HC Deb 09 April 1845 vol 79 cc380-6

On the Motion that the Field Gardens Bill be now read a second time,

Mr. B. Escott

admitted that this Bill professed to have in view a most laudable and excellent object; but he wished to know whether the hon. Gentleman intended to persevere in carrying it forward in its present shape; because he could not help recollecting that when it was introduced, the hon. Gentleman stated that it was not designed to be a compulsory measure. However excellent the object might be, the Bill ought not to be a compulsory one. In the course of that morning he had taken the trouble to go through the Bill, and certainly, if he felt astonished when he recollected that the hon. Gentleman stated that it was not a compulsory measure, he should be much more astonished to hear that statement persevered in. The Bill contained several clauses of a very novel and strange character, all of which were strongly compulsory, In the first place, the machinery of the Bill was to be set to work by a vote of the majority of the owners and occupiers of land in any parish, and that majority was to bind the minority, and in a manner of all others most stringent. He could hardly think the hon. Member would say that a voluntary quiescence only was asked by this Bill to its provisions. The majority of owners and occupiers were to elect field-wardens, who were to exercise their power for three years certain; so that whatever power the Bill gave to the field-wardens was to be exercised either to the benefit or the detriment of the parish for three years certain, during the whole of which time the parishioners would be compelled to submit to their rule. That was the second compulsory part of the Bill. But in a case in which they were most likely to have the opportunity of taking land, namely, under inclosure acts, what was the power of the field-wardens? A power to demand from the Commissioners under the Inclosure Bill a perpetual lease of the land they were to occupy as field-wardens. Perhaps hon. Members had not looked into the provisions of this Bill, and were inclined to support it as a benevolent measure. He recommended them to examine it well before they gave it their support. But, suppose the scheme should turn out a ruinous one; suppose the benevolent object should not be carried into effect, and the field-wardens in occupation of the land of which they had taken possession should find the concern altogether a failure, the Bill would allow them to draw on the parish funds, to call upon the parish officers to pay their rents, tithes, taxes, and rates, which they might be unable to pay for those lands. Hon. Members could hardly think that not a compulsory provision. But it was not to the field-wardens only that a compulsory power was given, but also to the Commissioner, who was invested with most extraordinary power, he having to fix the amount of rent to be paid for the land, and the owner would be compelled to agree to that rent. But the Commissioner had still more extraordinary power, and he was really at a loss to account for the introduction of such a clause into the Bill; he was not only to fix the amount of the rent, but in case the field-wardens should find it a bad concern and should give up possession of the land, he was to say who were to be their successors, and to trans- fer the property from its legal owner to whom he pleased. He hoped the Secretary of State for the Home Department would look to this. It seemed to him a most monstrous proposition. But there was another body endowed with extraordinary power under this Bill—the Court of Quarter Sessions, which was to revise and fix at the end of every seven years the amount of rent. The allotment system had produced a great deal of good conducted upon the voluntary principle—the owners of the land letting it to whom they pleased, and at what rent they pleased, which was the only proper way of proceeding. Another objectionable part of the Bill was the limitation to half an acre. Supposing the concern should not be a losing but a lucrative one to the field-wardens, then the surplus profits were to be paid over to the poor rates. Now, he thought that any scheme of this kind, in order to be beneficial, must steer clear of any interference with the Poor Laws. In case of deficiency, too, the accounts were to be laid before the vestry, and to be paid by the parish; so that thus the field-wardens would be empowered to come to the parish to be reimbursed for their own neglect. However excellent in intent the measure might be, still, as it contained these objectionable provisions, he thought it was one which the House ought not to allow to go to a second reading. It was his firm belief that such compulsory and obnoxious provisions were calculated to do away with almost all the good which might otherwise result from the establishment of a system of field-gardens, and to bring the proceedings of that House into contempt. He therefore moved, by way of Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Mr. Cowper

wished that, as the hon. Member had informed the House that he had only read the Bill that morning, the hon. Member had taken time to read it more carefully. When the Bill reached the Committee, then would be the proper time for the objections of the hon. Member, which related to matters of detail; and he thought that he should be able in Committee to show the hon. Member that his objections were not tenable. The horn Member described the Bill as a compulsory measure; but he did not think it compulsory, first of all, because it depended on the parish whether or not the Bill should come into operation in that par- ticular parish; and in the second place, because it took no man's land from him without his consent. The hon. Member said that this Bill took certain money from the poor rates without the consent of the ratepayers; but he maintained that, according to the provisions of the Bill, in ordinary cases, and in all cases with a few extreme exceptions, the money advanced from the poor rates would be paid out of the rents of the garden themselves. The hon. Member did not seem to be aware that the clauses which related to land affected by inclosure acts were confined to that particular class of cases, with the exception of which no power was given to the quarter sessions of deciding on the rents to be paid. Seeing that the labouring population were anxious to obtain small pieces of land for cultivation, he trusted that the hon. Member would not object to the second reading.

Mr. M. Milnes

believed that the Bill would effect some good, though perhaps not all the good which the hon. Member anticipated from it. One good effect of it would be the best possible application of wasteland adjacent to great towns; but he believed the Bill would not affect, in any great degree, the general mass of the agricultural population. He conceived that it would be advantageous for mechanics living in large towns to have the opportunity of cultivating, during their spare moments, a portion of land in their neighbourhood, which would afford them some relief from their otherwise monotonous occupation.

Mr. Bouverie

objected to the Bill; it was a measure that ought not to pass, and he was surprised the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department had not thought it necessary to negative it. The Legislature ought to leave private parties uninterfered with to settle the value of land; and he did not believe it was just to make parties accept less for their land than it was worth. He should support the Amendment.

Sir J. Graham

hoped the hon. Member for Winchester would not persevere in his opposition to this measure. Should he do so, he should feel it his duty to vote against him. The principle of the Bill was in favour of making allotments for the use of the poor. He believed it was admitted on all hands that the appropriation of portions of land in aid of the comforts of the labouring population of this country was an object most praiseworthy and desirable. The sole intention of the Bill was to facilitate such an arrangement. The hon. Member who had introduced this measure might not altogether succeed in obtaining his object, but a more desirable one could not exist. He was bound to state publicly, what he had told the hon. Member in private, that he should feel it his duty to propose alterations in some of the provisions of the Bill in Committee. He had an insuperable objection to the provision making the poor rate a security for the rent; nor did he approve of the clause constituting the local trust. But these were points that might be better discussed in another stage of the Bill. The hon. Member for Hertford had paid much attention to this subject, and bestowed much trouble on it; he thought, therefore, it would appear somewhat harsh if the Bill should not be allowed to proceed to a second reading.

Lord J. Manners

congratulated the hon. Member on the success, so far, of his measure; and he congratulated him also on the remarkable opposition that existed between the reasons assigned against the Bill by the hon. Member for Winchester, and those assigned by the hon. Member who spoke last in opposition. The hon. Member for Winchester objected to the Bill because it contained a clause which would prevent land being let above a certain rental; while the hon. Member who last spoke against the Bill objected to the whole system because it was not possible to prevent people taking as high a rent for their land as they could procure. The hon. Member had also said that if it was a good plan, why not leave it to the care of those who were interested in it. Now, his answer to that was short and simple—that the people who were most interested in it were those who were least able to help themselves. It was a cruel assertion to make to the labouring classes that they could and ought to help themselves in the way of procuring the means of comfort, when it was notorious to all that the position in which they were placed prevented them from doing so. The hon. Member for Winchester said, also, that this measure might have been brought forward with more show of reason a few years ago, when the wages of the people were in a depressed state; but now there was no such necessity. If the hon. Member would look at the Report, which was laid on the Table a few days ago, regarding the condition of the framework knitters of the midland counties, he would find that, however much wages might have risen in other places, the wages of these people were still greatly depressed; and he knew it was the feeling of all classes in the midland counties that such a measure as that brought forward by his hon. Friend would be of great advantage to the condition of that class of the community. He cordially supported the measure; and he trusted, when passed, that it would carry his benevolent wishes into full effect, and convert his hopes into certainty.

Mr. E. B. Denison

thought the principle of the Bill so objectionable, that if the hon. Member for Winchester pressed his Amendment to a division, he should vote in favour of it.

Mr. J. S. Wortley

thought the objections to the measure were not well founded. The hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Escott) had made an objection to the Bill, which, if well founded, would justify them in rejecting it. If he (Mr. Wortley) really thought it a compulsory measure, he certainly should not support it. It was true, the opinion of a majority was to be taken against a minority; but in what other way could they ascertain the opinions of parties? These points might be discussed in Committee; but they were not fair reasons for opposing the second reading, which he trusted the House would not object to. This was not the first time the hon. Member for Hertford had brought the question before them, and a proposal of this kind deserved all the attention they could give it. There was no subject on which their legislation could do so much good as in connexion with the Field Garden Allotment system; wherever it had been tried it had been invariably attended with success. It was said it would be much better to leave it to be worked out voluntarily and spontaneously; that was perfectly true, in places where the means and materials for doing so were to be found; but in many cases this could not be done; it was this means which the Bill of the hon. Member for Hertford provided. It was desirable to make a beginning, even should all the good proposed not be effected.

The House divided on the Question that the word "now" stand pan of the Question;—Ayes 92; Noes 18: Majority 74.

List of the AYES.
Acland, Sir T. D. Hill, Lord M.
Aglionby, H. A. Hodgson, F.
Armstrong, Sir A. Hope, hon. C.
Ashley, Lord Howard, P. H.
Bagge, W. Johnstone, Sir J.
Baird, W. Langstone, J. H.
Baldwin, B. Lennox, Lord A.
Bateson, T. Lincoln, Earl of
Blackstone, W. S. McGeachy, F. A.
Boldero, H. G. McNeill, D.
Borthwick, P. Mahon, Visct.
Botfield, B. Manners, Lord J.
Bowes, J. Mitcalfe, H.
Brotherton, J. Morris, D.
Bruce, Lord E. Mundy, E. M.
Buck, L. W. Muntz, G. F.
Busfeild, W. Neeld, J.
Byng, rt. hn. G. S. Newdegate, C. N.
Cardwell, E. O'Brien, A. S.
Carew, W. H. P. Oswald, J.
Childers, J. W. Palmer, R.
Clerk, rt. hn. Sir G. Palmerston, Visct.
Corry, rt. hn. H. Pechell, Capt.
Courtenay, Lord Peel, J.
Craig, W. G. Polhill, F.
Damer, hon. Col. Rice, E. R.
Darby, G. Round, J.
Deedes, W. Russell, Lord J.
Denison, E. B. Rutherfurd, A.
Duncan, G. Scrope, G. P.
Dundas, Adm. Sheppard, T.
Ebrington, Visct. Sheridan, R. B.
Ellice, rt. hn. E. Smythe, hon. G.
Esmonde, Sir T. Somerset, Lord G.
Ewart, W. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Stewart, P. M.
Ferrand, W. B. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Forman, T. S. Tufnell, H.
Fuller, A. E. Williams, W.
Gladstone, Capt. Wilshere, W.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Worsley, Lord
Goring, C. Wyse, T.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Yorke, H. R.
Greene, T. Young, J.
Hanmer, Sir J.
Harris, hon. Capt. TELLERS.
Hastie, A. Cowper, W. F.
Herbert, rt. hn. S. Wortley, J. S.
List of the NOES.
Berkeley, hon. C. Hawes, B.
Collet, J. Henley, J. W.
Cripps, W. Marsland, H.
Curteis, H. B. Round, C. G.
Dennistoun, J. Thornely, T.
Divett, E. Trelawny, J. S.
Estcourt, T. G. Wawn, J. T.
Fitzroy, Lord C. TELLERS.
Forbes, W. Escott, B.
Hamilton, W. J. Bouverie, G.