HC Deb 06 June 1849 vol 105 cc1255-9

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


, in moving the second reading of this Bill said, that he did not anticipate any serious opposition at that stage of the Bill, although several petitions had been presented against it; but these rather applied to the details to be considered in Committee, than to the principle of the measure. The Lord Chancellor had introduced, at the commencement of the last Session, a Bill very similar in its provisions to the present, but for some reason or other it had been allowed to drop without notice, and another measure was brought in, which also was not pressed. Why neither of these measures came down to that House, he could not say; but he referred to the matter with the view of showing that the Government had taken up the question last year. At the commencement of the present Session, he had asked whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce a measure on the subject during the present Session; and on being informed that it was not intended to do so, he felt called upon to take upon himself the responsibility of introducing this Bill. In 1841, a Committee of that House had been appointed to inquire into the whole subject; and, after full consideration, it had reported that for the relief of the poorer holders of land it was most desirable that some measure for the enfranchisement of copyholds should pass. The report also stated, that it was the opinion of the Committee that copyhold tenure was not adapted to the circumstances of the present day, and that the existing system was a blot on the jurisprudence of the country. It added, that a measure for this purpose would not only be a public boon, but should be regarded as a national object. The Committee strongly urged the passing of a measure by which a certain number of years was to be allowed for voluntary enfranchisement, after which period it should be compulsory. In consequence of this recommendation a Bill was introduced in 1841 on this subject, which passed into a law, but this only went to the extent of voluntary commutation. On that occasion, he and many other hon. Members expressed their opinion that with merely voluntary enfranchisement little would be done, and they urged that the Bill, like the Tithe Commutation Act, should, if voluntary arrangements were not made before a certain time, become compulsory. They had been justified by the result in the predictions they then made, for although some manors, or portions of manors, had been enfranchised, and those chiefly under ecclesiastical tenure, yet, comparatively speaking, little good had been effected. The returns on the table would show that a very small proportion of the land held under this objectionable tenure had been enfranchised. Having had nearly nine years' experience of the voluntary system, he conceived he was justified in calling on the House to proceed a step further. The copyhold commissioners had reported, that after more than six years' experience they found that there had been a slow but gradual advance in the enfranchisement of copyholds held under ecclesiastical lords of manors; but great dificulties had attended the enfranchisement of those held under lay lords. He (Mr. Aglionby) was aware that there were exceptions to this. For instance, the hon. Member for Devonport, who held several manors in the north of England, had rendered great advantages to his tenants by the facilities which he had afforded for the enfranchisement of copyhold tenures on his estate; but this was almost a solitary instance. The commissioners also said that a general and immediate system of compulsory enfranchisement might be found to be objectionable; they therefore recommended that a more gradual system should be adopted, by which this objectionable tenure might be got rid of. They also recommended that a commutation should take place, by a fixed annual payment, in the place of the present fines and heriots. In another report, made in November, 1848, the commissioners expressed a similar opinion, and recommended that a certain course should be adopted, which would be found embodied in the measure before the House. The Bill, with few exceptions, followed that which was introduced by the Lord Chancellor, on the part of the Government, at the commencement of the last Session. He alluded to the first and not the second of the Bills introduced into the other House. The latter proposed a general and immediate enfranchisement of all copyholds. He certainly could not be a party to such a Bill, because he believed that it would be neither desirable nor practicable. His Bill, therefore, resembled the first Bill introduced by the Lord Chancellor. The first exception he proposed to make in that Bill was to get rid of the clause which enacted that after two-thirds of the tenants were enfranchised, it should be immediately compulsory to confer it on the other third. He did not see the advantage of this, and it might be found to weigh heavily on the poorer holders. The other clause in the Bill of the Lord Chancellor to which he objected, was one which enacted that the expense of the enfranchisement should be divided between the lord of the manor and the tenantry. In his (Mr. Aglionby's) Bill he proposed that the whole of the charge should fall upon the tenant, for the latter received the advantage. There had been no indication of a strong feeling against his measure, for although the number of petitions in its favour was six, while the number presented against it amounted to thirty-two, yet the signatures in its favour numbered 132, while those against it were only sixty. He was ready to give ample time for the consideration of the measure prior to the next stage, and every facility for the fullest discussion of details in Committee; and he earnestly hoped the House would at least admit the principle, and not reject the Bill at this stage.


said, that the Government, in whose blinds alone the measure should be placed, if at all, had already twice attempted to effect the object of the hon. Gentleman, and wholly failed, so complicated were the obstacles which in all directions presented themselves. The measure before the House presented the important objection, that it was a wholly one-sided legislation in relation to a species of tenure in which both parties connected with it were jointly interested. He did not himself desire to prevent the Bill from going into Committee; but he warned the Government and the House that there were exceeding difficulties in the way of dealing satisfactorily with this subject.


was not opposed to well-considered amendments of the law; as a proof of which, he might state, that if Her Majesty's Government did not take measures for the improvement of the Courts of Equity, he should think it his duty, next Session, to bring in a Bill for that purpose. He entertained very great objections to this Bill, however, and believed that nothing could be done by Parliament more prejudicial than to interfere, by means of commissioners, with the rights of property in this country. If there could be said to be any principle at all in the matter, he should say it was this, that the Legislature ought not to interfere unless a clear case of public necessity were made out. If such a case could, in the present instance, be said to exist, it must be considered equally to affect the landlord as the tenant; and, therefore, the proposed arrangement ought to be made compulsory, if made at all. As such a measure ought to rest upon general policy, he should not then enter into the details of the Bill, and should now confine himself to observing, that the measure before them left copyright tenure precisely in the same state in which it previously stood. He wished further to say, that in all cases of copyhold tenure, where mines and minerals existed, a great grievance was left unredressed. Upon these grounds, he thought it his duty to move, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.


was anxious to state the reasons which would induce him to vote in favour of the second reading. In his opinion it would not be respectful to the commissioners who had inquired into the subject, not to attempt to reduce into some shape those recommendations which were embodied in the Bill. The Bill also contained many of the clauses in the measure introduced into the House of Lords last Session by the Lord Chancellor. For these reasons he should support the Motion; but he reserved to himself, and to those with whom he was acting, the right of rejecting any of the details, and ultimately, if they deemed it necessary, to vote against the third reading.

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

The House divided:—;Ayes 80; Noes 55: Majority 25.

List of the AYES.
Alcock, T. Miles, W.
Armstrong, R. B. Milnes, R. M.
Bagshaw, J. Moffatt, G.
Bailey, J. Monsell, W.
Baines, M. T. Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.
Bass, M. T. Mulgrave, Earl of
Birch, Sir T. B. Mullings, J. R.
Bright, J. Neeld, J.
Brotherton, J. O'Connell, M. J.
Brown, W. O'Flaherty, A.
Bunbury, E. H. Pakington, Sir J.
Burroughes, H. N. Patten, J. W.
Buxton, Sir E. N. Pearson, C.
Clifford, H. M. Pilkington, J.
Clive, H. B. Portal, M.
Cobden, R. Price, Sir R.
Coles, H. B. Rice, E. R.
Cubitt, W. Robartes, T. J. A.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hon. C. T. Scott, hon. F.
Drummond, H. Sidney, Ald.
Duncan, Visct. Smith, J. B.
East, Sir J. B. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Evans, W. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Fox, W. J. Stanton, W. H.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Stuart, Lord D.
Glyn, G. C. Talfourd, Serj.
Goddard, A. L. Tancred, H. W.
Gooch, E. S. Thicknesse, R. A.
Greene, J. Thompson, Col.
Grey, R. W. Thornley, T.
Harris, R. Townloy, R. G.
Henry, A. Tufnell, H.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Vesey, hon. T.
Jervis, Sir J. Villiers, hon. C.
Keogh, W. Wawn, J. T.
Kershaw, J. Williams, J.
King, hon. P. J. L. Willyams, H.
Lacy, H. C. Young, Sir J.
Lewis, G. C.
Lewisham, Visct. TELLERS.
Marshall, W. Aglionby, H. A.
Matheson, Col. Granger, T. C.
List of the Noes.
Adair, H. E. Bouverie, hon. E. P.
Arkwright, G. Brooke, Lord
Baldock, E. H. Brooke, Sir A. B.
Barrington, Visct. Buller, Sir J. Y.
Bennet, P. Burke, Sir T. J.
Bentinek, Lord H. Cavendish, hon. C. C.
Beresford, W. Cocks, T. S.
Blair, S. Codrington, Sir W.
Deedes, W. Hood, Sir A.
Duncombe, hon. A. Hornby, J.
Duncombe, hon. O. Lowther, hon. Col.
Dundas, G. Makinnon, W. A.
Dunne, F. P. Magan, W. H.
Du Pre, C. G. Mandeville, Visct.
Edwards, H. Meux, Sir H.
Farnham, E. B. Mundy, W.
Floyer, J. Napier, J.
Foley, J. H. H. Packe, C. W.
Freestun, Col. Plowden, W. H. C.
Gaskell, J. M. Plumptre, J. P.
Granby, Marq. of Richards, R.
Grogan, E. Rushout, Capt.
Gwyn, H. Smyth, J. G.
Halsey, T. P. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Harris, hon. Capt. Spooner, R.
Hayes, Sir E. Stanley, E.
Heathcote, G. J. TELLERS.
Heneage, G. H. W. Turner, G. J.
Hill, Lord E. Berkeley, G.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2o, and committed for Wednesday 20th June.