the following:—Up to the year 1871, the rate for education was a burden upon the landlord only; but when the Education Bill was brought in, one-half of the burden was transferred from the landlord to the tenant, 1464 and it was in many cases, especially in the Western Highlands, that that burden amounted to from 10 to 12½ per cent on the tenant's rental. There was no talk about contracts then. He now asked that Parliament should do for the tenants what it did for the landlord then. He asked the House to save men from being ruined. The Scotch landlords generally, he admitted, were acting very generously; but there was a minority who either could not or would not do so. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill ought to go further. The Irish Land Act and the Crofters' Act had, he thought, acted very unfairly, and would ruin some landlords. The House ought to consider the rights of all the parties interested when when it did interfere. In Scotland the Crofters' Commission had reduced rents from 40 to 70 per cent; and when they went to the county he represented he believed they would ruin some landlords. One of the great rack-renters, a banker, would be ruined; while the man who sold him the estate would be scot free. Mr. Hussey, the well-known Irish land agent, gave evidence that he had bought an estate, and borrowed two-thirds of the money on mortgage. The Land Court reduced the rent by one-third, and the whole of his capital disappeared. That was very unfortunate, and he thought the Courts which reduced rents should likewise have the option of reducing the burdens on landlords, such as were imposed upon them by wills and in deeds. He did not see why the capitalist should get his pound of flesh and the landlord pay all the burdens. The Court ought to have power to lower mortgage charges as well as rent. There was one statement made by the right hon. Gentleman that he was very glad to hear; he told them that the bulk of the landlords of Scotland, especially those in the Lowlands, were in the unfortunate position that they were not able to get a fair return, in the shape of interest, for the money they had invested in improvements. If the right hon. Gentleman had carried out the argument to its legitimate conclusion, he would have seen that his argument amounted to an admission that economic rent, in the scientific sense of the term, had, in those cases, entirely disappeared. To that extent, it would appear that the Government agreed with 1465 Sir James Caird; so that, in the Western Highlands, the Crofter Commissioners ought to have reduced rents by 100 per cent, instead of from 40 to 70 per cent. From his knowledge of the Lowlands of Scotland he would deny the assertion of the hon. Baronet the Member for West Renfrewshire (Sir Archibald Campbell) that the improvements there were made by the landlords; for, in some of the leases he had seen, the tenants were compelled to spend some hundreds of pounds on improvements. He would make bold to say that in the Western and Northern Highlands, doubtless, all the improvements were, and had been, made by the tenants; but in Lowland Scotland, as much as in Ireland, a large section of the improvements had been made by the tenants, and that, capital for capital invested in the soil, there had been more proportionately invested by Scotch than by Irish tenants. The fact was generally admitted that the Scotch farmer could not pay the rent out of the produce of the soil. Therefore, if he paid it he must pay it out of his capital, which was limited. The position now, therefore, was such that the farmers of Scotland ought to be protected by a general extension of the Crofters Act, or by a measure like the Irish Land Act. Their leases must be broken, the only question being whether they should be broken by recourse to the Bankruptcy Court, or by the intervention of a Land Court. He warned hon. Members opposite that if the farmers should be forced to go through the Bankruptcy Court, many of them would change their political faith. Unfortunately for Scotland, the Lowland farmers had generally been Conservative. But they would then probably come to the conclusion, as they had done in the North, that large landlords were not the best men to represent them. No doubt there had been a fall in dairy produce, as in corn and cattle also; but he could not see why the hon. Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. Bolton) saw any difference between the position of the Scottish and the Irish leaseholder; and if the Government were compelled to support a measure to enable Irish leaseholders to break their leases and get new rents, he could not see on what principle they refused the same boon to Scottish leaseholders. He was no Socialist; indeed, he approved of the institution of private property, and he 1466 was sorry that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were adding force to the Socialist agitation by their present attitude. For if they refused to grant moderate reforms, instead of evolution, they would bring about revolution. The hon. Baronet the Member for West Renfrewshire told them that some men had bought their land. Well, some men had bought slaves, but that did not give them a better right to hold men. The truth was that manlordism and landlordism were alike in that respect—and both must go. If the landlords met them fairly now, they would get compensation, and be fairly and generously treated; but if they refused redress, and turned the capitalist farmer against them, and demanded their full pound of flesh, then probably, like Shylock, they would want their whole pouud and meet Shylock's fate.
§ MR. C. S. PARKER (Perth)
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down (Dr. Clark) had given them an example of what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland had said—that if they got on an inclined plane it would be difficult to say how far they might slide. The House seemed to have got on somewhat of an inclined plane in its dealings with Irish land. They had passed Irish Land Acts for Irish reasons, because they were demanded by the Representatives from Ireland, to give legal sanction to customary and equitable rights of tenants in Ireland. But now the hon. Member for Caithness said that, with his experience of both the North and South of Scotland, he saw no difference between Scotland and Ireland; and, further, that Land Courts ought to regulate not rents only, but also mortgage interest and other charges upon land. The hon. Member had, with a fairness which, no doubt, the House would appreciate, admitted that landlords were great sufferers, as well as tenants, by the fall in prices. Indeed, landlords, though often they could afford it better, were, perhaps, the greater losers. For if the annual value of land dropped largely, anyone who rented the land for a few years only was, no doubt, a great loser for those years; but he could then quit it and go. The man whose whole property was invested in the land could not quit and go; and he lost his capital value. But the question now before the House was whether or not 1467 they were to censure the Government for not having introduced into the Queen's Speech a promise of inquiry into this question of leaseholds in Scotland? They had been told that no inquiry was wanted, because the facts were well known. But to whom were they well known? Were they well known to that House, and to the new constituencies who had so great a power now in sending Members to that House, and in instructing them what they should do when there? He would say, from both those points of view, that there was some need of inquiry. Urban constituents knew little of agricultural leases; and he thought the debate that evening showed that, to a certain extent, even hon. Members wanted a little more knowledge of the facts. Two of the supporters of the Amendment gave contradictory views of the way rent was determined. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment (Mr. Anderson) had told them that all rents were fixed by the landlord; while, on the other hand, the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. A. L. Brown) told them that, in his experience, the tenant was fixing the rent. He said that in the South of Scotland landlords were accepting gladly what the tenants offered. They did not need a regular Plan of Campaign, for one Scotch tenant in himself was as formidable as a whole host of Irish campaigners. The tenant said—"Take this, or want," and the landlord took it, with never a word. He (Mr. Parker) did not like this loose language about there being no free contract now, because the tenant was dictating everything to the landlord, and that a while ago there was no free contract, because the landlord dictated the terms. It seemed to him that most contracts were made under considerable pressure of various considerations, and each party considering whether, on the whole, under the circumstances he would take it. There was one point as to which he himself, though he had listened to the whole debate, still stood in need of information; and that was the number of tenants in Scotland, not who had been affected by the general fall in prices, but who, wishing to be emancipated from the 19 years' lease, had found that their landlords would not release them. That was an important point. Were they asked to legislate 1468 for a few persons only, or for a whole class who were being ruined? Unhappily many tenants were being ruined, but many landlords also. Hon. Members talked of monopoly. The chief monopoly he had observed lately was the monopoly of the advertisement columns of newspapers by landlords offering their estates for sale. But what he wished to know was this. How many cases were there where a tenant came to his landlord, and said—"I have been losing; I have been paying rent out of capital, and I want to get out of my lease," and where the landlord refused to let him go? How many cases were there?
§ MR. C. S. PARKER
said, he could not at present cross examine the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, who said there were "thousands;" but there was a good formula which the headmaster of one of our public schools was in the habit of using in cases of this kind. When anyone made a sweeping general statement he would say—"Name six." ["Name!"] His (Mr. Parker's) belief was that what usually occurred was this. The tenant farmer went to his landlord and said he wished to give up his lease; and the landlord usually replied that he might do so, not, perhaps, on the same terms as if he had run out the lease. However, he would be glad to have some information as to the thousands of cases which the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire spoke of. As to inquiry, he had no objection to it; on the contrary, he thought it might have two good results. It might open the eyes of many who talked loosely on the Land Question to the true facts of the case on the one hand; and he was convinced, on the other hand, that it would make more clear to many landlords the moral claims of their tenants upon them for liberal remissions of rent.
§ DR. E. McDONALD (Ross and Cromarty)
said, there were thousands of cases in the Western Highlands where just reductions of rent had been refused. He would give the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. C. S. Parker) the name of one tenant rented at £300 a-year, and who for the last seven years could only 1469 pay his rent from the proceeds of a business that he carried on in connection with the farm. The landlord, although assured that the rent could not be paid out of the farm, refused to release the man. He might also mention the case of the tenants of the Scottish Provident Institution, who had been refused reductions by the trustees, and whose rent the Land Court reduced 50 per cent. Those cases were of common occurrence. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had insisted on the sacredness of contract, and he (Dr. McDonald) agreed with him; but there were cases where contracts had, when necessary, been broken, as, for instance, by the Crofters' Act of last year. He wished also to point out that there was a little Bill pending for the benefit of leaseholders in Ireland. It was proposed to enable them to take advantage of the Irish Land Act. He (Dr. McDonald) should like to know, in view of the Government's intention to extend the law to old leases not now under it, whether contract was more sacred in Ireland than it was in Scotland? The Government had seen that their contemplated action in the matter of Irish leases was a deplorable necessity. It was understood that the Bill was to have the support of the Government; and, on speaking on the matter to an hon. Member, he said—"It is a deplorable necessity in Ireland." He (Dr. McDonald) supposed that the Government would not see that it was a deplorable necessity in Scotland until the Scotch Members made them see it. There were cases in which large sheep farmers in the Highlands had been ruined. The landlords sold the sheep and turned the farms into deer forests. The same thing might be done in the South. An hon. Member had said that the landlord was very poor, and that the tenant must do his share. Did he mean that the tenant was to be sent to the workhouse in order to keep the landlord out of that institution? They talked of ruining the landlords. He knew of thousands of large farmers who had been ruined by the landlords; and if a landlord was ruined here and there, he did not know that he was more deserving of pity than the poor tenant. A case had certainly been made out for inquiry, and he hoped the Government would make up their minds to grant it.
§ SIR DONALD CURRIE (Perthshire, W.)
said, he wished to point out that there were other leases, besides those for 19 years—say, for 15 years and 10 years—requiring consideration as much as 19 years' leases, which would not come within the application of the moral law of which they had heard so much that night. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Wallace) had told them that the basis of all claims for property or proprietary rights in the United Kingdom was that of industry; in other words, that a tenant farmer who worked the land was the representative of industry, and, therefore, had the only claim to the property, the landlord having no possessive rights whatever. He (Sir Donald Currie) dissented from that doctrine entirely, and held it to be vicious and unjust. From much that had been said, one would think it was a disgrace to be a landlord. Well, he was a landlord, and the lands he held had not been left to him; he had purchased them by the fruits of his industry. He had worked for them in the commerce of the country, so as to obtain that which enabled him, by payment under legal process, to purchase and own, and this was said not to be proprietary right.
§ SIR DONALD CURRIE
replied that he preferred the present and absolute possession and right. He could not go into the dim and distant future of his hon. Friend. He preferred to deal with the positive possession of property—its inherent rights, claims, and duties. He was a landlord in a Highland constituency, and he had offered his tenants, the other day, the alteration of all their leases, if they pleased, or to cancel them altogether. That was not what any other hon. Member who had spoken that night about the iniquities of landlords had done; but when he had made that offer not a single tenant would accept it. No; they preferred to remain as they were, and preferred him to make yearly leases, because they believed they would be fairly treated. And now it was his rule to make 15 year leases, with five year breaks at the option of tenant and landlord; but the tenant farmers of Aberdeen wished 19 years' leases when the price of beef was high, and it was to their advantage to have long leases. If there was a singular thing in the dis- 1471 cussion they had had that night, it was that they had not heard the opinion of the Leaders of the Liberal Party, who, for some years past, had been engaged in legislating on the subject. He would like to hear the opinion of the Front Bench as to whether the Liberal Leaders favoured the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Esslemont). They had not a single word to say in favour of the Amendment. It was quite inconsistent with their previous policy and legislation. It was not in connection with the Queen's Speech that this subject should be dealt with, but upon a much larger basis. He contended that the farmers required, and were certainly entitled to, a very large measure of relief in the matter of land legislation. The Agricultural Holdings Act should be improved. He would also like to see the Hares and Rabbits Act extended to existing leases, and the remnants of the Law of Hypothec which were still in force abolished. But let them not be misled by arguments based upon the Law of Hypothec in relation to the question of large farms with 19 years' leases, for hypothec was injurious chiefly in respect to small holdings. He would further say that if the Government would bring in a measure dealing with agriculture to the general advantage of Scotland no one would rejoice more than himself. He did not believe that the tenant farmers of Scotland desired that the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire should be carried. He believed they were straightforward men, who knew perfectly well how to steer through the present difficulties. They were suffering greatly, and so were the landlords; but this proposed alteration was not an adequate cure. They must deal with the agricultural question as a whole; and it was impossible to deal with it in a debate on the Address, and upon a simple proposal as to 19 years' leases.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 96; Noes 198: Majority 102.1474
|Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.)||Blake, T.|
|Balfour, Sir G.||Bradlaugh, C.|
|Barclay, J. W.||Broadhurst, H.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Brown, A. L.|
|Burt, T.||Molloy, B. C.|
|Cameron, C.||Montagu, S.|
|Campbell, Sir G.||Morgan, O. V.|
|Campbell, H.||Murphy, W. M.|
|Carew, J. L.||Nolan, J.|
|Channing, F. A.||O'Brien, J. F. X.|
|Clancy, J. J.||O'Brien, P.|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||O'Brien, P. J.|
|Cobb, H. P.||O'Connor, J. (Tippry.)|
|Conybeare, C. A. V.||O'Connor, T. P.|
|Cox, J. R.||O'Kelly, J.|
|Craig, J.||Parnell, C. S.|
|Crawford, W.||Pickersgill, E. H.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Picton, J. A.|
|Ellis, J. E.||Pinkerton, J.|
|Esmonde, Sir T. H. G.||Power, P. J.|
|Fenwick, C.||Price, T. P.|
|Finucane, J.||Provand, A. D.|
|Flynn, J. C.||Pyne, J. D.|
|Foley, P. J.||Quinn, T.|
|Fox, Dr. J. F.||Rowlands, J.|
|Gilhooly, J.||Rowlands, W. B.|
|Gill, T. P.||Russell, E. R.|
|Graham, R. C.||Russell, T. W.|
|Harrington, E.||Schwann, C. E.|
|Hayden, L. P.||Shaw, T.|
|Healy, M.||Sheehan, J. D.|
|Holden, I.||Sheil, E.|
|Hooper, J.||Sullivan, D.|
|Howell, G.||Summers, W.|
|Hunter, W. A.||Sutherland, A.|
|Jordan, J.||Swinburne, Sir J.|
|Kenny, C. S.||Tuite, J.|
|Labouchere, H.||Wallace, R.|
|Lane, W. J.||Watt, H.|
|Lawson, Sir W.||Wayman, T.|
|Leahy, J.||Will, J. S.|
|Leake, R.||Williamson, S.|
|Lewis, T. P.||Wilson, H. J.|
|Mackintosh, C. F.||Woodhead, J.|
|M'Cartan, M.||Wright, C.|
|M'Donald, Dr. R.|
|M'Laren, W. S. B.||TELLERS|
|Mahony, P.||Anderson, C. H.|
|Marum, E. M.||Esslemont, P.|
|Menzies, R. S.|
|Agg-Gardner, J. T.||Bonsor, H. C. O.|
|Ainslie, W. G.||Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Brodrick, hon. W. St. J.F.|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.|
|Baird, J. G. A.||Bruce, Lord H.|
|Balfour, rt. hon. A. J.||Bruce, hon. R. P.|
|Balfour, G. W.||Burdett-Coutts, W. L.|
|Banes, Major G. E.||Ash.-B.|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-||Burghley, Lord|
|Bartley, G. C. T.||Caldwell, J.|
|Bates, Sir E.||Campbell, Sir A.|
|Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks-||Charrington, S.|
|Clarke, Sir E. G.|
|Beckett, E. W.||Cochrane-Baillie, hon. C. W. A. N.|
|Bentinck, W. G. C.|
|Beresford, Lord C. W. De la Poer||Coddington, W.|
|Coghill, D. H.|
|Bethell, Commander G. R.||Cohen, L. L.|
|Colomb, Capt. J. C. R.|
|Bigwood, J.||Cooke, C. W. R.|
|Birkbeck, Sir E.||Corry, Sir J. P.|
|Blundell, Col. H. B. H.||Cross, H. S.|
|Bond, G. H.||Cubitt, right hon. G.|
|Davenport, H. T.||Hughes - Hallett, Col. F. C.|
|Davenport, W. B.|
|Dawnay, Colonel hon. L. P.||Hunt, F. S.|
|Hunter, Sir W. G.|
|De Cobain, E. S. W.||Isaacs, L. H.|
|De Worms, Baron H.||Isaacson, F. W.|
|Dickson, Major A. G.||Jackson, W. L.|
|Dimsdale, Baron R.||James, rt. hon. Sir H.|
|Dixon, G.||Jennings, L. J.|
|Dorington, Sir J. E.||Johnston, W.|
|Dugdale, J. S.||Kelly, J. R.|
|Duncan, Colonel F.||Kenyon - Slaney, Col. W.|
|Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W. H.||Kerans, F. H.|
|Elcho, Lord||Kimber, H.|
|Elliot, hon. A. R. D.||King, H. S.|
|Elliot, hon. H. F. H.||Knowles, L.|
|Evelyn, W. J.||Lafone, A.|
|Ewing, Sir A. O.||Lambert, I. C.|
|Eyre, Colonel H.||Laurie, Colonel R. P.|
|Fellowes, W. H.||Lawrence, W. F.|
|Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.||Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.|
|Field, Admiral E.||Legh, T. W.|
|Fielden, T.||Leighton, S.|
|Finch, G. H.||Lewisham, right hon. Viscount|
|Fisher, W. H.|
|Fitzgerald, R. U. P.||Llewellyn, E. H.|
|Fitz - Wygram, Gen. Sir F. W.||Long, W. H.|
|Folkestone, right hon. Viscount||Lowther, J. W.|
|Macartney, W. G. E.|
|Forwood, A. B.||Macdonald, rt. hon. J. H. A.|
|Fowler, Sir R. N.|
|Fraser, General C. C.||Maclure, J. W.|
|Fulton, J. F.||M'Calmont, Captain J.|
|Gedge, S.||Mallock, R.|
|Giles, A.||Manners, right hon. Lord J. J. R.|
|Gilliat, J. S.|
|Godson, A. F.||Marriott, rt. hn. W. T.|
|Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.||Matthews, rt. hon. H.|
|Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Gorst, Sir J. E.||Mayne, Adml. R. C.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Mills, hon. C. W.|
|Gray, C. W.||Milvain, T.|
|Grimston, Viscount||Mount, W. G.|
|Gunter, Colonel R.||Mowbray, rt. hon. Sir J. R.|
|Gurdon, R. T.|
|Hall, C.||Mulholland, H. L.|
|Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.||Muntz, P. A.|
|Murdoch, C. T.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Noble, W.|
|Hamley, General Sir E. B.||Northcote, hon. H. S.|
|Hanbury, R. W.||O'Neill, hon. R. T.|
|Hankey, F. A.||Paget, Sir R. H.|
|Hardcastle, F.||Parker, hon. F.|
|Hartington, Marq. of||Pearce, W.|
|Heaton, J. H.||Pelly, Sir L.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||Penton, Captain F. T.|
|Hermon-Hodge, R. T.||Plunket, right hon. D. R.|
|Hervey, Lord F.|
|Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.||Plunkett, hon. J. W.|
|Pomfret, W. P.|
|Hill, Colonel E. S.||Powell, F. S.|
|Hill, A. S.||Puleston, J. H.|
|Hoare, S.||Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.|
|Holland, rt. hon. Sir H. T.||Reed, H. B.|
|Ritchie, rt. hon. C. T.|
|Holmes, rt. hon. H.||Robinson, B.|
|Houldsworth, W. H.||Russell, Sir G.|
|Howard, J. M.||Sandys, Lt.-Col. T. M.|
|Howorth, H. H.||Selwyn, Captain C. W.|
|Seton-Karr, H.||Townsend, F.|
|Sidebotham, J. W.||Vernon, hon. G. R.|
|Sidebottom, W.||Waring, Colonel T.|
|Smith, rt. hon. W. H.||Webster, Sir R. E.|
|Spencer, J. E.||Webster, R. G.|
|Stanhope, rt. hon. E.||White, J. B.|
|Stanley, E. J.||Whitley, E.|
|Stewart, M. J.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Swetenham, E.||Wood, N.|
|Tapling, T. K.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Taylor, F.||Wright, H. S.|
|Temple, Sir R.||Yerburgh, R. A.|
|Tollemache, H. J.||TELLERS.|
|Tomlinson, W. E. M.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Tottenham, A. L.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
§ Main Question again proposed.