HC Deb 27 April 1836 vol 33 cc397-402

The Attorney-General moved the second reading of the Descents and Heriots Bill.

Mr. Jervis

said, that there was so strong a feeling in the Courts against this Bill, that he must express a hope that his hon. and learned Friend would not press it He would recommend that it be referred to a Select Committee.

Captain Pechell

could confirm the statement of his hon. Friend, the Member for Chester. The owners of Manors were much opposed to the Bill which was a direct interference with the rights of property. As he understood it would enable the tenant to satisfy the landlord's claim for a Heriot, by giving him the worst, instead of the best beasts. They held their land on the latter condition, and the Bill therefore would deprive the landlord of pecuniary-advantages, without any adequate equivalent. He should oppose the further progress of the measure.

The Attorney-General

assured the House that the Bill did not interfere with the rights of property. The customary law of Heriots had long been considered a great grievance, both by Lords of Manors and customary tenants, and in remedying it the Bill did not go one letter further than had been recommended by the Law Commissioners. The gallant Officer was mistaken as to the Bill enabling the copyhold tenant to give the worst instead of the best beasts. The Bill contained no such provision, and it took nothing whatever from the landlord without giving them an adequate equivalent.

Mr. Ewart

thought, as the custom varied in different places, that the Bill should not be proceeded with till further information had been obtained.

Captain Berkeley

considered the Bill an infringement on their rights, and he should feel it his duty, if his hon. and learned Friend persevered, to move that the Bill be put off for six months.

The Attorney-General

wished the Bill to be read a second time, that the details might be settled in Committee. The necessity of a change could not be denied, but the equivalent to be given to the landlords could not be arranged till the Bill was in Committee.

Major Curteis

admitted, that an alteration of the laws was desirable, and perhaps some certain sum as 5l. should be fixed as the value of the Heriot.

Mr. Curteis

thought, as Heriots were so great a grievance, that the landlords, like the tithe owners, should be prepared to make some sacrifice, though whether 5l. would be an equivalent for the Heriot was a matter of doubt.

Sir James Graham

was afraid that the subject had not received that consideration which it deserved. In Cumberland, and other northern counties, where copyhold property was passed by will, the custom required that a trust should be created, which was a fruitful source of litigation. That ought to be put an end to, but for that there was no provision in the Bill. In his opinion the subject ought to be referred to a Select Committee.

Sir Robert Peel

was of opinion, that the House had not sufficient information to proceed with the Bill, particularly as to the proposed equivalent. At the same time, a strong feeling existed against Heriots, and he should willingly concur in putting an end to them without injuring the landlords.

Mr. Baines

said, that the law at present was a complete nuisance, as in some parts of the county, on the death of the father of a family, the landlord hastened to seize the best beast, and the tenant to remove every thing valuable. It converted the chamber of death from a place of decent mourning to a scene of lawless plunder. He gave the hon. and learned Gentleman great credit for his endeavour to remove this last remnant of barbarism and feudal power, and no objections of individual convenience should be allowed to stand in the way of removing such a custom.

Mr. Sergeant Talfourd

agreed, that the custom ought to be put an end to, but he was afraid the subject was too intricate and too involved to be settled without a Select Committee.

Second reading postponed.