HC Deb 12 June 1850 vol 111 cc1119-28

Order for Committee read.

MR. PUSEY moved that the House do then resolve itself into Committee on the above-named Bill.

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


said, that the Bill had been before the House Session after Session, and he was bound to say that all the information which he was able to obtain through the principal land agents in all parts of the country led him to a conclusion most unfavourable to the measure. One of the Members for the county of Lincoln was opposed to the Bill, and every one who wished to see a good understanding maintained between the landlords and the tenants of England would resist a measure so evidently calculated as that was to disturb all the kindly feelings hitherto existing between those classes. To such a measure he should now oppose a decided negative; but, if he at present I failed in checking the progress of the Bill, he was determined, nevertheless, to oppose it at every future stage. He thought that the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Berkshire would be one of the last men in that House to do anything to disturb the relations which had long subsisted between landlord and tenant.

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 sorry to differ from the hon. and gallant Member for the city of Lincoln, but he felt bound to support the Bill; he should support it, though he did not think it went far enough. If all landlords were like the hon. and gallant Member, there would be no need of any such measure; but in the northern parts of the country he believed that something of the sort had become quite necessary.


coincided in the view taken by the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln with regard to the general feeling upon this measure. His own constituents were certainly opposed to it. What was wanted on behalf of landlord and tenant was some measure enabling persons who had settled estates to give tenants some tenure in the lands they occupied on account of monies sunk in them. But if other counties in the country would follow the example of that of Lincoln, the arguments put forward in favour of this measure would have been wanting. He thought that the measure now proposed was preferable to the former Bill on the same subject; but after having read the evidence, he could not avoid saying that he was, on the whole, unfavourable to the Bill now before the House, for he apprehended that it would lead to improper interference between landlord and tenant, and he regretted to observe that there was in the Bill much that ought to be left as matter of arrangement between the parties interested.


said, the tenant farmers of Yorkshire were entirely opposed to this species of legislation; and he was satisfied that any attempt to legislate on the relations between landlord and tenant would give rise to endless litigation. As the Bill was permissive where no permission was required or necessary, and could only be mischievous in its tendency, he should feel bound to support the Amendment that it be committed this day six months.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 22: Majority 43.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

House in Committee; Mr. Bernal in the chair.

Clause 1.

SIR J. Y. BULLER moved that the words "or of such articles of food for cattle, sheep, or pigs" be struck out.


was proceeding to defend the clause, when


said, it would be impossible for hon. Members to bear the nature of the Amendment and the objections to it unless they preserved a strict silence.


, who was seated on the second bench on the Ministerial side, immediately behind the hon. Member for Berkshire, said, "We who are sitting here cannot hear one word."


said, the words objected to by the hon. Member for South Devon shire were suggested by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, and they formed, in his opinion, one of the most important points in the Bill. It was the practice of all the best farmers in the country, and particularly Norfolk, Lincolnshire, and Suffolk, to purchase cattle and fatten them, but not with a view to derive a profit upon the mere purchase and sale of those cattle. The cattle and sheep were kept for the sake of the manure, and the Committee would call upon the farmers to improve their land for the benefit of the landowner, if they agreed to this Amendment.


thought the proposition of the hon. Baronet would have been much more intelligible if it had gone the length of striking out the entire clause; but in its present shape it would be detrimental to the tenant, and therefore he must support the clause in its original form.


complained of the vague manner in which the clause was worded. The phrase "improvements" would be a fruitful source of litigation, as it would be hard to reconcile men's minds as to what was really an "improvement" and what was not.


said, that the exhortation of the Chairman, that Members should preserve a strict silence, was indeed necessary, because, although in the old House it was said that the debates were one-sided, in this House they were inevitably so, in another sense. Thus, although hon. Members heard every word which came from hon. Gentlemen opposite, yet they could not hear a word of what was said by hon. Members on their own side of the House. They were, therefore, discussing the measure at a great disadvantage, for they heard half, and only half, of what was going on. As the Committee appeared about to resolve itself into a farmers' club, he must admit that he could not pretend to vie in agricultural knowledge with preceding speakers. It did not, however, appear desirable to him to place such artificial manures as guano and bones upon the same footing as food purchased for the feeding of animals. The tenant did not receive an immediate return from the guano and bones, but a great portion of the food for animals did give him a large and immediate return. It was said that these animals were regarded by the farmer as machines for converting food into manure, and that they were not bought and fed with any expectation of profit. So far as his experience went, that was not a true description. He believed that cattle, sheep, and pigs, if bought with judgment, did return a large and considerable profit, even although the farmer should give them food for fattening them more speedily. It would be said that no harm could result from the operation of this clause, because it would not come into operation unless by agreement between landlord and tenant, without which it would not be binding upon the former. But by the 9th clause he found that this agreement, in default of some stipulation to the contrary, would be binding upon the remainderman. If the tenant for life should enter into an imprudent bargain, that was his own affair, and he might be left to look after his own interests. But he could not consent that the reversioner should be bound by an agreement which would be a still worse bargain for him than for his predecessor. He believed that the words objected to would give rise to very considerable disputes between landlords and tenants, and he would therefore vote for their omission. From what he knew of practical agriculture, he could not think it right to make the landlord pay for the tenant's purchase of hay, for instance, because it was often better farming economy to purchase hay than to grow it, and particularly in water meadows.


quite agreed that food might be purchased and vet cattle might be fed at a profit; but with that exception he differed from the whole of the right hon. Baronet's remarks. He did not think that the question, whether cattle could be fed with a profit or not, was at all an element in this discussion. The right hon. Baronet was ready to include artificial manures, and also allowed that improvements having a permanent effect on the property could fairly be charged against the reversioner; but if he admitted guano and similar manures, he (Mr. S. Herbert) could not see any principle on which he could exclude the oil-cake, for instance, from which manure was made. If arrangements were allowed to be entered into with respect to compensation for artificial manures, what ground was there for such an interference with the rights of property as to prevent similar arrangements being entered into with respect to the feeding of cattle, sheep, and pigs? He would venture to Say that a better argument against the law of entail (which he believed to be essential to the stability and well-being of the country) could not be used than to urge that the system of entails obstructed the improvement of the land, which would otherwise be effected. He should oppose the omission of the words proposed to be struck out, because he thought the law ought not to prevent landlords from making bargains with their tenants, which were necessary for the improvement of the soil.


thought that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon had been led away in his opposition to the clause by the system of farming in the northern counties, and had totally overlooked the practice pursued in the south. In Hampshire and other southern counties, it was customary to fold sheep on small pieces of land, and feed them highly principally for the sake of manure for the land for the next crop.


said, the principal objection he had yet heard urged against the clause was that it would lead to endless litigation. He would support the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devonshire, because he thought it would be very difficult to settle the question of compensation with regard to the food given to cattle; and the result must be that differences and disputes would arise.


thought that some improvement might be made in the mode of valuation, but was not prepared to recognise so great a change as was proposed by this Bill. If they passed this Act without some limitation on parties to charge their successors, which would inflict a wrong upon those successors, they would most effectually invalidate the law of entail. If a person having a life estate had power to charge his successor to an unlimited extent, as he would under this Bill, the measure, instead of being a benefit* would be an injury, for it would be an absolute encouragement to the tenant for life to beggar his successor. He had hoped that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Berkshire would have introduced a clause with regard to the power given to the tenant for life to charge his successor; and he (Mr. Newdegate) begged to give notice that, on the report being brought up, he would move the introduction of a clause limiting the power of a person in possession of a life estate to charge the interest of his successor.


said, the principle involved in the Clause was nothing more than the tenant-right of Lincolnshire, and the result of very minute inquiries made by two successive Committees of that House. With regard to what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon as to the profitable feeding of sheep and cattle, he might be right so far as Scotland and the north of England were concerned, but his observations did not apply to the south and west. In his belief the two kinds of manure used by the farmers—that derived from artificial substances put into the land, and that derived from the feeding of animals, ought to be placed upon the same footing. The right hon. Gentleman asked if any prudent gentleman was likely to saddle his property with this sort of charge for feeding sheep and cattle. In answer to that, he could tell him that the Earl of Yarborough had introduced this very principle into the management of his property in the Isle of Wighe. It was rather inconsistent on the part of the hon. Member for South Devonshire, who always took a very desponding view of such matters, to suppose that the farmers would, under this clause, rush in with such an amount of capital for the improvement of the land by artificial manures as would completely overwhelm the landlords.


believed that the clause, as it stood, would give rise to a great deal of litigation among the farmers. It was all very well to tell him that it was founded upon the tenant-right of Lincolnshire; but there was also a tenant-right of Surrey with which landlords were saddled, and how were they to graft the tenant-right of Lincolnshire as to sheep and cattle upon the other? Really the landed interest was not in such a condition as to warrant the imposition of a burden like this. They had only to read the reports of the Times Commissioners as to the state of agriculture in those districts which they had visited, in order to be satisfied of the impolicy of a proposal like this. The enactment of a provision of this kind would only lead to discontent and disappointment, and therefore he would vote for the omission of the words included in the Amendment.


said, the supporters of the Amendment conjured up all sorts of Contingencies, such as landlords making imprudent bargains with their tenants, and the probability of the interests of the remaindermen being injured; and, on the ground of these, they justified the omission of the words relative to the sheep, cattle, and pigs; but, as he thought these contingencies should not weigh against the benefits of the measure, he would vote for the retention of the words.


was not surprised that lawyers should be found supporting this Bill, as it would bring grist to their own mill, He was opposed to the measure out and out, and would, therefore, vote for the Amendment.


must remind his hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire that the results of the application of artificial manures, such as guano or bones, were much slower than the effect produced by the use of articles purchased for feeding sheep or cattle, and which included a return partly from the animal and partly from the land; therefore, he did not feel the force of the observation made by his hon. Friend, that the two kinds of manure were to be placed exactly on the same footing. Again, he demurred to his general statement, that there was no profit from the feeding of sheep and cattle. He believed that if sheep or lean cattle were judiciously purchased, and properly looked to in the feeding, they might be brought to market at a good profit. [Mr. PUSEY: That is in the north.] But there were lean cattle in the south as well as in the north, and he did not see why they could not be reared there with equal profit. Taking the present price of wool, as well as the price at which the animal might in ordinary circum stances be disposed of, he believed that a lamb bought with judgment and kept for twelve months, would yield a very good profit to the farmer. He would not now enter upon a premature discussion of the ninth clause, which concerned the reversioner, but reserve his observations on this subject till the clause was before the Committee. This question had been treated as a constitutional question, and he thought there was something rather strange in that observation concerning it; but when he heard the remarks of his right hon. Friend the Member for South Wiltshire, with respect to the effect it might produce as regarded remaindermen and the law of entail, then he must say it had a constitutional aspect. If the law of entail was to be attacked, let them attack it openly; but let them not attack it insidiously by a measure of this kind, which would place the remainderman in a most disadvantageous position.


viewed with alarm all those measures that enabled the gentry of this country to saddle their estates with burdens that would go down to their successors. He was confident that the landed interest could alone overcome the difficulties which might beset them by being free from debt. By this clause a landlord might be assailed by two or three outgoing tenants at once, claiming compensation from him at a time when he was unable to give it from want of money. As to the profit to be derived from feeding cattle, he certainly went with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon, rather than the hon. Member for Berkshire. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that if these words were struck out, they would raise the price of meat. If he (Sir J. Y. Buller) thought that would be the case, he would press his Amendment just all the more strongly.

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

The Committee divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 84: Majority 19.

Clause, as amended, agreed to; as were also Clauses 2 to 8 inclusive.

Clause 9.


proposed an Amendment, to the effect that the word "owner" should not extend to the incumbent of any eeclesiastical benefice.


said, the condition of land held by the Church was lamentably unsatisfactory, owing to the absence of any power to charge that land for improvements. At the same time, it might happen that a clergyman in possession of a living might have ample means besides those derived from that living, and, having sanctioned improvements, might leave the living the next day, and so throw the burden of them on his successor. He, however, intended to move an Amendment on the bringing up of the report, that persons in possession of a limited estate should not have the power of charging the estate of his successor beyond a certain amount.


said, the Bill was founded on the practice in Lincolnshire, in which county there were many holders of glebe land, and the practice had not been abused.


proposed that the consideration of this part of the Bill should be postponed in order that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire might have an opportunity of framing his proviso, because, if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Lancaster were agreed to, it would be equivalent to an enactment against all improvements of glebe. At the same time there ought to be some limitation of the outlay, and that the consent of the patron and ordinary should be required.


said, there was a strong feeling that some protection should be given to the clergy; and in order that the subject might be fully considered he would postpone his Amendment until the bringing up of the report.


objected to the clause generally, and moved its rejection.


objected also to committees of lunatics having the power referred to.


said, the words in the clause should have been "committee of the estate of the lunatic," and not of the lunatic himself. What his hon. Friend proposed was, that the same power should be given to the committee of the estate, subject to the approbation of the Court of Chancery, as the lunatic himself would have had.


thought that it would be expedient to omit that portion of the clause which gave power to the mortgagee or incumbrancer in possession to enter into any agreements on behalf of the owners. The effect of allowing this power to the mortgagee in possession would be, that it would be in his power to allow money to be laid out upon the land, which would throw a greater onus upon the mortgagor with respect to the principal and interest which he would have to pay, in order to disincumber his property. In point of fact, it would enable the mortgagee to improve the mortgagor out of his estate. Upon the other hand, he thought that the mortgagor ought not to be allowed to alter the value of the security without the consent of the mortgagee.


said, that the case of a mortgagee in possession was somewhat rare; but, if a mortgagor himself were disqualified from improving his estate under this Act without the consent of all who had charges upon it, the expense would be so enormous, and the delay so great, that he would lose the advantage of such improvement. In the first instance, however, he certainly thought the House should strike out the words proposed by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Midhurst to be omitted.


said, that the principle of the Bill was that no charge should actually fall upon the land, but upon the incoming tenant. The clause had been carefully prepared by a skilful conveyancer, and he believed it was precisely similar to the provision which existed in the Drainage Act.


said, that he would take the opportunity of referring to the clause with respect to the rights of mortgagees in the Drainage Acts, and hoped that upon the bringing up of the report the hon. Member who had charge of the Bill would consent to strike out that portion of the clause to which he had referred.

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

The Committee divided:—Ayes 117; Noes 46: Majority 71.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Monday next.