HC Deb 19 February 1834 vol 21 cc555-7
Mr. Poulter

Sir, in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill to extend the provisions of the Statute 11 Geo. 2, c. 19, sect. 15 and to apply the principle of equitable apportionment to all property which consists in periodical and fixed money-payments, such as rents, rent-charges, annuities, and dividends of all kinds, where the party dies before the day of payment, it is more difficult to assign a cause why so obvious and just a principle should have been so long neglected, than to suggest a reason-able ground for the proposed Legislative enactment. In all subjects relating to the payment of public officers, the principle has been fully admitted and acted upon, and though formerly the Judges were dependent for their salaries on the event of their living to the day of payment, that defect has been remedied by Act of Parliament. If a rule is so equitable, that it has been introduced, without exception, into all subjects of modern creation and of public institution, why should it be any longer excluded from matters of property? The evil has its origin in nothing but an old technical rule of the common law, originating in feudal times, that rent is indivisible, and must go entirely to the person entitled on the day it becomes due; so that, if a party has a life-interest in a rent of any amount whatever, and the rent be reserved annually, though he lives 364 days of the year and then dies, his representatives are entitled to nothing. This old and injurious rule has found its way into all periodical payments whatever, and they are governed, to this day, by what I must call an ancient and inveterate absurdity. It may be said, that most limited interests are created by the act of a grantor, and that the evil may be prevented by his special disposition; but, in truth, it is rarely anticipated, and, therefore, not provided for. It is in practice a casus omissus. Though the case of proprietor's is not the same as that of public officers, it is less different than would at first sight appear. Public officers are recompensed for personal services. Proprietors are also paid in respect of some supposed meritorious consideration. Rent is the compensation for the enjoyment of land; and why should it not be in all cases precisely apportioned to, and concurrent with, the degree and duration of that enjoyment? It seems most equitable, that a person under whom the occupation of land is enjoyed, should receive the compensation for it, up to the time of his death. A party entitled to a life or limited interest in dividends from Government or other funds, represents, for that period, the person who originally advanced a sum in gross, either to the nation, or some public body. That sum must be taken to have produced a general benefit to the nation, or other public interest. As long as the party lives, he is to be considered as the person from whom that benefit was derived. Why, then, should not the dividend, which is the compensation for the sum in gross, be divisible and apportioned? Why, if a party die on the 4th of July, should his representatives lose entirely that dividend, which is nothing but the return made by the nation for the use of money which has, or must be supposed to have, conferred a benefit on the State between the 5th of January and the 5th of July? It would have been extremely difficult, if not impracticable, to apply the principle of apportionment to tithes; but the measure I propose to introduce will have the most beneficial operation on the approaching Bill for the commutation of tithes, and especially on the interests of the poorer clergy. The incumbent of a benefice, entitled to a rent-charge in lieu of tithes, may happen to die just before the rent is payable; he has performed every- duty, and incurred every incumbrance and expense incident to a large portion of the year, without being entitled to any part of that rent which is about to become due. It is most desirable to prevent the occurrence of a manifest injustice, which is involved in the emolument not being inseparably attached to the proportion and extent of service performed. The evil sought to be remedied is not succeeded by any corresponding evil. The general good obtained, is an unmixed good. All the habits of mankind—all the reasonable wants of society—all the interests of families are consulted by this measure. An establishment is maintained—a family is provided for, in the hope and expectation of an approaching benefit and receipt. Large expenses are incurred. Before the arrival of the important day, the owner of the life-interest is suddenly taken away; by death. What an additional calamity is inflicted at such a moment by the severe loss of means now become still more essential! Does the effect of such a Bill merely transfer disappointment from-one to another? It does no such thing. The person receiving a benefit by the present state of the law, has not the slightest hope of it—he has not calculated for any such event—by him it is wholly unsuspected and unlooked for. It is quite unnecessary to state instances of hardship—they are without number. I will now, therefore, conclude, by moving for leave to bring in a Bill to the above effect.

Leave granted to bring in the Bill.