HC Deb 22 February 1832 vol 10 cc663-9

Mr. John Campbell moved the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the General Registry Bill.

Colonel Maberly

entreated the hon. Member to postpone his Motion for the Second Reading, in order that they might proceed with the Ordnance Estimates.

Mr. John Campbell

said, the noble Lord (Althorp) had pledged himself to give this day for the consideration of the Bill at the time he (Mr. Campbell) consented to postpone it; and he confessed, that he despaired of proceeding with his Bill during this Session, if he lost the present opportunity. He was anxious, that the Bill might be read a second time, in order that he might move that it be referred to a Select Committee, who would be able to investigate the whole question in all its bearings.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, the Government would be very unwilling to place any obstacle in the way of a Bill which came before the House in pursuance of the recommendation of the Committee on the Law of Real Property, and he therefore left it in the discretion of the House.

Sir Charles Wetherell

thought the Bill should be postponed till they got rid of the Reform question; they were too much exhausted to bestow the attention on it which its importance deserved.

Mr. John Hodgson

said, that many Members were absent who intended to oppose the Bill; and if the hon. Member persevered in his Motion, he would move an adjournment.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

was in favour of the appointment of a Committee, which was the only means, in his opinion, of maturely and fully considering the question in all its bearings.

Mr. Trevor

said, his constituents had expressed their opinions so strongly against the measure, that he was resolved to oppose the Bill by every means in his power, and in every stage.

Mr. Strickland

thought the Bill should be postponed, to allow time for further consideration. He was fully convinced the more the measure was known to the public, the more serious would be their objections to its principles.

Mr. John Wood

observed, that few questions had ever come before the House of which the Members, and indeed the country generally, were so ignorant, as the Act for a general registration. He would mention a curious instance of this ignorance. In a Northern County, which for obvious reasons he would not particularise, a meeting was called lately to petition against the Bill. This meeting was called under the authority of the Lord Lieutenant of the County. He (Mr. Wood) happened to be in the county town on the day appointed for the meeting, and some of the principal requisitionists who were to get up the petition to be agreed on actually sent to him to know if he had a copy of the Bill with him, as not one of those opposed to it had ever seen it or read its provisions? He mentioned this as a specimen of the kind of opposition which interested persons had got up against the measure of his hon. friend. The fact was, that the majority of landed gentlemen were under the dominion of their attornies, and that attornies knew that their profits would be materially diminished if the Bill were passed into a law. Hence their almost universal opposition to it, which they disguised under various other pretences. They alarmed the gentry about the security of their title deeds, and told them, that all their private transactions and family arrangements would be exposed. All these pretences were unfounded, and the landed gentlemen would find, if it was passed, that its result would be greater security for their property, and that they would be able to raise money upon it with more facility than at present. The transfers, and all other measures relating to landed property, would be much reduced in price, and the complicated provision simplified. Where a Commission had been appointed by the Crown to investigate the matter, he thought that the House of Commons ought at least to look at the result of the labours of that Commission, by examining the Bill in a Committee. He therefore most cordially supported the Motion of his hon. and learned friend.

Lord Robert Grosvenor

did not know how far the hon. and learned member for Preston's charge of ignorance might apply to other Members. For his own part he had perused the Bill, and had endeavoured to understand it. At that time, however, he conceived that it would be highly inconvenient to enter into any discussion upon the general principles of the measure. He trusted, therefore, that the House would confine itself to the question of whether the matter should be referred to a Select Committee. In his own opinion, every inquiry ought to be made before the House came to any final determination upon a matter of so much importance.

Sir Edward Sugden

thought that, as the whole of the materials were before the House, the question should be discussed there rather than before a Select Committee. The appointment of a Committee would only lead to delay and expense, without extending to the House itself any of the knowledge or information which it so much needed in the consideration of so important a question. Whenever a regular discussion took place, he had no doubt but that he should be able to show that the loss arising from the adoption of such a measure would be much greater than the benefit. At all events he should wish the experiment, if it were to be tried at all, to be tried at first on a small scale.

Mr. Schonswar

believed that this General Registry Bill was generally unpalatable to the country, and, consequently, he was of opinion, that it ought on no account to be forced upon it. It was absurd to suppose that people were not well acquainted with their own interests, therefore, he should prefer a full and free discussion, upon the second reading of the Bill, to the referring of it to a Select Committee up stairs.

Mr. Labouchere

thought, that the House was bound to allow every inquiry into the merits of the Bill, consequently he was favourable to the proposition for referring it to a Select Committee. The feelings of the country were, he believed, strongly and generally opposed to the measure. If the second reading, therefore, were pressed forward before further inquiry had been made, he should certainly consider himself bound to oppose it. He was anxious to be fully informed with respect to the merits of the measure.

Mr. James

would have no objection to the appointment of a Committee, provided it were chosen by ballot; but he should decidedly oppose the proposition if the Members of the Committee were to be selected by the hon. and learned Member by whom the measure was brought forward.

Lord Howick

did not wish to have taken I any part in this discussion, but, since it had extended so far, he felt bound to state, that he had been intrusted with two petitions, from different bodies of his constituents, against the projected plan of registration. Not yet having had an opportunity to present those petitions, he should certainly object to the second I reading of the Bill that evening, but he fully agreed with the hon. member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere) in the propriety of referring the question to the consideration of a Committee up stairs. He was satisfied that the Members of such Committee would be fairly chosen by the hon. and learned propounder of the Bill.

Mr. Philip Howard

objected to the appointment of a Select Committee, upon the ground of the great expense to which it would lead. In order to obtain the necessary information, they would have to send all over the kingdom for evidence, for there were so many local customs that might be affected, that it would be necessary to consider them all, before a general measure could be introduced with effect. He knew the feeling of the county with which he was connected (Cumberland) was very much opposed to the Bill. He believed there were few frauds committed by the concealment of title-deeds, and he had doubts if making attested copies of them would answer a good practical purpose, when these were to be kept at a great distance from the place where the property was situated. He had been intrusted with a petition against the Bill, which he had had no opportunity yet to present. He knew the subscribers to that petition were gentlemen not under the influence or management of Attornies, or likely to be guided by opinions which they might advance with reference to their own interest.

Lord Morpeth

observed, that his constituents were thoroughly opposed to the Bill. Indeed, the county of York had already a system of Registration, with which the owners of real property were quite contented. They had no desire to prevent other counties from having either local or general registers, they only wished their system might not be interfered with. It should be recollected, however, that it was only the petitions, and not the Bill, which it was proposed to submit to the consideration of a Select Committee. He hoped, that if such a Committee were appointed, the hon. and learned Gentleman would select Members who would adequately represent the commercial and the agricultural interests of the country. Although he should not consider himself pledged to support the suggestions of any Committee, he felt that, consistently with fairness and justice, he could not oppose the motion for a Committee.

Mr. Wrangham

said, that, opposed as he was to the project of a metropolitan registry, he owned he could not refuse his assent to the Motion of his hon. and learned friend for referring the petitions which had been presented against the Bill to the consideration of a Select Committee. Adverting to an expression which had fallen from the hon. member for Preston, he begged to deny that the country gentlemen were so ignorant as he had stated, or that they were, as the hon. Member had asserted, entirely under the control and dominion of a parcel of Attornies. Upon a question of this kind he believed that the country gentlemen were as little biassed by their Attornies as they were in need of any instruction which the hon. Member could give them.

Mr. Bernal

thought, that the House was wandering from the point properly under its consideration. The only object of his hon. and learned friend, the member for Stafford, was, he believed, to adjourn the second reading of the Bill, for the purpose of allowing the petitions which had been presented against it to be referred to the consideration of a Select Committee. Perhaps his hon. and learned friend would do well to cut the matter short by stating at once the nature of the course which he wished to pursue.

Mr. John Campbell

wished for the appointment of a Select Committee, for the purpose just stated by the hon. Member for Rochester. He did not wish the employment of counsel or agents before that Committee, on account of the expense to which it would lead; but he should be sorry to cut off from any individual the opportunity of going before the Committee to state his opinion upon the principle or details of the measure. Although he had some reason to suspect there was an organized opposition to the Bill by Attornies in various parts of the kingdom; but if they could show any good reason against any part of the measure, he wished that they should have every opportunity. He was consequently disposed to believe that the appointment of a Committee would be the means of throwing much light upon the subject — of removing many prejudices with respect to it—and of affording the House such useful information as would enable it to come to a just conclusion upon the question.

Mr. Blamire

said, he hoped it was understood that the present Bill was different from the one of last Session. It was the object of the hon. and learned Gentleman by the several Bills he had in progress, to simplify the ^ transfer of landed property, and, he believed, some of them would have that effect, although others might be mischievous, and, the present, he believed, was of that character. As such a measure, however, had been recommended by gen- tlemen of high legal attainments, he would so far modify his opposition to its principle, as to make no objection to its provisions being examined by a Committee, although, he wished that to be deferred until the other Bills of the hon. and learned Member had passed, that they might learn something of their working.

Mr. John Campbell,

postponed the second reading of the Bill till the 16th of April, and moved that it be referred to a Select Committee, on which

the House divided: Ayes 85; Noes 30—Majority 55.

Committee appointed.