THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
, in rising to call attention to a statement of the Prime Minister relating to the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Adams v. Dunseath; and to ask, Whether Her Majesty's Government propose any legislation in reference to the Irish Land Act of 1881? said, the statement was one which involved most complicated issues. It had to do with that portion of the Land Act which dealt with the vexed question of the relative value to landlord and tenant of improvements. 1205 When the Act of 1881 was in Committee in the other House, a sub-section was suddenly jerked into the Bill which gave rise to infinite discussions, Amendments, and suggestions, until it finally resolved itself into Sub-Section 9 of the 8th section, by which no rent was to be allowed or made payable in any proceedings under the Act in respect of any improvements made by the tenant or his predecessors, in title and for which, in the opinion of the Court, the tenant should not have been paid or otherwise compensated by the landlord or his predecessors in title. The sub-section was not very clearly expressed; but he thought the intention of Parliament concerning it could be sufficiently clearly made out by the discussions that took place concerning it. The difficulty of ascertaining the relative value of landlord's and tenant's interest in improvements had always been great, and was sufficiently indicated by the difference of opinion entertained by high legal authorities on the subject. The highest legal authority, the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack (Lord Selborne), on the occasion of the second reading of the Bill, said, in speaking of the value of the tenant's interest—Now, both of these—the goodwill of the holding and the value of the improvements—are things which in no sense belong to the landlord.…That which the tenant has to sell …is a thing which the landlord never had and never could have."—[3 Hansard, cclxiv. 633.]According to the noble and learned Lord, therefore, the goodwill and the value in improvements were things which could not exist, except under circumstances in which the land was let to a tenant. A short time ago, however, Mr. Litton, one of the Chief Commissioners under the Act, speaking on the very ease of "Adams v. Dunseath," said that—Whatever might he procured from the motives I have referred to beyond commercial rent belongs to the tenant who holds the possession, just as it would belong to the landlord if he was about to let his land for the first time.Mr. Litton, therefore, held views diametrically opposite to those of the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack. Among the several points decided in "Adams v. Dunseath," the most important related to the question whether the length of time during which improvements were enjoyed by a tenant 1206 could be looked upon as in any way compensating him for them. That point was amply discussed in the other House of Parliament and in their Lordships' House, and the Prime Minister made several statements concerning it. The Prime Minister stated that—He objected to the time during which any improvements had been enjoyed being taken into consideration. The tenant's own improvements were the tenant's property. That was the doctrine upon which the Government took their stand. They did not admit that the time of enjoyment of improvements was any reason for handing them over to the landlord.On another occasion he considerably modified that statement, and gave as a reason for changing the clause as it originally stood—That if it were left unqualified, the tenant could claim for remote reclamations and for improvements made in pursuance of covenant.These expressions of the Prime Minister, no doubt, appearing somewhat vague to Mr. Parnell, he endeavoured to elicit some more distinct opinion on the subject; and after the insertion of the present sub-section; he moved to introduce words to the effect that—The time during which a tenant may have enjoyed the advantage of improvements shall not be held to be compensation within the meaning of this sub-section.These were words which distinctly asserted the principle that, under no circumstances, could the tenant's interest in improvements be deteriorated or lessened by the length of time during which he had enjoyed the improvements, and they were opposed by the Government and rejected by a large majority. It appeared by that that Her Majesty's Government and Parliament held that, under certain circumstances, the interest of the tenant in improvements could be deteriorated by time. It was not very easy to reconcile these varying statements, or to understand exactly what the Prime Minister meant. But he (the Earl of Dun-raven) presumed the meaning was this—that in respect of improvements the tenant was entitled to the full amount of money which he had expended in making them, and to a fair remuneration or percentage on it; but that if the value of the holding was increased over and above that, because the capabilities inherent in the soil were developed, then the landlord was entitled to reap the benefit of the improvements in that re- 1207 spect. Such was the general idea of Parliament on the subject; and Parliament further held it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to define the principle accurately in an Act of Parliament, but that the Act could be safely left to be interpreted by the Courts, which were constituted for that especial purpose in Ireland. As yet only one case had been decided by the final Court of Appeal—the now famous case of "Adams v. Dunseath." It was a most important decision for both owners and occupiers. Chief Justice Morris, in giving his decision, stated that—He expected that Court must determine, in regard to the important question arising in the case, principles by which the future action of the Commissioners would he regulated.The High Court of Appeal decided various points, among them that, as regards improvements made prior to 1870, Sub-Section 9 of Section 8 of the Land Act of 1881 must be construed with due reference to the last paragraph of Section 4 of the Land Act of 1870, which section dealt with the question of compensation for improvements. The practical result of this decision was that the Court of Appeal held that the tenant's interest in his improvements was capable, under certain circumstances, of being diminished by the enjoyment of them. Now, he should have thought that the decision of the Court of Appeal was consistent with the intention of Parliament and with the views of the Prime Minister, as far as the intentions of Parliament could be ascertained from the discussions in Parliament, and as far as the views of the Prime Minister could be gathered from the statements of the Prime Minister. But the Prime Minister had lately declared that the decision of the High Court of Appeal in that respect, as far as that portion of it was concerned, was opposed to the intention of the framers of the Act of 1881. He (the Earl of Dunraven) had no wish that any man should be deprived of the full value of his improvements. It would be most unjust and unwise that such should be the case; but he failed to see that there was any danger of such an injustice being done. There were, besides, two other questions involved in addition to those in which improvements had been effected solely by the tenant. There were cases in which the prospective value of the improvements was accepted by the 1208 owner in lieu of a present money payment in the shape of rent. That prospective value was part of the consideration for which the holding was let. It was obvious that if the entire benefit of the improvement was handed over to the tenant, no such agreements would be made in future, and it was equally certain that if the benefit was transferred to the tenant great injustice would be done. Those cases were supposed to be safeguarded by Sub-Section 9 of Section 8. The Prime Minister stated that they were sufficiently guarded by the words "otherwise compensated." It might be that the insertion of the word "otherwise" was sufficient, and that the subsection did protect cases where improvements were stipulated for on consideration of a low rent; but when the Court of Appeal gave a decision which bore upon these cases and protected them, the Prime Minister took exception to the ruling of that Court, and he [the Earl of Dunraven) could not but think that the rights of landowners were prejudicially affected thereby. There was another set of cases which were also affected by the decision of "Adams v. Dunseath"—namely, those cases where improvements had been made by loans from the Board of Works. Those would be indirectly affected. One Sub-Commission had decided to the effect that the improvements made by Board of Works loans became the property of the tenant after the instalments had been paid. The judgment of the Court of Appeal appeared to be contrary to that decision; because cases of improvements made by Board of Works loans would be affected by the concluding words of the last paragraph of Section 4 of the Act of 1870, which, according to the decision of the Court of Appeal, governed Sub-Section 9 of Section 8 of the Act of 1881. It was obvious, if the view of the Sub-Commission was to be accepted as correct, landlords would not be inclined to borrow any more money to improve their estates. No man could be expected to mortgage his property if he was to receive no benefit whatever for doing so. There had been between£3,000,000 and£4,000,000 borrowed by owners of land on the security of that land, and laid out in drainage and other main improvements for the general benefit of the country; and if landlords were to be deprived of the advantages 1209 they hoped to reap by that outlay a huge injustice would be done. It was for the wisdom of Parliament to decide whether such loans should be sanctioned in the future. In the past Parliament had deemed them most beneficial to the country. Parliament had encouraged landlords to borrow by many Acts of Parliament, which had been passed with the intention that landlords should benefit by the outlay of the loans. He did not believe that Parliament intended that the Act of 1881 should confiscate any benefit which the landlords hoped to gain by improvements to execute which they mortgaged their property. But if the decision of the Court of Appeal was erroneous, it was very doubtful whether those benefits would not be confiscated. The decision in "Adams v. Dunseath" naturally attracted great attention; and the Prime Minister, in reply to a question about it, stated, in effect, that in some respects the decision of the Court of Appeal was not in accordance with the intentions of the framers of the Act. The Prime Minister was, of course, quite within his rights in making that statement. No one could object to the Prime Minister, or any Member of the Government, stating that Parliament had passed a Bill contrary to the intentions of Her Majesty's Government, who brought it in. The Prime Minister would also have been quite justified in declaring that in view of the decision it would be necessary, in his opinion, to amend the Act. But he declared nothing of the kind; he said something very different. He declared that the construction which the Commissioners and the Sub-Commissioners put upon the judgment of the Court of Appeal was to be carefully observed by the Government, before they decided what they were to do in the matter. The Prime Minister constituted himself a final Court of Appeal; for, although he did not attempt to reverse this particular decision of "Adams v. Dunseath," he declared the decision of the Court of Appeal was contrary to his intentions, and he left it to be inferred that it was erroneous, and that the Act, if properly interpreted, carried out his intentions, by suggesting that it ought not to be considered in dealing with similar cases. He said, in effect, that the Act was falsely interpreted by the Court of Ap- 1210 peal, and that if the Sub-Commissioners were guided by that interpretation it would become necessary to amend the Act. Whatever might be meant by this statement, it certainly would be considered in Ireland to mean one thing, and one thing only, and that was that the Sub-Commissioners were strongly recommended not to pay attention to the judgment of the Court of Appeal, and that if they did so, and were guided by that decision, they would force upon the Government the disagreeable necessity of bringing in an Amendment Bill. He would leave it to their Lordships to consider what effect such a statement was likely to have upon men who were appointed by the Government, and appointed for one year only. Having passed an Act, and constituted Judges and Courts to carry it out, and a final Court of Appeal, it appeared to him an extraordinary proceeding for a Prime Minister to set himself above the Court of Appeal and advise the Sub-Commissioners to pay no attention whatever to a decision of that Court. On one occasion the Prime Minister "took the liberty," to use his own words, "to notice an error in the language of a learned Judge in Ireland." On another occasion he called in question the correctness of a decision of the High Court of Appeal. Such commentaries were not likely to induce respect for the law among the population of Ireland. It was most important that they should know the intention of the Government in this matter—whether they still intended to continue to carefully observe the construction which was put upon the decision of the Court of Appeal, or whether they intended to bring in an Amendment Bill this Session. He would like also to ask the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal by what means the Government intended to find out what construction had been put upon the decision of the Court of Appeal by the Sub-Commissioners in Ireland? The Sub-Commissioners gave no reasons for their decisions. How, then, was it possible to discover how those decisions had been arrived at, unless the Government received information from the Commissioners which was not open to Parliament and the public? He submitted that Parliament had a right to be informed on a matter of this kind. Their Lordships' House had been severely criticized 1211 for appointing a Committee to inquire into the general working of the Act, although that Committee expressly stated that the terms of their Reference did not allow them to inquire into any particular decision. It was probably considered advisable to rally the Liberal Party at that time, and perhaps it was also deemed advisable to awaken the people—perhaps with a view to further legislation. Their Lordships might remember what the Prime Minister said in one of his famous Mid Lothian speeches. He was criticizing that House, and said that, whenever the House of CommonsWere backed by any strong national feeling it would be dangerous to confront or resist, the House of Lords passed their measures.It seemed rather a curious form of adverse criticism to say their Lordships passed measures when there was a very strong national feeling that they should be passed. Then Mr. Gladstone continued to say that—The moment the people went to sleep, and became satisfied, and ceased to take a strong and decided interest in public questions—that was the moment when the majority of the House of Lords grew powerful; then they mangled, then they cut about, then they postponed, then they rejected the good measures that went up to them from the House of Commons.Anyone might suppose that in speaking of people "cutting about" and "mangling" the versatile intellect of Mr. Gladstone had led him to indulge the electors of Mid Lothian in a dissertation on establishments partaking of the nature of a laundry; but it really was of one of the branches of the Legislature that he was speaking. Well, it was probably thought necessary to awaken the nation and rally the Liberal Party, and the appointment of a Committee by that House was made to serve the purpose. He did not suppose a nation was ever awakened or a Party rallied under such a flimsy pretext; but almost before the words with which the Prime Minister denounced that House, rallied the Party, and woke the people ceased echoing, the same Prime Minister himself not only criticized the Act, but picked out a particular case for criticism, and informed the Commissioners, the Sub-Commissioners, and Parliament and the country that a decision of the Court of Appeal was wrong. And he went further, and told the Sub-Commissioners 1212 in Ireland that if they were guided by that decision of the Court of Appeal they would force upon Government the disagreeable necessity of bringing in an Amendment Bill. Could men be expected to do their duty under such circumstances? There were other evils likely to follow upon the statement of the Prime Minister. If the decision of the Court of Appeal was not to guide other cases, the result would be that all such other cases would have to go up to the Court of Appeal, and the present partial block in the Courts would be succeeded by an absolute block. Unless the Land Act was to prove a failure, it was necessary that cases should be largely settled out of Court; but it was difficult now for either landlord or tenant to discover any basis for negotiation with such diametrically opposed views expressed by the Court of Appeal and by the Prime Minister, and with the prospect of legislation hanging over them. It was essential also, unless Ireland was to remain in a state of chaos, that the differences of landlords and tenants should be largely settled out of Court. It was essential also that the authority of the Courts should be sustained, and due respect paid to their decisions. He feared that the authority of the Court of Appeal suffered by the statement of the Prime Minister; and he hoped Her Majesty's Ministers in that House would take the opportunity of giving their Lordships some explanation that might be satisfactory in the matter.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD
, in reply, said, that he would not make any lengthened statement in answer to his noble Friend's (the Earl of Dunraven's) Question. He would not go into all the matters mentioned in his noble Friend's speech, neither would he attempt to discuss or defend every sentence in all speeches of the Prime Minister which had caught the eye of his noble Friend. He would confine himself to the Question as it stood upon the Paper. He was not able, at that moment, to add anything substantial to what was said by the Prime Minister when questioned—more than once, he believed—in the House of Commons on the subject, because the Prime Minister would himself have a very early opportunity of stating the intentions of the Government as to any Amendment to be proposed by 1213 them on any point of the Land Act of last year. But he (Lord Carlingford) would take the liberty of adding a few words upon the speech of his noble Friend generally. In the first place, he must protest against the extraordinary mare's nest which had been discovered by his noble Friend in the words of the Prime Minister in answer to the Question of a Member of the House of Commons. His right hon. Friend had said that it appeared to him that part of a certain decision of the Court of Appeal in Ireland, as to the legal bearing of a clause in the Land Act, was not consistent with the intention of the framers of that Act. His noble Friend had construed that expression of opinion as if it were a criminal interference with the working of the Land Act, or an indirect threat to the Courts which were administering the Act, as if it were an interference with the independence of those Courts. Anything more preposterous he (Lord Carlingford) had never heard than such a view of the effect of the words used by his right hon. Friend; and he was a good deal surprised at such a suggestion coming from his noble Friend. The Prime Minister had, in fact, simply expressed an opinion, and it was impossible for a Minister of the Crown not to do so when asked to answer a Question. There would be no interference with the working of the Land Act. That would go on through the Courts which were constituted for the purpose of administering it. What the Prime Minister had, in fact, expressed was his agreement with the Lord Chancellor of Ireland in his judgment upon the question arising in this now famous case; and he added that, rather than pledge himself to any immediate attempt at legislation upon the point, he and his Law Advisers would wait and see what amount of practical effect this decision would have. It was a doubtful point in their opinion, and was, he (Lord Carlingford) believed, a doubtful point now. In fact, he was not aware that the Land Commission itself had considered what the effect of the decision would be in the cases which have or would come before the Court. It was impossible to say what the practical effect of the decision would be upon the relations of landlord and tenant in Ireland, and upon the fixing of fair rents. It was surely natural that the Prime Minister should prefer to 1214 wait to see what that effect would be. The question was an important one, and if important results were to follow, differing materially from the intentions of the Government, it might be the duty of the Government to ask Parliament to correct that part of the Act. If, on the other hand, the practical effect of the decision was not of great moment, it might not be the duty of the Government to make that application to Parliament. In the meantime, the Courts would, of course, be bound solely, not by the expression of anyone in either House of Parliament, whether Prime Minister or any other person, as to what was the intention of the framers of the Bill, but by the judgment of the High Court of Appeal in Ireland. It was not necessary for the Land Commission to say that they felt themselves absolutely bound by that decision; but they had said so, and it was not for them to say otherwise. He would add a very few words as to what the Prime Minister really said. In effect his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government had expressed agreement with the Lord Chancellor, whose judgment differed from that of his Colleagues forming the majority of the Court over which he presided. The practical difference, as he (Lord Carlingford) understood it, was this—the Lord Chancellor thought that, in this matter, the Courts were to be governed by the provisions of the 9th sub-section of the 8th clause of the Act of last year, and by that only—a clause containing the important words which had been mentioned, as to improvements which had been paid for, or otherwise compensated, by the landlord. The majority of the Court, contrary to the view of the Lord Chancellor, were of opinion that the conditions and restrictions contained in the 4th clause, or Improvement Clause, of the Land Act of 1870 were still in operation, and were not overridden by the words contained in the Act of last year. That clause in the Act of 1870 declared that the value of the tenant's improvements was to be subject to reduction by lapse of time, or by any reduction of rent which he might have enjoyed. He should, however, like, in passing, to remind his noble Friend that the words referred to did not raise any great question of principle, because those conditions and restrictions were limited to cases of improvements made before the passing of that Act, and those only; so 1215 that as to any improvements made by the tenant since the 1st of August, 1870, the conditions and restrictions of the Act of 1870 had no application whatever, and they were governed solely by the words of the clause in the Act of last year. That was an important distinction in point of principle, and it would become of increasingly practical importance with every year that passed. But the truth was that the divergence between the Lord Chancellor and the Court of Appeal was, in his opinion, not so wide as it appeared at first sight, and his noble Friend had considerably exaggerated its importance. He (Lord Carling-ford) understood that all the Members of the Court of Appeal agreed that there were two classes of interests concerned in the matter; there was a landlord's interest as well as a tenant's in the improvements, although they differed in degree. Those two classes comprised the improvements in buildings placed on the soil, and in the value of the soil itself, as enhancing the capabilities of the holding; and they would, on reading the judgment delivered in the case of "Adams v. Dunseath," find that the Lord Chancellor drew a great distinction between the tenant's work of improvement and its direct results on the one hand, and the capabilities of the soil belonging to the landlord on the other. It was true that Lord Justice Fitzgibbon, in his acute judgment, differed upon the practical point before the Court from the Lord Chancellor; but he drew substantially the same distinction between the very varying amount of the two interests in different classes of improvements, pointing out that in the case of a house or other building the tenant's interest absorbed almost the whole value, and the landlord's interest, if it existed, would be very limited; whereas, in the case of any improvements made in the soil, the tenant's interest would be more limited, and the landlord's interest might be very considerable. As to the practical result of the decision, he would ask the House to remember that, by the words of the Act of 1870, which, by that judgment, were imported into the Act of last year, and which governed the case they were discussing, the Court had a wide discretion in all cases to take into consideration the length of time during which improvements had been 1216 enjoyed. The Courts now also had to take into account the important question of rent. It was further to be supposed that all or most of the cases in which this question would come before the Courts would be cases in which the rent was a high one. He submitted, therefore, that, first of all, the divergence between the majority and the minority—that was to say, between the Lord Chancellor and the other Judges of the Court of Appeal—upon this matter, was not so great as it had appeared to his noble Friend to be; and, secondly, that the whole practical effect of the decision of the Court, as regarded the interests of landlord and tenant, had by no means yet become clear enough to see what it would be. The Prime Minister had, he thought, said a most reasonable thing when he stated in the House of Commons that the Government would wait and see whether, in their opinion, there was anything grave enough in the effect of the judgment of the Court to justify them in asking Parliament to correct that particular point in the Land Act of last year, for it would be neither wonderful nor blameworthy if, in one of the most difficult and, from its very nature, complicated pieces of legislation ever framed or passed, there should be points in the Act requiring correction. The Prime Minister would, however, at an early date, have occasion to state the views of the Government upon the whole of this matter, and upon the question whether any amending measure or additional legislation was required to the Land Act of last year. Under those circumstances, he (Lord Carlingford) would not anticipate the Prime Minister's statement.
§ EARL CAIRNS
said, he wished to remind their Lordships that just before the Recess there was a statement made by the Prime Minister with regard to that House which, to his mind, seemed a very important one. He had said that the question they had to decide was not only whether an inquiry into the Land Act was desirable in this House, but by the House of Commons, and they took four or five evenings to determine whether an inquiry into the working of the Land Act was desirable or not, and came to the conclusion that, on the whole, an inquiry into the working of the Act would be injurious to the good government of Ireland, and, therefore, 1217 extremely inexpedient, but that their Lordships had found one evening sufficient for the purpose of voting that it was desirable, and that they had acted wrongly in passing such a Resolution. The progress of events, however, had placed beyond the range of controversy the question of the desirability of that inquiry very much more rapidly than, perhaps, their Lordships imagined. On the 9th of March the House of Commons passed their Resolutions declaring that any Parliamentary inquiry into the Land Act tended to defeat good government in Ireland. On the 15th of March the second reading of a Bill proposing an important Amendment of that Act was moved in the same Assembly. Upon the back of that Bill were the names of four staunch Supporters of the Government, who, he believed, voted for the Resolution of Censure upon their Lordships' action in the matter. What did the Government, who believed that any inquiry into the Act would not be favourable to the good government of Ireland, do? Did they ask Parliament to throw out—but be would not use that expression—did they hurl the Bill from the House? On the contrary, Member after Member rose and declared that any inquiry into the working of the Land Act would be fatal to it, although it was admitted there were many miscarriages, and that the results desired could not be obtained unless there was some alteration. What did the Government say? They could not admit the possibility of tampering with the Act; yet they actually, with the utmost humility, asked the promoters of the Bill to put it off for some weeks, saying that, in the meantime, they would narrowly watch the working of the Act, and state their views at the end of that period. But there were two points to which he particularly desired to direct their Lordships' attention. In the first place, the House was aware that over 90 per cent of the cases in which applications to break existing leases had been made had failed, with no other result than to entail upon the applicant the costs of the proceedings. A Question was put to the Prime Minister a short time afterwards on the point. He was asked as to the clauses of the Act which referred to the making of leases. He was asked, whether he knew it was a fact that 90 per cent of the applications made by tenants in con- 1218 quence of the restricted scope of the 21st section of the Act were rendered ineffectual, and that Judge O'Hagan had publicly stated that fact; and also, whether it was proposed by legislation to remedy the defect? What was his answer? The Prime Minister thought there was considerable reason for an amendment of the law in respect to non-judgment. He thought the tenant in actual enjoyment of a lease, when he executed a new lease, or the tenant whose lease had just expired and was in occupation, ought to be placed on the same footing as a tenant from year to year. But he could not state, owing to the condition of Public Business, when the change would be introduced. This was a serious matter, because this particular clause was one of the greatest instances of legislation that had been proposed. When the proposal to break leases was first introduced into that House it was strongly opposed. He (Earl Cairns) had himself expected great objections to it; but he was somewhat surprised when he discovered that it was the wish of certain noble Lords in the House who were Irish landlords, and who felt that it carried with it some implication that they had done something wrong, that the clause should be passed. Accordingly they subsequently agreed to it, and what was the consequence? No case whatever was made out against the landlords; but now they knew that 90 per cent of the applications made had failed. The Prime Minister thought the law should be amended, on the ground of the decisions of the Court. He thought the tenants should have the redress to which they were entitled, as to which the Land Court in Ireland thought they had no claim. Now, he asked, how was it possible for Ireland to be peaceful, and for property to be secure, if declarations of this kind were to be made from time to time? The leaseholders were told that, so far from the law being settled, it was to be altered. What was the position of the 90 per cent? They were buoyed up by the promise of the Prime Minister, and hoped for that relief which they considered they were entitled to; while other leaseholders entertained the opinion that the law should be altered in their favour, and some alteration of the present system be effected. It was said that an inquiry into the working of the Act would be 1219 fatal. It might be asked if a declaration like this was likely to conduce to the peace of the country, for there was no reason for advancing it. He now passed to the second consideration. There was a strong feeling in the House at the time of the passing of the Act that in this matter, if necessary, there should be power of appeal to the highest tribunal in the Kingdom, the House of Lords; but the Government said they did not think there ought to be an appeal from Ireland to England; that the expense of such an appeal was objectionable, and they refused to allow it. They gave, however, an appeal to the highest Court which dealt with the subject—the Land Court, consisting of all the great judicial officers of Ireland. That arrangement was made, and it was, or it certainly ought to have been, understood that when a case came before the Land Court its decision was to be final. Well, there arose a very important case bearing upon the question of improvements. That case was brought before the Court and argued most elaborately for several days. Great pains and trouble and considerable time were taken before the Court gave its decision. It was divided in opinion, as Courts often were; but a very decided judgment was eventually pronounced. The reply of the Prime Minister to the Question put to him with reference to that question had been very clearly stated by his noble Friend (the Earl of Dunraven). He (Earl Cairns) would ask the Government, whether it was aware in that decision that, as regarded the improvements made by the tenants, the Land Court, in fixing a fair rent, had regarded the real enjoyment of the improvements as some compensation for the money spent upon them; and, whether the Government did not, in the course of the passage of the Bill through the House of Commons, distinctly state that no such construction was to be placed upon the clause? The Prime Minister stated it was not the intention of the framers of the Act that the tenant's interests in the course of his improvements should lapse, or be impaired in consequence of his enjoyment of those improvements. He (Earl Cairns) took it that the meaning of that was no reduction should be made because of a lapse of time. The Prime Minister said the wisest course would be to observe what 1220 construction the Court of Appeal put upon the clause, and its practical effect, before taking any action. He (Earl Cairns) agreed with what had been said—namely, that no person could have the least doubt as to how these statements would be received and understood in Ireland, and how they would be received by the Sub-Commissioners. They must remember who those Sub-Commissioners were, and that they were appointed annually. They were, in fact, in the position that Judges once were when they were supposed to be under the influence of the Government. Another thing was that it was perfectly in their power, having regard to the manner in which they gave their decisions, to conceal the principles upon which they proceeded; and, in point of fact, they did so. It was impossible to find out the grounds upon which they decided. It was clear how many unsophisticated persons would read this statement. The country would say the Government differed from the Court of Appeal, and they would have no means of knowing how far the Court of Appeal would be followed by the Sub-Commissioners in their judgments. What the Prime Minister said was substantially this. If the Sub-Commissioners did not follow the decision of the Court of Appeal they would agree with the Government, and the Government would not be put to the trouble of bringing in an amending Bill; whereas, on the other hand, if they did follow the decision of the Court of Appeal, they would, by so doing, say the Government were wrong, and consequently the Government would have to bring in an amending Bill. Was it accurate to say that this decision on the subject of compensating circumstances and improvements was not in accordance with the intention of the framers of the Act? He (Earl Cairns) did not know what the innate intentions of Her Majesty's Government were; but he knew what the expressed opinion of Parliament was, and what were the communications of the two Houses of Parliament upon the subject. The Prime Minister was under an entire misapprehension. The matter lay in a small compass. On the 12th of August his noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) proposed an Amendment to the Land Act, to the effect that the Court, in fixing a fair rent, should consider the 1221 length of time during which the tenant had been enjoying improvements at a low rental, and that the time during which they had been so enjoyed should be held to be compensation for them. The terms of the Amendment were in substance taken from the Act of 1870, and the Amendment itself was adopted by their Lordships. It then went down to the House of Commons, where the Attorney General for Ireland said that, having regard to the clause already inserted in the Bill, the words were unnecessary, and asked the House to dispense with them, but suggested that the word "otherwise" should be inserted. His (Earl Cairns') right hon. Friend Sir Stafford Northcote hoped the House would not object to the insertion of the words, which he said were taken from the Act of 1870. The Prime Minister did not find fault with the words of the Act of 1870; but thought that if any doubt existed as to the meaning of the clause, it might be met by the word "otherwise," and he said that the Lords' Amendment might leave the matter ambiguous. The Amendment was then disagreed to, and the word "otherwise" put in. Thus the House of Commons disagreed with the Lords' Amendment, because, as had been said, having regard to the clause already inserted in the Bill, the words of the Amendment were superfluous. Now, after what passed between the two Houses of Parliament, were they to be told that a slur was to be cast upon the decision of the highest Court of Appeal in Ireland, because their decision was, it was alleged, not in accordance with the views of the Government? Statements recently made by the Prime Minister conveyed to the minds of the people of Ireland the impression that they were not obtaining from the Act the benefits they were entitled to under it. It made one tremble with despair to see how Ireland had been dealt with in the present Session. If there was one thing that he (Earl Cairns) thought the Leaders of both great Parties in Parliament were agreed upon at the commencement of the Session, it was that those Parties would be firm in resisting that unnamed but perfectly-well understood movement which was called Home Rule, and he had hoped that that firmness would be persevered in. But the fact was, the Prime Minister interposed declarations in the 1222 course of the Session which it was enough to describe as having been welcomed by the advocates of Home Rule as the grandest statements ever made. He (Earl Cairns) was satisfied that those statements, having been taken over to Ireland, had done more to unsettle the minds of the people than anything that had taken place for years past. Then, as to the leaseholders, the right hon. Gentleman had told them they had a grievance. If there was at the beginning of the Session one thing more settled than another, it was the position of leaseholders by the Act of last year—that was thrown to the winds by the declarations of the Prime Minister. The decision of the highest Court in the country was similarly blown to the winds; and then they were told, forsooth, that that House, in endeavouring to ascertain where the shoe pinched, had done that which endangered the peace of Ireland, because it presumed to inquire into the working of an Act which the Government had themselves done their utmost to discredit.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
After the announcement just made, I must ask pardon of the noble Lords who proposed and supported the Committee of Inquiry into the working of the last Laud Act for having been deluded by the Government into voting against them. I voted thus, though that Act, undeniably confiscatory in its principles, had proved itself far more sweepingly confiscatory in its operation than Parliament had been led to expect; the Lord Privy Seal, indeed, said last Session that it would be beneficial to all except the few bad landlords in Ireland. I voted thus, though the appointment of Sub-Commissioners inspired little confidence, not so much on account of their general political partizanship—a charge which, while probably exaggerated, was not, I fear, by any means unfounded—but rather on account of the restriction in the selection of them imposed by Mr. Gladstone's unwise parsimony in judicial remuneration, of which this is by no means the first or only instance. I voted thus, though the Land Act has failed as a message of peace even more signally than I predicted it would to you last Session. I voted thus, though refusing a Parliamentary inquiry into very real grievances, while less utterly repugnant than would, be the suppression, of free- 1223 dom of Parliamentary debate, was very uncongenial to me after supporting civil liberty all my life. I voted thus because, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, it seemed to me undesirable to disturb the public mind in Ireland about the Act before it had been practically at work more than a very few months. I ought to have known better, and remembered that Ministerial words sometimes require to be interpreted, as Tract No. 90 said the words of the Articles ought to be, in a non-natural sense. But I then little thought that a Statute, considered too sacred and fragile by the Government to bear even inquiring into, would within a few weeks be pronounced by its authors so far from perfect as already to require cobbling and piecing. And here, lest the memory of Ministers should lead them astray about this Act, as it did some of them about the Land Act of 1870, when they imputed its defects to Amendments made by their own Chief Secretary, their own Lord Chancellor, and their own Chancellor for Ireland, I would precautionarily remark that the Lord Privy Seal expressly admitted that the last Land Act, far from being injured, had been improved by your Lordships' Amendments.
Can any reasonable man doubt that, as pointed out by the noble Earl who so ably introduced the subject and the noble and learned Earl opposite, the language of the Prime Minister, by raising vague hopes in the Irish tenants, will have prevented many amicable arrangements being made between them and their landlords; or that it will have tended to encourage fresh refusals of rent, and to excite fresh outrages, in the expectation of thus extorting fresh concessions from the Government? And here I must remark that the Lord Privy Seal gave a very unsatisfactory answer to the noble Earl's comments upon the Prime Minister's extraordinary review of the decisions of the Court of Appeal, intimating his approval of the opinion given by the Irish Chancellor, and his disapproval of the judgment of the majority of that Court. This House—no thanks to Mr. Gladstone—continues to be, as it has long been, the highest Court of Appeal; but even here we should be very much surprised if we heard even the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack—the highest judicial person in the Realm—answering questions 1224 about any judgment given by another Court, not judicially brought before him. I must be allowed to protest against this as a practice all the more dangerous because, unhappily, sanctioned by a Prime Minister. I take a very gloomy view of the prospects of Ireland under the present Government. They ought not to believe that further agrarian legislation is the first requisite for restoring Ireland to the condition in which they received it from their Predecessors. What is most wanted is prompt and vigorous administration, speedy trial, generally without a jury, whenever evidence can be procured, heavy fines for offences levied on the district where evidence is withheld, and protection freely afforded to the law-abiding, even at the cost, if necessary, of increasing the Constabulary Force. The Government cannot deny that Ireland was handed over to them tranquil and orderly. The Prime Minister, more than three weeks after Lord Beacons-field, speaking from official information, had publicly warned the country that Ireland was profoundly disaffected, declared that there was an absence of outrage and a sense of comfort and satisfaction in Ireland previously almost unknown. This was re-echoed by his supporters throughout the country, and the Government took credit for not having renewed, in spite of the warnings of their Predecessors and of the Resident Magistrates, the Peace Preservation Act, which they complacently allowed to expire. For the present lamentable and disgraceful state of Ireland I shall always consider the Government, by their credulity, vacillation, procrastination, and general helplessness in administration, to have made themselves deeply responsible.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, my feeling is that we are often called upon to discuss the very gravest questions upon the most purely incidental event, and it puts us in a position in which, I think, the House is very often placed under circumstances of the greatest disadvantage. I do not think that the Government have given due appreciation to the magnitude of the interests at stake in the question put by my noble Friend on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Dun-raven); but I am bound to say, as to the remarks of the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal (Lord Carlingford) that they tend to allay alarms which have arisen, 1225 in consequence of other utterances of the Government; and I do think that they show a due appreciation of the magnitude of the interests that are at stake upon the question placed before the House; but believing, as I do, that this is not a favourable opportunity for the discussion of the principles which are involved in the decision of the Court of Appeal in Ireland, I shall certainly postpone anything I have to say until a future occasion. But I do say this—that it is impossible to deny that the discussions which have arisen in this House to-night, and the discussions which have arisen "elsewhere," throw an entirely new light upon the discussion as to the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the Land Act in this House, and in which I took no part. I was not present on that occasion, and I must frankly confess to the House that I had made up my mind to vote with the Government if I had been there, and I would have done so on two grounds. In the first place, no one can deny that the Government are charged just now with the most difficult duty which has ever been imposed upon any Government in this country. We are bound to look upon them as the Executive Government of the country, and to rely upon the information possessed by the Government; and therefore I should not have been disposed to vote for any inquiry which the Government, upon their own responsibility, distinctly stated involved an embarrassment that would prove dangerous to the government of the country. That is one of the grounds. The second ground is that I think the appointment of a Committee so early in the Session might give rise to misunderstanding in Ireland, and might lead many persons in the country to suppose it was the desire of our House to deprive the people of Ireland of the substantial advantages which we, in common with the other House, had agreed to give them in the previous Session. On these two grounds, and on these two grounds alone, I should have voted with Her Majesty's Government on that occasion; but I cannot deny there are many questions upon which it is at least possible that we shall have something to say on a future occasion. There is the question of arrears. I do earnestly trust—though from the observations of my noble Friend opposite it may be otherwise— 1226 that we shall not be called upon to consider the fundamental principles of the Land Act in the present Session, and so dissipate the idea of finality. Finality is a difficult word to deal with; but finality ought to be adhered to in regard to a great measure of this kind, which involves an enormous re-distribution of property; and I cannot conceive the peace of Ireland being secured if we are perpetually to have questions reopened which are fundamental questions. Putting aside, however, fundamental questions connected with the Land Act, there are a dozen others with regard to which it is of the first importance that this House should be duly informed as to the operations of the Act; and if we are to be called upon to discuss questions of emigration, arrears—as to which it is very possible that legislation may be required—and other questions which have been raised both in this and the other House, I think it is important that we should have the fullest information; and I think, therefore, the House has done wisely in seeking to gain some definite knowledge as regards them. Therefore, on the whole, though I am satisfied with the course which I have taken, I shall still look with immense interest on the Report which the Irish Land Act Committee may make; and I have no doubt some noble Lord connected with Ireland will raise the question, and give us an opportunity of considering the whole subject. It will be most unsatisfactory if, perhaps, at the end of June, or the end of August, or, Heaven knows, it may be the month of September, the House should be called upon to give its consent—"content"or "not content"—to some measure of which we know nothing in regard to the government of Ireland.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, he apprehended that the principal object of the speakers who had not favoured the action of the Government had been to show that that House was right in its recent vote for the inquiry into the Land Act. His noble Friend on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Dunraven) had brought forward the case of "Adams v. Dunseath," and had argued it upon its own merits; but the whole object of successive speakers had been to turn the arguments so as to extract from them a proof that the Government were wrong and that House was right; but 1227 those conclusions rested on a very slender basis. It had been assumed, in the course of the debate, that the inquiry of the House of Lords into the operation of the Land Act was to be treated in the same category with decisions of the Courts in Ireland; whereas there was the greatest difference between the course pursued by the Government and what he must call the "fishing" inquiry proposed and carried in their Lordships' House, for the purpose of finding out whether there were any defects in the Land Act which required legislation; but he did not think it was possible for the Government to adopt a more prudent attitude than that of watching the decisions of the Courts of the Land Act. He was sorry to find that his noble Friend behind him (Earl Fortescue) had changed his mind. When his noble Friend told the House of the dangerous hopes which might be excited by any statements which might lead people to suppose that it was intended to change the Act of 1881, did he not see that that might be turned round and put another way; and what would he say to the fears which an inquiry might excite in the minds of those who took a different view, and who thought, perchance, alterations might he made, as the result of that inquiry, adverse to the interests of the tenants? It constantly happened that Courts of Law gave decisions on the meaning of Acts which were not in accordance with the intentions of the framers of those Acts, and opinions were freely expressed on such decisions by many persons, and even by Members of the Government. The Government were watching the decisions of the Irish Land Courts. That was their method of inquiry. Precisely what the Government had said ought to be done was now being done. The Act of 1881 was left to operate; and the Courts in Ireland, not an inquiry by the House of Lords, were interpreting and applying the provisions of that measure. The Government were anxious, before any conclusions were come to as to amendments of the Act, to see what was the effect of the Act, both in its practical working and its legal interpretation by the Courts. He deprecated the importation into the discussion by the noble and learned Earl opposite (Earl Cairns) of the question of leases, and thought that with regard to the question of compensation for improvements, where it 1228 was, no doubt, difficult to arrive at the precise understanding of the elaborate judgments delivered by the Court, exaggeration had been indulged in. No one deprecated more than he did continually meddling with this important law. The Government would adhere to the main principles of the Act; but it might, of course, hereafter be found necessary that in some details, in which the Act might be found by experience not to work well, there should be amendments. It had been said that the opinion expressed by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) with respect to the case of "Adams v. Dunseath" was meant to influence the Sub-Commissioners. But if everything said by a Member of the Government upon the subject of the Act was to operate upon the minds of the Sub-Commissioners charged with its administration, and to induce them to disregard their plain duty, then all he (the Earl of Kimberley) could say was, that they would be utterly unfit to perform the functions committed to them. He did not understand that his right hon. Friend desired for a moment to influence the decisions of the Sub-Commissioners. Was it not constantly the case that Judges placed an interpretation upon Statutes not contemplated by the Legislature, and that similar expressions of opinion were the result? As regarded the matter, he, for one, had considerable difficulty in arriving at the precise principles which governed it. The question seemed to be whether the intention of the Legislature was that, with regard to improvements, the Act of 1870 should be imported into the Act of 1881. It appeared to him that if the decisions of the Court were such as not to be in accordance with the intentions of the framers of the Act, then it was the obvious duty of the Government, at the proper time and season, to consider whether it was not part of their duty to propose the amending of the Act. It was not possible to suppose that this Act, in the sense that it would require no amendment in details, could be final; and what he apprehended was meant, when it was said they should not be continually making new laws in Ireland, was that the general principle of the Act should remain fixed, and that they should not be constantly altering their general policy; but as to the details, it was absolutely certain that questions would 1229 arise, sooner or later, upon which they might have to make some alteration in the law, large or small. It in no way followed that the time had arrived for a complete inquiry into the Act, because there was something in the working of the Act which should be remedied.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I do not think my noble Friend who has just sat down (the Earl of Kimberley) has given an accurate impression to the House of the purport of this debate, or of the objects which those who introduced the discussion had in view. He has represented the debate as if it were a mere re-discussion of the question whether or not a Committee of Inquiry into the working of the Land Act was desirable. That is a matter of some importance; and I think it is very clear, from subsequent events, that the House on both sides is very much of the opinion of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) that there was sufficient matter for inquiry. But the particular object which I understood the noble Earl on Cross Benches (the Earl of Dunraven) had in view was to impress upon the Government a matter which the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) has passed over lightly—namely, the effect upon public opinion in Ireland upon the permanent pacification of the country, of the hints, and of more than hints, dropped by the Prime Minister, that he is prepared to re-open the question of land legislation for Ireland. A great re-distribution of property has taken place; that which belonged to the landlord has been re-distributed by being taken from him and given to the tenant. After that has been done, whatever the opinions of the Government with respect to it may be, the one thing you desire is that men on both sides—landlords as well as tenants—should settle down to their new relations, and should make the best of the situation as they find it; that they should settle, by mutual agreement, such differences as exist between them; and that, as far as the conditions of the Act will allow, they should go on with the most vital industry of Ireland as if nothing of importance had occurred, and no further legislation were contemplated. But the Prime Minister has produced exactly the opposite result by the declaration he has made, and he has opened up a boundless field for doubt. No landlord 1230 will like to make any permanent arrangements; he will not dare to risk any further his private property, already so grievously compromised, when there is an almost unlimited possibility, to be inferred from the obscure hints of the Prime Minister, of a new attack on his rights, and of a new re-distribution of his property. On the other hand, the tenant will not wish to bind himself by any agreement, or prematurely to challenge the decision of the Court which may be held finally against him, when there is unlimited hope in the results of further agitation, when the words of the Prime Minister betray how sensitive the Government is to the action of agitators, and how ready they are to abandon and tear up that finality which they promised, and to enter upon a new course of land legislation at the bidding of the agitators in Ireland. I do not care, with reference to this matter, what is the opinion of the Government. What I say is that they are bound either to abstain from ambiguous forecasts of their intention altogether, or to make a clean breast of it, and tell us what they do intend. It is unpardonable for the Government to keep these two important classes in Ireland any longer in a state of painful doubt. The Government are only intensifying antagonism, which is too bitter already; they are only exciting hopes and fears which have already been too fatal to the peace and prosperity of Ireland.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he greatly doubted whether the course taken that evening was not an unwise one. When Questions were put in either House of Parliament, it was generally agreed that some answer was needed; and when answers to Questions were represented, as they had been that evening, in the case of statements made by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, as meaning something which did not appear, at all events, to persons whose minds were constituted in the ordinary manner, it was to be regretted; for consequences might follow from the present discussion, and from their being so represented, which it was not intended should take place. The people of Ireland might think that they had, in fact, some rights which were not yet conceded to them, and thus their minds might become unsettled; and the result would be that much more harm would be done by dis- 1231 cussing these statements than by leaving them as they were—simply as answers to Questions put in one of the Houses of Parliament. He did not understand that any statement made by the Prime Minister was intended at all to intimate that the Government were going to reopen the question of tenure under the Irish Land Act. The statement appeared, as far as he could judge, to have reference only to the Question put, and to have been carefully made so as to avoid any such construction. One thing at all events, he should have thought perfectly clear, and that was that the Prime Minister, whether he rightly interpreted or not the decision of the Court of Appeal, did not for a moment seek to cast a slur on the correctness of that Court; and he should not, until that evening, have thought it possible that anyone could hold the Prime Minister's meaning to be that the Commissioners and Sub-Commissioners were not to act upon the decision of the Court of Appeal, or that the action of the Government was to depend upon the question whether the Commissioners and Sub-Commissioners took their own course, regardless of that decision, or whether they followed that decision. The noble Earl raised a question which really depended upon the construction to be put upon the decision of the Judges; but, if he (the Lord Chancellor) were called upon to discuss that decision, he should reply that he was not in a position to do so, as the opinions delivered by the several Judges, in the case of "Adams v Dunseath," had not been laid before the House, and he did not know that they had been laid before the House of Commons. He must say that until he came down to the House upon that occasion, the notion that any human being would put such an interpretation on the Prime Minister's words as had been put, or would suppose such a conclusion to be deducible from them, never would have occurred to him, and he was perfectly certain it never could have occurred to the Prime Minister himself. Then, did the Prime Minister hold out any expectation that the Government would re-open the question of the Land Act and introduce some new Bill to overrule the decision of the Court of Appeal? Quite the reverse. He said that there had not been time to ascertain the practical effect of that decision, and that its effect would have to be watched. 1232 Again, the Prime Minister did not hold out any expectation that further power of breaking leases would be granted. Was any good to be done in Ireland by throwing doubt upon every statement of the Prime Minister, and by making every word of his a subject of debate? He did not think that any such uneasiness had been created by the statements of the Prime Minister as had been suggested, nor had they interfered with arrangements being made by landlords and tenants out of Court. If there had been any unsettling of men's minds, or any obstruction of settlements in that country between landlord and tenant out of Court, he thought that was much more likely to have been caused by the premature appointment of the Committee to inquire into the operation of the Land Act than by anything which had been said by any of Her Majesty's Ministers.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
said, the noble and learned Lord (the Lord Chancellor) had stated that it would be very unwise to pay attention to so small a matter as this, and that it would be better to let these disagreeable questions rest. That was not the light in which he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) looked at this question. He thought his noble Friend (the Earl of Dunraven) had done good service in bringing it forward that evening—first, by enabling the Colleagues of the Prime Minister in that House to show that their minds were not so open to conviction as his; and, secondly, by giving the House an opportunity of protesting against the way in which these great questions of principle had been left in suspense by the statements which had been adverted to. Speaking as one who had some knowledge of Ireland and the Irish people, he must join with the noble Earl who had brought forward the subject in the expression of his conviction that nothing would more retard a settlement of that country than the creation of an impression that whenever the people found that legislation had not in all respects fulfilled their expectations, their claims for a revision of what had been done were to be admitted. The great fault, both of the Land Act of last year and of the Land Act of 1870, had always seemed to him to be their extreme intricacy. And not only was it necessary for the illiterate peasants whose interests were at stake to make 1233 themselves masters of two of the most complicated Acts of Parliament ever introduced into the Statute Book, but in addition to this they were obliged, before they could know how they really stood, to study the three elaborate judgments of the Land Commissioners sitting as an Appeal Court in Dublin, and the seven still more elaborate judgments of the High Court of Appeal to which these matters had, in the last instance, been referred. Most people had hoped that the question having been thus dealt with was at last finally disposed of, and that the parties would be satisfied with the settlement of a case by the High Court of Appeal; but now it appeared that that was not so, for no sooner was a decision come to than it was called in question by the Prime Minister himself, and a most unfortunate state of things was the result. The fact was that this perplexity had arisen from Ministers not being able to make up their minds as to which of two alternative positions they would adopt on the subject of tenants' improvements. One position was that improvements once executed by a tenant or his predecessors in title—which had been interpreted to include predecessors in occupancy—could never be exhausted by enjoyment, no matter how long or how profitable. That was one view. The other position was that the land was the property of the owner of it—that its capability of improvement, with all its resources, latent and apparent, belonged to him, and that he was to be at liberty to lend the use of that land to another person upon condition that the person cultivating it should develop those resources, and, having done so, should be allowed to recoup himself for the expenditure of his capital, skill, and labour; but that, after he had been so recouped, then the landlord's reversionary interest in those improvements should be recognized. According to the former view the improvement resulted solely from the tenant's efforts, and, therefore, belonged exclusively to him; according to the latter it resulted from the co-operation of the tenant's skill, labour, and capital with the capital which the landlord or his predecessors had invested in the acquisition of the soil and its capabilities, and, therefore, belonged partly to the one party and partly to the other. Those were the only two positions which could be as- 1234 sumed in regard to tenants' improvements. Both were intelligible, but they were irreconcilable; and it seemed to him that throughout all these discussions they had never had any clear statement from the Government as to which of the two they took up. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had himself pointed out that the second of the two views was the one which had always hitherto regulated the agricultural economy of the United Kingdom. It was the principle of the Land Act of 1870. It was the principle of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875. It was the principle favoured by that unquestionable patriot, the late Mr. Isaac Butt. It was the principle in all the most liberally drawn Scotch leases; and, finally, it was the principle which the Irish tenants themselves invariably acted upon in their dealings with their fellow-tenants. That principle was never repudiated till last year. It was first called in question by the Bess-borough Commission, and ultimately by the Prime Minister. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) said ultimately, because what was known as Healy's Clause formed no part of the original proposals of the Government—it was, indeed, no part of Mr. Healy's original proposal—and was only accepted at a late stage of the Bill, with the addition of qualifying words which it was impossible to doubt, were accepted by both Houses of Parliament with the idea that they had effectually protected the landlord against tenants' claims on account of these remote improvements. It was impossible not to see that that was the basis on which the Healy Amendment was accepted. The whole question had now been re-opened by the recent statements of the Prime Minister. They were now in this difficulty. There were 16 sets of Sub-Commissioners regulating these matters, and deciding innumerable cases, into every one of which this question entered, without any principles being laid down as to the manner in which they were to be decided. He did hope that, as they were told some statement was to be made by the Prime Minister, there would be, once and for all, a clear and definite settlement of the question. In the meanwhile, the old principle had been demolished, and no new one had been established in its place—or one so vague that no two per- 1235 sons understood it in the same sense. In whatever sense it might be finally decided by the Government, they should recollect that if it were enacted that tenants' improvements were not to be exhausted by time, and, further, that succession in occupancy was to be the same thing as succession in title, the Government would be driven by inexorable logic into the adoption of Mr. Parnell's theory that the "prairie value" of the land was the fair measure of the rent which a tenant ought to pay for it—a theory for advocating which Mr. Parnell had been thrown into prison. That seemed to him to be the real difficulty. He did hope that if the Government were going to address themselves to the question, and to legislate upon it, they would deal with it in a manner incapable of being misunderstood.
said, the discussion which had taken place impressed him with the wisdom of the course that had been adopted in instituting an inquiry into the working of the Land Act. "What he wished to find out was, how were the landlords of Ireland to ascertain whether the Sub-Commissioners, in giving their decisions, had acted upon the decision of the Courts of Appeal, or whether they had acted upon the hints which had been thrown out by the Prime Minister? Unless the landlords knew the grounds of the decisions, it was almost impossible that many cases should be settled out of Court by agreement between landlord and tenant. There was no security, as things were, that the tenant would not get paid twice over for his improvements—once when the fair rent was fixed, and then at the end of the statutory term. If their Lordships' Committee ascertained that fact, it would have done good service.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
said, that he quite agreed with the noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Inchiquin). If the Sub-Commissioners' decisions, when reversed by the Court of Appeal, were to be said not to express the intentions of Her Majesty's Government, what hope was there of any final settlement in Ireland? He had spoken with more than one agent, who had expressed the opinion that while the question which their Lordships had been discussing was unsettled, there was little hope of amicable arrangements between tenants and landlords. He knew of cases where 1236 there was a willingness on both sides to accept the decision of gentlemen in whom they had confidence; but those gentlemen, though enjoying the confidence of both parties, declined to act, because of the uncertainty as to the principles upon which they were to adjudicate upon the question of fair rent. He asked whether any man could counsel an extra-judicial settlement when the decisions were so entirely different from one another? Take another instance. A Sub-Commissioner was appealed to to say upon what principle he made his valuation. He replied that he valued, in the first instance, the tenant's interest at the full disturbance allowance, and then took the full capitalized value of the tenant's improvements—in other words, he gave the tenant compensation for disturbance when he had not been disturbed. He believed that there was not a single landowner in Ireland who was not earnestly desirous of settling all differences between them and their tenants; but their difficulty was in dealing with an Act which had no definite interpretation, and with respect to which the Government refused any indication of the lines on which it was to be interpreted. He hoped for an assurance that the insecurity which landlords felt in dealing with their property might at an early date be put an end to by some definite assurance from the Government.