HC Deb 14 March 1849 vol 103 cc688-95

Order for Second Reading read. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, that last Session it had been thought desirable that further inquiry should be made respecting the matters involved in this measure; that inquiry had accordingly taken place; and the evidence collected had been placed before the House; when it was considered desirable that a Bill should be introduced on the subject. He therefore begged to introduce this Bill to the House for the third time during the present Parliament. It was strictly in conformity with the report of the Committee of last year; its clauses were such as had received the Committee's full sanction; and he therefore trusted the Bill had a sufficient claim to be allowed to pass a second reading.


should move, as an Amendment, "That the Bill be read a second time that day six months." He had always opposed this Bill; he had objected to its introduction in 1847, and again in 1848; and he must say, the hon. Member for Berkshire had chosen a very unfortunate time for its reintroduction on this occasion. Under the existing usages and Customs prevalent throughout the country, the greatest good feeling and mutual confidence had grown up and been cemented between the landlord and his tenantry; and that good understanding, he was happy to say, still existed unimpaired; and the only effect of this dangerous and uncalled-for Bill would be, to disturb the harmony that now prevailed between the landlord and his tenant, and to create jealousies, dissensions, and even, in many cases, litigation, between them. As matters now stood, the landlord and his tenant very well understood each other, and had no cause of dissatisfaction; and what right had we to interfere by our legislation to breed disputes and suspicions between them? The next thing he expected they would do would be to introduce a Bill to meddle with the relations between a master and his butler, or between a master and his cook, laying down where the butler should go, and what the cook should have to do. This Bill emanated from a Committee which sat nineteen days, and reported evidence that cost the country 300l. This Bill resembled Parr's life pills and Holloway's ointment—it proposed to cure all diseases by one unvarying specific. The evil was acknowledged to be only partial, and said to exist only in particular counties—different counties having their different customs and usages; but this Bill proposed to deal indiscriminately with every county, and treat them all alike, although their complaints differed. On behalf of the tenantry of England he must oppose this Bill, which was altogether unnecessary, besides being mischievous, and calculated to engender ill-will and litigation between parties that now lived in amity and peace; and he must therefore take the sense of the House upon his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."


said, he felt constrained to second the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down, and regretted to be compelled, by the strong and decided opinion he entertained upon this measure, to adopt this hostile course with regard to any Bill introduced by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Berkshire, because no Gentleman in that House had conferred greater benefits upon the whole agricultural interest of this country, than that hon. Gentleman had done by his valuable services. The agricultural interest was deeply indebted to him for having volunteered to conduct the Agricultural Journal, when the English Agricultural Society was formed some years ago; but notwithstanding the high respect due to the hon. Gentleman's authority, he (Sir H. Verney) must oppose this Bill; for he held, that what every friend of agriculture in this country ought to make it his chief concern to do, was to exert himself in every possible way to promote the practice of granting leases to the tenant farmers. It was for the good both of the tenant farmer and the community in general that leases should be given; and every tenant farmer who had not a lease, had the remedy in his own hands, if he would only exert himself to apply it. Now, the Bill before the House would have the effect of rendering leases less desirable; and it was because he could not support any measure having such a mischievous tendency, that he now seconded the Amendment.


admitted that this Bill was a great improvement upon that introduced by the hon. Gentleman last Session; but as he was opposed to all legislative interference between landlord and tenant, he felt it his duty to vote against the further progress of this measure. He thought that the object aimed at by the proposal of the hon. Gentleman could be better effected by agreements between landlord and tenant than by any compulsory legislative enactment. The custom of Lincolnshire was unquestionably a most liberal one; under it, all outgoing tenants were compensated for any unexhausted improvement in draining, buildings, or otherwise, which they might have made upon the land they occupied. That custom had been in existence during the last fifty years; and he was sure that in case of any dispute on the question of compensation, no jury that might be empannelled in Lincolnshire would hesitate to recognise it. But what introduced that custom? The enterprise, industry, and skill of the tenant farmers of that county. In Lincolnshire there were no leases at least, if there were any they were merely exceptions to the general rule; and he believed that, in nine cases out of ten, the tenant farmers would not accept leases from the landlords. He thought that landlords and tenants generally approved of the present system; and he should, therefore, vote in favour of the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln.


said, it was his intention to vote in favour of the second reading of the Bill, because he believed that the object of his hon. Friend and Colleague was nothing more than to do an act of justice to occupying tenants. Under the existing system a tenant farmer might be suddenly ejected from his farm without being entitled to any compensation for unexhausted improvements; and surely no hon. Gentleman could be opposed to a measure calculated to remedy such an injustice. Indeed he considered that this Bill would be doing an act of justice as much towards landlords themselves as their tenants, because the knowledge on the part of the latter that the law gave them no claim to compensation for improvements, prevented them from applying to the land those benefits which would accrue to the land from the skill and industry which they would undoubtedly apply to it if assured that they could not at any moment be driven from their holdings without any recompense for their exertions. This Bill proposed to empower landlords to make any arrangements made between landlords and tenants at will binding upon their successors, and in that respect he thought it was a great improvement upon the Bill of last Session, and he should therefore have no hesitation in giving it his support, although there were some clauses to which he objected, but which might be altered in Committee.


said, this Bill appeared to him to remedy a very serious evil as regarded tenant farmers. There were many instances, such as when a landlord became insolvent, and his lands came into the hands of his creditors, in which the occupying tenants were very unjustly treated. No mercy was shown to them, although they and their ancestors might have expended their strength and capital upon their holdings. He did not agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for Bedford that it would be well if the system of leasing were adopted throughout the country. In that part of the country in which he resided leases were unknown. He had talked to several tenant farmers, all of whom assured him that they preferred tenancies from year to year to leases. He entertained objections to some of the details of this measure, but they could be discussed in Committee. He objected particularly to that part of the Bill which proposed to give unlimited power to tenants to remove fixtures, as he thought it would often lead to serious mischief.


would give his most cordial support to this measure, because he believed that it proposed to accomplish what was very much needed. It proposed to give to landlords the power of giving to their tenants at will a right to demand from their (the landlord's) successors compensation for unexhausted improvements. He believed that this measure would be as beneficial to tenants under lease as tenants at will. There were many clauses in it which required alteration. With regard, however, to the two main principles of the Bill, he did not think that it could injure anybody. With respect to the question of leases and tenancies at will, which had been imported into this debate, he thought that it was altogether foreign to the subject before the House. However, he might observe that the evidence which had been laid before the Select Committee on this question showed that the farmers throughout England did not want leases. But they did want some security for compensation for improvements such as this Bill proposed to give to them. He was aware that this measure did not go so far as some hon. Gentlemen wished; but, as he thought that it would confer great practical advantages on tenant farmers, he hoped the House would permit it to go into Committee.


thought that the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down showed conclusively that the mode of remedying the evils intended to be abolished by this Bill was not by the tenant farmers taking up leases. There were several reasons why the taking up of leases offered no remedy at all; one was, that the landlord was not willing to grant them; and another was, that the farmer was afraid to take one, especially at this moment. [Cheers.] He repeated that, especially at this moment, when there prevailed in the agricultural mind a great panic, which had been fostered by means which he thought perfectly unjustifiable, there was a great indisposition on the part of farmers to take leases. He thought that this Bill was a great improvement upon that introduced by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Berkshire two years ago. He thought its principles were perfectly justifiable. To that part of the Bill, however, which gave a definition of the words "agricultural improvements," he entertained the greatest objection. He thought it would be much more prudent to give no definitions at all on that subject. The whole working of the Bill would depend upon the liberal construction to be put upon it by arbitration. Some Gentlemen had suggested to him that it would be advisable to send the Bill, after a second reading, to a Select Committee upstairs; but he was afraid that, if they committed it to such keeping, the Bill either would be shelved for this Session, or would come back to the House in such a mutilated shape that it would be totally different from its present form. He thought it might be as well if the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, who appeared to take so much interest in this question, invited three or four hon. Gentlemen to his dining-room to discuss the measure—[Laughter]—he did not mean to lay claim to the hon. Gentleman's hospitality—it might undergo such alterations as would render it acceptable to the House generally.


would confidently vote for the second reading of the Bill. It had been his fate, on a former occasion, to move for a Committee of Inquiry into this subject, and, after hearing the evidence brought before that Committee, and reading this Bill, he did not hesitate to say that this proposition of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Berkshire would meet with the approbation of the tenant farmers, He (Mr. Newdegate) could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, in thinking that there was no justification for the excitement which prevailed in the agricultural districts; and he must say, that if this Bill was brought forward to enable landlords, particularly such as were incapacitated from giving adequate security for compensation in consideration of improvements made by their tenants, owing to their having only life or limited interests in their estates, to do justice to their tenants—entertaining, as he did, the gravest apprehensions with respect to the future prospects of agriculture—he thought that this was peculiarly a time when the House ought to afford every means of relief to tenant farmers, and to aid the landlords of this country in their endeavours to render their tenants capable of resisting the new pressures to which they were likely to be exposed. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hampshire that day reminded him (Mr. Newdegate) of certain expressions which fell from the same right hon. Gentleman during the great discussion on the corn laws, when he said that the agricultural interest came whining to that House for protection. He (Mr. Newdegate) thought the right hon. Gentleman would find that the agriculturists would prove that "growling" was a more appropriate expression than "whining," as expressive of their present sense of injustice and oppression, and their determination to resist such treatment. But he thought the way in which the agricultural interest was spoken of in that House was quite unworthy of a British House of Commons; and he (Mr. Newdegate) regretted that the haughty tone of the right hon. Gentleman should recall such expressions to their recollection.


objected to the Bill, because he considered legislation to be very dangerous, and likely, in many cases, to lead to great injustice. He wished to appeal to Her Majesty's Attorney General, whether, before the provisions of this Bill could be carried out, it would not be necessary to pass a Bill to provide for the cases of such tenants for life as beneficed clergymen, &c. In those cases they could not make a contract which should be binding upon the tenant with reference to his successor, because there was no privity between him and his successor. He would be entitled to take off the land all the growing crops, and the landlord could have no remedy against him. He (Mr. Mullings) objected to this Bill, because, whatever laws they might pass, all these matters must be subjects of contract between landlord and tenant: however stringent their laws might be, agreements would be entered into between the contracting parties which would have the effect of controlling the acts of the Legislature. He thought that tenants at will would be fully satisfied, if they were not to be compelled to resign their farms before the expiration of two years from the service of notice to quit, such right to determine in case the tenant refused to perform the conditions of his contract.


thought, if the Bill had stood for a third reading, the observations of the hon. Gentleman would have been justified. The objection of the hon. Gentleman applied to the details and not to the principle of the Bill. If a Committee were appointed, such as had been suggested, the hon. Gentleman would have an opportunity of bringing his suggestion before them. All the House was now called upon to do was, to affirm the principle of the Bill by agreeing to the second reading; the details would be taken into consideration by the select few who were to assemble under the hospitable auspices of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire.

After a few words from MR. H. HERBERT and MR. BASS,


, in reply, said, he was willing to admit that, in some instances, excellent arrangements had been, notwithstanding, entered into by landlords and tenants; for instance, in the Earl of Yarborough's extensive estates in Lincolnshire the tenantry was flourishing under a system of tenant right which could not be too highly commended; and it appeared from the evidence taken before the Committee, that the noble Earl was desirous of extending the advantages of that system to the tenants on his property in the Isle of Wight. It was, however, a mistake to suppose that this was a matter which could in all instances be settled by a voluntary agreement between landlord and tenant, for he was informed by high legal authority that an agreement for compensation, when not supported by the custom of the country, would be of no more value than waste paper.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 147; Noes 11: Majority 136.

List of the AYES.
Adair, R. A. S. Duncuft, J.
Alexander, N. Dundas, Sir D.
Anstey, T. C. Egerton, W. T.
Armstrong, R. B. Ellis, J.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Estcourt, J. B. B.
Evans, W.
Bankes, G. Ewart, W.
Bass, M. T. Fagan, W.
Bentinck, Lord H. Farnham, E. B.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Farrer, J.
Bernal, R. Filmer, Sir E.
Blair, S. Floyer, J.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. Foley, J. H. H.
Boyle, hon. Col. Forbes, W.
Bremridge, R. Fordyce, A. D.
Bright, J. Fox, W. J.
Brotherton, J. Freestun, Col.
Buck, L. W. Frewen, C. H.
Busfeild, W. Fuller, A. E.
Buxton, Sir E. N. Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E.
Chichester, Lord J. L. Goddard, A. L.
Childers, J. W. Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.
Clements, hon. C. S. Granby, Marq. of
Clifford, H. M. Greenall, G.
Clive, H. B. Grenfell, C. P.
Cobden, R. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Coke, hon. E. K. Gwyn, H.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Haggitt, F. R.
Davies, D. A. S. Halford, Sir H.
Disraeli, B. Harris, hon. Capt.
Drumlanrig, Visct. Harris, R.
Drummond, H. Headlam, T. E.
Duncan, G. Heald, J.
Henley, J. W. Pilkington, J.
Herbert, H. A. Pugh, D.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Renton, J. C.
Heyworth, L. Reynolds, J.
Hildyard, R. C. Rice, E. R.
Hodges, T. L. Robinson, G. R.
Hogg, Sir J. W. Roche, E. B.
Hume, J. Russell, F. C. H.
Jermyn, Earl Scrope, G. P.
Jervis, Sir J. Seymour, Lord
Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H. Shafto, R. D.
Keppel, hon. G. T. Sheridan, R. B.
Kershaw, J. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
King, hon. P. J. L. Smyth, Sir H.
Lacy, H. C. Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.
Langston, J. H. Sotheron, T. H. S.
Lemon, Sir C. Spooner, R.
Lennard, T. B. Stafford, A.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Stanton, W. H.
Leslie, C. P. Sullivan, M.
Lewis, rt. hon. Sir T. F. Thesiger, Sir F.
Lewis, G. C. Thicknesse, R. A.
Lewisham, Visct. Thompson, Col.
Long, W. Thornely, T.
Mackenzie, W. F. Tollemache, J.
Maitland, T. Trollope, Sir J.
Manners, Lord G. Tufnell, H.
March, Earl of Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Marshall, W. Walter, J.
Martin, C. W. Watkins, Col. L.
Miles, W. Wawn, J. T.
Milner, W. M. E. Williams, J.
Moody, C. A. Willyams, H.
Morgan, H. K. G. Williamson, Sir H.
Mostyn, hon. E. M. L. Willoughby, Sir H.
Newdegate, C. N. Wilson, J.
O'Connell, J. Wilson, M.
Ogle, S. C. H. Wyvill, M.
Packe, C. W.
Pakington, Sir J. TELLERS.
Patten, J. W. Pusey, P.
Perfect, R. Palmer, R.
List of the NOES.
Broadley, H. Smollett, A.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Stuart, H.
Christopher, R. A. Trelawny, J. S.
Duncombe, hon. A. Waddington, H. S.
Dupre, C. G. TELLERS.
Hope, Sir J. Sibthorp, Col.
Mullings, J. R. Verney, Sir H.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2° and committed for Wednesday, March 21st.