HC Deb 28 April 1847 vol 92 cc47-54

The Debate upon the Second Reading of the Rating of Tenements Bill adjourned from the 17th of March was resumed. Question put that the word "now" stand part of the question.


said, that additional reflections upon the provisions of this Bill had not induced him to think more favourably of it. He had received several communications, stating that its operation would cause a great disturbance of property. It applied to the town as well as to the country; and, upon the whole, its application was of too extensive a nature to be passed without much more serious deliberation.


said, that the Bill had caused great consternation in many parts of the country; and he hoped the House would not agree to the second reading.


wished to make a few observations, with a view of showing to the House why they ought not to give their sanction to this measure. There were a great number of persons who were excluded from rates by the 54th of George III., and who occupied cottages at a low rent in accordance with that exclusion. They were all working persons; and if this Bill passed, they would be obliged to pay a higher rent for their dwellings, in order to make up to the landlord for the additional rates which would be imposed under this measure. If hon. Members considered the great number of houses excluded under the 54th George III., they would at once perceive the important character of this measure. The persons who built houses for the accommodation of labourers were generally industrious tradesmen, who had laid up 100l. or 200l., and who having sufficient time to spare, were enabled to collect their own rents, and were thus induced to invest their money in building in their own neighbourhood. Now, if this measure were passed into a law, it was quite clear that it was not the owner but the occupier who would have virtually to pay the rates imposed under it. Those who took a comprehensive view of the subject were aware that the speculation in the building of those cottages for the labouring classes conferred a great advantage upon the poor; but if this measure were passed, it would impose a penalty upon the speculations of men who were so useful to society, and would throw an impediment in the way of building houses for labourers. If they agreed to the measure, they would reduce the cottage accommodation for the poor in a very great degree; they would oblige many who now dwelt in single cottages to reside in lodgings; and would cause many families who now occupied two rooms, to reduce their accommodation to one. The men who built those rows of houses for the labouring classes, calculated on a certain interest for their money; but the imposition of this rate would reduce that interest, and consequently have a great tendency to lessen the amount of speculation in such buildings. Thus the effect of the measure would be, to deprive the poor of cottage accommodation, whilst it would defeat its own object by increasing the poor rates. He had a measure before the House which would draw a line distinctly between those cottages which were to be rated, and those which were to be excluded, and which would, in his opinion, be a great improvement on the present system. Under the existing law, persons requiring to be excluded were obliged to go to the parish officer and make an application for the purpose. He then went to a magistrate; an inquiry took place into the capacity of the man to pay 2s., perhaps, for his cottage; and this led to so much practical difficulty in many cases, that the law was not carried out. One consequence of the present system was, that the overseers were often put to very great expense in collecting small sums, so that the expense frequently exceeded the rate; indeed it had happened that the overseers were obliged to expend 6s. or 7s. in collecting a rate of 9d. or 10d. Now, he proposed to carry out in his Bill the principle of drawing a distinct line between the class of cottages which were to be rated, and those which were to be excluded, so that both might distinctly appear on the face of the rate-book. He would suggest the exemption of all houses under 5l. value in the rural districts, and under 8l. value in towns. He begged pardon of the House for detaining them so long; but he thought it better to give his reasons for the views which he entertained.


observed, that the hon. Member for Stroud had taken the opportunity afforded him by this Bill of speaking in favour of a clause of his own which stood on the Paper for this day. His hon. Friend said, that this Bill bad caused a ferment in all the towns in England. Now, he could only say that he had himself presented twenty petitions in favour of the Bill, and he had not heard one single objection out of doors against this measure. He believed that the measure would not have the effect of raising the rent of cottages. The rates were, in point of fact, now paid by the landlords. Whether the machinery of the Bill was perfect or not, was another matter; but he thought that the Bill was capable of being reduced into it very tangible and practical shape. No system was more liable to abuse, and was more capable of being abused, than the system of excusing persons from the payment of rates on the score of poverty. He hoped, therefore, that the House would allow the Bill to go into Committee; and he felt confident that, sooner or later, the identical principle of this Bill would become the law of the land.


thought that exemptions, whenever they were allowed, were exercised in favour of the owner, and not in favour of the occupier; and he had himself known cases in which the owner of a cottage attended a vestry meeting, and obtained exemption for it, and then returned home and charged his tenant an increased rent in consequence of the exemption. He believed, farther, that exemption tended to encourage cottages of an inferior class, unfit for the poor to live in; and he hoped that if this Bill were to pass, it would encourage the building of cottages of a superior class. He wished the principle contained in this Bill—that of charging the owner instead of the occupier—was carried farther than it was, as be believed that much of the unpopularity of the poor law arose from the rates being levied on the tenant, though, in fact, the owner, it was well known, paid in the end. The only objection he had heard to the Bill was, that a Committee was now sitting up stairs, which must consider the question of rating, and that it would he injudicious to proceed with this Bill pending their decision.


said, that a Committee had sat upon this question, and the evidence of all classes—magistrates, clergymen, and others—was in favour of the principle. His hon. Friend was about to propose a clause exempting towns from the operation of the Bill; not that he thought such an exemption was just, but they must take only such measures as they could carry. As to the encouragement of pauperism, he read an extract from the report of the Commissioners of Local Taxation, setting forth that one of the most active causes of pauperism was the practice of exempting small cottages from taxation. The case of Liverpool had been referred to; and certainly that was a case of grievous hardship. By exempting from rates all houses under 20l. a year rent, the burden of the poor rate was thrown upon 6,000 houses, to the manifest oppression of the owners of that property. This Bill would remedy that inconvenience, as Liverpool was not under a local Act, and, therefore, would be subjected to the operation of this Bill. He hoped the Government would think better of their opposition to this Act, and that, in consideration, at least, of the report of the Commissioners of Local Taxation, they would allow it to go into Committee.


objected to the Bill, on the ground that it would deprive parties rated under 6l. from attending vestries. He could not see that the Bill, in its present state, was for any other object than the disfranchisement of the class of ratepayers alluded to. The hon. Member for Cirencester said, there was no objection to the Bill out of doors; but he (Captain Pechell) found that several petitions had been presented against it, and more would be presented before the Bill was allowed to pass into a law.


had always been a friend of the poor, but, at the same time, he had a right to consider all parties; and when they talked of assessing owners, the House ought to remember there was often a difficulty of finding the owner, as the owner might live in one county, while the cottage was situate in another. He further thought that this Bill would not relieve the poor, as they were still liable to have their rents distrained for the rates. He gave the hon. Member every credit for his intentions, but he could not support the Bill.


supported the Bill, and insisted that the exemption from rate at present was unduly in favour of the manufacturing interest, and of those who lived in the towns. The Government seemed to consider in all things, not the landed interest, but only the towns.


reminded the House, that in times of great public distress and pressure upon the working classes it was next to impossible to get rent from them; the owners of the species of property in question often permitted the poor occupiers to remain there at such periods; but it was now proposed to make those owners not only allow that, but pay the rates. If this Bill were to become a law, it would operate most injuriously upon the poor.


opposed the Bill. At present the poor rate was not upon property, but upon the occupier in respect of property; it was now proposed to alter that principle with respect to the poor man. The poor man had now a complete exemption from rating at all if he could prove his poverty; this Bill would virtually repeal that exemption. The hon. Member for North Devon (Mr. Buck) complained that people in towns were exempt to a greater extent than those in the country; but how were people driven into the towns, but by the gentlemen in the country refusing to build cottages on their estates? The great difficulty of the poor in this country was to get houses to hide their heads in at all.


thought it was hardly fair to call upon the poor man, who was receiving relief one week perhaps, to pay poor rate the next week.


was certain that if those hon. Members who intended to oppose the measure had seen the scenes of distress which he had witnessed, arising from the attempts made to levy rates where the persons were unable to pay them, they would vote with him for the second reading of the Bill.


did not think that the poor tenant would derive any benefit from the transference of the payment to the landlord, as the landlord would be sure to take care of himself by levying an additional rent. If the House really intended to benefit the poor, the better way would be to exempt altogether certain properties from paying the rate.


considered the Bill as only requiring the owners to pay what in law they ought to pay. Considering how harsh the operation of the existing system often was in regard to the poor, he would certainly support the Bill.


said, he could not give a silent vote, seeing that several hon. Members had asserted that the representatives of the larger towns were not opposed to the measure. Now, he could state that he had received a representation from the borough with which he had the honour of being connected, expressing a strong opinion as to the impolicy and injustice of the Bill. Could it be supposed that the owners of property would not increase the rents if they were saddled with the rates now payable by the tenants? Under these circumstances, the measure could be no been to the poor. Allusion had been made to those parties who had built houses for the poorer class of tenants, and they had been spoken of as speculators; but he entertained a much higher opinion of these parties than to think or speak of them as having been solely actuated by a desire to benefit themselves. Looking at the miserable unhealthy hovels into which the poor were too frequently thrust, he considered that the persons who provided them with improved residences had shown themselves to be the true friends of suffering humanity. He could not support the second reading of the Bill, as he believed it would bear oppressively on the poor. In taking that course he had the satisfaction of knowing that he was supported by the good sense of the city over which he presided (York), and of the town which he represented.


suggested that, in a case where opinion was so much divided as it was on the present measure, the better course would be to postpone the Bill till another year.


said, that if he was to be actuated by his experience as a magistrate, he would give his vote in favour of the Bill; but taking a broader view of the question, and being anxious to preserve the independence of the poor, and the rights and duties to which the payment of rates entitled them, he would oppose the further progress of the Bill.


would vote for the second reading under the assumption that the hon. Member for Suffolk had made out his case; but he was convinced that the Bill could not advance a step further.


observed, that he had heard nothing since the right hon. the Secretary for the Home Department had addressed the House, to induce him to alter the vote he intended to give. The strongest objections had been received from towns against the Bill; and the extent of the opposition was evident from the statements of almost every Gentleman representing a town who had spoken. The tendency of the measure was to influence the value of house property in towns, and so directly to affect the comfort of the poor. He should, therefore, vote against the second reading.


supported the Bill. At present people on the verge of pauperism were often reduced to extremity by the enforcement of rates. In one case with which he was acquainted, a rate of 11s. had involved costs amounting to 13s.

The House divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 89: Majority 18.

List of the AYES.
Acland, T. D. Holmes, hon. W. A.
Adderley, C. B. Hussey, T.
Allix, J. P. Kerrison, Sir E.
Antrobus, E. Lemon, Sir C.
Archdall, Capt. M. Lennox, Lord G. H. G.
Austen, Col. March, Earl of
Baillie, H. J. Miles, P. W. S.
Bankes, G. Miles, W.
Beckett, W. Milnes, R. M.
Bennet, P. Neville, R.
Beresford, Maj. Newdegate, C. N.
Boldero, H. G. O'Brien, A. S.
Bramston, T. W. Packe, C. W.
Buck, L. W. Pinncy, W.
Carew, W. H. P. Polhill, F.
Cholmeley, Sir M. Prime, R.
Chute, W. L. W. Rashleigh, W.
Colville, C. R. Rice, E. R.
Compton, H. C. Rolleston, Col.
Courtenay, Lord Round, C. G.
Deedes, W. Round, J.
Duncombe, hon. A. Ryder, hon. G. D.
Egerton, W. T. Seymer, H. K.
Fellowes, E. Sheppard T.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Sheridan, R. B.
Floyer, J. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Frewen, C. H. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Fuller, A. E. Tower, C.
Glynne, Sir S. R. Trollope, Sir J.
Gore, W. R. O. Trotter, J.
Goring, C. Vyse, H.
Greene, T. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Halsey, T. P. Wodehouse, E.
Hamilton, Lord C. Wood, Col. T.
Harris, hon. Capt. TELLERS.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Waddington, H. S.
Hill, Lord E. Cripps, W.
List of the NOES.
Armstrong, Sir A. Johnstone, Sir J.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Knight, F. W.
Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Bailey, J. Law, hon. C. E.
Baillie, Col. Lawson, A.
Barrington, Visct. Layard, Maj.
Bell, M. Le Marchant, Sir D.
Berkeley, hon. C. Lindsay, Col.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Lygon, hon. G.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. M'Carthy, A.
Berkeley, hon. G. F. Maitland, T.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Manners, Lord J.
Bowring, Dr. Monahan, J. H.
Bright, J. Morris, D.
Brotherton, J. Muntz, G. F.
Buckley, E. O'Brien, C.
Buller, Sir J. Y. O'Connell, M. J.
Byng, rt. hon. G. S. O'Conor Don
Callaghan, D. Osborne, R.
Cayley, E. S. Pakington, Sir J.
Chaplin, W. J. Palmer, R.
Christopher, R. A. Pechell, Capt.
Copeland, Ald. Perfect, R.
Crawford, W. S. Philips, M.
Denison, E. B. Plumridge, Capt.
Duckworth, Sir J. T. B. Rawdon, Col.
Dugdale, W. S. Reid, Col.
Duncan, G. Repton, G. W. J.
Duncombe, hon. O. Rutherfurd, A.
Dundas, Adm. Sibthorp, Col.
Ebrington, Visct. Smythe, hon. G.
Emlyn, Visct. Somerville, Sir W. M.
Escott, B. Spooner, R.
Etwall, R. Stanley, hon. W. O.
Evans, Sir De L. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Fielden, J. Strickland, Sir G.
Ferguson, Col. Thornely, T.
Finch, G. Trelawny, J. S.
Gore, hon. R. Tufnell, H.
Grimsditch, T. Turner, E.
Hanmer, Sir J. Vane, Lord H.
Hay, Sir A. L. Walker, R.
Hodgson, F. Williams, W.
Houldsworth, T.
Hudson, G. TELLERS.
James, W. Henley, J. W.
Jervis, Sir J. Scrope, J.

Bill put off for six months.