HC Deb 19 February 1849 vol 102 cc868-71

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time." Amendment proposed, "To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.'"


considered that this Bill was a measure calculated to have a prejudicial effect both upon the Parliamentary and the municipal franchises. It proposed that all tenements under 10l. should be rated in the name of the landlord, and not in the name of the tenant, the consequence of which would be, that all the municipal voters of that rating would be swept off the register. It was said, no doubt, that by this Bill occupiers had a right to claim to be rated; but they all knew that under such circumstances few would avail themselves of the privilege. He objected also to the Bill as a piece of mere class legislation, because by it the owners of small properties were made liable for the rates of their tenants, while the owners of large and splendid houses were allowed to escape altogether. Further, it was here attempted, by a piece of mere local agitation, to alter the general law of the land, which he thought ought not to be done unless with the general consent of the inhabitants. How far this was from being the case here, might be judged from the fact, that the town-council of Southampton, by a majority of twenty-three to nine, determined to give this Bill all the opposition in their power, while at a meeting held in the parish of St. Mary—the parish which was likely to be most affected by this Bill—the parishioners were almost unanimous against the measure. If there was any evil existing in Southampton from the present state of things, it was not more than at other places; and if the obnoxious clauses of the Reform Bill—the ratepaying clauses—were repealed, he should not object to such a measure being made general over the country.


seconded the Amendment, concurring in all the objections stated by his hon. Colleague (Mr. Cockburn). The Bill had one object in view, whilst there was a different one in the background. It was a wolf in sheep's clothing.


said, he was very sorry to see his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southampton oppose this measure: the rates in Southampton were very heavy; there were within the ancient borough 6,000 rated tenements; of these 1,800 paid no rates whatever, and the burden fell consequently upon the remaining 4,200. What was proposed by the present Bill? It was, that where the rates had not heretofore been paid by the occupiers of very poor tenements, they should now have the power, if they did pay, to deduct it from their landlords' rents; or, if they did not pay, that then the owner should be obliged to pay for them. A number of pauper tenements had been built on speculation in the town, which were let to Irishmen, or persons who had scarcely any property: these persons skulked away from their holdings before the rates were due, and nothing could be got from them, while the owners were making from 10 to 12 per cent on their money. It was said, that the town and neighbourhood of Southampton were opposed to the Bill. What was the fact? The Bill had been discussed in every vestry in the town, and at every vestry meeting it had been supported. It was true there was a majority of the town-council against the measure, because they were for the most part the owners of these poor houses which were now proposed to be rated. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also designated this measure as a piece of partial legislation. Now he could state that the principle of this Bill had been adopted in several other towns, and had been found to work, admirably well. His hon. Friend near him (Mr. Godson) had last year introduced a similar measure for the borough of Kidderminster, and there were fourteen other towns which had Bills of the same character, and they were found to work admirably well. Under these circumstances he trusted the House would agree to the second reading.


said, he know several individuals possessed of twelve, others eight, six, or four of these houses, which at present were all exempted from rates. These facts showed that there ought to be some alteration in this part of the law. The hon. and learned Member for Southampton said that this Bill would prove a great hardship to the poor. He thought it would be the very opposite; as it would, by bringing in this new class of ratepayers, relieve those who were only a little way above them in the social scale, and who now felt the pressure of the poor-rates very severely.


suggested the sus- pension of this and other Bills of a similar nature, until Parliament should have had an opportunity to consider the general principle. There were hundreds of thousands of persons in the country excused at this moment from rates by reason of their poverty; and it would be too hard if a particular piece of legislation should be the means of including these persons.


said, that there was no doubt the poor-rates fell very heavily on small proprietors. Parliament ought to hold out, by every means in its power, inducements to those poorer classes to pay the rates, in order that they might enjoy the franchise. The area of representation ought to be increased, not diminished. On that ground he submitted that this mode of legislating to serve the purposes of any particular party was bad. They ought not to take away from the poor man any inducement to pay his rate.


said, the argument of the hon. Member for Stroud was equally good in 1831; but the Government brought in no general measure on the subject. The principle worked well in Kidderminster; and he could assure the hon. Member for Montrose that it extended, rather than abridged, the franchise. The Kidderminster Bill reserved the rights of the occupant in that respect, at the same time compelling the landlord to pay the rates. In that borough 1,370l. more, or one-fifth of the whole poor-rate, was collected now in that borough, than before the passing of the measure; all classes being, therefore, relieved to that extent. As a matter of justice to all parties, he thought the Bill before the House should be passed. The principle had worked so well in the borough of Kidderminster, that there was now a Bill before Parliament to apply its provisions to the whole union.


agreed that if all parties in the town were willing to come to an arrangement of this sort, there was no reason why they should not be accommodated; but where there was a difference of opinion in a town, he could not but regard this as one of a series of steps by which the Legislature sought to deprive the poor man of the humane provision, that, as a poor man, he should be exempt from the payment of poor-rates. The law of England at present was, that the rate was collected from the occupier: there must be a beneficial occupancy. This was an attempt to shift it on the property. How it might work as to the franchise he knew not. The objection which he had always taken to Bills of this description, unless they were by common consent, was, that you deprived the poor man of the advantage which the humanity of the law had conferred upon him, that he should not be rated, if his neighbours agreed in vestry that he was too poor to pay his rates.


denied that this would be the effect of the Bill; and he alleged that he had seen the working of a similar measure in Birmingham for more than twenty years, and it had worked very well; the result had been greatly to relieve the poor, and at the same time largely to increase the amount actually received from the rates. At present, parties realised large rentals from numbers of small houses in respect of which no rates were paid; but, in effect, the rent was proportionably increased.


said, there was no clause in the Bill to enable the landlord to compound for the rate. The principle was a most dangerous one, especially on the score of the length to which it was carried. It would create a most extensive disfranchisement, and therefore he should oppose it.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 64; Noes 106: Majority 42.

List of the AYES.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Hildyard, R. C.
Hodgson, W. N.
Bagshaw, J. Hope, Sir J.
Baines, M. T. Hornby, J.
Bennet, P. Howard, Lord E.
Blair, S. Jackson, W.
Bowles, Adm. Lacy, H. C.
Bramston, T. W. Langston, J. H.
Brown, W. Lemon, Sir C.
Bruce, Lord E. Lewis, rt. hon. Sir T. F.
Bruce, C. L. C. Lewis, G. C.
Buxton, Sir E. N. Mahon, The O'Gorman
Carter, J. B. Masterman, J.
Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G. Miles, P. W. S.
Clive, H. B. Miles, W.
Cobbold, J. C. Neeld, J.
Coles, H. B. Newport, Visct.
Cubitt, W. Packe, C. W.
Currie, H. Renton, J. C.
Dod, J. W. Rufford, F.
Douro, Marq. of Scott, hon. F.
Duncombe, hon. O. Seymer, H. K.
Ebrington, Visct. Slaney, R. A.
Egerton, Sir P. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Spooner, R.
Fuller, A. E. Stanley, E.
Godson, R. Thicknesse, R. A.
Greene, T. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Heneage, G. H. W. Vane, Lord H.
Heyworth, L. Waddington, D.
Walter, J. Young, Sir J.
Wellesley, Lord C. TELLERS.
Wilson, J. Mackinnon, W. A.
Wrightson, W. B. Compton, H. C.
List of the NOES.
Abdy, T. N. Kershaw, J.
Adair, R. A. S. Kildare, Marq. of
Adderley, C. B. King, hon. P. J. L.
Aglionby, H. A. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Anderson, A. Lindsay, hon. Col.
Armstrong, Sir A. Lushington, C.
Baillie, H. J. Maitland, T.
Baring, H. B. Matheson, Col.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Blackall, S. W. Milnes, R. M.
Blewitt, R. J. Moffatt, G.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Monsell, W.
Boyle, hon. Col. Morris, D.
Brocklehurst, J. Muntz, G. F.
Brotherton, J. Napier, J.
Busfeild, W. Norreys, Lord
Childers, J. W. Nugent, Lord
Cobden, R. Nugent, Sir P.
Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B. O'Connor, F.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Ord, W.
Cowan, C. Osborne, R.
Crawford, W. S. Palmerston, Visct.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Pilkington, J.
Deedes, W. Raphael, A.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Repton, G. W. J.
Duncan, G. Reynolds, J.
Duncuft, J. Ricardo, J. L.
Dundas, Adm. Rich, H.
Dunne, F. P. Russell, F. C. H.
Ellice, E. Scholefield, W.
Ellis, J. Scrope, G. P.
Evans, Sir De L. Simeon, Lord
Ewart, W. Smith, J. B.
Forster, M. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Fox, R. M. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Fox, W. J. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Gaskell, J. M. Sullivan, M.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Tenison, E. K.
Grattan, H. Thompson, Col.
Greene, J. Thompson, G.
Grenfell, C. W. Thornely, T.
Grey, R. W. Townshend, Capt.
Hallyburton, Lord J. F. Tufnell, H.
Hardcastle, J. A. Villiers, hon. C.
Harris, H. Wall, C. B.
Hastie, A. Williams, J.
Heathcoat, J. Willyams, H.
Henley, J. W. Willoughhy, Sir H.
Hill, Lord M. Wilson, M.
Hindley, C. Wood, W. P.
Hobhouse, T. B.
Horsman, E. TELLERS.
Hume, J. Cockburn, A. J. E.
Keppel, hon. G. T. Willcox, B. M.

Words added: Main question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for six months.

Back to
Forward to