HC Deb 07 June 1850 vol 111 cc879-90

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

MR. TRELAWNY moved as an Amendment that they should go into Committee that day six months. He looked upon the Bill as but the re-enactment of protection in a different shape, and he would oppose any attempt to tax the body of the people for the benefit of any particular class. It was not discreet, wise, or even honest, to dispose of the money of the nation to the landowners; and if the measure was intended to give them compensation for any loss they had sustained by free trade, the gain would be contemptible, while the principle would be utterly objectionable. Besides, it was an unnecessary increase of the functions of Government. They would soon have all trades, businesses, and manufactures thrown on the hands of Government, and calling for assistance. The money already advanced had not been repaid, and for all these reasons he would give the Bill his most strenuous opposition.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day six. months, resolve itself into the said Committee," instead thereof.


was not disposed to press hard on the object of the Motion; but he would second the Motion, in order to bring out some explanation on the principle of the Bill.


said, he was afraid his hon. and gallant Friend who seconded the Motion had not been quite so attentive to his Parliamentary duties as he usually was, or he would have understood what was the object of this Bill. It was no new purpose, it was a purpose which had been sanctioned more than once by the House, and which he thought most desirable in the present state of things. He thought it exceedingly desirable, in order to facilitate the change from one state of things to another. He was sorry that he could not go on with the Bill before, but other business had interfered. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would not divide the House on this occasion.


was personally aware of the benefits which arose from the system which this Bill proposed to enforce. He considered that the Government might extend the machinery of the Bill, and thereby permit the landed interest to borrow money upon landed security. He could bear testimony to the utility and advantage which resulted from parties being enabled to obtain advances to set persons at work in their particular districts in drainage operations; and as that was the object of the present measure, it had his hearty support. There was one suggestion, however, which he wished to throw out to the Government. It happened that parties were earnestly desirous to borrow money for the sake of permanent improvements, and that other parties in the same neighbourhood were anxious to advance that money; and he thought that the Government might, under such circumstances, enable the one party to borrow, and the other to lend, by means of similar machinery to that contained in this Bill. At present, great trouble and expense were occasioned by the investigation which had to be made into the title of the borrowing party. He called upon the House to relieve the borrower from the useless perplexity of the law. There were innumerable parties ready to advance money; but the man who wanted it for the improvement of his estate and the employment of his labourers was precluded from borrowing by the absurd intricacies of the law, and he, therefore, called upon the Government to take the matter up.


said, in answer to the hon. Member for Tavistock, he was not aware that a single one of his hon. Friends around him had made any representation to Government on this subject, and he must say, for himself, that there were great objections to the principle of this Bill. Government was to advance money to landlords, constituting them debtors to the State, and giving Government, probably, a great influence over them. There were also many objections to the details of the Bill, which he would state when the House went into Committee. The hon. Member for Tavistock reproached landlords for coming to Government for advances on their estates. If he referred to the last loan of two millions, he found that the English landlords gave small encouragement to it, inasmuch as they got but a very small portion of it. Scotchmen had a different view, for he found that four-fifths of it was advanced in that kingdom. The landlords of England had made their improvements at their own cost, and if the tenantry of England were encouraged by a fair tenant-right, the greater part of this work would be undertaken by them; but he denied on the part of the landlords of England that they were petitioners for the bounty of Government.


said, he was opposed to all Bills of this nature, believing, as he did, that all landowners who had good security to offer would find no difficulty in obtaining money; but he had been told that in many parts of the united kingdom difficulties of that nature did exist, and he therefore could not object to the measure now. Besides, the House had already adopted the principle, and he did not think any hon. Member, after that approval, could resist the Motion for going into Committee. Still, though he did not now feel himself called upon to oppose the principle, he was bound to state that there were details in the measure which he never could agree to. For instance, it would appear that some of this money might be expended on farm buildings, or provisions, which he thought ought not to be agreed to, and, therefore, when the House got into Committee, he should endeavour to get it expunged from the Bill.


wished it not to go to the country that the landed interest was the only interest that had loans. They had been granted for railroads and for other purposes.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 73; Noes 4: Majority 69.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

House in Committee; Mr. Bernal in the chair.

Clause 1.


wished to know what arrangements were to be made as to the proportion of the money under this Bill to which Scotland would be entitled? He hoped that the present grant would be made on the same unfettered principle as the last one.


was very glad the hon. Gentleman had raised this point, because he could assure him that he did not at all wish to take from England its fair proportion. He wished to do justice to the enterprise of the Scotch proprietors, but at the same time there was a great object to be attained. It was very desirable to extend the drainage of land throughout the country, and over as wide a surface as possible. Of the last 2,000,000l. the Scotch proprietors had rather more than 1,600,000l. The money was all appropriated on the principle simply of priority of application. The sum allotted to England was 373,000l, and the six northern counties got 191,000l., the whole of the rest of England and Wales having only 182,000l. He thought that reward should be given to superior energy and sharpness, but then the great object of obtaining the benefit of drainage throughout the length and breadth of the land was not attained. Without any invidious distinction, he thought it desirable to extend the benefit of this loan to every portion of the kingdom. He proposed that applications should be sent in to a given day; he would apportion the money to different counties, and then he would give the preference to priority of application in each of those counties; and then if any was left it would be advanced to parties either in Scotland, or elsewhere, who made application.


contended, that as Scotland required draining to a greater extent than England, the proposed preference to be given to English counties in the application of the fund was inexpedient and objectionable. He hoped that some facilities would be given to small owners for the drainage of their lands, an arrangement which would be of great advantage to the labouring population, as well as to the smaller proprietary classes.


said, it was expedient that some measure of this kind should be passed in the present Session, because there was great distress amongst the small proprietors, and it was most desirable to afford them the means of carrying on improvements. He differed from the hon. Member for West Surrey with respect to the land improvements which were going on in the country. His conviction was that there were greater exertions than ever made to meet the difficulties of the times. He much doubted the policy of making the grant available for farm build- ings, because the amount allowed would not be sufficient for even drainage purposes. The case of Ireland, however, might form an exception. On that he would give no opinion. He also thought it a prudent restriction to limit the amount which could be received by any one applicant to 5,000l.


hoped that hon. Gentlemen would not discuss the principle of the Bill, but would confine themselves to the clause before the House.


said, that he had applied for a sum of 1,000l, which he expended upon a farm, and after doing so he advertised to let the land, but only one person offered to take it. The farm was now on his hands. Perhaps this fact would cool the ardour of his Scotch friends in making applications.


did not think there could be a better way of applying the public money than to lend it on good security for the purpose of improving and increasing the produce of land. It was much better to have two millions spent for such a purpose than that it should go to California or to South America.


supported the Bill. Unless measures of assistance were rendered to Ireland, the country would sink deeper and deeper into a state of distress and wretchedness. He was bound to tell the House that, although he had borrowed money under the Irish Act, which he had expended in improvements on his farms, the farms themselves had been thrown upon his hands. The former holders, who had rented them at moderate rates, would not pay the increased rent which the drainage had rendered necessary, and the consequence was the land had been unoccupied for the last nine months. The fact was, farming had become unprofitable, and, unless something were immediately done to arrest the progress of destruction that was now going on, he could not answer for the consequences in Ireland. Never had so much distress been felt amongst the agricultural labourers of that country—it was impossible for them to find work anywhere; and, however useful Bills of this nature might be in a limited sphere, it was hopeless to expect general prosperity or contentment amongst the agricultural interests of the united kingdom till some extensive measure were passed for their especial relief. Without some measure of relief, the landlords in Ireland were in such a condition as not to be able to give employment to the mass of poor people in that country. He would support the clause.


hoped that nothing would be done, and that no further discussion would take place calculated to foment jealousies between the countries which formed the united kingdom.

Clause 1 agreed to; as were

Clauses 2 and 3.

Clause 4.


said, that this was the clause on which perhaps the principal discussion would arise; and so far from wishing to deprecate that discussion, he was anxious that the clause should be fully discussed. Hon. Gentlemen were aware that up to the present time advances had been made for the purposes of draining only; but really all that the Government had to do was to see that there was adequate security for the money advanced. In bringing this clause under the notice of the Committee, he was bound to say that they must not only look for adequate security, but they were at the same time bound to look to the interest of other parties not now in possession of landed estates; they were bound to do justice to those who were to come after tenants for life. The most difficult case with which they had to deal would be that of the tenant for life; and he was quite ready to say that persons interested in a property where there was an estate for life ought not to be charged for improvements from which they might possibly derive no advantage whatever. Against such unfairness he trusted that the Bill would sufficiently provide. As to the probable rate of advantage, he might speak of that as being 6½ per cent; thus, if a man having land which yielded him 100l. per annum borrowed 100l. for the purpose of draining it, then his income would at least be augmented to the extent of 106l. 10s., and thus there would be ample security for money laid out, provided the Government had a certificate, as he intended they should have, that the contemplated improvements on the land would be likely to yield a return of 6½ per cent. So much for the general features of the Bill. With respect to the particular clause before the Committee, he admitted that it was open to considerable objection. He believed that in many cases it would be found advantageous to consolidate the small farms, and to have larger buildings on the farms so consolidated. But who was to decide upon that? and were the country Gentlemen prepared to say that they would submit to the interference of a Government inspector in carrying out this clause? For himself, as an owner of land, he would do no such thing. If farm buildings were erected under this clause, it would be necessary that precaution should be taken for keeping them in repair, and also for insurance; for it would be very hard upon the remainderman if he were to be saddled with au annuity when the buildings had been allowed to be dilapidated, or when they had been burnt down. Means must, therefore, be taken to compel the tenant for life to keep the buildings in repair, and to insure them; but would it not be necessary for the inspector under the Act to see to this? This difficulty in regard to the necessary interference constituted in his mind a great objection to the clause, although it might perhaps be got over. It was clear that the interests of the remainderman could not be protected without some power of interference and supervision, however unwilling he was to institute it. He had inserted the clause in deference to the opinions expressed by many hon. Members, and he now left the matter to be discussed by the House.


would move that the whole of the clause be expunged from the Bill; and this, notwithstanding the advantages which followed the warping of land. In some parts of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, the waters from the rivers being suffered to cover the land, an alluvial deposit was left when the water was drawn off, which enabled the farmers to grow wheat and potatoes in alternate years upon land that, before it was thus enriched by warping, was of very little value. This practice had been so extensively adopted on the banks of the Trent and the Ouse, that the potatoes supplied to the London market were almost exclusively grown in that part of the country. The warping of land being so beneficial might safely be left to private enterprise; and with regard to any portion of the loan being devoted to farm buildings, the objections were so numerous that he would not enter upon them. The hon. Member for West Surrey was favourable to small farms; but his successor might wish to consolidate them into larger holdings, and then what would become of these farm buildings? The country would be covered by inspectors to see if the buildings were kept in repair; and the objections urged by the Chancellor of the Eschequer were so valid, that he hoped to see the right hon. Gentleman voting for his (Sir J. Trollope's) Amendment, and against his own clause.


would agree to expunge from the clause all reference to "warping," and "farm buildings" would then stand alone.


could not agree to leave out the word "warping" in the 4th clause, although the clause referred only to Great Britain; because, if it were struck out from this clause, he had but a small chance of seeing it retained in the 8th clause, which referred to Ireland. The process of warping was not confined to Lincolnshire and Yorkshire; it had been most advantageously introduced into Ireland. Some streams had been retained, and diverted upon land of small value, where they had left a rich alluvial deposit of two feet deep. It would be desirable, he thought, to retain the word "warping" in the clause, because it might be the means of introducing the practice in many quarters where it was at present unknown.

The words relating to warping were then struck out of the clause.


thought it would be far better to expunge the whole of the clause.


was in favour of retaining the clause, now that it applied solely to farm buildings. Who certified that the drainage was kept in an efficient state, and why not object to the inspection of drainage? The inspector would certify the necessity for new farm buildings, and he would see that the works were properly executed.


thought that the difficulty arose from the Chancellor of the Exchequer having deviated from what he himself believed to be the proper course. The advances for drainage had been found so beneficial, that Government ought to have objected to any portion of the loan being appropriated to any other purpose. The process of warping was found to be advantageous in the part of the country alluded to by his hon. Friend the Member fur South Lincolnshire, because the waters of the Humber and the Ouse left behind them a peculiarly rich deposit; but he knew of no other part of the country where the same advantages had been obtained by this practice; and if it were supposed that by constructing sluices and canals for warping elsewhere on the same plan, the same benefits would be obtained, people might be greatly mistaken. He thought that the objections made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the present clause were unanswerable.


said, that the money to be appropriated under this Act was a limited sum, and the question was, how to make the best use of it. Now, if the House determined to cm-ploy it in erecting farm buildings all over the country, they would so far limit the outlay for drainage that they would do no good with it. It would be much better for the Government to lay out a sum for arterial drainage, and leave the proprietors of laud to drain into it. It was not a becoming thing to see the landed gentry of England coming before that House in formâ pauperis to borrow a little money wherewith to erect farm buildings upon their estates. They were not so hard pressed as to be unable to raise this money for themselves.


approved of the omission of warping; but the question for the Committee was, whether the proposed arrangements could be practically carried out. Before advances were made for farm buildings, plans of the contemplated erections ought to be submitted to Government, and the expense ought to be strictly limited in each case. He hoped the Committee would not consent to expunge farm buildings from the clause. The operation of the Act would be somewhat complicated where reversionary interests existed; but means might be found to protect those.


said, the money could not be devoted to repairs of existing farm buildings. It must be expended in the erection of new buildings, and these would be constructed under efficient inspection.


said, no assistance like that proposed by the present Bill would effectually remove all the difficulties under which the farmers of this country now laboured. Mere buildings alone would not extricate the farmers from the position in which they had been placed by recent legislation. There were many instances in which neither the application of capital, skill, nor labour could enable the agriculturist to meet the present fall in prices. He thought, however, it would be better to confine the object of the Bill to drain-ago alone.


said, that facility ought to be given for small proprietors to get a portion of these advances. Many of them did not know how the application was to be made; it would be better that it should be done through some county officer. As to farm buildings, a custom had prevailed in the north of England and Wales of building them very much together in small villages. The increased liability to fire had shown the impolicy of this plan; and many farmers were anxious to have their buildings on the middle of the farm, which these advances might enable them to do. At present, a person having only a life interest could not possibly spend anything on improvements; and he trusted the case of those parties would be considered. The cost of conveyance of landed property ought to be reduced, for its burden was greater than that of the local taxes.


was of opinion that it would be improper to give the power of charging property with the erection of new buildings. He thought, generally speaking, it would be found that the erection of buildings would follow the improvement of the land.


thought all interests might be sufficiently protected if care were taken that good and substantial buildings were erected; for in that case they would last long enough to be of benefit to the reversioner. But, seeing the feeling of the House, he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer should consent to withdraw the clause; and perhaps on a future occasion he might be able to urge the matter with greater force.


believed that great advantage would arise to the extensive new farms which had been brought into existence under the late Act if they were allowed to apply to the erection of buildings on those farms part of the money advanced by Government. As he believed that advances would be made in future years, he hoped that this point would then be taken into serious consideration; but in the meantime he would not insist upon the clause being retained.


had inserted the clause in the Bill for the purpose of eliciting the opinion of the House; but his own opinion coincided with that of the majority of Members who had spoken, that it would be bettor to expunge the clause altogether. He would therefore vote for the omission of the clause.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 45; Noes 107: Majority 62.

Clauses 5, 6, and 7, were then agreed to.

Clause 8.


said, this was a similar clause to the one that had just been struct out, only that its operations were applicable to Ire-land, and, as before, he would hear the opinion of Members before he came to a decision on the clause. It might be that the same objections did not apply to the case of Ireland as to that of the other parts of the empire.


seeing that the House was inclined to assent to the clause, would move that in addition to "farm buildings," there should be inserted the words, "including buildings for the steeping, drying, and cleansing of flax, and also such machinery and apparatus for the abovementioned purposes as may come under the denomination of fixtures." In the present unfortunate state of the people of Ireland, he looked upon the proposal he had now to make as one of very great importance. Viewing the subject entirely as one of labour, he found that in Ireland the expense of cultivating an acre of corn was 2l. 1s. 6d., and an acre of flax, 4l. 13s. The quantity of flax imported from abroad amounted to what would be grown on 400,000 acres of land, so that if it was cultivated in Ireland there would be expended upon it in labour, a sum of 1,860,000l., while for the same number of acres of corn the expenditure would be only 830,000l., making upwards of one million in favour of flax. When they had the prospect of such results as those from the encouragement of the growth of flax in Ireland, he thought he was warranted in bringing the matter before the House. At the present rate of wages in Ireland, this would support 125,000 heads of families, or, at the average rate now expended in support of paupers in one Irish workhouse, it would feed 500,000 souls. He was confident that if due encouragement was given by Parliament, Ireland would become a large exporter of flax; and if there could be no doubt of the benefits which would flow to Ireland, as little could there be that an increased growth of flax would be of the greatest importance to England. The prospects of Manchester, as regarded the price of cotton were at present very gloomy; but here was a better article to be had at a cheaper rate, the produce of native industry, and for the supply of which they had no reason to depend upon foreigners. If, as he had shown, it was important to extend the cultivation of flax in Ireland to any great extent, it would be necessary altogether to separate the two processes of cultivation and preparation, leaving the former to the farmer, and confining the latter to a class called factors. It would be necessary to bring into operation the new system of steeping and scutching at present in vogue in some parts of Ireland, and it was to facilitate the erection of these concerns on Irish estates that he now proposed this addition to the clause.


said that, considering the limited sum he had to appropriate to the purposes of drainage, he was not prepared to ox-tend assistance to other objects, especially as he found it to be the fact that in the west of Ireland persons who had used machinery for scutching flax had dispensed with it, and had adopted working by hand as a better and more economical system. With regard to granting loans for the construction of farm buildings in Ireland, he was willing, as it appeared to be the general wish of Gentlemen conńected with that country, and as there were possibly circumstances in relation to Ireland which did not exist in respect to England, to assent to that proposition.

Amendment withdrawn. Clause agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported as amended.

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