HC Deb 03 May 1842 vol 63 cc8-12
Mr. Wodehouse

moved that the House agree to the Lords' amendments to the Ormesby Inclosure Bill.

Mr. Wakley

opposed the amendments. He could not help feeling much surprise that no explanation had been given to the House of the nature of those amendments, or of the grounds upon which they were made. He hoped that the House would allow him to explain the nature of the transactions which had taken place. Several poor persons, whose interests were to be affected by the bill, came to that House, and were heard before the committee on the bill, and from that there resulted a compromise between the parties. The cottagers who had built on the common were content to obtain the terms thus offered to them, as the best that, under the circumstances, they had any chance of obtaining, though not, perhaps, all that they were fairly entitled to. The 55th clause was then introduced, which enabled the commissioners to sell the portions obtained by encroachment at such prices as would have been their value at the time when the existing buildings on them were 3ommenced. The bill then went up to the Lords, and this clause was expunged From it without the least reference to the rights or interests of the poor cottagers, and now the House was called upon to annul the compromise entered into by the solicitors on both sides. The clause which the Lords introduced enacted that all encroachments made during the last twenty years, whether rent had been paid for them or not, should be deemed part and parcel of the land, and should be divided and enclosed; and the only proviso in this clause that was favourable to the cottagers was merely that they should be at liberty to take down the buildings which they had erected and to remove the materials for their own use; that was the boon granted to these poor cottagers. He ventured to express an earnest hope that the House would not agree to such amendments. To do so would be to give encouragement and support to every kind of jobbing and trickery before committees. They should recollect it was possible, in this case, that the promoters of the bill got rid of the opposition by consenting to the introduction of a clause which they knew would be expunged from the bill in the House of Lords. He was very sorry to find that two of the persons opposed to the interests of the poor in this case were clergymen of the Church of England; that was certainly not the way to make the Church respected. If the poor people were by this bill deprived of their holdings, no resource would be left to them but to go into a union workhouse. He should therefore move, that the House do not agree to the amendment of the Lords, and he hoped the House would send back the bill, declaring that no such amendment could be supported in that House.

Mr. Wodehouse

said; there was no objection made by the promoters of the bill to the clause alluded to by the hon. Member, but it was quite clear, that if it were embodied in the bill, it would be made a precedent in other cases, and he believed the admission of it was dangerous.

The Lords' amendment read.

Mr. Godson

said, that the rejected clause was similar to the one which he had endeavoured to induce the House to insert in the Kingsclere Inclosure, and the principle on which he supported the clause was this. He thought, that if a lord of a manor or his agent, saw a poor man take a piece of waste land, and took no notice of it, or accepted of a nominal rent from the poor man, after the poor man had expended 10l. or 20l. in building a cottage on it, the lord of the manor had no right to pull down that cottage afterwards; and it was but justice to the poor man, that he should have the opportunity of purchasing the land if he thought proper. There was no imputation on any of the parties concerned in the promotion of this bill. The clause had been brought in by agreement between all the parties concerned. The hon. Gentleman had talked about their setting a precedent. But in agreeing to the motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury, they would only be setting a precedent for agreement. It surely was not an objectionable precedent for the House of Commons to set, to enforce an agreement fairly entered into between the parties. Why could not that agreement be carried into effect? He understood it was because a very amiable nobleman, in another place, would not agree to it. The question was, if all the parties to a bill entered into an agreement, whether any nobleman ought to have the power of setting that agreement aside? If the bargain were a fair one, he thought that no Gentleman ought to have the power of setting it aside.

Mr. Hume

said, that the House ought to understand, that the bill, before it went up to the House of Lords, contained a clause agreed to by all parties interested, for the purpose of protecting the cottages of the poor; and that the House of Lords had rejected that clause, substituting another of a most objectionable nature.

Mr. Estcott

said, it appeared to him, that the question was, whether a contract made with these poor people, was to be kept or not. It had been specially agreed, that persons who had built upon these inclosures, whether legally or not, should be allowed to purchase the land at its value twenty years ago, and that they should be charged nothing for the buildings. Was that agreement to be violated?

Viscount Duncan

observed, that he was a Member of the select committee, and he understood, that the opposition was withdrawn upon that ground.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Wakley

moved, that a committee be appointed to draw up the reasons why the House did not agree to the Lords amendment, and to state those reasons in a conference to their Lordships.

Sir E. Knatchbull

trusted the hon. Member for Finsbury would not be so liberal of his imputations on those who had undertaken the management of this bill, now that he found they were no parties to the amendment introduced by the House of Lords.

Viscount Sandon

also trusted, that the hon. Member for Finsbury would withdraw his charges against the two clergymen of the Church of England, since it appeared they had no share in introducing the amendments complained of.

Committee appointed, and conference agreed to.