Great Britain. Commissioners of inquiry into the w.

Report of Her Majesty's Commissioners of Inquiry into the Working of the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act, 1870, and the acts amending the same online

. (page 84 of 295)
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case to the Court for Land Cases Reserved, with again
more fexpense, until at last the man is ruined.
■ 1466. What remedy would you propose 1 — I think
the whole thing could be settled by a Jury and the
County Court Judge.

1467. Mr. Shaw. — Or by arbitration '2 — Yes.

1468. Baron Dowse. — You object to the manner in
which the amount of compensation is ascertained, be-
cause there is no jury 1 — Yes, and I also object to the
delay.

1469. But if your scheme (which I am not saying
has not a great deal in it) was carried into law there
would be no occasion for a jury or anything else,
because there would be no evictions ■? — Certainly ; but
I am stating my objections to the Land Act. There
is too much law in it, and too little justice.

1470. Chairman. — That is, that it is too com-
plicated 1 — Yes, it leads to litigation. There has been
no end of litigation between landlord and tenant ever
since it came into operation.

1471. Baron Dowse. — Is this the effect of your
evidence, that you think the country would be better
without the Land" Act 1 — I think the country is none
the better of it, but the reverse. I think the Land
Act has failed in every i:)articular.

1472. I can understand the Land Act being a
failure because of its machinery being defective, but
do you say it has done no good at all % — I think it has
done very little, and on the other hand I think that,
but for the Land Act we should not have the rises
of rent we have had over the whole countrj'.

1473. What do you say as to the Ulster custom?
- I am not acquainted with Ulster.

1474. Then the defects you speak of in the Land
Act don't touch Ulster 1 — I cannot give an opinion as
to that.

1475. Chairman. — You spoke of the valuation of
rents as a difficult matter ; what would be your
suggestion % — Arbitration. If the landlord and tenant
could not agree 1 would let the landlord ajDpoint one
man, and the tenant another, with power to them to
appoint an umpire and decide the rent in the usual
way oi arbitrations.

1476. You would not propose a new general
valuation 1 — I think it must come to that provided
the tenant's improvements are kept out. The great
mistake about the Griffith valuation was that it in-
cluded the tenant's improvements at the time.

1477. Griffith's valuation as you of course know
was for the piirpose of rates, not for the purpose of
settling rents between landlord and tenant 1 — I know ;
but it has been converted into a standard of rents.

1478. It has been converted into a standard of
rents by tenants rather than by the ' landlords ?— I
think by both. The landlord appeals to Griffith's
valuation as being 25 per cent, under the letting Value ;
the tenant alleges tliat it is quite enough — at present,
at all events. I may observe that the Land Act
recognises the principle, in certain cases, of the State
interfering with rents. By the last clause of the 5th
subsection of the 4tli section of the Act the Court is
empowered to take into consideration also the rent at
which such holding has been held.

1479. Head the Glau.se you refer to?

" Where a tenant has made any improvements before the
passing pf this Act on a holding held by him under a ten-
ancy existing at the time of th& passing thereof, the Court;
wawanding compensation to such tenant in respect of suoU



impxjpvements shall, in reduction of the claini of the tenant,
take into consideration the time durhig which such tenant
may liave enjoyed the advantage - of such improvements,
also the rent at which such holding has been held, and any
benefits which such tenant may have received from his land-
lord in consideration, expressly or imj>hedly, of the improve-
ments so made."

There is jurisdiction conferred by that clause to in-
terfere with rent.

1480. Baron Dowse. -^The object of that is, that if
the rent is low, the Court may take that fact into con-
sideration ? — ^Yes ; but in the Act the principle is ad-
mitted of the Court interfering with rents.

1481. To inquire into the rent, not to interfere with
it. There is nothing in the Act to warrant the idea
that rent is to be altered ? — I thought there was.

1482. Eead any clause that you think does that?
— If the landlord tenders a thirty-one years' lease to
the tenant in discharge of all claims, and if the
tenant objects to the rent named in the lease, and
thinks the rent too high, he has the power to appeal
to the Chairman.

1483. I doubt that, but go on?— Well, I thmk
that establishes the principle, and by the latter part of
the 9th section of the Act, an eviction for non-pay-
ment of rent, in the case of a holding held at Jtn
annual rent not exceeding ,£15, is to be treated as
a disturbance, " if the Court shall certify that the
non-payment of rent causing the eviction has arisen
from the rent being an exorbitant rent." I think
that also establishes the principle. Again, by the
18th section, " In any case in which compensation
shall be claimed under section 3 of this Act, if it shall
appear to the Court that the landlord has been and
is willing to permit the tenant to continue in thu
occupation of his holding upon just and reasonable
terms, and that such terms have been and are unrea-
sonably refvised by the tenant the claim of the tenant
to such compensation shall be disallowed." By that
clause the rent is again made the subject of jtidi-
cial inquiry and determination. The effect of the
clause is to permit the landlord to force, by the
alternative of eviction, without compensation, for dis-
turbance, a new arrangement upon the tenant, pro-
vided the Civil Bill Judge, or the Judge of Assize, in
the event of appeal, considers the term of said ar-
rangement — including the amount of rent — such as
might be justly and rensonably proposed. What I
wish to point out is, that by all these clauses tht
principle of State valuation of rent is admitted by
the Act. I may be wrong, but that is my view of it.

1484. Would you have those valuations for tin
purpose of rents made at periodical times ? — No
I would have a valuation at the instance of eithe)
party.

1485. How long would you propose that shoul'
last ? — As long as both parties are satisfied with it. .
think it would be highly unjust to fix a term ; fo
instance, suppose a valuation had taken. place five o
six years ago, the tenant would be in a most disac
vantageous position now, in consequence of the Amt
rican importations.

1486. You don't think having a valuation ever
five years would be a good plan ? — I think not.
think a new valuation should take phice at any tim
at the instance oi either of the parties.

1487. Would not that introduce an element of ui
certainty ? — I don't think so. The principle woiil
gradually become recognised throughout the coiintr'
and I think the result would be that, generally speal
ing, neither landlord nor tenant would appeal to arb
tration — they would be likely to come to terms wil
each other.

1488. What you propose would appear to work :
this way — The present rent would be taken to be tl
proper rent until either party wished to have it r
vised, and then it would be revised in the way yi
propose ?^Yes.

1489. And that revision would last as long as t!
paa-ties wished it to remaiir ?.— Yes. I think-the Lai



MINUTES OF EVIDENCE



55



question. §]iouM pe looked at from this aspect that

the landlord and tenant are in one boat ; that it is the
interest of one and the other to come to an under-
standing, and not to stand aloof from eacli other, as at
present. The land agent, acting between the two at
present, is a source of mischief It is his interest to
keep landlord and tenant apart ; and he does so effec-
tually. As a rule, where there is an agent, the tenant
is afraid to go to the landlord — he is airaid of displeas-
ing the agent, and the landlord does not know the mis-
chief tlie agent is doing until it has gone too ftir.

,1490. What would you do witliout the api nt ? — If
the tenant had fixity of tenure an agent would not })e
wanted at all ; and they see that plainly enough.

1491. In point of fact, the landlord would be a rent
charger'? — Well, not exactly a rent charger. I thinli
the landlord would have more influence on his eistate
than he has at present.

1492. How could he exercise his influence ? — For
the good of the tenant, and his own good.

1493. Of course, you -would allow a power of sale of
the interest a tenant would have in his holding 1 —
Yes.

1494. Suppose the landlord wanted to get the land
into his own hands, would you have any machinery
by which that could be brought •about? — None, unless
he bought the interest of the tenant.

1495. Like anybody else, in the open market 1 —
Yes.

1496. If the tenant did not want to sell what would
happen 1 — Tn that case the landlord would have to do
without it.

1497. Would you give the tenant a power of sale in
the open market for any sum the highest bidder might
give 1 — ^Yes, but I would give the landlord a veto pro-
vided the purchaser were insolvent or a man of dis-
reputable character.

1498. Suppose there was a dispute — suppose the
tenant insisted on selling to that man 1 — Well, I think
it would be unreasonable to force a bad character on
the landlord.

1499. In that case, would you allow the landlord
power to serve a notice to quit on the purchaser? —
No> I would give the landlord the right of making the
last bid. Suppose a purchaser offered £1,000, 1 would
allow the landlord the right to give £1 more.

1500. Chairiia:n". — Might it not happen that a
friend of the seller would run up the price, knowing
that the landlord wished to have it 'I — I think evidence
would in such a case be found as to the circumstances
of the ofi'er.

, 1501. Would it not be the interest of the tenant to
get the worst, character he could to bid for the land,
and to, bid high lor it, so as to force the landlord to
give a higher price 1 — It wou.ld not. I was going to
say that if the tenant had fixity oi tenure, valuation of
rent, and right of free sale, there would he no need for
contracts or leases at all.

1502. Baron Dowse. — Every tenant would have a
statutable lease 1 — Exactly.

150?. Chaikman. — Would you give the iand-
loi'd the jjower, if he saw that the tenant was injuring
the farm, or was a disreputable character, of removing
him ? — I would not, unless by an action.

1504. Don't many of the advocates of fixity of
tenure take care, to provide not only that the tenant
shall be liable to eviction for nonpayment of rent, but
also if he turns out a disreputable character, or if he
deteriorates the land, or subdivides or sublets ? — Yes.

1505. Would you adopt such a principle ? — I would
evict him for the willful and persistent deterioration
of his farm.

1506. But not for subdividing or subletting 1 — No.
I. would leave these things to the tenant's own sense of
self-interest. You call vip the strongest motive of
human nature when you give a man an interest in his
holding to do nothing that will injure it.

. 1507. Baron Dowse.— Is it not a strong motive of
luiman nature if a man has eleven childreu to divide



his farm between the eleven of them ? — ^Well, on the Sept. s, isso.
Continent it does not operate in that way. Of course Thomar"
no human scheme can be devised that is absolutely Robertson,,.,,
perfect. I think the connexion between landlord and Esq.
tenant at the present moment is not at all perfect or
satisi;actory, and I have no doubt there will be defects
and imperfections in any new scheme that may be de-
vised ; still I believe that to give the tenant an interest
in improviag his farm would meet a great deal of the
difficulty of the present situation.

1008. The leading features of your scheme would
be that the rent should be fixed by arbitration, and
that the tenant should not be disturbed so long as he
jiaid that rent ? — Certainly.

1509. Chairman.^ — Do you think it would have
a good effect on the tenant if there was a chance or
probability of his losing his holding in certain events,
such as bad conduct — for instance, if he were convicted
ol stealing 1 Would you allow that man tp remain
in occupation of his holding ? — That is an extreme
case. I don't think a reform of this kind should be
tested by such extreme cases.

1510. Don't you think there should be a power in
such a case as that to determine the tenancy? — I
would have no objection personally to that man being
evicted by his landlord.

1311. Mr. Shaw. — Might it not happen that that
man had a family, and that to evict him would be a
great injustice to them? — It might. I think the
great ai-gument for fixity of tenure, valuation, and
free sale, lies in the greater improvement of the land,
which prevails in Ulster, under a somewhat similar
custom. The main ground for giving security to the
tenant, is that he has really as much a property in the
land as the landlord, they are co-partners ; and it is
unfair, if the landlord has his rights defined and
secured by law, that the tenant should hold hi"S
property subject to the caprice or injustice of his co-
partner.

1512. If a landlord was sentenced to penal ser-
\itude for five years for felony, the tenant would Jiave
no light to break his bargain ? — No. Furthermore, I
maintain that by the law as it has hitherto stood, the
landlord has been appropriating his tenant's property.
The improvements effected on the estate by the
'industry of the tenant were the property of the tenant,
notwithstanding when the landlord sold the estate, he
sold his tenant's property, and has been receiving rent
on the tenant's property. At the present moment the
tenant farmers of Ireland are, in fact, paying rent
upon their own improvements to a large extent, and
the knowledge the tenants, have, by experience, that
the landlords can increase their rents arbitrarily,
stands directly in the way of the improvement of the
land, and the prosperity of the country. It is always
the first objection you hear from the tenant when
asked to improve. " Why should I improve ? My
rent will be increased if I do."

1513. Did you ever hear the story of the tenant
who refused to make a road to his house, because If
he did, the agent would drive up to him and raise his
rent?— No; but I can tell you a fact that came within
my own experience when I was steward on the estate
of Mr. La Touche of Harristown. I offered to drain
a field which lay before the door of one of the tenants
— the tenant refused his consent, because if I did his
rent would be raised ; and that field remains undrained
to the present day.

1514. Mr. Kavanagii.— Would it not be a fair
thing to raise the rent, if the holding had been improved
at the expense of the landlord ?— Perfectly fair, pro-
vided the increase was fairly proportionate to the value
of the improvement ; but the man feared that the rent
of the whole farm would be raised.

1515. Mr. Shaw— Does that feeling on the part of
the tenantry discourage and retard the improvement
of the country ?— Of course it does. I have no doubt
whatever that Ireland bould produce three times the



56



IRISH LAND ACT COMMISSION, 1880.



Sept. 3, 1880.

Thomas

Robertson,

Esq



amount of food and wealth it does, provided the
tenants had the security they demand.

1516. Have you ever considered the question of
peasant proprietary'! — I have. I thiak that also
should be a part of the land reform, but I would
extend it to all classes of tenants. At present it is
next to impossible under the Land Act. When an
estate is for sale, it is put up ia blocks and, the tenants
either cannot all agree, or are deterred in some way or
other from bidding, and the result is the estate gets
into the hands of land jobbers, who raise the rent on
the tenants as soon as they get possession.

1517. Would you give it to large tenants as well as
small ? — I would.

1518. Would it be a remedy in your opinion for the
evUs the country complains of ? — I think preliminary
to everything we must have free trade in land. The
laws of entail, primogeniture, settlement and distraint
must be repealed as a preliminary to everything in the
way of land reform.

1519. Baron Dowse. — Supposing all those things
were done do you thiak this peasant proprietary would
settle the land question of itself! — I do not think it
would. I think all tenants, yeomen as well as
peasants, should have the chance of buying their
farms provided the estate were in the market.

1520. Where is the money to come from ? — Govern-
ment ought to advance the money.

1521. Where are they to get if! — Where the
Prussian Government got it. After all, I do not think
30 much money would be required — I would have the
process a gradual one.

1522. That is the very thing I want to come to : in
your opinion it should be gradual ? — Certainly. I
would force no landlord to sell his property but if an
estate came into the market I think the tenants should
have the right of pre-emption.

1523. You would not buy out the landlord nolens
volens, whether he liked it or noti — Certainly not,
unless perhaps in instances of corporate estates, as held
by London companies in the north of Ireland. But
when an estate comes into the market the tenants
should have the preference. And in my opinion the
estate should, be sold in holdings — each holding jiut up
for sale separately, and I think the landlord would get
a larger price if that were done.

1524. Mr. Kavanagh. — If the landlord thought he
would secure a better price for his property by selling
it in holdings, would he not do so 1 — 1 he Land Court
seems opposed to putting up property for sale in that way.

^ 1525. I think the Court would do it, if the owner
consented 1 — I don't think it would j in my opinion
the obstacle is in the rules of the Land Court. Another
matter is the very serious legal expense involved by a
sale in the court. If a landlord wishes to sell his
property, the tenants, each of them, should be able to
come to terms with him.

1526. Chairman. — Out of court ■! — Yes.

1527. Mr. Kavanagh. — Would the tenant be satis-
fied to do it in that way 1 — I think he would.

1528. Baron Dowse. — That might answer, provided
the tenant was able to give the entire purchase-money
himself 1 — I think the Government should advance the
money if necessary.

1529. Mr. Kavanagh. — In your opinion ought they
to advance the whole of the money? — Every shilling
of it, if the tenant wanted it. I think he should be
allowed to expend his own money in the cultivation and
improvement of the land.

1530. Unless the Government lent the money upon
very reasonable terms. I think you would find that
by advancing the whole of it, the result would be that
for a number of years the tenant vs>-ould have to pay
more in the way of interest than the amount he had
been previously paying in the shape of rent? — No;
not as a rule, 1 thiiik. Take my own case. If I pur-
chased my farm at twenty years purchase upon my
rental, and had to borrow the entire of the money from
Government at five per cent, to be repaid in thirty-five
years, I would have exactly the same amount of rent to



pay that I am now paying to my landlord ; with th
difference that after thirty -five years it would be a
paid off, and the farm be then bought out.

1531. Do you contemplate that the Govemmei
should advance the money without inquiring into ti
title? — I would give the farm as security for ti
advance of the money.

1532. But if the man had no title of what valu
would that security be ? — Oh, I would let the landlor
establish his title before he offered the farm for sale.

1533. Then the expense of proving title would hav
to be incurred still ? — Let the landlord pay that es
pense.

1534. Would not that be a great bar to the thi3i(
being done ? — I don't think it would. I tliink if th(
tenants were allowed to purchase, the Govemmeni
lending the money, in a few years nearly one-third ol
Ireland would be in the hands of tenant proprietors,
I would have nothing to do vidth the Land Court at all,
If a landlord has property to sell, let him establish his
title, bring it into the market, and dispose of it out of
court.

1535. Baron Dowse. — The difficulty would be this ;
that the seller could not establish his title. If he sells
thi'ough the court he gives the purchaser a parha-
mentary title, but if he sells by private contract then
if in the investigation of the title any body made a
mistake, the title may be bad, and the whole trans-
action fall through ? — What I want to convey is that
the purchaser should not be put to any legal expense
in the matter, beyond a simple conveyance — such as
they have in America.

1536. Mr. Shaw. — If the landlord has agreed with
his tenants to sell the property to them, and merely
comes into the Court for the puipose of making title.
Are you aware that the expense is very little ? — The
present expense is what I have an objection to.

1537. It would be very little in a case in which the
terms of the sale had been arranged beforehand with the
tenants and the estate, merely brought into the Court
for the purpose of giving title ? — If the heavy legal
expenses are avoided I see no objection to it. My
objection to the Court is the expense.

1538. Baron Dowse. — In the North of Ireland if a
man wanted to buy the fee-simple of a farm, he would
not complete the transaction unless the vendor estab-
lished his title. For that fee-simple he might give
perhaps twenty-two or twenty-three years purchase.
That same man will be content to purchase the tenant-
right of that farm, and give, may be, thirty years
purchase for that tenant-right, without inquiring into
the title at all ? — Yes, but he gets possession and is
rarely if ever disturbed. In my opinion when Sir
Bobert Peel passed the Incumbered Estates Act he
ought to have gone farther, and added provisions
enabling the tenants to purchase. The result of not
doing that was that, in many cases, the estates got
into the hands of land jobbers — persons who bought
merely as an investment — who raised rents all over the
country, and have been instrumental in a great
measure in bringing matters to their present pass. If
the tenants had been enabled to come in as purchasers,
the landlords' property would not have been sacrificed
as it was. They would have given fair value for
their farms, but because there was no way of the
tenants purchasing, the land fell in value 50 per
cent, in numerous instances.

1539. Have there been any sales to tenants in your
county under the Act ? — No, not in. KUdare, that
I recollect just now.

1540. Is there not some land in KUdare held by
peasant proprietors ? — Yes, there is a portion of whaf
was once a common. The case was referred to in the
House of Commons some time siace. It is not far
from my farm. I recollect that land myself
greatly covered with water, but during the famine
years, a neighbouring proprietor brought a head
drain up to the verge of it in the improvement of his
own property. The small holders took advantage ol
this head drain, and since that they have been able to



MINUTES OF EVIDENCE.



57



improve and fence in their little holdings, and it is
astonishing the improvement they liave made on the
whole common -within the last twenty-fi\-c years.

1541. It is a good specimen of a peasant proprietary 1
— Yes. They hold each of them, I suppose from one
to iowT or five acres. They all have their little holdin o .^
nicely fenced in — they cultivate them partly with the
spade — and they have improved their houses within
the last few years — instead of thatched roofs they ai'e
now beginning to slate their houses.

1542. Do their families go out and work as labourers
for farmers in the neighbourhood 1 — Yes, and some of
them have a little business — some liave shops, and
others deal in country commodities. One or two of
them started as cattle dealers some years ago, and have
been able to purchase the interest in large farms by
their industry. It is quite marked, the improvement
they have effected.

1543. How did they get the land originally t— It
was a common. I presume they were squatters
originally.

1544. Baron Dowse. — Where is that place — in what
part of Kildare 1 — It is near KUcuUen, six or seven
miles from Newbridge. I may observe that some of
the neighbouring proprietors are anxious to get pos-
session of these holdings, and have been tempting the



Online LibraryGreat Britain. Commissioners of inquiry into the wReport of Her Majesty's Commissioners of Inquiry into the Working of the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act, 1870, and the acts amending the same → online text (page 84 of 295)