[From 1911 MacDonnell Inquiry]
LETTER FROM MR. H. W. STEPHEN.
Isle of Man.
May 29th. 1911.
In reply to yours of the 22nd inst. in which you
wish me to submit a written statement of the evidence
I had intended to offer before your Committee.
My chief desire in offering such evidence was to
bring to your Committee's knowledge the fact that
there exists no law in the statute book of this Island
which in any way safeguards tenantry rights, more
particularly the rights of the tenant farmer. As the
law stands to-day, any portable house with its supports
entering the ground, any dead fencing such as wire-
netting put up against the ravages of rabbits, etc.,
must remain at the expn ation of lease (though put
there by the tenant). As long as the supports holding
such enter the ground, the landlord claims.
An Agricultural Holdings Act to remedy this was
passed two years ago by the Keys, by sixteen to eight,
and was thrown out by the Council. An amended
Act on similar lines, with extreme clauses expunged,
free cropping, etc., is now before the Legislature, has
passed the Keys, but is held up by the Council, who
say the landlord's permission must be granted before a
tenant can put up dead fencing or bring on to his
holding any portable house or fixture.
We say such discriminating power is uncalled for
on the part of a landlord, and shows bias on the part
of the Council. Tenants should be compensated for
improvements. I and a large section of the people think
reform of the Council necessary; as at present
constituted the Council leans too much to landlords'
We think the elective element to the Council
should be allowed. It would permit the more pro-
gressive and broad-minded members of the Keys to fill
those appointments-would put a premium on merit.
We favour a Council composed of four members
elected by the Keys and four nominated by the Crown,
with the Governor having a vote as at present.
There is plenty of legislative material in the Island,
but such men must be paid and the interests of the
masses will be better served. Now but one type of
man offers himself at elections to our Legislature-the
man who can give his time free and pay his expenses.
Direct taxation is not likely to be effected unless a
change of conditions. With payment of members the
voters would be assured of a larger choice of men.
We think that electoral value based on population
would be unfair to the Sheadings.
The situation may be summed up by saying the
farmer tenantry of the Island have little faith in the
Council, and great fear of the towns.
There exists in this Island a form of implied
coercion and intimidation owing to our interests being
so interwoven. Many tenant farmers are debarred
from expressing their true opinions openly, through
the fear of consequences at the expiration of their
lease. Canvassers for signatures for or against petitions
where legislation is concerned, are fully conscious of
H. W. STEPHEN.
F. ELLIOTT, Esq.