HC Deb 21 June 1843 vol 70 cc182-91
Lord Worsley

moved the second reading of the Commons' Inclosure Bill, (No. 2.)

Colonel Sibthorp

saw no neccessity for any such measure, and contended it ought to be deterred to a future Session. Besides, this was a second bill on the subject this Session, and was materially different from the first that had been introduced. He thought that it would be better to withdraw the bill; and he would move that it be read a second time on this day six months.

Lord Worsley

expressed his regret, that lie could not comply with the recommendation for postponing the measure until next Session. Tire main object of it was to place the inclosure of commons under the management and superintendence of the tithe commissioners. It had been a considerable time before the House; for, although as the hon. and gallant Member had said, this was the second bill upon the subject in the present Session, it in no respect differed from the first, excepting in the omission of some clauses which were irregular, inasmuch as they exceeded the directions of the House as to the original preparation and introduction of the measure. I t became necessary, therefore, to withdraw the first bill, and to substitute the present, which had been drawn with the greatest care. The House was, perhaps, not aware, that there were from one to two millions of acres of unenclosed land in this country which might be profitably brought into cultivation, including fencing and drainage, for 121. per acre; therefore, although the hon. and gallant Member had felt hint-self called upon to move that the bill be read a second time on this day six months, he was willing to place the bill upon its own merits, and to rely upon Members who had read and approved its provisions, for its support. The noble Lord read extracts from private communications lie bad received from land surveyors and others in various parts of the kingdom, showing the fitness and necessity for such a measure, in order to secure the rights of all parties entitled to common. He was persuaded that more proper agents could not be discovered than the tithe commissioners, considering not only their peculiar qualifications, but the manner in which they had hitherto conducted their business, and the general popularity of their proceedings. At the present moment more workmen were out of employ, than for many years past. They were desirous of application for their industry, and individuals would soon be found to invest capital when security was given by the nomination of the tithe commissioners, for the impartiality with which the allotments were made. He could assure the House that he had. not, in the most remote way, any interest in any laud that would come under the operation of this law. He had had the satisfaction of introducing a bill that was passed into a law in 1836, for the enclosure of commonable and free lands; and so anxious had the people been to take advantage of it, that he had heard of instances where they had gone to an imprudent lengths. He had received a great many applications, during the last three or four years, to extend the powers of that act. But he had found a difficulty in practically carrying out what had since become a standing order of the House, namely, the setting apart a certain portion of the land, for the use of the public, as a place of recreation. It might happen that the commonable land might not be suffi- ciently near a populous neighbourhood to make such a special allotment of any use except to gipsies. But a question also might, in other cases, be, how much should be allotted, or whether any enclosure ought to take place at all? Therefore, he proposed that when two-thirds of the parties interested in open land should apply to the commissioners to enclose it, the commissioners should send down an assistant commissioner to inquire into the expediency of such enclosure, having regard to the comfort and health of the inhabitants of the neighbouring cities and villages, as well as the advantage of the landowners. If it should appear that one-fourth of the persons interested in the land proposed to be enclosed should object to such enclosure, power was given to them by the bill to make their objection within twenty-one days after the application to the commissioners, and to give notice of their objection, in which case the commissioners would not make the inclosure until it was ascertained whether it ought to take place or not. He hoped the House would consider that in framing this bill he had endeavoured to carry out in as liberal a spirit as possible the suggestions offered at different times to this House; and that the rights of the poor were not disturbed by it. With regard to the expense that would attend the working of this bill, be thought the employment of the tithe commissioners would considerably lessen it, as they were not be empowered to claim any additional compensation; but the assistant commissioners would be paid for their time and expences. At present an enclosure bill could not be passed under a cost of from 400l. to 600l., whereas if this measure should become the law of the land, the same object might be obtained at an expence of 40l. It might be said that a great deal of the waste land of this country was too poor for cultivation; and that if it had not been so, it would long since have been enclosed. He had received several letters upon this point. One was from a Gentleman who lived in the neighbourhood of Bagshot-heath; and that gentleman stated that although it was true that there was much bad land on the heath, still there were many acres of good soil, perfectly adapted for the growth of wheat. He hoped hon. Members would read his bill. Considering the late period of the Session, considering that the tithe commission would expire in a few years; considering the difficulty of any hon. Member not connected with the Government, in framing a measure —and considering the number of people' out of employment, and the large amount of capital which would be brought into activity if such a measure as this should pass into a law, he did hope that the House would allow the bill to be read a second time; and should it finally become an act of the Legislature, he believed that it would be found not only to confer a great boon on the landed interest of the country, but that other interests not immediately connected with agriculture would be very largely benefitted by upwards of a million and a half of acres of land being brought into cultivation, capable of producing wheat in this country. The noble Lord moved that the bill be read a second time.

Mr. Ferrand

could not agree to the second reading of the bill, because there was not a single clause in it which, in a distinct manner, declared the rights of the poor, or which gave to them a portion of the waste land of this country; and if the bill became the law of the land, the poor would for ever lose all chance of gaining any part of those lands. Still some such measure was necessary to ward off' a revolution in this country. Machinery was increasing to such an extent that the masses out of employment were increasing month after month. The new combing machinery would throw a hundred thousand combers out of employment. Even now, in many towns in the north, the poor's-rates amounted to 8s. and 9s. 6d. in the pound, rack rent. In his own town the rates were 7s. in the pound, and in a neighbouring township the farmers were so poor that they could not pay the rates, but were obliged to borrow money to support the unemployed population. These things had been caused by thousands of persons having been removed, during the years 1836 and 1837, from the agricultural districts into the manufacturing towns, for the purpose of relieving the farmers from the pressure of the poor-rate. Mr. Muggridge had reported that 10,000 persons had been so removed, but he believed that the number would be nearer the truth if it were multiplied five times. The people were dying for want of food. Another Session was fast approaching to a close, and what were lion. Members to say to these people when they met them? The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department on a former occasion stated that all the waste lands worth cultivation had been already inclosed. Was the right hon. Gentleman of that opinion still? [Sir J. Graham: "Hear."] Now, he (Mr. Ferrand) knew a gentleman perfectly conversant with the whole district of Lancashire, and who had declared, that there were 200,000 acres of cultivable waste land in that district, on which capital might be profitably employed; and yet the distressed state of the people in that part of the country was astounding. What good could this waste land do to any one in its present state? He could not support the noble Lord's bill, because it would deprive the poor of those rights they justly possessed. But if the noble Lord would incorporate the principle of his (Mr. Ferrand's) bill, (the Allotment Bill), and give a certain portion of the waste land to the poor, he should then have no objection to co operate with the noble Lord.

Sir C. Burrell

supported the bill. It was in all respects different from that of the hon. Member for Knaresborough, which went to take from one set of men their rights, and transfer them to another set. As far as he could at present judge, he believed the bill of the noble Lord was based upon a good principle, and that it would tend to increase the cultivation of the land, by giving employment to agricultural labourers.

Mr. Miles

thought, that if carried out properly, the bill would do great practical good to the country; for not only would it bring into operation a great deal of labour, but it would be of especial service in the case of those able-bodied married men among the manufacturing population, who had been taken from the agricultural districts, and who, as he had for some time held, must sooner or later come on the land for support. He hoped the bill would he read a second time, and allowed to go into committee, in order that they might make such alterations as might produce a bill of universally beneficial character.

Mr. Roebuck

did not agree with hon. Members as to the great advantages to be expected from this bill. At present, there existed in England a certain quantity of land which, from accident and other causes, had escaped cultivation. Over that land were certain manorial rights and other rights, such as rights of common to all the community resident in the neighbourhood. In these circumstances, he was reduced to this dilemma;—were these small patches of waste land—for small they would be compared to the whole land of the community— were they to be divided to those who already possessed land, or were the fragments to be given to those who had rights of common? But what was to be the result? They would have fragments of land so small that they could be of no earthly benefit to the poor when enjoyed as special property. Now, he saw a neighbouring country, where there were rights of property in land so small, that the consequence was a pauper population dependent on land, whence arose all the evils of that country. He wanted a labouring class dependent on wages, not on land: Consequently, he held that they were not likely to do good by the allotment system. Supposing it was carried out, the moment it was so they would have a population of agrarian paupers, the most dangerous population to a country that a statesman could contend with. What was the allotment system? A labouring man is to have a certain amount of wages. It is desired he should have more. He gets some part of that in money wages, and is sent to work on a portion of land to make up the remainder. By this means, the man was made a pauper of; it would be far better that he were solely dependent on wages; he would be more independent. At the same time, he was ready to acknowledge, that in the system at present before the House, there was more independence than in the fragment system. He had another objection to this system of enclosing commons. On the common, the sports of the village took place. [Laughter.] They might laugh if they liked; he considered this to be a point of much importance. He liked that the poor should have the right of going on the commons with their wives and families; he liked to go himself among the furze bushes, and he did not wish to take away what he enjoyed himself from them; he did not wish to see the poor man in possession of a fragment not bigger than the table before him, or the floor on which he stood; he wished the poor to have the open space, which they could enjoy with their children, and enjoy their rural sports. Would to God every village had a vacant space for such purposes. If a bill was to be brought in for setting apart a green for every village he should support it. But nothing of that kind was to be found in this bill; he had looked through it, and he must say he was puzzled to find out what was the precise meaning of it. It appeared to him, that as it stood, it would be productive of a great many law suits. He could quite understand the noble Lord proposing this measure with his notions respecting the Corn-laws, in the hope that it would employ a number of the labouring population, but that employment would cease shortly. Was it then anything like a serious mode of furnishing employment for the poor? Let the noble Lord drop all these modes of furnishing employment for the poor, and vote for the abolition of the Corn-laws, and he would furnish employment for many more hands.

Lord J. Manners

felt a difficulty which had not been removed by the hon. Member opposite. He agreed in the policy of providing a certain portion of ground for the sports of the people; but he did not see in this bill any provision to effect that object. It was all very well to say, that labourers should be dependent on wages only, but he did not think that any one who was acquainted with the manufacturing districts could expect that families could be wholly dependent on manufacturing wages. Two or three days a week they had labour. How could that make them independent? He had presented several petitions from the manufacturing classes in Leicestershire, stating their wish for the allotment system, in order to eke out a subsistence. [Mr. Roebuck.—" To eke out a subsistence?"] Yes, to eke out a subsistence. It was an honourable mode of doing it. He was prepared to maintain, that there was nothing more ennobling than agricultural labour; and it was still more so in the case of the man who felt he was the cultivator of his own field. However, he did not wish to put off the second reading of this bill for six months; he only wished to postpone it till the report of the Allotment Committee was on the Table of the House. He thought there was an immense quantity of land in England which might he brought into profitable cultivation; and he wished to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Woods and Forests whether, in the Crown property, there was not the greatest possibility of some such measure being carried into effect?

Mr. C. Buller

could not understand after the speech of the noble Lord, how he could object to passing this bill. With regard to the greater part of commons, he believed they had not been cultivated because it was not worth while, but a great proportion was not uncultivated, because it was materially worse land than the land near it, but because the rights of property over it had become so complicated, that. it never had been worth while to cultivate it. Was not that a reason why the House should now interfere? He felt bound to say, with what pleasure he listened to the noble Lord, expressing his large views and generous sympathies in the rights of the people, which came from him with such grace; but though he had no doubt, that the House would receive valuable recommendations from the Allotment Committee, he could not see why the House should wait for them, as the noble Lord wished. The object of the bill was to enable parties, without an application to Parliament for a bill in each case, to enclose waste lands. With respect to the system of allotments, he must say, he did not like it as they heard of it in that House sometimes; he did not like the idea of making small farms the means of subsistence of any large portion of the population, and he wished to impress on the House the propriety of passing the present measure without delay. The objections of the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Ferrand), appeared to him not to be objections to the bill itself. Then the hon. and learned Member for Bath seemed to have an aversion to enclosing commons, on the ground that they afforded the means of exercise and diversions for the poor; but there was in the bill a clause which made provision for these sports, and when the bill got into committee the hon. and learned Member might propose further enactments to carry out his objects. He could not agree altogether in the propriety of leaving fine land uncultivated for such a reason. With respect to the objections of the lion. and gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp), he had said, that House was to wait for time to soften his objections. It was to be regretted, he had not told them what would soften those objections, but even in spite of the authority of the lion. and gallant Member, he hoped the House would agree to the second reading of the bill.

Viscount Sandon

hoped there would be no opposition to the second reading. When the recommendations of the Allotment Committee came down, they might be inserted in the bill. The hon. and learned Member for Bath seemed to have forgotten that every enclosure bill, that had passed for these ten years had contained a provision for the setting apart a portion of land for the exercises of the poor. [Mr. Roebuck.—" Yes, a small space. I am for a large common."] Better, then, have the whole of England reduced to its old state of commonage. He hoped, however, that a provision for the poor as a corporate body, and not individuals, would be introduced into the bill, and that such provisions would be irrespective of the rights of adjacent proprietors.

Mr. S. Crawford

could not let this opportunity pass without stating the reasons why he persisted in his opposition to the measure. He considered that every enclosure bill that had passed that Session was a robbery of the rights of the poor, and he looked on this bill as a measure for plundering the poor in a general form without coming to Parliament to do it. There was no provision in the bill, that in his opinion adequately secured the poor man's rights. He therefore should give it his most decided opposition. The hon. and learned Member for Bath desired that the poor should be dependent only on wages and not on land. He desired the. reverse; he wished the labouring poor to derive an independent support iron. land, connecting the use of land to certain extent with those who were employed in manufacturing labour. He denied that the occupation of small allotments of land caused the distress of the poor of Ireland. Their distress was owing to their not being able to get those small occupancies in such a manner as to derive the full benefit of them. They were prevented by high rents and other means from getting the full benefit of their holdings. He would not have enclosures except on condition that all should be for the poor, remunerating those who had rights of common by the sale of a portion of the enclosed land, or by reserving rents upon it. Thinking, then, that this bill would extend the monopoly which the rich already had against the poor, he felt it his duty to divide the House against the bill; and if the hon. Gentleman thought of withdrawing his motion for taking the second reading that day six months, he should divide on the original D question.

Mr. Divett

was persuaded the bill would prove one of the best means for securing the constant and ready employment of the poor. The hon. and learned Member for Bath had spoken of the allotment system as having a tendency to throw the labourer into a state of dependence upon land and not on wages. The noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) spoke of its use in eking out a subsistence for the labourer; he (Mr. Divett.) believed, that a well-regulated allotment system enabled the poor to enjoy vast numbers of comforts, which not only made them better labourers, but elevated them in the scale of society. He cordially supported the bill, which, he was convinced, would prove the means of relieving some of the most serious social evils the country laboured under.

Mr. Aglionby

said, that in replying to the objection of the hon. Member for Rochdale, that the bill was a robbery of the poor, he would not complain of the expression, because he considered every man had the right of judging for himself; but he would say that he would not yield to the hon. Member or any other man in anxiety to preserve the rights of the poor, and protect them against the innovations of the rich; and he would work with any man who would suggest a mode how those rights could be best protected. He would add, as his name was on the back of the bill, that the objection made to the noble Lord (Lord Worsley), that he was against the repeal of the Corn-laws did not apply to him, for he had voted for the repeal on all occasions. He advocated the bill solely because he believed it would be productive of the greatest benefits to the people.

The House divided on the question that the word "now" stand part of the question:—Ayes 64; Noes 4:—Majority 60.

List of the AYES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Buller, E.
Adderley, C. B. Busfeild, W.
Baillie, J. jun. Christopher, R. A.
Barnard, E. G. Clayton, R. R.
Beckett, W. Colvile, C. R.
Borthwick, P. Cripps, W.
Bowes, J. Curteis, H. B.
Bowring, Dr. Darby, G.
Brotherton, Denison, E. B.
Buck, L. W. Divett, E.
Buller, C. Duke, Sir J,
Dungannon, Visct. Mundy, E. M.
Eliot, Lord O'Brien, A. S.
Esmonde, Sir T. O'Brien, W. S.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. O' Conor, Don
Ferrand, W. B. Plumridge Capt.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Pusey, P.
Flower, Sir J. Rashleigh, W.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Rendlesham, Lord
Goring, C. Rushbrooke, Col.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Sandon, Visct.
Harcourt, G. G. Smith, B.
Hatton, Capt. V. Stanley, Lord
Henley, J. W. Strickland, Sir G.
Hinde, J. H. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Hodgson,R. Thornely, T.
Hoskins, K. Tollemache, J.
Lincoln, Earl of Wilshere, W.
McGeachy, F. A. Wood, G. W.
Mainwaring, T. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Manners, Lord J.
March, Earl of TELLERS.
Miles, W. Worsley, Lord
Mitchell, T. A. Aglionby, H. A.
List of the NOES.
Fielden, J.
Stanton, W. H. TELLERS.
Trelawney, J. S. Crawford, W. S.
Williams, W. Roebuck, J. A.

Main question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

The House adjourned at a quarter past eight o'clock.