§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE)
, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, observed that the Land Bills of 1887 and 1891 were conducted through their Lordships' House by his noble Friend Lord Cadogan with the general approval of their Lordships, and it was just possible it might be a matter of surprise to the House or the public that he should not be intrusted with the task of moving the Second Reading of this Bill. But he was told there was a well-recognised understanding that Her Majesty's representative in Ireland did not take part in contentious business in Parliament, and for that reason Lord Cadogan naturally would not take charge of the present Bill. He presumed it had been placed in his hands for the reason that, being himself an Irish landlord, he might be supposed to have some special knowledge of the subject. That might be in one sense an advantage to him. In another he felt that it was not entirely advantageous, because it brought him, he was afraid, into 1147 a certain amount of antagonism with many of his noble Friends from Ireland with whom in former years he had frequently acted during the course of these discussions. He was afraid he should be regarded by them, if he might use a simile drawn from his Eastern experiences, as the tame elephant, to whom was intrusted the delicate duty of inveigling his wilder brethren into captivity. [Laughter.] He was consoled when he reflected that upon the only occasion when he witnessed an operation of that kind the tame elephant, though he certainly experienced extremely rough usage while the operations were in progress, was, a few hours after their completion, apparently upon terms of good fellowship with his wilder compeers. ["Hear, hear!"] This Bill was a Bill for further amending the law relating to occupation and ownership of land in Ireland, and he could well understand that many of their Lordships should regard with feelings approaching to dismay another Bill for the purpose of dealing with a subject which had so often engaged the attention of Parliament. They were proud in this country of their Parliamentary institutions, but he thought there was no part of those institutions of which they had less reason to be proud than their performances in what he might describe as the technical preparation of their Statutes. He doubted whether the Statute-books of any other country produced enactments so intricate, so diffuse, and so little easy to follow as the Statutes which were passed by the British Houses of Parliament. ["Hear, hear!"] He had sometimes heard it said it was the draftsmen who were to blame, but in his humble opinion the fault as a general rule lay not so much with the professional gentlemen who were intrusted with the duty of drafting their Statutes as with Parliament itself which too often, he was afraid, failed to look clearly and courageously in the face the principles which it endeavoured to embody in its legislation. ["Hear, hear!"] He remembered the other day his noble Friend, Lord Dunraven, saying that their legislation was, as a general rule, founded upon compromise, and, therefore, illogical. He thought that that true saying was eminently true of their Irish legislation. He should not attempt to review the series of Acts 1148 which they had passed with regard to Irish land during the last few years, but he would say of the great Act of 1881 that no Statute ever carried upon its face more distinctly the impress of compromise than that Act. They accepted in 1881 the three principles known conventionally as the three F's. They knew that, in accepting them, they were preparing the way for something like an agrarian revolution, and but few of them knew whither that revolution was going to carry them. What did they do? They endeavoured to take precautions against the injustice which some of them anticipated by means of a system of exceptions, of precautions, of safeguards, of exclusions. He believed there was no more dangerous system of proceeding than that of first conceding great principles and then attempting to protect a part of the persons affected by them by means of exemptions and exclusions of this kind. The difficulty of drawing a hard and fast line in a case of this kind was immense, because the difference between the class which they sought to protect and that to which they could not accord protection was a difference of degree, and wherever they drew their line they would find that the man who was just upon the one side of it or upon the other conceived, and perhaps not without reason, that he had a valid grievance. What had been the result? Instead of giving to the tenant-farmers of Ireland a simple and easily intelligible land code, they had placed in their hands a series of measures so intricate that they puzzled and baffled the intelligence of the highest legal authorities. They had given them a code which it had been necessary to patch and to alter again and again—a code which had never been accepted as final because it had never looked squarely in the face the great principles which lay at the root of these agrarian questions. The Bill which he offered to their Lordships did not pretend to substitute for the present land system of Ireland a thoroughly scientific system. What it did propose to do was to clear up the law where they believed it was possible to clear it up. To deal with some of the hard cases which the experience of the last few years had brought to light, and last, and certainly not least, to remove some of those obstacles which had hitherto impeded 1149 the progress of their land-purchase legislation. Many hard things had been said with regard to this Bill, and amongst others Her Majesty's Government had been told that, after opposing, when it was in opposition, the proposals of the late Government, it had, now that it had come into power, taken up those proposals and placed them before Parliament. [Cheers.] That statement was cheered by the noble Lords behind him, and he was glad of the opportunity of briefly calling the attention of the House to the difference—as he conceived the fundamental difference—between the proposals which they now submitted, and the proposals submitted by the late Government. The Bill of the late Government shortened the statutory term—reduced it from 15 to 10 years. Not only did it do that prospectively, but it shortened current statutory terms to ten years, a very far-reaching proposal, involving the premature admission of many thousands of tenants to a second hearing of their cases in the Land Courts. The present Bill left the law unchanged in that respect. The Bill of the late Government dealt in a very drastic manner with the question of exclusions. The grazing farms up to a valuation of £200, were admitted to the benefit of the Act; it contained a new definition which would have had the effect of admitting a very large quantity of land in the neighbourhood of towns and villages to the fair rent clause of the Act of 1881. The Bill of last year contained a provision under which future tenancies, when the rent had been paid continuously for five years, might be converted into present tenancies. The present Bill contained no such proposals. The Bill of last year deprived the landlord of his right of pre-emption, the only check, so far as he was aware, upon the extravagant price now so frequently given for tenant-right. The present Bill, in the case of a bonâ fide sale, left the landlord his right of pre-emption. Under the Bill of last year the landlord was deprived of all remedies for the recovery of arrears exceeding those due for two years; the present Bill left to the landlord the remedies of an ordinary creditor for arrears beyond the two years' arrears which he could recover by ejectment for non-payment of rent. In regard to improvements, the Bill of last year 1150 altered the definition in such a way as to bring within the operation of the Act ordinary acts of husbandry such as till-ages—a very dangerous addition. It gave the whole result of the improvements to the tenant regardless of that which was due to the landlord's interest in the soil. It contained a provision which was apparently intended to enact that the large sums for which the tenant's occupation interest was frequently sold should be deducted in calculating the fair rent of his holding, and, finally, it swept away all those safeguards contained in the 4th Clause of the Act of 1870, including that most important safeguard under which the tenant was prevented from claiming immunity from rent in respect of ordinary improvements made at a very remote period of time. And in the same way the Bill of last year abolished all those reasonable exceptions, made in favour of the landlord, from the general law that improvements were presumed to belong to the tenant. He should show, he hoped, that their Bill dealt in a very different and in a much more cautious spirit with this question of improvements, and that it left to the landlord, above all things, the most important precautions of the time limit beyond which the presumption in the tenant's favour did not operate, and beyond which he could not claim indemnity of rent for improvements. The Bill of last year contained no provisions dealing with the important question of purchase, which, as he hoped their Lordships would admit, they had dealt with liberally and courageously in this Bill. [Cheers.] He had said enough, he hoped to show their Lordships that whether their Bill was a good Bill or a bad one, it was certainly not the same Bill which was laid before the House of Commons last year by the late Government. Passing to the present Bill, he had in the first place to say a few words upon the manner in which it dealt with the important question of improvements. They had endeavoured to give effect to what was on the face of it a very simple principle that the tenant was to be given protection for his own improvements. That was a simple proposition, but he would venture to say that it would be impossible to find in the English language a sentence containing a greater number of pitfalls. How did they define an improvement? 1151 What was complete protection? When could they say that a tenant was rented on the improvements and not upon the soil to which the improvement was attached? Around those questions, and questions of the same kind there had raged a controversy of the acutest description, and he was bound to say it seemed to him somewhat out of proportion to the real magnitude of the interests which were affected. In other parts of the United Kingdom landlord and tenant made their own bargain with regard to improvements. ["Hear, hear!"] In Ireland their ways were less businesslike and more easy going, and he thought it was inevitable that this should have been so. In Ireland the large majority of holdings were extremely small, and upon these small holdings it was humanly impossible that the landlord could undertake the task of executing improvements, of equipping and maintaining the farm in the same way in which he undertook that task upon the larger holdings in other parts of the United Kingdom. ["Hear, hear!"] The result had been, no doubt that the Irish landlord had escaped a liability which his English and Scotch brethren had not escaped; but, on the other hand, it was to be remembered—and this was abundantly established by every Committee and Commission which had investigated the question—that, in consideration of this practice, under which improvements were made by the tenant and not by the landlord, Irish rents had been, as a general rule, lower than English and Scotch rents, and had differed from them in this, that whereas English and Scotch rents had been from time to time adjusted according to the movement of prices, which as they all knew had been upward prices for a great number of years, Irish rents were, as a general rule, allowed to remain unchanged for very long periods of time. This, he took it, was the origin of that tenant-right—that occupation interest—which the Irish tenant had acquired, and which they all knew maintained, even in those days of agricultural depression, an extremely high price. What he had said described not inaccurately the general practice in Ireland, but when they came to the case of the individual farmer the matter became much more puzzling. The Government had, no doubt, given the Land 1152 Courts an enormously difficult task to perform. They had called upon them to ascertain, after an interval of many years, what was or what ought to have been the understanding between the landlord and the tenant, and what ought to have been or was the result of that understanding in so far as it affected the question of the ownership of the improvements upon the soil. Of the official witnesses who had been examined on this point some had affirmed that in deciding this question of compensation they were guided by principles which they described. Others, he thought more candid, had admitted that they followed what was generally known as a rule of thumb, and he ventured to think that, in spite of all the pains they might take, they would find that the rule of thumb would always to a certain extent prevail in those matters. They might lay down principles as minutely as they pleased, but those principles were applied not to exact quantities—not to something which they could measure and divide, as they could measure and divide for instance, securities or shares in an industrial enterprise—but they were applied to apportionments in regard to which the Court was obliged to proceed from first to last, upon conjecture and assumption. The Court could not prove mathematically the value of the thing which it had to decide, nor could it prove that the division it made was really in accordance with the principles by which it assumed to be guided. But, in spite of this, he conceived that it was their duty to give to the Land Courts all the assistance which they could give them in dealing with the question, and the Government had endeavoured to do so in this Bill. Their Lordships would remember that a great part of the confusion which surrounded this question had arisen from the fact that the law was to be found not only in the Land Act of 1881, but also in the older Act of 1870. There could be no doubt that it was the intention of Parliament that those two Acts should be read together, and indeed during the course of the Debates he could remember that they used to be told that they were to rely upon the Act of 1870 as a corrective of certain anomalies which they thought they had detected in the Act of 1881. But the Act of 1870 was clearly inapplicable, 1153 in certain cases, to the condition of things which arose under the Act of 1881. The Act of 1870 was intended to deal with the case of the tenant who was to be compensated on quitting his holding. The Act of 1881, on the contrary, provided for the determination of the rent of a tenant, not who was quitting his holding, but who intended to remain upon it, and who came to the Court to obtain a settlement of the term upon which he was to continue in possession. It was obvious that some of the enactments which applied to the one case would not, apply to the other. He would take one illustration. Under the Act of 1870 the tenant could not claim compensation on quitting his holding for an improvement which he had executed in contravention of a contract not to claim compensation for such an improvement. It was perfectly just that if that tenant quitted his holding the landlord should not be called upon to compensate him. But if the tenant remained in possession of his holding, was it not obvious that it would be inequitable for the landlord to charge the tenant rent upon that improvement? The two cases were wholly different, and the Government proposed to correct the law where they found it to be inapplicable in those respects. The way in which they dealt with the 4th Clause of the Act of 1870 was this—they said that nothing in that clause should authorise the allowance of rent upon improvements executed by the tenant, and they then re-enacted in the clearest language possible, those portions of the 4th Clause of the Act of 1870 which, in their opinion, were applicable to the question of improvements and which they considered ought to survive. The earlier portion of their clause was based upon the recommendation made by a Committee of their Lordships' House presided over by the late Lord Cairns. That recommendation was to the effect that it was desirable that the Court should lay down, in the first place, the fair rent which in its opinion the holding should command, assuming that the improvements upon it belonged to the landlord. The Government proposed that that should be done, and that the improvements made by the tenant should be clearly and fully specified—that the particulars should be given of the nature, 1154 character, and present value of those improvements, the date at which they were made, and all the deductions which should be made from the full rent in respect of the improvements. They were under the impression that the fuller and minuter record which the Courts would now be required to provide would to some extent meet a complaint which had been made very frequently, to the effect that rents were reduced without giving the landlord any opportunity of knowing what were the data upon which the Court had arrived at its conclusion. Their clause proceeded to enact that where improvements had been executed under a contract for a valuable consideration the tenant should be deemed to have been compensated only to the extent to which he had received such valuable consideration from the landlord. They then proceeded to define what was a valuable consideration, and although they admitted that the mere letting of the land, the mere giving of a lease, was not, as the Courts sometimes held, to be regarded as amounting to a valuable consideration, they said that in every case where the rent had been fixed, or reduced, or abated, or allowed to remain unaltered with the intention—and that intention was not only expressed or implied—of recouping the tenant, then valuable consideration should be held to have been given. That was the outline of their clause, and he hoped the clause would remove some of the ambiguities of which complaint had been made. He believed it would render it easier for the Courts to decide how much of a particular improvement survived at any given time, and how that surviving value could be apportioned as between the owner and occupier of the soil. Wih regard to the question of exclusions, which was an extremely technical one, it would be sufficient, he thought, if he briefly stated to the House those whom they proposed to admit to the benefit of the fair rent clauses of the Land Act. In the first place, they admitted the tenants of grazing farms of a valuation over, £50 and under £100. Those tenants, they were advised, were of the same class as the ordinary tenants of mixed farms or dairy farms, who were now admitted to the benefit of the Act and they were unable to see that the difference between them was sufficiently marked to justify 1155 their exclusion. Then with respect to demesne lands, they admitted to the benefit of the Acts tenants of demesne land which had ceased to be demesne land, and for the purpose of determining whether it had ceased to be demesne land they had adopted words which they believed exactly expressed the present law as laid down by the Judges. In regard to sub-letting their clause admitted to the advantages of fair-rent tenants who had sub-let a house which was not their own dwelling-house, if that house had not been erected in contravention of a contract or of statutory conditions; and in regard to the sub-letting of land, they admitted tenants where the subletting had been to an extent not exceeding one-eighth of the holding, providing that it had not been made in broach of a contract or of statutory conditions, and provided the sub-letting took place either before the year 1887, or was virtually in substitution of a sub-letting made before that date. The only other class they admitted, and which were now excluded, were the tenants of holdings not wholly agricultural, and they did so upon the condition that the non-agricultural part of the holding remained outside the Land Act, and that the division of the holding was not injurious to the landlord's estate. He submitted that those admissions did not constitute any very serious invasion of the privileges of the owners of land in Ireland. The eighth clause had been the cause of a great deal of heart-burning; it enabled tenants who had been in the enjoyment of a customary privilege of turbary or similar easements to have that privilege secured to them. The tenants had been given by the law complete security of tenure in their holdings, and that was a security of which nobody proposed to deprive them. The belief of the Government was that in the case certainly of turbary, the very existence of the tenants depended upon their enjoyment of the necessary fuel supply. The case was not one of luxury or even of convenience; it was a case of absolute and indispensable necessity, and the Government were advised that there were cases where the privilege was not secured to the tenant by law, and where, therefore, he could not obtain the continued exercises of that privilege by application to the Court, but 1156 where, nevertheless, there were the strongest reasons why he should not be deprived of an advantage which he had enjoyed continuously for a number of years. They enacted that the privilege should not be assured to the tenant unless it was a very well-established customary privilege, unless it could he shown to be really essential to the reasonable emjoyment of the holding, unless it could be shown that its enjoyment did no injury to the landlord's estate, and provided the Court was satisfied that the terms upon which the privilege was enjoyed were reasonable terms. They believed the safeguards were sufficient, but if it could be shown to them that further precautions were necessary, they would very gladly consider any proposals. ["Hear, hear!"] As to lettings by limited owners, they had inserted words which they conceived met the two principal objections raised on behalf of the landlords. It was apprehended that under the clause a limited owner might alienate the family demesne or create tenancies under the Land Act to the detriment of his successors. They had endeavoured to provide for both those points, and they hoped they had done so effectually. He was glad to think the Purchase Clauses had met with general approval. The policy of land purchase had found favour with all political parties, and there was a general feeling of disappointment at the slow progress which had lately been achieved in the matter of purchase. He believed that the great impediment in the way of the operation of the Purchase Acts had been the state of the law with regard to tenure. It was clear that the terms upon which tenants were allowed to purchase their holdings must be considered in relation to the terms upon which they were allowed to remain in possession of their holdings as tenants. It was one of the paradoxes of the Irish Land Question that a farmer would prefer to pay a permanent rent of a larger amount rather than to pay a terminable annuity of a smaller amount. He would be asked why, if that was so, they were tampering with the Purchase Clauses at this moment. His answer was that the tenants of Ireland knew perfectly well that there were a number of points which had yet to be cleared up by legislation, and 1157 that they would not buy their holdings so long as those points remained in suspense. He believed they would promote and not retard the cause of purchase by dealing, as they had attempted to do, with some of the most disputed points in the Tenure Clauses. Parliament, in the early days of purchase, thought it necessary to take very considerable precautions in order to protect the interests of the British public, by whom money had been advanced. Experience had shown them that many of those precautions had, in fact, proved unnecessary. It was a remarkable thing that, whereas the Government had advanced to the tenant-farmers of Ireland a sum exceeding £12,000,000—a sum which had been advanced to 25,000 different tenants—at this moment there were only some £4,000 of arrears. [Cheers.] It was proposed to give up what was known as the Purchasers' Insurance Fund, which had added a good deal to the complications and not very much to the safety of the transactions. They proposed that the county percentage should be used for the purpose of strengthening the Sinking Fund, and they allowed the Court at its discretion to dispense with the guarantee deposit. Where an estate was sold they allowed the owner to commute the tithe rent-charge upon much more advantageous terms, and then there was an ingenious arrangement under which, at the end of every period of ten years, the tenant's annuity was recalculated. The result of that arrangement would be that, after the first ten years, he would pay an annuity of 4 per cent. interest, not on the amount of his original debt, but on the amount of his original debt minus so much of it as had been paid by the accumulations of the Sinking Fund. The effect would be to give very marked relief to the earlier purchasers, and in connection with that they authorised the Court to release so much of the guarantee deposit as was represented by the amount of the debt which had been discharged by the accumulations of the Sinking Fund. He did not know whether he would be allowed to take credit for another concession—he meant the payment to the vendor in land stock rather than in cash, a feat of generosity which was not entirely spontaneous on their part. ["Hear, hear!"] He wished, next, to 1158 refer to two of the purchase clauses which he know had been a good deal commented on by noble Lords from Ireland. In the first place, there was the 30th Clause, which expedited cases in the matter of sales. That clause, he admitted, presented a very serious difficulty in cases where the estate was in cumbered, and where the title of the vendor was not clear. What happened in such cases? If the Court was satisfied that the transaction was bona fide the purchase-money was paid into Court, and the land was vested at once by a vesting order in the tenant. While the money remained in Court the vendor could only receive interest at 2¾ per cent. The examination of title might take a long time, and the vendor might find himself compelled for years to be content with that rate of interest instead of 4 per cent., which under present arrangements he would receive. Thus a vendor, if he had family charges or mortgages, might find himself in an extremely embarrassing position. ["Hear, hear!"] He fully admitted that in some cases this might act as a deterrent, and might prevent an owner from coming into Court at all. That was a very serious matter. What was the alternative? Someone must submit to the loss of interest. If it was not the owner of the estate, who was it to be? Was it to be incumbrancers? There did seem to him to be something to be said for the view that as the incumbrancer was virtually given a security equal to that of consols in lieu of the much more precarious security of Irish rents, he might be called upon to make some sacrifice. He knew that that was looked at askance, and he merely mentioned that as a point of great importance; and, if noble lords could suggest an easy way of meeting the difficulty, he was sure that Her Majesty's Government would be ready to consider the proposal. With regard to Clause 39, which expedited sales in the Landed Estates Court, that clause had, he believed, been more bitterly assailed than any other clause in the Bill. He was far from contending that the objections to it were necessarily frivolous, but he thought they were exaggerated. He ventured to say that the principle of the clause was eminently sound. The present state of things was intolerable. 1159 It was bad for all concerned, and certainly bad for the Court, which had degenerated into a wholesale receiver of Irish rents. The clause altered no principle of the existing law. They considered these derelict estates and whether they should be allowed to remain for an indefinite time in the hands of the Court. At present it was no one's interest to extricate them, and the Government thought that it was most important that they should be extricated. They, therefore, proposed that, where an order had been made for a sale of an estate, or where it was placed in the hands of a receiver, the land Judge, after consulting with the Land Commission, should offer it to the tenants; but they had made it perfectly clear that that offer was not to be accepted until all the parties had had a full hearing, until their offers had been fully considered, and until the Court had thoroughly investigated the general circumstances and condition of the estate. They held that it was not desirable that a small minority of the tenants should be able to impede the main body. He commended the Bill to the House, and to noble lords from Ireland he would say that he believed, if they fully considered it, as he was sure they would, calmly and dispassionately—["Hear, hear!"]—they would find that it contained many excellent provisions, and that those provisions which they regarded with most suspicion would prove on closer examination to be less harmful than they supposed. When this Bill first saw the light a letter appeared in the London Press signed by several representative Irish landlords, amongst them the noble Marquess and the noble Duke behind him, and they said, "We desire again distinctly to state that we do not write as opponents of the Bill, some portions of which appear to be non-contentious or beneficial." That was the spirit in which the Bill was received, and he felt confident that that was the spirit in which it would be discussed at that stage, and in the much more important stage of Committee which lay before them. [Loud cheers.]
* THE MARQUESS OF LONDON DERRY
, after complimenting the noble Marquess on his speech, and welcoming him cordially on his return after ten years' absence from Ireland, said the 1160 Bill was not only a complicated but an incomprehensible one. The noble Marquess compared himself to a tame elephant whose duty it was to snare other elephants. They might not object to imprisonment at the hands of the noble Marquess, but he felt confident they would object to it at the termination of a number of years. He rose on behalf of the landowners in Ireland to say that they never had the slightest intention of opposing the Second Reading of this Measure. They considered that a Land Bill was necessary to remedy the imperfections of the Act of 1881, and to clear up some points of difficulty that existed, and they considered that in refusing to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons the landowners had accepted the principle of the Bill, although they objected to certain of its details. Speaking on behalf of his brother landowners, and of a great number of the tenantry of Ireland—certainly of his own tenantry—he believed that neither party desired anything but what it was absolutely entitled to. He maintained, however, that the difficulties that had been created in the various Land Bills submitted to Parliament had been caused by one class endeavouring to obtain more than its just rights, and the other class had declined to accede to those requests. As both land-owning and land-occupying classes agreed that a Measure was necessary it would appear to have been no difficult task for a satisfactory Land Bill to be devised, but there was and ever would be a difficulty in satisfying all classes of the community, and it was an almost impossible task for any Government to frame a Bill which should be considered to be entirely non-controversial. He did think, however, that it would have been possible for the Government to have passed a Measure which would have given satisfaction to some sections of the community; but the present Bill gave no satisfaction whatever to any class of the community in Ireland. The Bill was not satisfactory to the loyal Irish supporters of the Government in the House of Commons, and no one would assert that it was acceptable to the Opposition in that House; it had been denounced by Mr. Dillon as a sham Bill and a fraud, the rejection of the Third Reading was 1161 approved by Mr. Davitt, while Mr. O'Brien had said a few days ago in Ireland that it was the worst Land Bill that ever was propounded. He wished to know, therefore, what section of the community was satisfied with the Bill? The Government had made three primary errors. He was not alluding to an error which was to his mind absolutely incomprehensible—the action of the; Chief Secretary—who after consultation with representative Members of the Unionist Party, and land-owning class in Ireland, placed Amendments on the Paper in the House of Commons, which were several days afterwards, without rhyme or reason suddenly withdrawn. He thought they had a right to demand a reason for that extraordinary action, and no doubt a reason would be given. The first error which the Government made was in introducing a Bill of such vast magnitude at the fag-end of a Session; secondly, in endeavouring to convince themselves and others that the Bill was of a non-contentious character, whereas it bristled with controversies; and thirdly, and this was the most important error, in not consulting any one who was practically connected with the land from the landowning point of view before introducing the Bill into the House of Commons. ["Hear, hear!"] There existed in Ireland a body, which they ventured to think was a somewhat important body, known as the Landowners' Convention, which embraced almost every important landowner in Ireland as well as representatives of the landed interests from every part of Ireland, including land agents and others with great practical knowledge and experience on the subject. So far as he was aware, not one of those representatives was consulted by the Government before this Measure, which would interfere to a great extent with their interest and properties, was introduced. He had the greatest respect for the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary; the former was one of his oldest, most intimate, and valued friends, and he trusted that in the category of his personal friends he could number the Chief Secretary, and they would not, he knew, consider that he was saying anything derogatory to them when he said that until they went to Ireland in August last to be sworn into their respective 1162 positions, neither of them had set their foot on the soil of Ireland. They could not, therefore, have that practical knowledge of the wants of the land-owning class in that country which was requisite. Many English Ministers had gone to Ireland fully convinced that they were Heaven born and Heaven inspired Ministers destined by Providence to settle once for all the Irish question, but the Irish problem remained at the present time unsolved, and the reason was that English Ministers would never consult practical Irishmen on questions with which they were thoroughly acquainted with regard to a country in which they had been born and bred. He maintained that many of the difficulties which had developed might have been avoided if practical Irishmen had been consulted, and if that had been done in the present case the Bill would at all events have been satisfactory to somebody, instead of detested by everybody, and it would not have been so litigious in its character. This Land Bill should have been small and virtually non-controversial, embracing four points. They should first have made clear the position of the judicial tenant; secondly, they should have recognised that a reform was wanted in the procedure of the fixing of judicial rents; thirdly, they should have dealt with the question of improvements, and made clear what the law re-relating to this subject really was; and, fourthly, their Bill should contain provisions to advocate the system of purchase, as was done in the present Bill. The system of purchase was one to which he gave his hearty concurrence, and he admired that part of the Bill which dealt with this subject. He knew of cases in which tenants had re-sold their holdings for more years purchase than they had given for them. Why was it that the Government would not listen to the advice of Irishmen in this matter? The Government present Purchase Bill was more or less a recognition of the defects of the Purchase Bill of 1891. The Government of that day were told that unless they followed the advice of Irishmen their Bill in which they set apart 33 millions of money for the purposes of enabling the tenants to buy their holdings would be an absolute failure, and that unless the safeguards they indicated were less stringent the 1163 money might just as well be locked up in a chest. Those safeguards had been adopted and what had been the consequence? Why, out of the whole 33 millions of money set apart to carry out the objects of the Bill barely more than one-and-a-half millions had been taken up. The noble Lord below him had characterised this Bill as a blessing and a godsend to Ireland, but he should like to know in what way it would be so. When the Bill of 1891 was being passed the Irish Lords had advised the adoption of a system under which there would be a reduction in the amount of the instalments to be paid for the purchase of a holding every five years. It had now been determined that such a reduction should be made every ten years, and he confessed that he welcomed the adoption of such a system. The Irish Lords had then asked the Government to take their advice on other points, and the Govern-had refused to accede to their request. But now, upon several points, the Government had given way and had carried that advice out in several instances. He did not think that any one could assert that the Purchase Bill of 1891 had been a success. But it would have been a success if the opinions of the Irish lords had been taken, and their present Bill might be made a success if these opinions were followed. The noble Marquess had dealt most ably with Clause 30 of the Bill, but he did not hesitate to tell the noble Lord that if that clause were persisted in it would kill the pet scheme of the Government, namely, land purchase in Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] Land purchase was the keystone of the present Bill, and that would, undoubtedly, be killed if Clause 30 were permitted to remain in the Bill. He thought that he should be able to show their Lordships that, if that clause were retained, any landlord who sold a holding to a tenant would be nothing more or less than a fool. ["Hear, hear!"] A landlord who was prepared to sell a holding to a tenant had, in the first place, to sign a purchase agreement, and, if the Land Commissioners sanctioned the sale and were prepared to advance the purchase money, they were bound to issue a vesting order, the effect of which was that the purchase money was to be paid, not to the landlord, but into Court, 1164 where it would have to remain until the landlord had made out a good title. In the second place, the fee simple of the holding was then vested in the tenant for ever; and, in the third place, the holding was charged with the annuity which was to be paid to the State. The consequence was that, while the interests of the tenant and of the State were perfectly secured, the landlord's property was taken from him for ever, and the purchase money was locked up in Court until the landlord had made out his title. Let him tell their Lordships what proving of title meant. He himself had sold a great deal of his property, and the cost of proving his title had amounted to 3 per cent. of the value that the property realised. That was not a very beneficial bargain for a landlord who was receiving 4 per cent. from a good tenant by way of rent. But, in addition to that, it might take a landlord two or three years before he could prove his title; and during that period his purchase money would be locked up in Court, he only receiving 2½per cent. interest upon it, whilst he might have to pay 5 per cent. interest on his mortgages on the property. What the landlord would get under those circumstances he left to their Lordships' imaginations. ["Hear, hear!"] In his view, the landlord would get nothing at all, and if he were wrong upon the point he hoped that the noble Marquess would set him right with regard to it. If he were right on the subject, it was the duty of their Lordships, in justice to the tenant, to the State, and to the unfortunate landlord, to insist upon Clause 30 being omitted from the Bill. The noble Marquess had alluded to the change which had been made in the mode in which the landlord was to receive payment for his property. Their Lordships would remember that, under the Bill of 1893, the landlords were to be paid in land stock, against the wish of the Unionist Members of Parliament, who desired that they should be paid in cash. But now that the land stock had gone up to £115, the Treasury refused to pay them in land stock, and said that they must be paid in cash. It would certainly be for the interests of the tenants that the landlords should be paid in land stock, because in that case the landlord would be able to take so many years less purchase for the 1165 holdings. It was necessary in this case therefore that the Government should be saved from themselves. He desired to say a few words with regard to the class to which he belonged. He did not believe that they were, as the noble Marquess had said, unfortunate in being associated with Irish land. He was in hopes that if justice were done to Irish landlords, they might see the Irish land question settled for, at all events, a number of years, during which Ireland might be happy and prosperous. ["Hear, hear?"] He confessed, however, that he had been amazed when he read that Mr. Balfour, the First Lord of the Treasury, had said that no landlord in Ireland would be a penny the worse for any line in this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had not among his many admirers a more devoted friend than himself, they had worked together, and he was aware of his marvellous ability and of the ingenuity of his mind, but he confessed that he was amazed when he read that statement of his. Could it be denied that every Act of Parliament that had boon passed with the object of benefiting the Irish tenants, must act detrimentally to the interests of the land-owning class. Every one of the Acts of Parliament dealing with the Irish land question which had boon passed during the last 26 years, had taken off another slice from the attenuated rights of the Irish landowner in a measure that was absolutely unknown to English or Scotch landowners. This Bill went beyond all others in admitting rich grazing farmers occupying farms up to £100 a year to have judicial rents fixed. Then Clauses 6 and 10 embraced provisions legalising thousands of lettings which had hitherto been absolutely illegal, to enable them, as it enabled those in the pasture holdings, to take advantage of the Fair Rent Courts, with the result (as they all knew) that there would be a still further fining down of the small margin which remained. Reductions of rent must necessarily mean reduction of income to the Irish landlords, so he was at a loss to know on what ground his right hon. Friend could say that no landlord under the Bill would be one penny the worse. He did not wish to say one word derogatory to the Sub-Commissioners entrusted with the task of reducing rents; but they certainly carried out their duties in an 1166 extraordinary manner, and he was really coming to the conclusion, after a speech by Lord Templetown, in which he drew attention to the facts, that a true remark was made by Mr. T. M. Healy in the House of Commons the other day when he said—Give me the making of the Land Commission, and I don't care who makes the land laws.[Laughter.] He himself could speak dispassionately on the subject, because he had had few cases taken into the Land Courts. He had settled mast of his outside. Why had these extraordinary reductions of rent been granted? It might be said that extraordinary reductions had been granted in England by landlords, and that the reductions in Ireland at the hands of the Commissioners were no worse than the reductions that had voluntarily been made in England by English landlords. But the two cases could not be compared. He had been told that the great reductions in England had been given on the large holdings and not on the small holdings, and those well acquainted with Ireland knew that Ireland was more or less one mass of small, and not of large, holdings. Consequently, if what he had been told held good in England, the small holdings had no right to claim the same reductions as large ones. Again he asked, why did the Sub-Commissioners make these vast reductions of rent? He challenged anyone to say that Ireland had suffered from agricultural depression to the same extent that England had. ["Hear, hear!"] With statistics of farm produce, lot him compare the year 1881 with 1895. Mr. Gladstone had admitted that agricultural depression was worse in Ireland in 1881 than it had been in recent years. In certain items of farm produce there had been a decrease. Wheat had decreased 3s. 8d. per cwt. But Ireland was not a wheat-growing country. Oats had deteriorated 8¾d. per cwt., barley had decreased 8¾d., but Ireland was not a barley-growing country; hay had decreased 1¾d., potatoes had increased 1d., pork had decreased 13s. 4d. per cwt.; flax, 1s. 1d. per stone. In cattle, one-year-olds had increased 3s. 11d. per head; two-year-olds, £1 2s. 9d.; lambs, 1s. 8d. per head. But see how, 1167 since 1881, Ireland had "improved." Take stock. In 1881 there were 574,746 horses and mules; in 1895, 660,152; showing an increase of 85,406. In 1881 there were 137,143 asses; in 1895, 221,446, showing an increase of 87,303. In 1881 there were 3,956,595 head of cattle; in 1895, 4,358,041. Sheep, in 1881, 3,256,185; 1895, 3,914,855, an increase of 658,670. Pigs in 1881 were 1,095,330; in 1895, 1,339,454, an increase of 243,124. Goats in 1881 were 266,073; in 1895, 304,827, an increase of 38,754. Poultry in 1881 were 13,972,426; in 1895, 16,370,496, an increase of 2,398,070. So, although certain products had decreased, it could not be said that Ireland had lost ground in others. Now he turned to the acreage of crops; and he found that in 1873 the cereal crops were 1,930,738 acres, and in 1893, 1,439,373 acres. With regard to the green crop, in 1873 there were 1,372,463 acres, and in 1893 1,153,708 acres—a slight decrease. With regard to meadow and clover, whereas in 1873 there were 1,838,248 acres, there were 2,167,473 in 1893, showing an increase of 300,000. Whereby he maintained that, although certain products had decreased, and the same amount of land was not in cultivation as formerly, there was an enormous increase in the products of Ireland. He turned to what he considered to be the best barometer of Irish prosperity or depression—the Post Office Savings Banks deposits—and he found that whereas in December 1881, the deposits were £3,765,000, they were now nearly doubled, viz., £7,678,000. From these statistics, he ventured to say that agriculture in Ireland was not so depressed as in England at the present time. Then, on what did the Sub-Commissioners base their decisions? The answers of Sub-Commissioners to the questions in the Pink Schedule were not enough. They should state on what part of the landlords' property and what products their reductions were based. Agricultural depression in Ireland was not so keen as in England, for the simple reason that the tenant-right fetched as much as it ever did. The sales of tenant-right from 1882 to 1894 were 3,351; the rents involved were £60,692 17s. 8d., and the total amount realised was £751,011 9s. 4d. Of these, 1168 304 judicial rents were fixed between 1882 and 1886; sales before 1886, with a rental of £5,820 7s. 10d.; purchase money, £53,287 2s. 4d., or 9.1 years' purchase. 1,004 judicial rents were fixed between 1882 and 1886; sales after 1886 at a rent of £17,044 13s. 6d.; purchase money, £225,986 9s. 10d., or 13.2 years' purchase—showing, beyond doubt, that tenant-right had gone up since 1886. Tenant-right had fetched some extraordinary prices. Colonel Waring recently told him of a case in Antrim where the tenant-right of a holding of the rent of £7 5s. 9d. a year fetched £710, or nearly a hundred years' purchase. On his own property there were cases where the tenant-right had fetched 40, 36, 34, and 28 years' purchase. One would have thought that with these high prices for tenant-right there would have been no need of these enormous reductions. But reduction had taken place in Down and Antrim of 45, 40, 37, 35, 32, 31, and 30 per cent. Consequently, he again reiterated that he did think it was advisable that Clause I should be so amended as to insist upon the Sub-Commissioners elaborating what was known as the pink schedule. He did not even wish to compare England with Ireland by saying anything to the Irish landlords that might make them think that they were more hardly used than they were, but would the landlords of England or Scotland care to have these compulsory reductions made on their properties when they could prove they were not suffering from this agricultural depression. The rights of landowners in Ireland had always been assailed. Noble Lords who knew Ireland well knew that in many parts tenants built substantial houses, and farmed with advantage land which had been let to them on condition that they paid a certain rent. Were these lettings very different from the manner in which land was let by the ground landlords of London, some of whom were Members of their Lordships' House? Where was the difference? Land Bill after Land Bill had assailed the rights and the freedom of contract of the Irish landlord, but they had never yet touched the rights of the London landlord, although he let his land on precisely the same terms and conditions as the Irish landlords did some years ago. 1169 This he did say with regard to the ground landlords who were Members of their Lordships' House, that if they saw no injustice in the reductions of rent on Irish land, then they could see no hardship in their own ground rents in London being reduced. What was fair for one was fair for the other; consequently, he maintained, that every ground landlord was bound to oppose any invasion of the rights of the Irish landlords unless he was prepared to relinquish his own in London. It was and had been the fashion to abuse Irish landlords, but if they were compared with their English and Scotch brethren history would show they would come well out of the ordeal. Their land had always been fairly let, and their rentals bore very favourable comparison with those of landlords in the sister countries. The Bessborough Commission, described by Mr. Gladstone as "certainly not deficient in its popular sympathies," in their Report issued in 1881, said:—In Ireland it was unusual to exact what in England would have been considered a full and fair commercrcial rent.Arthur Young, in his day, considered the rent paid to the owner of land unduly, and often absurdly, low, and, in bringing in the Land Bill of 1870, Mr. Gladstone stated that in the 90 years that had elapsed since Arthur Young wrote, the rents of Ireland had just doubled, and if Ulster were excluded had much less than doubled, while in 98 years the rental of England had trebled, and in 99 years the rental of Scotland had sextupled. In the Debates on the Irish Land Bill of 1870, Mr. Gladstone and Sir Roundell Palmer declared that though it might be within the power of Parliament to take away the rights of Irish landlords still, at the same time, they must pay for taking away that property. He maintained the Irish landlords had a right to know what was to be their fate. Were they to be absolutely ruined? Were the Irish landowners to be left with no margin whatever on which to live in the homes in which they were brought up? Their incomes had been sadly attenuated of late years, their margin was getting smaller and smaller, although charges had to be met all the same, and the final blow, taking away the last remnant of that 1170 margin, was to come from a Unionist Government. Did the Government want to expatriate the Irish landlords by the expropriation of their property? If they did, let them say so. They were merely carrying out the wishes and desires of Mr. T. M. Healy, who said—We believe that landlordism is the prop of English rule, and we are working to take that prop away. To drive out British rule from Ireland we must strike at the foundation, and that foundation is landlordism.Was it to the advantage of Ireland to drive the land-owning classes out of the country? Would it be to the advantage of England and Scotland to drive the land-owning classes out of those countries? He maintained it would be the death knell to Ireland if they were to get rid of the land-owning classes. They knew very well the interest that appertained to a large house in the neighbourhood; they knew the employment that was given by, and the happiness that the land-owning classes were able to confer upon those around them. He did not approach their Lordships on the grounds of feelings of sympathy, but on the ground of justice and of right. He repeated it would be a sad day for Ireland if they were to expatriate the landowners. If they insisted upon expatriating this class they would be endorsing the words of Mr. Healy, who only wished to get rid of them because they stood between him and the Union, and they would shake once for all that confidence in Ireland without which there could never be prosperity in the country. It was a common fashion to believe that property was really only comprised in land, but he maintained that if they once attacked the fundamental rights of property, be it land or be it the coat on their back, they had attacked once and for ail the very foundations of property, and once they had done so they would never be able to recede from an attack on any class of property whatever. He would say a few words upon one or two of the clauses. The noble Earl below him did not seem to think, on the question of turbary, that the clause as it now stood could do any harm to any landowner. He seemed to him rather to allude to the turbary question as though the landowners had not been in the habit of giving their tenants free access to their 1171 rights of bog. He had no practical experience of that question himself, having no turbary rights, but there were many noble Lords who had, and who intended to discuss this question at considerable length, and they told him that if they did not maintain the rights of turbary, they were really injuring the interest of the tenants. At the present moment great care was taken, by giving bog tickets to the tenants to take what they wanted, by means of maintaining the roads, and by means of taking care of the place generally, that the bogs were not damaged, but if once that care was relaxed and tenants were given a free hand, the bog in a very short space of time would not be found in a suitable condition to supply their wants. But there was one part of this clause which his noble Friend entirely missed. His noble Friends opposed this clause, not only because it attacked their pocket, but because it attacked, to a very great extent, their privileges. This clause gave power to tenants who had received acts of kindness from their landlords to have those acts of kindness made legal and to become their rights. If the clause as it now stood became law, those acts of kindness would become absolute rights, and could not be withdrawn. That was in itself a tremendous infringement, to his mind, of the rights of property. It would not matter to himself. He lived among tenants on the best of terms, and he was glad to think that most of his Friends behind him did too, but it might be that a landlord, living in one of the bad districts in Ireland, might find his life an absolute burden to him by his tenants taking advantage of what were now privileges but which the Bill proposed to convert into rights. He hoped his noble Friend would consider these rights of privileges equally as much, or more than, he did the rights of pocket. Then there was another clause which he was at a loss to understand. This was Clause 11, which was identical with Clause 9 of Mr. Morley's Bill. He was the more surprised at this clause when he read the remarks of the Chief Secretary in which he introduced it. The Chief Secretary said:—Another provision which he regarded as non-contentions in principle, and which is common to both Bills, has for its object the 1172 saving of the sub-tenants, when the interest of the middleman is determined by notice to quit or the effluxion of time.He would remind the Chief Secretary that the words were not "notice to quit," but "ejectment" was the word used in the Bill. This was a complicated Measure, and he did not know that he could describe the difficulties he saw in the Bill better than by quoting the words of his right hon. Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland in the late Unionist Government, Mr. Carson, who on April 2, 1895, was put up by the then Unionist Opposition to denounce this clause. Mr. Carson said:—The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Morley) also found fault with his statement that this was a revolutionary proposal. He did make that statement and he made it now.He should like to know why Her Majesty's Government did not consider it a revolutionary proposal now. Mr. Carson went on to say:—It set aside the contracts entered into by the landlord under the Act of 1881; it, in certain cases, abolished the only remedy for rent in Ireland—namely, ejectment for non-payment of rent. The Bill proposed to abolish the right of ejectment for the non-payment of rent as against a middleman. If a middleman had subtenants he might bring an action for ejectment for non-payment of rent, and, if he recovered, the land was not to be given up whether the rent was paid or not, and a second action was to be brought by the landowner for the recovery of the land. Was that provision drafted by anybody who knew anything about Ireland? Surely to require a landlord to bring an action against sub-tenants was beyond all fairness and reason in dealing with the rights of landlords.Surely, if the Plan of Campaign ever again had the misfortune to show its accursed head in the worst parts of Ireland, it would be perfectly possible for the tenants to provide at a moment's notice a certain number of sub-tenants, got from heaven knows where, simply to elude the judgment of the Court. That was a Measure which he trusted his noble Friend would also consider, and, as it was denounced by the Government when in Opposition, he would see his way to alter it in Committee. He had endeavoured to deal with this complicated and detailed question with fairness, and, he hoped, with impartiality. It was a question in which Irish landowners were interested, and on which, 1173 if they chose, they would be justified in speaking in terms he might almost say of anger. But he was convinced they would hear no harsh words from any one of the Irish landlords whose property they proposed to reduce. They did not appeal to their Lordships on account of their sympathy with them, but they merely asked them to recognise that they had rights, and that they expected justice to be done to them in the maintenance of those rights. They did not ask the present Government to act partially or even favourably towards them. They did not remind the noble Marquess below him that they had worked heart and soul for the Unionist cause for years past, and that it was due to their energy and their zeal that the noble Marquess won that large number of bye-elections between 1892 and 1895 which shook the late Government to the roots. Nor did they appeal to him because they knew that it was also owing to their energy and zeal, and their devotion to the cause, that he could boast of many of the seats which were now included in his great majority. They simply appealed to their Lordships to deal with them justly and honestly, as they would like to be dealt with honestly and justly themselves. They had before them a Bill which, if altered, could be sent down to the House of Commons a useful Bill. There were portions of it which they approved and heartily endorsed, but there were also portions of it which they considered would act injuriously, not only to themselves but also to all classes in Ireland. They asked their Lordships, therefore, to carefully examine the details of this Bill, and, if they thought their claim a good one, to support the Amendments which they would move in Committee and which they thought were of vital importance. He believed that if their Lordships would devote themselves to this good cause they would be able to send down to the House of Commons a Bill that would give satisfaction to a very large number of people which this Bill did not, a Bill which, he maintained, would satisfy the wants and aspirations of every honest and right-thinking man in Ireland, and they would have been the means of making one great, one giant stride to furthering and, he believed, to solving what had ever been 1174 considered the insoluble problem of the Irish question. [Cheers.]
§ * THE EARL OF CREWE
said he was anxious not to detain their Lordships at any great length, for more reasons than one. In the first place, owing, to say the least of it, to the expeditious manner in which this Bill was hurried through another place, it had only been within a short time that its details had become known to them, and, unless they had spent days and parts of nights in the Gallery of the House of Commons, it was impossible, owing to the meagre reports given in the newspapers, for them to discover in what shape the Bill was to be introduced into that House. In the next place, the position of noble Lords on the Liberal Benches was a rather singular one. The part noble Lords on that side played on the political stage of their Lordships' House was at all times a limited one—limited by the circumstance of their small numbers, but on this occasion they were not on the stage at all. They were looking on from the body of the theatre—were seated in the stalls, and were watching with some interest the development of the drama—and, having regard to some parts of the speech of the noble Marquess who spoke last, he might almost say the melodrama—which was being played by noble Lords on the other side. [Laughter.] The principal interest of this Bill to those on the Liberal side was that to a great extent it vindicated the action of Mr. Morley's Committee, and it also vindicated to a great extent the action of the Government in bringing in a Bill founded mainly on that Report—a Report which Mr. T. W. Russell, now a Member of the Government, said was a moderate and a fair one. The Bill had been received by the landlords of Ireland, as the speech of the noble Marquess had shown, with some resentment and surprise. The resentment was founded on the belief—a belief which he himself shared to a large extent—that had this identical Bill been introduced into their Lordships' House during the existence of the late Government, most of its clauses would have been opposed by noble Lords now sitting on the Government Bench. ["Hear, hear!"] At the same time he did not wish to found too grave an imputation upon that statement, for he recognised that 1175 the Members of the Government now felt a responsibility on the matter which they did not feel then, and he had no desire to blame them for acting on that sense of responsibility in introducing this Measure. As to any surprise which the Irish landlords might feel in regard to this Bill, he should have thought that after the introduction of the Bill of 1887 their capacity for surprise in this regard must have been almost exhausted, because, as an interference with the rights of property, the Bill of 1887 was much stronger than the Bill now before the House. Noble Lords opposite, therefore, might think that a Party majority could be too large. A Parliamentary force which enabled the Government to ignore—as the Government were doing on this occasion—the wishes and opinions of a large and influential body of their supporters was, perhaps, not altogether an unmixed blessing. He was glad the noble Marquess, in introducing the Bill, set himself to defend it on its merits, and he was pleased with this because, in watching its progress through the other House, no one could fail to notice that the Chief Secretary and the Attorney General for Ireland conducted it with a conviction of the fairness of its provisions that could not be mistaken. It appeared to him that those who had charge of the Bill in the House of Commons, and also the noble Marquess, had grappled fairly and completely with the exclusions which were dealt with in Clause 4. He was most unwilling to believe that any great number of Irish landlords desired that their tenants—tenants who in the ordinary course would have been able to have a fair rent fixed—should be excluded from the Courts on merely technical grounds. On the contrary, he believed the large number of landlords were perfectly willing that all their tenants should have their rents fixed, and would welcome the abolition of invidious distinctions. He could not believe, for instance, that the great body of Irish landlords would seriously object to the admission of tenants who held under those who were themselves tenants for life, provided that the rights of the remainderman were safeguarded. Nor did he think the Irish landlords would wish to see the tenants who held under the middleman deprived of their rights through the middleman failing to carry out his obligations. There were some matters, 1176 to which he and others attached considerable importance, which were not dealt with in the Bill. He was very sorry, for instance, that the difficult and complicated question of town parks had been omitted from the Bill, and that the question was practically left to stand undealt with. He should have thought that the population limit of 2,000, which was originally to be found in the Bill of 1887, might have been profitably inserted in the present Bill, and he was confident that this would have met the wishes of a large number of tenants in the north of Ireland. With regard to Clause 4, he was unwilling to believe that any great number of Irish landlords desired that their tenants should be excluded from the Courts merely on technical grounds. On the contrary, he believed the landlords were perfectly willing that all their tenants should have their rents fixed, and would welcome the abolition of invidious distinctions. He was sorry that the difficult and complicated question of town parks had not been dealt with in this Bill. As to the question of increased letting value, he was inclined to think that the cases in which the increased letting value resulted from a tenant's improvements, over and above a fair percentage on his outlay, were not very numerous. The noble Marquess who introduced the Bill mentioned that no alteration was to be made in the statutory term. That was an omission from the Bill which he regretted, for the present statutory term was either too long or too short. He could understand something being said for a very long statutory term, such as was suggested by the late Mr. Parnell in the earlier stages of the land agitation, because a long term of that kind might be supposed to cover all the ups and downs to which agriculture was subject. On the other hand, if they did not have a very long statutory term, it was advisable to have a short one. He believed that if the noble Marquess had seen his way to a lowering of the statutory term to 10 years something more would have been done than would now be done to contribute to the final settlement of the question, so far as any settlement of it could be supposed to be final. Coming to the question of purchase, he said it was of course a common place of those who spoke on Irish land to speak 1177 with approval of the schemes of land purchase, and certainly so far as the Ashbourne Act was concerned there was only one opinion. Those who travelled about Ireland were very often able to distinguish a farm which had been bought under the Ashbourne Act by the excellence of its cultivation, and when the time came, which they all hoped would be an exceedingly remote one, when that learned Lord became a portion of the past, his memory would in the most literal sense be kept green by those spots of improved cultivation which would be connected with his name throughout Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] But he could not help thinking that the success of that Act might in some cases have given rise to false hopes connected with land purchase. During the three years he was living in Ireland he did not see anything which led him to suppose that landlords as a body were very anxious to sell or that tenants as a body were exceedingly anxious to buy, and it seemed to be a necessary condition of a Bill of this kind that it should be of a purely voluntary nature. There was one point which was not alluded to by either of the noble Marquesses, and that was the small portion of the Bill which professed to deal with the question of evicted tenants. How far any re-enactment of Clause 13 of the Act of 1891 was likely to be successful he had his doubts, and for the reason, that, unless he was mistaken, there had never been anything to prevent any landlord without Section 13 from receiving his tenants back as tenants under the 20th Clause of the Act of 1881 with a view to their becoming purchasers. The noble Lords who had preceded him made a comparison between Irish and English rents. It was, no doubt, very often the case that, statute acre per statute acre, precisely the same land in Ireland paid a somewhat lower rent than it paid in England; but everything he had seen or heard of in Ireland led him to the conviction that if the amount spent on improvements was taken into account the net rent received for land in Ireland was considerably higher than the rent received for land in England. ["No, no!"] The Marquess of Londonderry produced figures in support of his view, and rather gave away his case, because he said that within the last 60 or 70 1178 years English rent had trebled whilst Irish rents had doubled [The MARQUESS of LONDONDERRY: "I quoted Mr. Gladstone."] Precisely, and that led him to suppose the figures were probably correct. [A laugh.] He would like to know how large a proportion of that English trebling represented the mere interest upon the landlord's outlay. One word on the question of the attitude of their Lordships' House with regard to questions of this kind. The landlords were very strongly represented in the House, but a difficulty the House might find in approaching the consideration of the subject with perfect fairness was that in the main it was the good landlords of Ireland who were represented there, and it was not for good landlords that all this mass of Irish legislation was intended. In the House the Irish tenants were not represented, though there might be two or three noble Lords sitting on the Opposition Benches whose study of the question led them to see that something was to be said for the tenants. But as a matter of fact, his noble Friends who had filled the same office as he had, were landlords as well, and if they had sympathies or special prejudices, it might be fairly supposed those sympathies or prejudices were on the landlords' side. He, therefore, appealed to their Lordships generally to examine very carefully what the real weight of their Lordships' judgment on this question might be. The noble Lord who spoke last appeared to resent the fact that Irishmen had not been consulted in the preparation of the Bill. To a certain extent, he agreed with the noble Lord. He thought it very desirable that Irishmen of all shades of views should, if possible, be consulted in the preparation of Measures of this kind. When the late Government were drafting their Bill they did their best to obtain the opinion of both sides. The views of the representatives of the Irish tenants were, as far as possible, taken into account. But the Government did not stop there. He considered, without any possible depreciation of the abilities of any noble Lord in the House, that since then the landlord party in the House of Lords had lost their most able defender. ["Hear, hear!"] The late Lord Waterford was a man whose strong common sense and 1179 profound knowledge of the subject, and, also, whose fairness in facing the arguments of his opponents, proved much more persuasive than far more elaborate rhetoric would have been, and before drafting their Bill Mr. Morley took occasion to submit his proposals to Lord Waterford, who gave them a close consideration. He had no hesitation in saying that the Government's views upon some of the points which were raised were distinctly modified by what Lord Waterford was able to tell them. When he heard the noble Marquess hint that the landlords were badly treated by the Government on this occasion he could not help sharing the views of Lord Lansdowne and Mr. Balfour that the Bill would not materially injure Irish landlords. How far it would benefit the tenants was another matter. He believed that in some respects it would benefit the tenants without, he hoped, materially injuring the landlords. He trusted, therefore, that the Bill would be allowed to leave the House in something like its present shape. He thought that anything like a prolonged contest on the Bill would have a disastrously unsettling effect on public opinion in Ireland, and he trusted that their Lordships would think once and twice before doing that which would be equally disastrous to all the agricultural classes in Ireland. ["Hear hear!"]
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
said he should not discuss whether the Bill ought to be made controversial or not, but that it was beyond all doubt of a controversial character must be admitted. They were now at the end of July, and they were told that Parliament would be prorogued about August 15. They were also told that if they did not accept the Bill it would be wrecked and lost. He thought that was asking that House to legislate under a threat, with a loaded pistol at its head. ["Hear, hear!"] It did not tend to increase the respect with which that House was looked upon by the country; it rather tended to play into the hands of those who would look on that House as a registering machine, and who were constantly informing them that that House only worked in obedience to the mandates of a Tory Government. As to the Bill itself, he could not entirely agree with the general view taken by the noble Marquess; he 1180 made a very admirable speech, but it was just a little out of date. If it had been delivered 15 years ago on the Bill of 1881 it would have been most admirable. Personally, he objected most strongly to the whole system of legislation which had been adopted towards Ireland, especially the Act of 1881. When Parliament sent political economy to, he forgot where——
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
To Jupiter; it started on a policy which certainly would not be to the general benefit of the whole country in the end. They must, however, deal with things as they were and endeavour to reduce the friction caused by the Act of 1881. This Bill was in many respects admirably adapted for that purpose. As to the purchase part of the Bill, he was not at all competent to go into the question. He did not understand how a man could sell anything and get paid for it unless he could show his title. If they made the purchase clause inoperative they would be placing a damning blot on the Bill. He looked on Clause 30 as the most important part of the Measure. He thought that they all agreed that the dual system, which Parliament in its unwisdom sot up, should be done away with. The sooner they got to real ownership the better, and that could only be done through the medium of purchase. He could not see, however, why it should be confined to one party to the transaction or why the favourable terms offered to a tenant to purchase should not be offered to the landlord who was willing to buy out a tenant who desired to sell. He objected to be considered a wild elephant or a wild beast of any kind—[laughter]—but he must say that he had obtained from the speech of the noble Marquess a much clearer view of the subject than he had been previously able to acquire. The noble Marquess had glided very lightly over some questions, such as improvements, and he agreed that it was a question not capable of definition in an Act of Parliament. To lay down the proper proportions which should obtain in an Act of Parliament was, he believed, beyond the wit and wisdom of man, and he thought 1181 the Government had been wise in leaving the matter to the common sense and rule-of-thumb method adopted in the Courts. The owners of land in Ireland were a class of men who had been grievously maligned, and who had done their duty under most difficult circumstances, and he hoped that all who sympathised with them and all who were interested personally in land in Ireland would look at this Bill from the point of view of how it affected the existing state of things. If they did he thought they would find that the Bill, while benefiting the tenants in many material respects, was not so prejudicial to the interests of the landowners as some seemed to think. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * THE EARL OF WINCHILSEA
said he had been very much struck by the extraordinary discrepancy which existed between the view of the actual effect which would be produced by the Bill taken by the Government, and the view taken by representative Irish landlords. The Government held that the Bill was necessary to complete prior legislation and enable it to work more smoothly, and that it was, or ought to be, a non-contentious Measure; but there was no mistaking the earnestness of the Irish landlords when they said that if the Bill was carried in its present shape it would complete their ruin by depriving them of the residue of the property that was left to them. That was a very serious issue, and it was their duty to examine this Bill and see which of those views was correct. If the former was correct, the sooner the Bill was passed the better; if the latter, they ought not to part with the Bill without making such substantial alterations in it as would remove the dangers which were feared. The danger of the situation he conceived to be that this Bill did not lay down or fix any principle or guide by which the Commissioners were to arrive at a fair rent. The re-valuations under the second term were being conducted on a principle which Her Majesty's Government were unable to explain the other day in answer to the noble Viscount who raised the question, far less to justify. Further reductions of 30, 40, and 50 per cent. had been made on the re-valuation on the second term, a re-valuation which could not be justified 1182 on any known principle. The Irish landowners contended that this Bill should have so dealt with the situation as to have rendered it impossible for the Commissioners to reduce rents entirely at their own sweet will in Ireland. A splendid opportunity was afforded to the present Government, who were able to take up a strong and independent position, of settling this question on a rational and intelligible basis once for all, but if this Bill left the House in its present shape that opportunity would have been lost. If the Bill were amended in the direction he would indicate perhaps something like finality might be arrived at. They had heard a great deal about the purchase clauses of the Bill, and the Government desired to facilitate purchase, but in his opinion the Bill as it stood would simply kill purchase. Who was going to purchase a property the value of which would be reduced to nothing by successive reductions year after year? What was the Court that was making these reductions of rent? The Lord Chancellor the other day said it was impossible for Her Majesty's Government to interfere with judicial proceedings; he appreciated the humour of the noble and learned Lord, but the Irish Land Courts could not be compared with those to which he was accustomed. It was true they had precedents, but they were bad precedents, and the Sub-Commissioners had absolutely no principles whatever to guide them. Sometimes it happened that a person whose interest was directly affected was made both judge and jury. He quite agreed that they must recognise accomplished facts, and they could not go behind the Act of 1881, but they must remember that very exceptional circumstances were created by that Act. In the first place, the landlord was really turned into a rent charger, and they had considerably reduced the amount of the rent he received, and therefore the security they gave him should be as great or greater as that which he had when he was a landlord. Moreover, the tenant had been given the right of selling the right of occupying his holding. In view of these circumstances, it appeared to him to be very hard that they should every 15 years re-open the whole question. 1183 What he ventured to propose to the House as a possible solution of this question was this. He would accept the situation that was created by the legislation of 1881 frankly and loyally, and he would accept the re-valuations of rent made under that agreement. He would further suppose that all the exceptional circumstances referred to in the valuations of 1881 had been taken into account—such as climate, soil, the position of the holdings, and the distance from markets. He would assume that all those circumstances had been dealt with once for all, and that they ought not to be taken into account over and over again in fixing the rent every 15 years. The only fair principle upon which re-valuations of rent should be made was, that only the value of the tenants' improvements not already allowed for, and the loss sustained by a fall in prices, should be taken into account in reducing the rent. If that principle of valuation were not adopted they would be placing the whole property of the landlords at the mercy of irresponsible persons, and there would be no finality short of sweeping away the whole of the landlords' property and establishing the existing tenant in his place. It must be borne in mind that it was only the existing tenant that would be benefited, because every succeeding tenant would have to pay more for his tenant-right, which would be equivalent to an increased rent. If rents were only to be revised in relation to a rise or fall in prices, the bed-rock would have been reached at last, and the landlords would be content. Although they had been deprived of large portions of their property they would know where they were and the principle upon which they were to be treated in the future. If the advantages to the landlords of the adoption of such a principle would be great, they would be equally favourable to the tenants, for under it the landlords would be saved from incessant litigation, would know from year to year exactly what rent they would receive, and while the tenants would be saved from the constantly-in-creasing incubus of tenant-right. He made these suggestions with great diffidence, being an English landlord, but it appeared to him that it was the duty of English landlords, as well as Irish landlords, to arrive at some solid principle 1184 upon which their legislation should be based, knowing as they did that legislation of this kind could not be confined to Ireland, but would be applied to England also, not only as regarded land, but other property as well. He trusted that when the Bill got into Committee—because he believed that there was no desire to divide on the Second Reading of the Bill—the Government would accept the suggestions he had made, and in that case he hoped that a new departure would be made in the land legislation of Ireland of which the Government might have every reason to be proud. ["Hear, hear!"]
LORD MONTEAGLE OF BRANDON
said that he was sure that the noble Lord who had just sat down need have offered no apology to the House for having intervened in this Debate, because the tenor of his remarks and the suggestions he had made showed that he had studied, and to a great ex tent mastered, the difficulties of this subject. ["Hear, hear!"] He was afraid, however, that he had not altogether apprehended the full force of the noble Lord's suggestions; but, as far as he understood them, they appeared to him to be in the right direction, and he hoped that they would be fully considered by Her Majesty's Government. The noble Earl had spoken rather as an opponent of the Bill, but he himself was speaking as a supporter of it, and he might perhaps be allowed to say that it was a very disagreeable thing to find oneself in opposition to and differing from the very large majority of one's friends and colleagues. He was sure, however, that the noble Lords opposite would extend to him the consideration which they always showed to those who endeavoured to speak their honest convictions, and to give him credit for a desire to serve the public interest, and to safeguard the just rights of those to whose class he belonged. He would confine his remarks chiefly to the Tenure Clauses, which formed the most contentious part of the Bill. The Tenure Clauses almost entirely turned upon the principles of the Act of 1881. Under that Act certain clauses were excluded from its operation. But now everything was to be left to the discretion of the Land Commissioners, while the advantages of the Act of 1888 were to be extended from yearly farmers who 1185 paid a rent of £50 to those who paid a rent of £100. He confessed that he did not see what could have been done otherwise in 1881, except to have brought in a wholesale Measure for the appropriation of the, landlords' property by the State buying them out. The discretion of the Land Commissioners had been a rough-and-ready mode of procedure, and no doubt it had operated harshly both against the owners and the tenants. The worst landlords and the worst tenants had come off the best under it, while the best landlords and the best tenants had come off the worst. No doubt the Act of 1881 offered an inducement to the tenants to allow their land to run out and to deteriorate shortly before the date for the revision of the rents, and in that respect undoubtedly the Act was faulty, but it was the best that could be devised under the circumstances. He thought that the case for the Turbary Clauses of the Bill had not been made, out. As regarded turbary, he could not see that, any such grievance was made out, and he hoped the Government would not insist on that clause. The core of the whole matter was the question of tenants' improvements. Lord Londonderry admitted that it required to be dealt with. As regarded disputes between landlords and tenants, he could not see how anyone who knew the circumstances of Irish land could think that tenants were adequately protected in their improvements as long as they had a revision of rents or re-valuation hanging over them. If there was a possibility of the tenant being rented on his improvements, it must act as a deterrent to his improvement and impair the security he felt. But what were the main objections to this Bill? Everyone would admit that under a Bill of the kind litigation was unavoidable. When the law was altered people's minds were disturbed under the rulings that had been given, and they needed new decisions under a new Act. He did not think that litigation would be so great as noble Lords opposite seemed to fear, but he was afraid that where it took place it would be long and costly. He believed that the vast majority of tenants would wish to settle with their landlords out of court in larger numbers than in 1881, when great 1186 excitement prevailed, and not only excitement but incitement to the tenants were common, and the whole of Irish society was cleft from top to bottom. He thought, therefore, that the dread of increased litigation was somewhat exaggerated. But a more serious objection had been raised—the want of finality in this legislation. He admitted that; and it was in that respect that he was least satisfied with the Bill. But it was in regard to the question of tenants' improvements that the, want of finality seemed most serious. On this point he confessed he sympathised with the Government and the Chief Secretary in their efforts (unfortunately fruitless) to bring about an understanding and a compromise between the two contending parties. It appeared to him, however, that, if the parties on both sides could only be got together, some agreement might yet be come to. On the part of the great majority of tenants in Ireland there was a desire for finality in dealing with these questions. No doubt the Turbary Clause would be fully debated in Committee. But there were other contentions which the landlords might fairly expect would not interfere with the rights of the tenant, or disappoint any expectations raised. There was the case where a landlord was in possession of his demesne as tenant. Where the estate was under the Court, and the landlord was in possession as tenant, paying rent to the mortgagees, he was to be entitled to borrow money from the estate to discharge his liabilities in the same way as if he were an ordinary tenant. That contained the germ of what might be a valuable concession to the landlords. If the boon was extended to the man who had been expropriated as a ruined man, why should they stop there? It appeared to him that in many cases where properties were seriously incumbered, but the owner was just able to keep out of Court, a concession of the kind enabling him to borrow money to pay off the charges might just turn the scale and enable him to tide over his difficulties. The noble Marquess opposite fully recognised the difficulty the vendor would be in where proof of title took a considerable time, and he was only receiving 2½ or 2¾ per cent. on the purchase-money from the time the vesting 1187 order places the tenant in possession and the time the purchase-money was distributed among the incumbrancers. At first sight it seemed not an unfair suggestion that the loss between the 2¾ per cent. which the landlord received from the State, and the 4 or 5 per cent. he had hitherto been liable to pay to the incumbrancers, might fall not on the vendors, but on the incumbrancers. But he should himself hesitate very strongly to ask for any such thing. But the difference was a serious matter to the vendors and incumbrancers under the Purchase Clause, so serious in the vast majority of cases that it would stop sales altogether if the Bill remained as it was. If purchase was a matter of such great importance to the State, why should not the State make up this difference, subject to certain safeguards? With certain reservations he was in favour of the Bill, and he believed the fears expressed by noble Lords opposite were, to a large extent, exaggerated.
§ * LORD CASTLETOWN
remarked that the noble Marquess who had moved the Second Reading of this Bill, referring to the slowness of purchase under the Ashbourne Act, said he thought the reason for it was that there was a want of finality. He quite agreed with the noble Marquess; but another and more salient reason was that the Act of 1885 was framed by men who had lived all their lives in Ireland, who knew well how purchase could be carried out on the most advantageous terms to the landlord, the State, and the purchaser, and who framed a Measure that was simple and workable. Unluckily, the Act of 1885 became a dead letter and the Act of 1891 took its place. At the same time, all the Governments that succeeded one another rather helped the idea that there would be no finality as regarded tenure, and the consequence was that the tenant kept from purchase in the hope of being able to buy in the lowest market. The Act of 1891 was difficult and complex, it was full of Treasury difficulties which effectually stopped purchase. He thought the noble Marquess made a mistake as to the 39th Clause in saying that there would be power by that clause given to the Land Judges to deal with a minority in an estate by compulsory sale. The noble Marquess seemed to 1188 consider there were some antecedent Acts dealing with the point, but he believed he was right in saying that such was not the case.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I was under the impression that in some of the later Acts there were enactments under which in the case of the sale of an estate en bloc to the tenants if the majority of the tenants were in favour of buying, there could be virtually a compulsory sale to the others. I may be wrong.
§ * LORD CASTLETOWN
said there was no actual Act. It was contemplated in the Act of 1891, but it did not come into law. Again, if the noble Marquess would look carefully at the drafting of Clause 32, he would see it did not carry out what he said it did. Turning to the Bill itself he confessed he approached the discussion of this Measure with extreme pity and compassion for those who were its authors, and also for those who were to be experimented upon by the legislative efforts of these gentlemen. If ever a Government had a chance of doing really useful work and of passing a valuable and possibly final Measure it was this Government, but what had they done? After having sat upon Mr. Morley and his Committee practically in a Session now past and figuratively during the first few months of their own term of office, they introduced a Bill which was neither one thing nor the other. At first they were told it was quite a non-contentious Bill. Then they found it was fought over most bitterly by all parties in the other place. Then its author added to the difficulties of its existence by cutting off its arms and legs, excising some of its most vital portions and replacing them in a mutilated form at all sorts of odd angles. No Bill, he ventured to think, had ever had such a bad time of it. Those who took an interest in it had appealed one day to Philip drunk and another day to Philip sober, and Philip himself had been heard to say (he supposed in his sober moments) "Please do not ask me to explain things which I do not understand." And this was the outcome of the great Unionist majority which was to settle the Irish problem, and enable the Irish Land Question to be brought within measurable distance of finality. The exact 1189 opposite of this would be the issue of this Measure unless largely and vigorously amended. It was full of mischievous germs; it was a mass of want of knowledge of what was required in land purchase, and it was replete with legal pitfalls. What was the continuous statement made on all Unionist platforms? That it was by perfected system of land purchase that the Irish Question could be solved. What was certain to be the outcome of this Bill if unamended? The tenure clauses were so many incitements to the tenants not to purchase, but to take their chance of getting a reduction of rent. They were also so many inducements to the village attorney to prevent his client the tenant agreeing to any offer of purchase from his landlord. Let him quote what was said in another place by Mr. Chamberlain when dealing with Mr. Morley's Land Bill. Mr. Chamberlain said:—By this Bill you are increasing the uncertainty of everything that concerns Land Purchase in Ireland. The tenant is a shrewd person, and he will not go into Courts to buy so long as he believes there is an element of uncertainty as to what his ultimate rent is to he. He is not such a tool as to buy in a falling market, and unless therefore you introduce some kind of finality you will never carry out this great operation of transfer.Mr. A. J. Balfour said:—Mr. Sexton had advised the tenants not to purchase their holdings until the utmost had been squeezed out of the landlords by legislation. Not to buy as long as the Irish Members might squeeze out of sumo soft-hearted Government, some Government sensitive to vote a little more favourable machinery for adjusting that fair rent on which after all the amount of purchase money depended.'This policy, he said, was "deplorable." What did the right hon. Gentleman say now, for this policy was just the same? Both these Ministers saw this Bill, and yet they perpetuated the same blunder as that made by Mr. Morley, and with no excuse for it. They had had time to get information. They proved they had the knowledge, and yet they fell into exactly the same pitfall, and they made matters worse, for the Leader of the House, he believed, admitted that some Measure must be passed to make up for the loss of the Education Bill, which was sacrificed simply by want of steering power in the other place. It seemed to him (and he 1190 regretted to have to say it) that when either side were in a difficulty the only way out was to rob an Irish landowner. In this case a Conservative Government were going further. They were starting the germs of a disease which must spread first of all to Wales and then to England and Scotland. They were not dealing only in this Bill with Irish property and amenities, but they were going at the very root of property. If a man had allowed his neighbour any amenity in the shape of power to go up his avenue to draw water from a particular well, to cut rushes for thatch, etc., every one of those privileges were to be made rights by Clause 8. Did they suppose this doctrine would only hold good for Ireland. Every man in Great Britain who had any spirit of discontent in him would demand that he also should have as a right what was now given him out of kindness. But this Bill went even further than that. He remembered well the passage of the Bill of 1881 through the Commons as he then had the honour of a seat in that assembly. Every speech made on the subject by the Government of the day reiterated the fact that the Bill was intended to protect only those who were unable to protect themselves; the needy and ignorant tenant farmer, and the limit of £50 rateable value was the defined limit, and a very generous one it was. A Conservative Government admitted all leaseholders to the operations of the Land Act, and a new Conservative Chief Secretary now raised the limit from £50 to £100, and he supposed inferred that the farmer who paid, say £120 a year, was quite incapable of making a bargain. What had happened to Mr. Chamberlain's tenant, "the shrewd person who will not buy in a falling market." He was not such a fool as to do that, and yet he was to be protected by all the intricacies of the law, and he was to be urged to go to law with his landlord. He wanted as much as any Irishman to see absolute justice done to the tenant farmer, but he did not want to see him turned by legislation into a designing rogue. Every chance that legislation could give him had been handed to him. His rent was fixed by law, his improvements were safeguarded by law. He was entitled to sell another man's property, and he was a permanent owner of his farm as long 1191 as he paid the legal rent, and he was assisted by the State to purchase his holding. Yet now new concessions were to be made to him, not so much with a view of benefiting him as with the intention of filling the pockets of the local attornies. Who were the men who drafted this Bill? Were they men who lived in Ireland and had made Land Purchase and the Land Question a lifelong study? Not a bit of it. Which of the officials who knew about land legislation had been consulted? Not one of them. Those who drafted this Bill were lawyers with seats to lose, and platform lecturers with rash promises to redeem. The Bill was not a useful Bill, was not a wise Bill, and in many of its provisions absolutely mischievous. With regard to Clause 1, he wished particularly to call attention to the insufficiency of evidence furnished by the Sub-Commissioners as to how and why they lowered rents, having regard to the prices of the day and those obtaining in 1881. In his opinion, all the reasons possible should be given by the Sub-Commissioners as to the nature of the holding, the state of the holding, and the grounds upon which they fix their fair rent. If a great industry, such as the Lancashire or Welsh coal and iron industries were being dealt with, the ablest and best men would be employed for that object. Land was the great industry in Ireland, and yet they pitch forked into Sub-Commissioners men of all types, and generally with marked political proclivities. What we wanted to know was, what the value of the land they were appointed to judge really was. No expense should be spared, no labour avoided to arrive at this solution. Wasn't it time they should make clear what the commodity was, what the items in that commodity were, what were the classes of soil they had to value, and the improvements of the landlord and the improvements of the tenant. He only asked for a clear and definite valuation, and for honest men to make that valuation. He now came to the purchase clauses, which he looked upon as being perhaps the most vital, and, in the present Bill, the most unserviceable. To his mind, and he had had a long apprenticeship in purchase, there was only one good clause. That clause, 35, dealing with the purchase of land and 1192 rent charges, was framed by Irishmen, drafted by Irishmen, who knew Irish land and who knew what was wanted. There were some other good clauses, and they were good for the simple reason that they knocked out some very bad clauses in the Act of 1891. That Act was framed, he believed, a good deal on the advice of the brother of the present Chief Secretary. He was warned against many of those clauses, but, apparently with that insouciance and that idea that Englishmen must always know better than Irishmen, he passed by those warnings and introduced these clauses. The Act of 1891 had not been a workable Act, and now those clauses were struck out, and he was glad they were, by the brother of the late Chief Secretary. Clause 30 had a most extraordinary and interesting name. It was called a clause for "expediting proceedings." As far as he could read the clause, it did exactly the opposite. It might, and even that he doubted, hasten the conversion of the tenant into a purchaser, but it would effectually tie up the purchase money for an indefinite period, and it would necessitate two investigations, one by the Land Commission to ascertain if the vendor had a primâ facie title, the other by the Land Judge to make title to the fund. But under this clause, a middleman holding under a lease with little or no interest might sell the fee simple, and the Land Commission, in such case, need not even inquire into the adequacy of the price if the vendor had a primâ facie title to sell. Then again, a mortgagee with a power of sale in his mortgage, might sell the fee simple. Mortgages usually contained a power of sale, so that all mortgagees might sell under this clause, and sell the fee simple though their charge was only on a term of years. The noble Marquess, in introducing the Bill said there was undoubtedly a difference between the times of sale, and that he would be glad to meet that point if it was brought up in Committee. He ventured to think he had some arrangement which, if the Government would accept it, would enable the State to bridge over that time without loss either to the incumbrancer or to the selling landlord. The tenant did not come into the question. The next salient clause was Clause 39—Landed Estates 1193 Court Sales. Under that clause, estates now in the hands of receivers were to be sacrificed and sold at any price obtainable, and the gentleman who was to do this was the Judge who applied for the money to that soft-hearted and considerate body the Treasury. He wondered what would be said of a farmer who asked the butcher to fix the price of his fat beast and agreed to take that price. Yet that was what the Government of this country asked rational beings to agree to. They had heard a great deal of the stupidity of the Irish landowner and he had even heard people say that English landowners were very obtuse. He confessed that if they agreed to this charming germ of confiscation, and if they found the disease eventually sweeping them from their homes in Great Britain also, they would have no one to blame but themselves. The clause was absolutely unnecessary. The work of this court, or the sale of these properties, could be carried on under another system without hurting the tenant or the State. Continental countries had carried this through without the slightest difficulty. It had been done in Germany, in Switzerland, in France and in Austria, and if their legal advisers would only take example or it, little wisdom from these people they would learn how this business could be carried out without hurting a single person connected with it. What did the Government want? Was this Bill pushed through in order that they might say they had passed a Bill? He thought that was the case. [Cheers.] Or did they want simply land purchase on fair terms between man and man, which was the platform cry? The Bill did exactly the opposite. It absolutely stifled purchase. [Cheers.] What the Irish farmers and the Irish landlords wanted was some finality. [Cheers.] Let them know that there was to be an end to persistent litigation. This Bill produced nothing else but litigation. Mr. Morley said the other day what was absolutely true when he declared that they would have to produce another Bill to amend and explain the present Bill. He appealed to those in charge of the Bill to help them to make this a workable and a useful Bill. They wanted to do their duty between the two classes in Ireland. They wanted 1194 to make laud purchase useful and serviceable, not complex and useless. He appealed to the Government to help them to do that. He would like to see this Bill pass as a workable Measure, and he would ask, therefore, and implore his noble Friend, who was in charge of the Bill to aid them in this endeavour. If he cared for Ireland, as he believed he did, let him try to offer her finality as near as might be in land legislation; if he cared for his own high reputation, which he was sure he did, let him not have his name associated with a badly-drafted, badly-conceived Bill, and, if he believed in the honesty of his Irish Friends and their love for their country, which he ought to do, let him show this by helping them to turn the Proteus of the House of Commons into a solid working Measure of the Lords.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
said the noble Lord who introduced this Bill stated that its main object was to clear up the law. If that was the case he ventured to suggest that, if the noble Lord would accept most of the Amendments which would be proposed by the landlord party next week, he would help very much to clear up this Bill. One of the great faults of this Bill was that it was brought in to please all sides. It had pleased nobody. It had given great dissatisfaction to one section of the community. It might possibly whet the appetites of another section for something more. The curious part of it was that though Mr. Balfour stated in the other House that the Bill virtually left that House as it came in, yet they found that instead of 44, the original number, it contained 51 clauses. These clauses must mostly have been inserted during the small hours of Wednesday morning, and naturally had materially altered the character of the Bill as it came before their Lordships' House. In justice to the Bill, he must say there were several clauses in it which they considered to be good ones, and to which they gave their hearty and cordial assent. He, in common with other noble Lords, had the utmost reluctance in raising objections against the Bill, but they had their duty to perform. As chairman of the Landowners' Convention, he and other Lords in that House represented from 13,000 to 14,000 landowners, and they were bound to protect their interests as far as lay in their power. 1195 If it was granted, though some of them doubted the fact, that an Irish Bill of some kind was necessary, surely a short one, clearly defining the position of the judicial tenants, improving and cheapening the procedure, and giving facilities for the purchase of their holdings by the tenants, would have been sufficient. Instead of that the Government had introduced a Bill full of snares and pitfalls. He thought the proper name of this Bill should be "Save us from our Friends' Bill." [Laughter and cheers.] For in every corner and at every point they saw the finger and designs of their friends—their candid friends—who were seeking to deprive the Irish landlord of the small remnant of his property which he now held—those friends who smiled upon them when occasion or necessity required it, but who stabbed them in the back when the occasion or necessity had passed. There were many people who had helped to fight hard battles for their Party, and who joined them in supporting the general policy of their Party, and too late they had learned how ready their leaders were to cast aside their general policy for purposes of temporary expediency; and when they had found Measures proposed which were not in accordance with what were understood to be the main principles of that Party, then, he contended, no objection should be raised if criticisms were freely passed upon that Party. The present Government was mainly brought into power for the protection of the rights of property. This Bill which it hoped to pass involved serious encroachments upon the rights of property; therefore he begged to express a hope that when an individual took up those criticisms it would not be thought that he was hostile to his party, but only to those Measures which he considered inimical to the fundamental rules which had hitherto guided that party. The fact was that, whenever a difficulty arose in Ireland and the Government—whatever side it might be—wished to gain credit for removing it, it was found most convenient to do so at the expense of the unfortunate landlords. The result was that the landlords only suffered and were made the shuttlecock of party warfare. It was only the other day, after a lively Debate in the other House, that he found the following statement in a daily paper. After going into details 1196 as to the action of Mr. Balfour and Mr. Carson the paragraph ended:—Lord Salisbury and Mr. Balfour have shown before, as they are showing now, that when the interests of the 'Party' require the sacrifice, the Irish landlords must go to the wall.This was the feeling and the expression of one of the chief leading daily papers in the country. It was not a Conservative or a Unionist paper—it was a Liberal paper, the Daily News—and he regretted to say that it appeared to him that the sentiments expressed in that paper were echoed very generally throughout this country. They had heard much of the "inherent capacity of the soil" in this Bill. He would like to know what were the inherent capacities of the Castle officials who had helped to draft this Bill. It appeared to him that if the clauses of the Bill were applied to that capacity it would be soon reduced to prairie value. They had long and complicated clauses drawn, which had to be completely remodelled on the eve of the Committee stage in another place, and which were no sooner remodelled than important parts of the remodelling were remodelled over again in the face of some new breeze that began to blow from some quarter, where it would be most convenient to some Members of the Government that there should be a calm. The Government seemed to have been guided in this matter by advisers whose whole idea of high policy was comprised in the prayer, "Give peace in our time, O Lord." The 31st Clause sought by a side wind to bring about that obliteration of the sound distinction between the mode of succession to real and personal estate which their Lordships determined last Session by a large majority to maintain. It sought to obliterate it in the case of the landed property of small occupying owners, apparently in total ignorance of the drift of enlightened opinion in the chief countries of the Continent, among those interested in the welfare of the peasant proprietors who were established there. They had a clause—Clause 30—which was described in the contents "as expediting proceedings in sales," which, in the opinion of the whole body of possible vendors, without whose co-operation no sales could take place, was calculated to put a stop entirely to negotiations for 1197 sales. There was another clause—Clause 39—which was understood to have been inserted with the intention of hastening the process of creating small proprietors, the first effect of which had been to inflict a blow upon the credit of landowners in Ireland, that had latterly shown remarkable signs of recovery, which interfered with the discretion of the land judges, with the rights of mortgagees, including many English and Scotch insurance companies, representing the interests of thousands of thrifty English and Scotch artisans and tradesmen. The actual effect of this in the long run would be to retard the operation of the Land Purchase Acts, by establishing a price lower than that at which landlords could afford to sell. No Englishman, however able he might be, understood the ways, manners, customs, and whims of Irishmen. In his opinion it took an Englishman at least five years to become even superficially acquainted with Ireland in all its complex nature, and even then he knew but little. The authors of this Bill had taken upon themselves the responsibility of drafting it, presumably with the help of some Irish advisers. If they had only consulted some of the leading men connected with, and having experience of, the land question in Ireland, they probably would have saved a great deal of the present difficulty and trouble. The drafting of a Land Bill might be easy, or it might not be an easy matter, but the compilation of a Bill that would confer practical benefits on anyone but lawyers was one of the most difficult and complicated matters connected with the administration of Irish affairs. The object of Mr. Gladstone's Land Act, as explained by him, was to give the Irish tenants the protection against possible injustice and the encouragement to improve their land, which it was alleged that the English law of landlord and tenant failed to give owing to the peculiar circumstances of this country. But Mr. Gladstone clearly expressed his desire to do this with the smallest possible amount of interference with the rights of property and with freedom of contract. This limitation was thrown to the winds in this Bill. While very few of them could approve of the particular provisions by which Mr. Gladstone sought to gain his object, most of 1198 them accepted his Measures, after they had passed their Lordships' House with a disposition to make the best of them, understanding that they were, roughly speaking, only intended to give to the tenants of all Irish landlords the security and other privileges enjoyed by the tenants of the best landlords. In practice, all expectations of this sort had been disappointed—generous and improving landlords had been, generally speaking, much more injured than grasping and improving landlords. He thought they might admit that this was contrary to the intention of the authors of the Act of 1881, but the same cannot be said of the authors of some of the clauses in the Bill now before them. The eighth clause appears to provide deliberately for the punishment of every landlord who had been liberal to his tenants in the matter of turbary and other privileges, while it left unscathed any landlord who might have been in the habit of letting his tenants get nothing that they did not pay him the full value for. ["Hear, hear!"] In the same way the clause regarding the recovery of arrears—Clause 12—by process of ejectment threatened to mulct the landlord who had been kind to a widow or an old tenant in embarrassed circumstances, while it left unaffected the landlord who had always insisted on having his money or his land. These clauses were borrowed from the Measure brought in by the late Government, more or less at the dictation of some who were once leaders of the Land League. The landlords understood their presence in that Measure, considering its reputed parentage. Landlords and tenants in Ireland were still in many cases far too good friends to suit the purposes of some politicians, and they could understand their liking for clauses whose effect must be to drive the landlords hitherto disposed to be liberal, but whose circumstances forbade them to allow their property to slip from them by default, to be more chary in allowing privileges to their tenants, and more severe in their insistance on the payment of rent when duo. What the object of those responsible for the present Bill was in allowing these clauses to be inserted in it, he was unable to conjecture. These were far from being the only objectionable features of the Bill, but they were 1199 good examples of the spirit in which it had been drawn, against which many noble Lords felt called upon to protest. He was not disposed to deny that the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881, and even the Act of 1887, were to some extent framed and passed in response to something like a genuine demand on the part of the Irish tenants for protection to their improvements and for the security of tenure at reasonable rents. But for those present encroachments on the landlords' rights of property there was no spontaneous demand on the part of the tenants in Ireland. According to his experience, Irish tenant-farmers, if let alone, were a most reasonable and honest body of men, who desired to live and to let live, and had no wish to deprive their landlords of any of their just rights in any of the modes embodied in the objectionable clauses of this Bill. The superfluous demands in answer to which these clauses had been drafted were the invention of agitators, and clever attorneys in search of practice, and they had gained such force and popular support as they possessed chiefly by the desire of a certain class of parliamentary candidates to outbid each other in promising favours to tenant-farmer voters, at the expense of those whose voting power they thought could be neglected. It was greatly to the credit of the honesty and good sense of the tenants that, in spite of the repeated eloquent assurances that they heard from men speaking with the authority of Members of Parliament, and read in the newspapers as to their absolute right to further slices of their landlords' property, and there was so little genuine demand for predatory legislation, as there really was among the general body of honest and industrious Irish tenantry. Ministers responsible for Irish affairs were constantly proclaiming that their only real hope of peace in Irish agrarian matters rested on the operation of the provisions in this and other Measures for facilitating the transfer of the ownership of the land from the landlord to the tenant. He was at a loss to conceive how Her Majesty's Government expected these Measures to operate in the only way in which they could operate, by the agreement of the tenant to purchase at a price at which the landlord could afford to sell, if every few years the tenant was 1200 given a further slice of the landlord's property without any payment at all, immediate or deferred. Now the danger which noble Lords had to face was that the terms contained in this Bill, unless they were altered, must eventually be applied to this country. He knew for a fact that the Radicals were only waiting to see the same principles applied to land here, and he appealed to the noble Lords sitting on the front Bench, and who were the possessors of broad acres in England and in Scotland, and to those noble Lords who owned large house property in this country, to take into consideration the position of those landowners in Ireland whom by this Bill they intended, he granted, perhaps unwillingly, to rob of the small remains of their property. Men who have always, as a body, acted nobly and loyally to this Party, men who, moreover, have been the means, to a very large extent, of placing the Government in the position which they now held. Think of the misery that this Bill might hereafter cause to this class of Her Majesty's subjects. Think of the risks which by passing this Bill they would bring upon the landowners of England and Scotland. They might think it was a small matter to cause injustice to the landowners of Ireland, but it would be perhaps in their eyes a far more serious concern when, by their action towards Ireland, they found that poverty and ruin had also been brought upon the owners of property in England and Scotland. By ruin he meant the destruction of large estates, involving the shutting up of country houses on those estates, and the consequent misery brought upon all classes of labourers and dependents, small shopkeepers and others, whose existence, to a very large extent depended upon the resident landowners in this country. If they applied the measures of this nature contained in this Bill to one class or one part of the United Kingdom, how could they prevent it extending to others? And, therefore, he ventured to warn noble Lords from England and Scotland in this House to look to their own interests. He appealed to the bearers of those great family names which for many generations had been recognised as the upholders of the rights of property and justice in this country. Were the present bearers of 1201 those names to be distinguished from their forefathers by their indifference to the rights of those whose interests were, in a measure, bound up with their own? Were they to be untrue to the trust which in years gone by raised them to the rank, the respect, and confidence which they now enjoyed in public esteem?
§ * VISCOUNT MIDLETON
said he would confine his remarks entirely to the southern portion of Ireland, in which his lot had been cast, and with which he was best acquainted. He was struck with the fairness of mind and candour which distinguished the speech of Lord Lansdowne, but he was sorry to say he found himself unable to arrive at the conclusion at which his noble Friend seemed to have arrived. It appeared to him that two courses were open to the Government. They might have introduced a short Bill, merely mending some of the holes in the Act of 1881, defining what was the legal status of a judicial tenant at the expiration of his term and bringing within the scope of the Act of 1891 some of those who were included in the Act of 1881, but who were left out of the later enactment. Or it was open to them to have introduced a comprehensive Measure dealing with five different points. It should have defined what, from a Parliamentary point of view, was the property that remained to the landlord in the soil, and it should have given to the landlord totium verbis the inherent capacity of the soil as part of his property. So far as the tenant was concerned, it might have called upon the Commission to fix, as they were now empowered, but not enjoined to do, the specified value of the tenant-right at the time when the holding was valued, giving, of course, to the tenant any addition in improvements which he might subsequently make. If that had been done half the business of the village usurer or gombeen man, who was the curse of Ireland, would have been taken away. Thirdly, it might have contained the clause which Mr. Morrison proposed in the House of Commons, but which was not accepted by the Government, refusing to admit to an application for a judicial rent any tenant who had wilfully or by neglect deteriorated his holding, and in that way it should have acted as a discouragement 1202 to those dishonest tenants—he hoped the minority—who were accustomed towards the end of the judicial term to let the land run down. Fourthly: without any disadvantage to the tenant, they might have cured the monstrous injustice which had been done to the landlord by the exaction of 22½years' purchase for tithe rent charge. Lastly: the Bill might have simplified and facilitated in every way the conditions of purchase upon which almost everybody was agreed the future hope of Ireland depended. He was not in favour of a sudden or a general purchase taking place all over Ireland at once. He agreed with Mr. Bagwell that, desirable as purchase was, the process of purchase ought to be uniform and steady; that it was very much to be deprecated that any very considerable amount should take place in any one particular year. The Bill which was introduced by Lord Ashbourne was a thorough and workable Bill. The Bill of 1891 was, however, a Measure which was paved with good intentions, but under which only a little more than one-thirtieth of the large sum which the Legislature proposed to grant in five years had been taken up. He could quite understand it. A case came under his notice where a landlord and tenant contracted to sell and buy a farm. The rental was between £00 and £65, and the price to be paid was between £1,200 and £1,300. That sale took between two and three years to carry through, during which time the costs were run up enormously, and the inconvenience occasioned to the parties extremely great, owing to the red tapeism by which the administration of the Act was beset. The Act stunk in the nostrils of every landlord and of almost every tenant in Ireland. Something ought to be done to cure the monstrous delay, expense, and other inconvenience attending the working of the Act. Everybody was now in favour of a purchase system, but that system could not be carried out successfully unless the Shylocks of the Treasury released their grasp upon landlord and tenant alike. The Bill which he held in his hand had not softened any of the difficulties. It seemed to have unsettled everything, and settled nothing in spite of what had been said by the noble Marquess below. He detected the cloven foot of Mr. 1203 Morley's Bill clearly through this Bill, a Bill which was founded on the unfairness of the majority, who, after hearing the evidence of the tenants, refused to allow the landlords' case to be put in evidence. There were several clauses with which he should not deal. There was the Turbary Clause, on which he should not dwell except to say this, that, on this side of the water at all events, they were not accustomed to see privileges converted into a right by Act of Parliament. As to improvements, they were taken back to 1850, which was the first occasion on which the presumption as to improvements being in favour of the tenant was made; but in 1850 no one ever dreamt of the sweeping legislation which had since been applied to the land. What took place between 1850 and 1870 is grounded upon very imperfect records; but what had taken place, even with the existing records as to existing improvements, was probably worth nothing at all. This was just a point which would be raised by a clever attorney frequently in the absence of evidence. Then, there was the question with regard to tithe rent-charge, that was really not dealt with at all in the Bill. Then there was the provision which might have been inserted with great advantage, and which now formed Rule 74 of the Land Court, dealing with the case where the landlord and tenant agreed. He might say generally, that the provisions of the Bill were in favour of the tenant and not in favour of the owner of the soil. He would not give the tenant 6d. less than he was entitled to; but, on the other hand, he would not give him 6d. more, and for the reason that to give it to him they would have to take it from the landlord. He thought that Parliament should act equitably and fairly to all classes, but it should not transfer the property of one class to another class. It reminded him of the man who was so affected by a charity sermon that he plunged his hand into his neighbour's pocket and put the money on the plate. [Laughter.] That was how the Irish landowner had been dealt with by the English Parliament. Since he had the honour of a seat in that House, 25 years, no less than 25 Bills had been introduced, with more or less success, into one or other House, and he would only ask any of his English brother 1204 landowners whether they would find it possible to manage their properties with any degree of success if they were interfered with by legislation on an average once a year. It made it impossible for anyone to know what the law was, to say nothing of what it would be next year. The only justification that could be alleged for such a method of dealing with property would be the fact that the landowners had seriously failed in their duties. They had been twice before Parliament, and as a class they had been honourably acquitted on both occasions. Probably the power of the landowner was never greater than it was after the famine between 1850 and 1870. In 1850 the total amount of deposits in the banks was 7 millions; in 1864 it was 15 millions; in 1875 it was 30 millions, and now it was 36 millions. [Cheers.] This was irrespective of Post Office Savings Banks. Then, the shares which formerly were held in England of joint stock banks, railways, breweries and in newspapers, were now nearly all in Irish hands on Irish soil. He did not know of a similar instance where a population had decreased from economic causes, and where the wealth had steadily increased and quadrupled. As to the conduct of the Bill, the advocates of the tenants had abstained from the language which they previously used and which he had had to condemn. He preferred their outspoken utterances to the casuistry of Mr. Morley or the brutal indifference of Sir W. Harcourt. The object of the representatives of the Irish tenants was clear—they wished to drive rents down to zero, or, at all events, to what was called prairie value, and then, when the swing of the pendulum had placed the Party opposite in power, they hoped to get a compulsory purchase Bill on the lines of prairie value out of the English Parliament. What they asked for was simple justice, and he earnestly trusted they would not appeal to their Lordships in vain. When they protested against this, the noble Lord talked about melodramatic proceedings. What did he know of the land question, and how far did he endeavour to master the question when he was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland? For many of them it was not a melodrama, but a tragedy. Upon many estates the margin was very small, and incumbrances were created at 1205 a time when no such legislation as this was dreamt of. They had endeavoured to improve the prospect in the past, they could hardly be expected to continue to do so. This was not a case for sympathy or sentimentality, but for simple justice. Now that the interest on money was so low, and the Treasury could borrow on such exceptional terms, surely they ought to receive some consideration and compensation. Many of them had devoted their whole lives to improving the property and condition of those who were upon their property, which they now saw gradually taken from them little by little until nothing would remain. He hoped the Goverment would not be too severe in rejecting Amendments, and he earnestly trusted that they should not appeal to their Lordships in vain.
§ * EARL SPENCER
said it always needed some courage for a Member of the Bench from which he rose to address their Lordships, and struck him when he looked at the condition of the Benches behind him—[laughter]—that this was probably as discouraging an occasion as any on which he had had to speak; but he felt it his duty to do so, as representing the late Government, who endeavoured to deal with this subject. He had listened with great interest to what he might call, perhaps, a lovers' quarrel, and had watched the attitude taken up on this question by those who generally so warmly supported Her Majesty's Government. He ventured to think that the Irish landlords had two reasons for complaining somewhat seriously of Her Majesty's Government—first, because after the Government introduced this Measure, when the Irish landlords had put forward their views, the Government appeared to accept them, and put down Amendments to carry out those views in the House of Commons. ["Hear, hear!"] Then, apparently with little reason, the Government saw fit to withdraw those Amendments, and the Irish landlords felt that they had been thrown over, either on account of their opponents or for some reason which they did not know. The Government appeared to blow hot and cold in regard to this matter. ["Hear hear!"] He was not saving that they were wrong in their final decision, he should think they were probably quite right, but he thought they were treating with scant courtesy those who 1206 usually supported them in introducing those Amendments and then suddenly withdrawing them. There was another reason why the Irish landlords and others, both in that House and in the House of Commons, who took a deep interest in this question, had some reason for complaint. The late Government were very much attacked for carrying a great Irish Measure in another place by means of closure by compartments; in his opinion closure by compartments was very objectionable, and could only be defended when the Government were in the greatest possible straits, and when it was absolutely necessary to carry a Measure. That procedure was one of the reasons why their Lordships were urged to throw out the Measure to which he had referred. Her Majesty's Government had not adopted closure by compartments, but they had done what he conceived to be almost equivalent to that, they had continued the discussions through all-night sittings, and in that way, by reducing the strength of the Members, they certainly curtailed the legitimate discussion of this question. [Cheers.] How was it possible for any Members, whatever their physique might be, to discuss, with intelligence, judgment and earnestness, a complicated question of this sort at three, four, or five o'clock in the morning? [Cheers.] Both Her Majesty's Government and the late Government agreed as to the necessity for dealing with this question, and, he thought, for the same reasons. There was nothing so essential as that the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland should be conducted on amicable terms, and that the working of the land laws should proceed smoothly. The foundation of all society and good government in Ireland depended on that, for if these relations were disturbed there were sure to be grave disturbances which sometimes culminated in agrarian crime. They believed that it was necessary to amend the Act of 1881 in order to clear up grave doubts as to the position in which the tenants would be at the conclusion of their first judicial term. Then there was friction with regard to the Improvement Clause which it was desirable to remove. That was one of the most difficult questions that could be brought before Parliament. They had all tried their hands at 1207 endeavouring to get a clear definition of the meaning of a tenant's improvement, and he was sorry to say that they had all failed in their attempts to do so. But at the same time it might be that every new definition was likely to increase the danger arising from conflicting decisions in the courts of law. Perhaps one advantage of the first clause of the Bill was that it left the law where it stood. Perhaps the Land Commissioners might arrive at some satisfactory definition, and might make the law upon the subject clearer than it was at the present moment. The Government also proposed to open the door to those who wished for revision of judicial rents. That appeared to him to be a useful provision, and he certainly could not see the great danger to the landlords' interests entailed by it to which reference had been made. The Government, moreover, had enlarged very considerably the class of tenants who might apply to have judicial rents fixed. The result was that a most useful and important class of men—he meant the pasture farmers whose rent was under £100 a year—would now be able to have their rents judicially fixed. The Bill further dealt with the subject of town parks, but not in a manner such as was necessary to satisfy justice in Ireland. There were cases where a few houses were collected together at cross-roads in Ireland. These were called town parks, and all the lands around them within a certain zone were excluded from the operation of the Bill. He wished very much that the Government had seen their way to have dealt with these town parks, so as to have enabled the tenants living in them to have had judicial rents fixed. He believed that Lord Cowper's Commission had recommended a population limit of 5,000 as the test of a town park, and in the Bill of last year the limit was put at 2,000. He regretted that Her Majesty's Government had not seen their way to deal more thoroughly with the subject. He was glad to see that the Bill dealt with the subject of evicted tenants, and tried to bring about some means of conciliation between them and their former landlords. It was unfortunate, however, that the provisions of the Bill were not compulsory, because without compulsion some of the 1208 worst cases might remain undealt with, and therefore a complete solution of the problem would not be arrived at. Experience showed that where a large number of evicted tenants lived near their old holdings they constituted a continual cancer and sore, which, in the interests of peace in Ireland, should be removed and healed up. ["Hear, hear!"] Turning to the question of purchase, he might say that, although no reference was made to it in the Bill of last year, he had always been in sympathy with those who desired to promote it, because he believed that an extended system of purchase would largely tend to bring about a solution of the Irish Land Question. When they considered how general purchase was to be brought about, grave difficulties existed. In his opinion compulsory purchase was perfectly impossible. If they did not have this they must have the most easy terms of purchase, and there was great practical difficulty in carrying that out, not only in justice to the Imperial Treasury, but for other reasons. In order to bring about a satisfactory state of things in Ireland and establish quietude among the tenants, they must not only encourage purchase where it could be carried out, but also give security of tenure. It would be impossible in some cases for purchase to be introduced. It was a Voluntary Act. There was such a little margin between what many landlords in Ireland, and he was afraid in England also, had to pay on mortgages and what they received in rent, that if they accepted terms of purchase offered under the different Acts they would have practically nothing left. They were, therefore, unable to come forward and offer to sell their lands. That made the Tenure Clauses so important. He was, therefore, one of those who thought both systems must be in vogue in Ireland for some time to come, and whether they would be changed hereafter he could not say. He rejoiced that the Government proposed to alter some of the terms enacted in recent Acts with regard to purchase. It was evident that recent Acts of purchase had not been successful. The complications introduced into the Purchase Acts of 1891 were such that it was almost impossible for the tenants to come forward freely and purchase their tenancies. He was 1209 glad to hear that the tenants' insurance fund would be discontinued and that the landlords' guarantee deposit was to be materially modified if not done away with. Both these changes were desirable. The simpler they made this procedure the better it would be. It was the complication in the present schemes that had made them fail. He hoped that the alterations in the terms of payment to the Treasury would not be too complicated. If they were they would fail as much as the Act of 1891. With regard to the cost of the proceedings, he hoped the Lord Chancellor for Ireland, who knew the subject so well, would endeavour to diminish the terrible cost which many of the proceedings threw on both landlord and tenant. Now comparison had been made between the fall of rents in England and in Ireland. But they could not emphasise too much in that House the fundamental difference that existed between the land systems of the two countries. In Ireland, as a rule, the tenant found nearly all the money for improvements; in England the landlord found all the money. It would be impossible in Ireland to carry out the same system. A millionaire would be necessary to find the money. The difference he had pointed out was important, and when the fall of rents in England and Ireland was discussed, that must be taken into consideration. Many could speak from bitter experience of the serious falls of rent in England—heavier than any falls in Ireland—and there was a large number of estates or farms in this country where the landlord got nothing for the value of the land, and barely got a return for the capital he had laid out. That was a difference so great and marked that it could not be too often commented upon. On the Opposition side of the House they considered that this subject of Irish land should be dealt with, and that the proposals of the late Government were better than those now made. They were in some respects far more far-reaching, and would have settled the question for a longer period. If this was true with regard to the comparison between the Measure of Mr. John Morley and the present Bill, it was true with regard to the Bill as it had now come from the House of Commons and the Bill as their Lordships wished to change it. He implored 1210 them to consider carefully their course with regard to Amendments of the Bill. It would be a grievous thing if a Bill which had been accepted more cordially than any similar Bill had been accepted in Ireland and the House of Commons, should be marred to such an extent that it would practically be rejected by the Irish people. If some of the proposals rejected in the House of Commons were carried here, the Bill would not be considered to be worth more than the paper it was printed upon by the Irish people, and in that way the beneficent intentions of the Government would be defeated, and their Lordships would undertake a grave responsibility. He sincerely trusted they would not take on their shoulders the responsibility which now rested on Government, but would in this, as in so many other things, support the Government and send back this Bill in the shape, or nearly in the shape, in which it came from another place. Then they might hope it would do good in Ireland, and be a step further in the direction of settling the Irish land question. If they made Amendments which would be detested or contrary to the views of the Irish people, he was afraid they would do wrong to Ireland, and show that, their Lordships' House being so much out of touch with popular feeling in Ireland was not capable of wise legislation for that country. [Cheers.]
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
said he had listened with attention and respect to the Debate, and he ventured to think that where the able speeches which had been delivered were fully and fairly considered, the conclusion arrived at would be that the Bill had been vindicated, and its presentation proved to be necessary and fair. Every speaker had conceded that a Bill was necessary, and some noble Lords had suggested that a short and simple Mea-sure might have been introduced on which all would agree. He never expected to find a Statesman who would be able to turn out an Irish Land Bill on which all parties in Ireland would be entirely agreed. [Laughter.] The Government of the day must take the responsibility of framing a Bill which they considered fair and just. It could not be, and should not be, a one-sided Bill, because if it were it was obvious the Measure would then be foredoomed to failure. 1211 The Act of 1881 was passed 15 years ago, and it was clear in the very nature of things, having regard to the difficulty and complexity and far-reaching character of the subject, that in those 15 years, no matter how carefully the Measure had been framed, there must have been developed points requiring explanation, imperfections requiring to be smoothed away, and details where improvments were needed. This Bill, which contained many moderate and many most temperate provisions, was sought to be covered with the prejudice and the atmosphere derived entirely from the prepossessions and prejudices caused by the remembrance of the Act of 1881. Let the sins of the Act of 1881 be upon its head, but they were not to be visited upon this Measure, which merely sought to remedy imperfections, explain difficulties, and enable the law as it existed on the Statute-book to work smoothly, fairly, and justly. ["Hear, hear!"] When closely examined the criticisms directed against the Bill narrowed themselves down to some of a comparatively minor character. His noble Friend the Marquess of Londonderry challenged the way in which the Bill was prepared, and criticised the Chief Secretary for not having consulted the Landowners' Convention. A Chief Secretary for Ireland had enormous difficulties to contend with, and he had never met one who brought to the discharge of his duty more industry or indomitable power of work than the present one; but he was afraid, if it was proclaimed that the Chief Secretary had coveted and asked for the assistance of the Landowners' Convention in framing a Bill which was to give satisfaction to all parties in Ireland, there would be very little chance of its fulfilling that object. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
did not say the Landowners' Convention should have been consulted, but he suggested it would have been well if the Government had consulted those who had had practical experience in connection with land, and whose property, moreover, it was proposed to deal with. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
observed that the Landowners' Convention had published a very able series of papers and reports which everyone had read, so that 1212 their views were well known. Again, the Chief Secretary in his residence in Ireland received more than one deputation representing both sides, and there was the fullest possible means of having everybody's views in reference to the matter.
THE DUKE OF ABERCORN
asked, was the deputation representing the landlords' views received by the Chief Secretary before or after the Bill was introduced?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I never heard that the Chief Secretary received a deputation from the Landowners' Convention before the Bill was introduced. I believe that after its introduction a leading member of the Landowners' Convention was consulted, but not before.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
remarked that the views of all parties were set forth in the literature published by the different sides. But, putting that matter aside, what they had got to consider was the actual Bill before them. What were the specific charges which were made against the Bill? One was that in the case of pasture holdings, the limit of exclusion was raised from £50 to £100 valuation. He did not say it was not important, but it was a detail that sank into comparative insignificance beside many of the larger provisions of the Bill. Then there was the turbary section. He did not for one moment minimise the interest and the importance of that section. He quite appreciated the standpoint of the noble Duke who urged that the section might be used harshly against those landlords in exact proportion as they had been kind and considerate, generous and forbearing. That was a criticism that would be borne in mind when they came to consider the language and meaning of the section. The next criticism was levelled against Section 11, which dealt with the determination of the estate of an immediate landlord. This section dealt with a case where there was a head landlord, a middleman, and occupying tenants in possession of the holding. In Section 15 of the Act of 1881 there was 1213 a provision that, on the determination of the tenancy of a middleman, the existing sitting tenants should not be disturbed and that they should become the tenants of the head landlord. Then another Act came in and provided—again trying to protect the occupying tenants—against the casualties of the middleman and to try and enable them to sit certain no matter what might happen to the middleman. A further Act provided that, if the middleman surrendered, still the occupying tenant was to be protected. What did this Section 11 do? They found on the decisions of the Court that all cases were not covered where the middleman might lose his estate, there being occupying tenants dependent upon him. The case not so provided for was where the middleman was evicted or liable to eviction. It was considered a hard case that, when the occupying tenants were protected in every other case, there should be this casus omissus. He did not say the matter was not entitled to every consideration in Committee, but he thought their Lordships would see that there was a fair and reasonable and just way of looking at the question. The next point was Clause 30, which he was told by his noble Friend would kill purchase. He took as much interest in the purchase code as any one in that House, and if ever there was a Government bound by its traditions and all its pledges to take an interest in the purchase of Irish land with State assistance, it was the present Government. No graver charge could be made against the clause than that it would kill purchase. He need hardly say that it was framed with the very opposite intention, and if he believed it would kill or enfeeble purchase, or do anything other than assist it, he would only be too pleased to listen favourably to any suggestion to amend it. But what was the clause? It was to remove the grievance caused by the delays in carrying out the purchase in the Land Commission. Between the date of the first agreement and the date of the final vesting order too long a time was suffered to elapse, and it was necessary to apply some vigorous and effective method to cope with these delays. This Clause 30 was an honest and loyal effort to enable a vesting order to be made with more speed than it could be made under the 1214 old system, taking care that the purchase-money should be at once lodged in the High Court, and that then all the liabilities which previously attached to the land would be bodily transferred to the money, and the purchase could go on without further delay. He was told—and he would weigh the argument with great respect in Committee—that the effect of that would be to deter landlords from subjecting themselves to the accident of being exposed for a long period to the receipt of only a small interest when they had to meet a larger interest and charges. He did not underrate the importance of these matters one bit, and they were topics which were entitled to be pressed in Committee. He admitted that Clause 39, which dealt with sales in the Landed Estates Court, and which was carried in the House of Commons by a majority of over 300, was a very important clause, and that it dealt with large principles which, if challenged in Committee, they should be prepared to defend. It was an abnormal and not a healthy state of things to find in Ireland a vast rental, counted by hundreds of thousands of pounds, under the control of a Receiver Judge in a Court. The Court was never founded for that purpose, and it was not a healthy administration of property. It was, therefore, desirable to deal with that case, and to deal with it, to adopt the words used by Lord Midleton and other Lords, fairly and justly, so as to avoid doing a particle of injustice to any one while seeking to remedy a serious state of facts. Lord Londonderry had spoken of the Bill taking away the last remnant of the landlords' property; Lord Winchilsea had referred to the last residue of the landlords' property being taken; and the Duke of Abercorn had said something about the landlords being stabbed in the back. Now he had gone through the clauses against which any criticism had been directed, and he asked their Lordships which provision in the Bill fairly justified either of these remarks? He denied that the expressions could be reasonably applied to any of the clauses of the Bill. The Measure was one which, he believed, would benefit the tenants substantially by taking away many doubts, clearing up many imperfections, and getting rid of some legal decisions which during the last 15 years 1215 had had the effect of putting a hardship upon tenants and doing very little good, if any at all, to the landlords. Lord Castletown had denounced the Government for not having produced a Measure that would prove to be a final Measure, and he indicated that if he had been called in he could have turned out on the spot in five minutes an absolutely final Bill. Well, he supposed they got cautious as they grew older, and he had heard so many prophecies about finality that he did not like to indulge in the rôle of too certain prophecy on the subject. ["Hear, hear!"] He said of the Bill that it was a well-intentioned Measure, the object of which was to deal fairly with both landlord and tenant, and he believed that it would work fairly between landlord and tenant, would clear away many doubts and uncertainties, and would give a great stimulus to purchase. One or two noble Lords had used hard words in reference to the Bill, but if they would contrast the Bill with Mr. Morley's Bill of last year, if they had listened to the speech of the noble Earl opposite, and if they had listened to the introductory part of the statement of the noble Marquess who moved the Second Reading, they would be able to appreciate the fact that the Government had applied themselves in a temperate and moderate spirit to the framing of a Land Bill which every one conceded to be necessary. He asked their Lordships to take it that this was a Bill presented fairly and temperately to meet a position which called for legislation, and a Bill which had applied itself to its task in an honest, a fair, a temperate, and a just spirit.
* VISCOUNT TEMPLETOWN
said he would not have ventured at that late hour to intervene only that he was one of the landlords who had been referred to by his noble Friend, Lord Londonderry, who would be seriously affected by the Bill. He spoke not only as an Irish landlord, but as one who had been for the last six years his own agent amongst a tenantry as hard working, as industrious, and, above all other others, as honest as any tenantry in the world. It seemed to him there never had been sufficient weight given to the fact that they could divide the tenants of Ireland into two classes, the honest and the dishonest. Personally he had 1216 to deal with tenants who at the Purchase clauses of the Bill would laugh. Not a single tenant on his estate would, under the existing state of things, think of purchase for a moment, and yet for three years past they had been trying to get him to sell his property. He had always said that if a man wished to buy a piece of land he could not see why he should not; he had said to his tenants:If you come to mo and say you want to buy my land, I will do my best to let you. But there are difficulties in the way. If you are going to make those difficulties greater by saying you insist on not giving more than a certain number of years' purchase, and I decline to accept that amount, we shall come to a deadlock.What in the Bill was going to get over the difficulties between him and his tenants? The Bill bristled with difficulties. There was, for instance, no provision for dealing with the question as to how a landlord was to live if they took his property and kept his money. It was well to remember, too, that from Mr. Morley's Committee several Members, some of whom now belonged to Her Majesty's Government, withdrew, because they could not get the landlords' case presented. What happened next? The Committee presented their Report, and this Government had brought in a Bill which contained a great deal which was recommended by the Committee. When, he asked, did the Government get the landlords' case? The Bill had been run through the House of Commons at a speed which prevented anybody practically discussing it on its merits. Force was no remedy. The Government might cram the Bill down their throats, but they could not make it work if it did not contain provisions that would make it work. For that reason he asked that when the Bill got into Committee they should have an opportunity of showing how it should be amended in a way to make it workable. He would refer to some Acts passed dealing with Irish land since 1860. In 1885 Lord Ashbourne succeeded in passing his Purchase Act, and that Act really made a stand. Some months ago he had the honour of sending to Her Majesty's Government a petition, signed by some 2,000 tenants of Ireland and about 200 landlords, amongst the latter being some of the richest in the South of Ireland, practically asking that the 1217 Ashbourne Act should be revived. He sent the petition to his own tenants in County Antrim, and it was returned with the statement somewhat as follows:—Your petition does not contain any definite system of purchase, but with every other point in it we agree.Lord Ashbourne's name had really become so much a household word in Ireland that the tenants had not in this case understood purchase unless that name appeared in conjunction with it. It might be interesting to state that in 1891, under the Government valuation, a third in number of the agricultural holdings were under £4. Again, since the October of 1870, half the county cess and poor rate had been allowed, and he thought that they might come to the conclusion that Parliament had been legislating for the Irish tenant, giving him one Land Act after another, and yet it was still affirmed by the leaders of the tenants that they were a most ill-used people. When the Government came into power, they had a record of all these Acts—Acts which had been passed in spite of the opposition of the landlords, who had, as the noble Lord (Viscount Midleton) reminded them, been twice acquitted of doing otherwise than the best they could. It was proved that if there was any advantage, it had been conferred entirely on one class. Was that a good thing? Mr. Gladstone, in 1881, said that the judicial rents were worth more than 20 years' purchase, which had been proved to be entirely wrong. There was one more thing to which he wished to refer: The pledges of Her Majesty's Government were then still intact, and what might they have expected a Land Bill from the Government to be like? The first thing one might have expected would be a Bill that would have no confiscation in it, differing from all that had gone before a Bill in which every point of agreement between landlord and tenant would have been utilised, and on which they could build up a Measure which might have done good. They were told when the Bill was introduced that it would be non-contentious, and yet they were told that night that the reason why the Lord Lieutenant did not introduce 1218 the Bill was that he could not take part in contentious measures. Thus it was now admitted that a Bill which was non-contentious when introduced was now a contentious Measure. They therefore cut away the ground from under their feet for saying that they could not accept Amendments, for if they accepted them from one side they must accept them from another. They might have hoped that they would have a Bill in which the rights of property were respected. They might have hoped that there would have been some foreshadowing of a plan of dealing with the responsibilities of the Sub-Commissioners. He hoped when the Bill got into Committee the Amendments which he should propose would meet with full consideration. When once the Government admitted, as they did in 1881, that a Bill should be passed in mitigation of the then existing conditions, they took a step from which they could never retreat—they admitted the justice of State aid to the sufferers. It then became merely a question of how that aid should be divided among the sufferers. He was delighted to see that the tenants had been very fairly provided for; but why should not the landlords receive their share, even tardily? It was the British Treasury and no one else that kept down the price of land in Ireland. They were willing that the Treasury should keep a check on excessive prices, but the Treasury should by this Bill be made to give up to at least 20 years' purchase of the rents to the tenants who wished to purchase provided that the landlord and tenant could agree upon the sum. He did not see that this Bill had removed any of the difficulties. If the tenant who wished to purchase had paid his rent regularly they advanced him a large sum; if he had not, a less sum; and it was, therefore, the character of the tenant and not of the land that settled the price. That was not a good method of arriving at the value of the land. They suffered from having no standard value in Ireland. Mr. Patterson, a practical surveyor, at a meeting of the Surveyors' Institute on the 25th November 1895, said that—there was no uniform valuation in Ireland which could he depended upon as being what surveyors would consider a proper value of the land.1219 This Bill did nothing in regard to these matters. It was an extraordinary fact that in cases where the rent was £64, or more, in 1883, when the price of oats was 4s. 10d., it was £46 now, when the price of oats was 5s. 9d. This Bill had created in Ireland not only consternation but indignation. There was no doubt, whatever potentialities there might be in the Bill for the future, it had succeeded at present in welding together into one solid whole every man of property or position, not only the landlords, but every man who owned anything, against Her Majesty's Government. When once the principles of these Irish Land Bills had thoroughly saturated into the English mind, there would be only two courses open—either to repudiate those principles altogether and return to the law of simple contract in Ireland, or else to extend those principles to the law of England. It was impossible at present to speak of the equality of the laws between the two countries, because those laws were most glaringly unequal. The result of the introduction of this Measure had been to send some of the best and most loyal supporters of the Government into the Opposition Lobby in another place, and had produced a sense of injustice in the minds of Irish landlords that would rankle there for many a long day. ["Hear, hear!"]
* THE EARL OF BELMORE
entirely concurred in Earl Spencer's remarks that the relations of Irish landlords and tenants should proceed upon amicable lines. This Bill had undoubtedly caused a good deal of alarm in Ireland. Referring to an article in the Spectator of July 25th, in which that paper spoke of "grudges against the Government," caused by various matters, including their policy of the Extension of Land Purchase in Ireland, and their disappointing the hopes of the Irish landlords, he said he had read this with some surprise. The Irish landlords had no hopes from whatever Government might be in power. He regarded the Purchase Clauses as the redeeming feature in the Bill. For his part he had no desire to see the Measure thrown out, because, if it only settled the matter for a few years it would be of enormous advantage, seeing that the fact of a Land Bill being in the air had a most mischievous effect in 1220 Ireland. But the tenants might make up their minds that they would not get reductions in two ways. They might either obtain them through the Land Courts or through purchase; but a landlord whose rents had been seriously cut down would be in no condition to sell afterwards at a further great loss of income if he could help it, and he regarded general compulsion as quite outside the range of practical politics at present. At the same time, speaking for himself, he thought that the time might come when, in case purchase did not go on naturally, Parliament might deem it advisable that the landlord should agree with the Land Commission for the purchase of his estate without reference to the tenants, the Land Commission to manage the estate until they could get a tenant to purchase from them. Although the clauses relating to "the inherent capacity of the land" had gone, the subject-matter remained to be dealt with. The subject had been described as "academic." In cases where it did not apply, and they were numerous, this was true; but in those where it did apply, it was a very practical one indeed. Just in the same way, what was called "renting tenants on their improvements," might be described as an academic subject. There might be such cases. If there were any, it was a practical matter which had been very fairly dealt with by Lord Justice Fitzgibbon, in Adams v. Dunseath. At the same time he believed the weight of evidence given before the Morley Commission was of deterioration as regarded improvements rather than of improvement as a whole in Ireland. With regard to improvements mixed up with the inherent capacity of the land, it was quite fair that the tenant should have full compensation for his outlay. But it would be monstrous to deprive the landlord of the value of the inherent capacity of the land. He would give an illustration from his own personal knowledge, and it was none the worse because the occupier and owner happened to be the same person—himself. He had a stretch of meadow land three-quarters of a mile in length. At the beginning of the century a brook went in a serpentine way over the land, and the course could still be traced. Below was a mill, which must have dammed up the water 1221 and frequently flooded all into a lake. Therefore, the actual pastoral or meadowing capacity of the land could not have been great. In the course of time, first of all a straight course was cut for the stream, and later, the main part of the water was diverted in a different direction. If that had been done by the tenant he should have been compensated for the labour and capital spent on the land. But, at the same time, that would be a small sum in comparison with the increased value, and it would be monstrous if the landlord should not have his share of the increased capacity of the land which a small outlay would effect. With regard to Adams v. Dunseath, he should like to quote the remarks of Sir Farrar (now Lord) Herschell in the House of Commons in 1883, on a Motion by Mr. Parnell for the Second Reading of the Land Law (Ireland) 1881 Amendment Bill:—It was said that the tenant improved the land and that the landlord raised the rent upon those improvements and confiscated them. But the question was, what were the improvements that belonged to the tenant? In that Bill they were seeking to declare that that was the property of the tenant which could not in any sense be called his. The proposition that a law, however unjust in itself, should be passed in order to satisfy the tenantry of Ireland, or the representatives of Ireland, was one that he hoped would never be admitted for a moment in that House … They had heard about prairie value.He might say, in passing, that prairie value was not necessarily a lower value than present value, and that seemed to be now admitted by Mr. Healy and, inferentially, by Mr. Dillon.They had heard about prairie value. Hon. Members opposite had contended that all that the landlord was entitled to was prairie value. It proposed that prairie value should be the test of fair rent, and that anything beyond that should be the property of the tenant in occupation of the land. Would any hon. Member say that that was a provision to be accepted as a necessary, just, and righteous provision? It was said, supposing money was spent upon a tenancy which increased the letting value, then that increase was necessarily the property of the tenant, which they should compensate him for as his improvement. He denied that proposition. The Court of Appeal in Ireland had not by a majority, but unanimously, held that that was not the true view.1222 After some illustrations had been given, the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Healy) added—What made the difference? Simply the inherent qualities of the land. That gave the extra value, and these no more belonged to the tenant than the land itself. Therefore, the judgment in Adams v. Dunseath on that point was perfectly correct.Those were the words of one who was then the Solicitor General of England. He could not doubt that they still expressed the opinions of Lord Herschell. Coming to the Bill itself, Lord Spencer regretted that the Government had not followed the example of the late Government, and put a population limit as a way of defining what a town park was. He disagreed. He thought that would have been an entirely erroneous view, and he considered that the use to which land was put, rather than population, should be the measure of definition of a town park. He did not propose to go through the whole of the Bill, but to confine himself to some points upon which he intended to put down Amendments for the Committee. The first point related to Clause 8, which dealt with the question of easements and turbary. As to turbury, he had seen the Duke of Argyll's letter in that day's Times. He did not deny that there was a good deal of force in what the Duke said about the advantage of turbary to the tenant; but, the Duke himself, at the end of his letter, qualified what he said at the beginning by showing the absolute necessity for control of the turf bogs on the part of the landlord. If they allowed a bog to be cut wherever and as long as a tenant pleased, they might be pretty sure that it would be cut in such a way as to render the reclamation of it, after the turf had been cut off it, very difficult. The management of turf bogs, where they existed, was one of the most important parts of an agent's duty. He would read the reply which he had received from one of 1223 his own agents as to how this clause would work in connection with his estate. He might say that he had two—in Tyrone and Fermanagh—and the writer was agent for the latter. He said:—I do not believe Clause 6 (now 8) will affect you seriously in Fermanagh. I always supplied your tenants with turbary on payment of 5s. a year for a ticket of permission—that, I should say, is the maximum price for a turf bank,and I often expended more than the rent in making drains and roads to enable the tenants to get turbary. I have known people keep their bog-plots under water in order to flood their neighbour with whom they had a dispute, and only allowed the water to flow when threatened to be denied the right of entry the following year. This power will now be taken away from the landlords, and give rise to many heart burnings and much litigation. In 1884 or 1885, at Manorhamilton Quarter Sessions, Judge Waters said, in my presence, he hoped he should not see the day when the bogs would be taken out of the hands of the landlords, and gave a decree for £5 to a wretchedly poor man whose whole winter fuel was destroyed by his neighbour claiming the turbary of a tract in the landlord's hands. I fear the clause giving turbary will lessen the value of your Tyrone estate. The tracts of bog were an inducement to purchase.The latter remark I note referred to his having in many instances arranged for purchasers having included in their agreements a certain quantity of free bog, not necessarily adjoining the holdings, proportionate to the rental they were buying. The remarks of Judge Waters, who certainly could not be accused of being a sympathiser with the landlords, proved that this great change in the law should not be undertaken in a hurry—but if at all, only after a great deal more consideration than had been given to it now. But there is one other point; it might happen, and it did happen to himself—that a bog on which tenants had been permitted to cut turf might be actually included in a demesne—he had two such cases. The turf banks would not last very much longer. Those that his tenants cut would probably fail first. Surely it would be a very great hardship if he were obliged by law to give them, out of what he required for his own use, a supply of turf as long as any remained in the bog. Then there were other easements, such as spring wells, rights of 1224 way, etc., gravel pits, stones. Was it seriously intended to deal in this off-hand way with these things? Were they going to allow tenants to sell stones and gravel for their own profit under the head of "profit a prendre"? Then there was Clause 21, which related to appeal. This clause, as he understood, was introduced into the Bill in Committee in the House of Commons, at 4 o'clock in the morning, without any discussion whatever. Its object was to tie the landlord up to disclose his whole case on an appeal or re-hearing before the case came on. He would reserve for Committee most of what he had to say about that. He would merely say now, that whilst Mr. Sub-Commissioner Bailey, in his examination before the Morley Committee, seemed to imply that it might be well that as much information as could well be should be given at an early stage, still, he pointed out, that important points might often crop up during the hearing of the case which should not be excluded. Lord Chief Baron Palles, moreover, had laid down the rule that a re-hearing should be a re-hearing. Why should that ruling be reversed? The other clause to which he wished to refer was Clause 36. That dealt with the question of the redemption of tithe rent-charge and tithe rent-charge annuities. Very lately he had brought that matter before their Lordships in a Bill to which the Irish Government allowed a Second reading to be given as a recognition of the principle of 45 years' purchase instead of 52 years, as the basis of calculation for redemption. But it was on the understanding that the Bill went no further this Session. Now, although he thought it a pity that the Treasury, whilst admitting the principle, should have limited it for the present in the way they did in this clause, still he was bound by the agreement, so far as redemption was concerned. But there was another matter, outside redemption, which he endeavoured to deal with in that Bill, to which considerable importance appeared to be attached; that was, the placing these annuities on the same footing as the tenants' annuities under Section 24 of the Bill. The Government would not entertain that proposal when his Bill was before the House, so he thought he might claim fairly that that subject formed no part of the bargain to which he had referred, and might ask 1225 their Lordships to consider a new clause in Committee, to give some relief in this matter to landlords as well as to tenant-purchasers as regarded their annuities. He had now dealt with this important and far-reaching Measure, one which might prove a veritable leap in the dark. He thought he might say that, in the 40 years he had had control of his estates in Ireland, he had endeavoured to act justly to the tenants whilst defending his own interests. He had no I doubt whatever that the great mass of them—perhaps 500 in number, or more—would freely acknowledge that he would be the last person to deprive any tenant of what was rightly his, or of any compensation to which he was fully entitled. Perhaps this Bill might not affect him personally so much as it would some others. That remained to be seen. But this was not a question with those who were Irish Peers—and he sat there now as the senior representative Peer for Ireland—of merely defending their own interests and their own pockets. They had a duty to perform to a great number of their fellow-countrymen, who were practically unrepresented in the House of Commons, or nearly so. Some of them—many of them—were struggling men. Such reductions of income as were inevitable from a fall in prices they must submit to, whether this Bill passed or not. But beyond that, he maintained that they would not be justified in forcing them over the dividing line between poverty and insolvency. If, on any grounds of public policy, it should be thought necessary to deprive them of rights which previous legislation had reserved to them, it only should, in justice, be done by giving them a full equivalent of compensation, as the wisdom of Parliament should decide.
* THE EARL OF MAYO
said it might be well to think a little about the history of the Bill. What made them specially sore on the question was the fact that at one time in the course of the Bill, promises were made to the representatives of the landlord party in the House of Commons in regard to certain Amendments to the Bill, and those promises were afterwards broken. ["Hear, hear!"] One would have thought that even in politics promises made by one gentleman to another would be kept. 1226 ["Hear, hear!"] Such was not the case, however, in regard to this Bill. He must say that he gave the greatest praise to the noble Marquess who had charge of the Bill for the extraordinary way in which he explained its very technical provisions. As he saw the Prime Minister was then in his place, he should like to remind him of one fact, and that was the enormous amount of work the Irish Unionist Alliance did for him and his Government at the time of the Home Rule Question. The Alliance worked hard to organise and subscribed liberally, and perhaps the noble Marquess might be surprised to learn that upwards of 80 per cent. of the men who organised that Alliance were Irish landlords. Now, those very men who worked so hard to bring his Government into power, found that when the Government got into office, almost the first thing they did was to bring in a Bill which, in many of its clauses, took away a great deal more of the property of the landowner, and at the same time increased the uncertainties of litigation by extending the indefinite powers of the Land Commissioners. The Lord Chancellor had said that there were no prejudices with regard to the Bill of 1881. Of course the Irish landlords had no prejudices affecting that Bill. The Bill was now an Act on the Statute-book, and they had to obey it. The noble and learned Lord also said that they had only discussed or objected to clauses which were of a minor character. Was Clause 4 or Clause 8 of a minor character? The latter clause dealt with the matter of turbary, and was a very important clause. Indeed, it was not easy to conceive a more outrageous and unjust proposal than was contained in that clause. The landlords of their own will had given certain privileges to their tenants, one of which was to cut turf, and now those privileges were to be entirely given as a right to the tenant, simply handed over from the present owner to the tenant. And not only that, but the tenant would have the power to sell the privileges. Mr. Gerald Balfour, who brought in the Bill, framed it on the framework of Mr. Morley's Bill, and he was sure Mr. Balfour must have done so because he had been such a short time in Ireland that he could not know much of Irish affairs. Therefore he took Mr. Morley's Bill as an excellent 1227 framework on which to frame his own Measure. The Lord Chancellor for Ireland had said that during the time Mr. Gerald Balfour was framing the Bill he consulted a great many representatives of different classes, especially the landlords, but he and his friends had no knowledge whatever that a single Irish landlord was consulted. No, the Bill had been brought in, and promises and compromises had been thrown to the winds. The 12 o'clock Rule was suspended in the House of Commons, and the Bill had been forced through the House with the help of Dillonite, Healyite, and Redmondite Home Rulers. ["Hear, hear!"] But it was useful to remember that during the Committee stage of the Bill the Government were once beaten, and they were beaten because they were mean, and attempted to "do" the landlords over a matter which was in reality a piece of Treasury sharp practice. The present Bill was not required. They would welcome with the greatest pleasure a Purchase Bill, and a Purchase Bill only; but this Bill would give rise to tremendously increased litigation between landlord and tenant. Clause 39, for instance, contained a principle which, if applied to any class but Irish landlords, would be damned by every legislative assembly in the world, except that one at the mercy of their so-called friends, a Conservative Government. It was always difficult to bring home to their English friends the great difference which existed between the Irish land system and the system of land tenure in England. They were often told how greatly English rents had been reduced within the last ten or twenty years, and how little in comparison Irish rents had been reduced. In Ireland there was tenant-right; in England tenant-right did not exist. That tenant-right in Ireland could be sold; and its average price had been proved by actual sales to be from twelve to twenty years' purchase. Where in England could they point to such a valuable consideration accruing to a tenant? He would not detain them any longer. They knew how the Bill had been run through the House of Commons. They had seen the screw put on, and every nerve strained to prevent it following the fate of the Education Bill. Their friends there 1228 fought well, but they were overpowered by numbers. He and his friends had not finished with the Bill yet. They had their duty before them, and they had to consider the interests of others in Ireland, as well as their own—men and women who were landlords like themselves, but who had no voice in the affairs of this nation and could not make themselves heard. They, with them, resented that their properties and interests should be thrown by a Conservative Government as a sop to the political representatives of a disloyal electorate.
* LORD CLONBROCK
said that he, a young, or rather a new, Member of the House, would not have ventured to address their Lordships were it not for the fact that he had been for many years constantly resident in the West of Ireland, and that, therefore, he desired to say a few words as to the way in which the Bill was regarded in that part of Ireland. He wished to speak specially on behalf of the landowners, and in doing so he would remind their Lordships of what the noble Marquess, the Prime Minister, had lately said, namely, that all landowners were not large landowners or wealthy men. There were in his country many small and struggling landlords who, although elevated above their tenants by education and culture, were perhaps in an inferior position to their tenants in obtaining the means of livelihood. Those landowners felt deeply that they had already been deprived by legislation of a considerable amount of property. He did not here refer so much to reduction of rent, although that they held had been arbitrary and exorbitant, and he believed that if comparison were instituted between Ireland and that portion of England which most resembled Ireland in pastoral conditions, their contention would be found to be fully confirmed by fact. But apart from the reduction of rent, by fixity of tenure, the landlords had been deprived of the right of re-entry, and by the establishment of tenant-right where it never before existed, a large slice had been taken from landlords' property. The result was that property which used to sell for from 20 to 25 years' purchase would now only fetch, perhaps, 15 to 18 years' purchase. If a portion of a man's land was taken from him for any public work he was amply indemnified, 1229 and he never could see why, if five or six years purchase of his property were taken from a landlord for public advantage, he should not be as fully compensated as if five or six acres of his land were taken to build a railway station or a gasometer. Not only were Irish landlords not compensated when they were deprived of their property, but every obloquy was heaped upon them. It had been said that the landlords were in great measure to blame for their unpopularity, in that they had never been able to attract the people to them; that they had failed to establish a community of feeling between them and the people. He believed this was greatly exaggerated. But if it meant anything it was this: that the landlords had been faithful to the English connection, and attachment to England ought not to be held up as a reproach by any section of Englishmen, even by those whom untoward circumstances had lately induced to modify their previous convictions as to the connection between the two countries. He did not believe that feeling of this kind could have any such effect. On several occasions he had received from his tenantry on his property such marks of regard and kindly feeling that he should always most gratefully remember. He thought the same might be said by many other landlords. But the landlords were guilty of the unpardonable crime of being still possessed of some property which was coveted by others. Moreover, the tenantry were an excitable, impulsive race, and when they were addressed in excited language by orators, no wonder their Celtic natures became excited to an extent that no one who had not lived through that time could properly realise. He had heard a resident magistrate say to the assembled Grand Jury of the county of Galway—If the Crimes Act is not renewed I would not be answerable for 24 hours for the lives of half of you who are sitting round that table.He had driven at midday into a country town to learn that a poor old friend had just been assassinated. That was soon after the Act of 1881, which was not only to enhance the value of their property, but restore peace and security to Ireland. They had struggled through those evil days, sometimes in imminent danger of their lives, and at other times 1230 shunned and persecuted, in all cases with a sense of uncertainty as to the future. The uncertainty still remained, for of late years they were under the constant apprehension of revolutionary legislation. During this time their eyes had always turned to England in the hope of receiving from English justice the sympathy which was denied them in their own country. They had looked forward, as to the promised land, to the advent to power of a strong and independent Government, a Government which would not be compelled by political exigencies to ally itself with the party of agitation, to advocate its views, and obey its behests. They had looked forward to this, not so much in hope of legislation in their favour, as that they would be let alone and allowed to enjoy in security the amount of their inheritance. Judge, therefore, of their feelings when they found the accession of such a Government to power signalised by the introduction of a Measure scarcely less detrimental to their interests than that of the preceding Administration. It was not only disappointment, it almost amounted to despair. He had been asked by members of old Roman Catholic families—old Whigs who had joined hands with them when the Union was in danger—if this was the sort of Measure they had a right to expect from a Unionist and Conservative Government. To his sorrow there was only one answer to that question. It might be said that, if they could get neither side of the House to listen to them, it was pretty clear that their case was not a strong one. He could not accept that conclusion; the reason, he believed, was in their political insignificance. There were but two courses in Ireland by which the attention of English Statesmen could be attracted—by resistance to the law and by votes in the ballot-box. The landlords of Ireland were a law-abiding and orderly body, and were too small in number to turn the scale at Parliamentary elections. That was the reason why so little regard was paid to their interests. In the Bill before them a bias against the landlord was manifest in every page. He would not, as he had intended, go through the various clauses at so late an hour, but he trusted the Government would listen to the Amendments that would 1231 be proposed, so that by adopting some of them, it might be possible to put the Measure in such shape that, without taking away from the tenant that which had been secured to him, they should prevent any further encroachment on the property of the much-misused landlord. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER
I propose that we should take the Committee Stage, if it is agreeable to the House, on Thursday next. I understand that to take it earlier would be too soon for the noble Lords who desire to put down Amendments.
§ Bill accordingly committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.