HC Deb 21 February 1839 vol 45 cc737-9
Mr. James Stewart

rose for leave to bring in a bill to enfranchise property held under Copyhold and Customary Tenures. He believed, that it was generally admitted, that the principle of some such bill was desirable, and the only doubt was, how far such principle should go. A bill upon this subject had been brought in last Session, which had been referred to a select committee, who were almost unanimous in coming to an important report, which went to the entire abolition of this species of tenure in this country. The committee, in their report, had made these recommendations: Under these circumstances, your Committee have come to the conclusion, that the abolition of this tenure would not only be a great public benefit, but should be made, if possible, a national object. They are also of opinion, that no plan which merely leaves the option to the parties to enfranchise, will meet the exigency of the case, and they are, therefore, desirous of seeing a plan of enfranchisement introduced which shall have a due regard to the rights as well of the lord as the copyholder, but which shall be eventually compulsory on both. A plan having this object was submitted to your Committee, which will be found in the appendix; but your Committee entertained a strong opinion adverse to the system of arbitration suggested in the paper alluded to. It has, however, appeared to them, that the tithe commission, which has been recently established by Act of Parliament, might be rendered available, as affording a tribunal well qualified to deal with this important subject. The tithe commissioners have for some time pursued an inquiry of an analogous nature, and have at their disposal a machinery adapted for adjusting the rights of all parties interested in copyholds. Your Committee are, therefore, happy to state, that the tithe commissioners having been applied to, have intimated an opinion, that they could undertake this duty advantageously—and your Committee beg to refer to their evidence on this subject, which they deem highly satisfactory. In conclusion, therefore, your Committee look forward with confidence to the speedy and entire abolition of this tenure, as a means of greatly simplifying and improving the law relating to real property. They earnestly desire, that measures may be speedily taken to accomplish this object with reference as well to lands of customary as of copy-hold tenure; it appears to them, that the best mode of effecting it would be by giving every facility to enfranchisement for a short term of years, and that after that period, the enfranchisement should proceed on the compulsory principle, and they recommend that a bill having this object should be introduced in the next Session of Parliament. The Members of that committee were some of the most distinguished men in the House—Sir Robert Peel, Mr. Goulburn, Sir Edward Knatchbull, Mr. Freshfield, Mr. Hayter, Mr. Aglionby, and the Attorney-General. He now moved to bring in his bill, with the full knowledge and sanction of the Attorney-general, and also with the full knowledge and sanction of many Gentlemen on the other side of the House; and he had yet to learn whence the opposition, if there were any, was to come. He thought, that the bill might very properly be printed, and he would be content, that the discussion should be taken on its second reading, or some subsequent stage. He should, therefore, move for leave to bring in the bill.

Leave given.

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