HC Deb 23 March 1843 vol 67 cc1314-7

Mr. Stanton moved, that the standing order, No. 89, be rescinded, and the following substituted in its place:— That in every bill for enclosing lands provision be made for reserving a portion of the land to be enclosed to be let in allotments, not exceeding a quarter of an acre each, to the labouring population of the district, and for leaving an open space in the most appropriate situation, sufficient for purposes of exercise and recreation of the neighbouring population; and that the committee on the bill have before them the number of acres proposed to be enclosed, as also of the population in the parishes or places in which the land to be enclosed is situate; and that they then fix the quantity to be reserved; and also do see that provision is made for the efficient fencing and draining of the allotments, for the investment of the same in the lord of the manor, minister, churchwardens, and guardians of the poor, for the time being, of the parish or place in which such allotments and open space are reserved, who shall be empowered to let the allotments so reserved at rents not exceeding the average rate per acre at which the adjoining lands are let; to receive the rents, and to apply the same in aid of the parish rates. That the committee do likewise see that provision be made for the efficient making and permanent maintenance of the fences and drains by such parish; and, that in any case where the information hereby required is not given, and the required provisions are not made in the bill, the committee on the same do report specially to the House the reasons for not complying with such order.

It had been said, that the adoption of his proposal would lead to an unnecessary interference with the rights of property, but he thought this objection was wholly unfounded. The principle for which he contended had already been admitted, by the reservation of land for the exercise and recreation of the poor. He did not wish to interfere with existing rights, but his object was, to give to the labouring population the power of renting small allotments of land when inclosures were made. His views were supported by the opinion of the Labourers' Friend Society, and also by the report of the Childrens' Employment Commissioners, which stated that in several of the rural districts the poor people would be reduced to utter destitution, if it were not for the plan which was frequently adopted of permitting cottagers to rent allotments of ground. The report further stated that the happiest results had been produced by the adoption of the allotment system, which had been generally introduced in Nottinghamshire and other counties. 'There were now three large enclosure bills before the House; one for the enclosure of 500 acres; another for the enclosure of 2,900 acres; and a third, the Sowerby Enclosure Bill, proposing to enclose 5,000 acres, in the neighbourhood of Halifax. With regard to the last bill, he would observe that hon. Gentlemen must have heard, and he was sure they had heard with great regret, of the extensive and severe distress which prevailed in the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire; and he hoped the House would not sanction the enclosure of such a large tract of land, without reserving some portion of it for allotment among the poor. He was convinced that it was the wish of the House to improve the condition of the poor and labouring classes, and, as he thought that his motion would have such a tendency, he hoped it would be adopted,

Lord G. Somerset

opposed the motion. It would interfere with the rights of persons who possessed the privilege of occupying common lands.

Lord J. Manners

suggested that the hon. Member should withdraw the notice and bring in a bill to make allotments to the poor, as recommended by the Labourers' Friend Society. These, in his opinion, ought not to consist of less than two nor more than five acres.

Mr. Cowper

considered this to be a question of very great importance. He hoped the hon. Member would follow the recommendation of the noble Lord. If a bill were brought in the subject would be properly discussed.

Mr. Christopher

thought it very right that the House should encourage the industrious portion of the working classes by means of the allotment system, and he should be glad to aid in the furtherance of the system, as recommended by the Labourers' Friend Society, but he objected to the mode of doing it proposed in this motion, because it would be an interference with private property and private rights.

Mr. S. Crawford

said something ought to be done before proceeding further with the enclosure system, to protect the rights of the poor.

Mr. Estcourt

thought, that what the motion proposed to do would very materially injure the beneficial system now in operation; it would be the means of encouraging idleness and vice instead of industry and virtue; he hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member would withdraw his motion, though he could not promise the hon. Member his support if he brought in a bill.

Mr. M. Philips

remarked, that Parliament had never yet done what it had proposed to do so long ago as 1834, he believed, namely, to set apart open spaces for recreation in the neighbourhood of all great towns. From the great extent of the Crown lands he had no doubt an arrangement might be made to exchange with proprietors of lands in the vicinity of great towns. His recommendation to the hon. Member would be to move for a select committee to inquire. It was very important not to proceed in a hurry on such a subject. There was an objection, he thought, to the motion which had not been touched upon, namely, that the effect of it would be to check the progress of inclosure bills.

Mr. B. Escott

deprecated pressing the motion to a division. The consequence of the hasty mode in which inclosure bills were sometimes passed in that House was, that they contained provisions by means of which numbers of families were deprived of their livelihood. There was good reason, however, to take up the subject, and the House ought to protect the rights of the poor.

Mr. Muntz

agreed that nothing was more wanted in manufacturing towns than places of recreation for the inhabitants, and that no greater boon could be given to the working-classes than that of providing such places. The want of places of recreation in the open air drove many of the inhabitants to the public-house, where almost necessarily they became drunkards.

Mr. Stanton

said that the great object of his motion was to put a stop to the passing of inclosure bills without having added to them some such clause as his motion embodied. However, as the general feeling of the House seemed to be that he ought not to press his motion at that time, he would, with leave of the House, withdraw it.

Motion withdrawn.

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