HC Deb 01 April 1851 vol 115 cc885-90

MR. B. COCHRANE moved for leave to bring in a Bill to extend the provisions of the Private Money Drainage Act of 1849, to the advance of private money for the erection and repair of farm buildings on lauds in Great Britain and Ireland. Last year, when a Drainage Bill was before the House, one clause in it, which proposed to extend its provisions to farm buildings, was thrown out; and the Bill he now asked for leave to introduce was framed with the object of enabling the proprietor to obtain money for farm buildings, to a limited extent, the money to be repaid within a period of thirty years—and there was a clause empowering the Commissioners to grant a rent-charge for the money thus obtained. This last proposition would be open to amendment. The House would admit that so many Drainage Acts having been passed, and farms having been thus increased, it was essential that farm buildings should he increased in proportion. In Scotland there was no power of obtaining money by proprietors of entails for such a purpose, except on life insurances. By this measure the heirs of entail would be greatly benefited. For instance, a Bill had been passed some years ago altering the Scotch law of entail, and enabling proprietors to sell land to the extent of one half of the amount of the improvements they made. By the proposed Bill, these parties might have obtained the money at a moderate rate of interest, and instead of one-half of the land being disposed of, there would have been no charge whatever. The Bill would be especially beneficial to persons who wished to obtain money at a late period of life. He would read a few lines of a letter he had received, and which expressed the feelings of Scotland in this proposed extension of the provisions of the Private Money Drainage Act to the erection and repair of farm buildings. [The hon. Member read an extract expressing the opinion that advances for the erection of farm buildings would be a great boon to the landholder, and most beneficial to the heirs of entail.] When this proposal was made last year, the objections urged against it were as follows. The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Trelawny) opposed it, because he said it enacted protection in a different shape; the hon. Member for Preston (Sir G. Strickland) said, that the money was not sufficient; the hon. Member for North Devonshire (Mr. Buck) said, the loan was not sufficient, and it could not replace protection; the hon. Member for Elgin (Mr. dimming Bruce)said, that great advantage would arise from it to the farms; and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that he had inserted the clause in order to elicit the opinions of Members, but that his own opinion was in favour of expunging it. With regard to contracting loans for the erection of farm buildings in Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman said he was willing to grant it, as there were peculiar circumstances in relation to Ireland which did not exist with regard to England. Such was the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year; and he (Mr. B. Cochrane) now told the right hon. Gentleman, that unless some boon was conferred on Scotland in these days of free trade, he did not know how Scotland could meet foreign competition.


said, he was afraid the hon. Member had somewhat prejudiced his case by his allusion to free trade, and by speaking as if the measure related to advances out of a public fund. Now, the object of his hon. Friend's measure was simply to allow private persons to advance their money, and to give them facilities for so doing on landed property, for the improvement of lands, and the erection of farm buildings. He could state most certainly that many persons were desirous of obtaining loans for this purpose, and that many others were ready to make advances on good security. The difficulty which presented itself was the complex state of the law; and the object of his hon. Friend was to overcome that difficulty, and enable persons to advance such loans without the investigation of title and other machinery of a complex nature. Under the present Loan Act the difficulties were so great that the only advancing parties were large companies. He trusted that in Committee a clause would be introduced which would have the effect of removing that difficulty. Now, in what way were the repayments to he made? [Mr. B. Cochrane: Out of the rent-charge.] He supposed, therefore, that the rent-charge would have to be gathered without the advantage of the assistance of a Government officer; because from inquiries made of the Enclosure Commissioners he had ascertained that the lender would not be able to receive it back through the Government officer, but would have to collect it himself. If this difficulty could be removed, very considerable accommodation would be granted to landed gentlemen who required assistance; it would confer a great boon upon them without any expense to the public. If the difficulty to which he had alluded could be removed, many small capitalists would be ready to advance sums of 500l. or 1,000l, for which they would be able to obtain 7½ per cent for 22 years by way of annuity, or 4 per cent per annum.


trusted the House would pause before entertaining the principle broached by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cochrane). The only excuse for lending money for the drainage of land was, that the whole community had an interest in the productiveness of the soil. He believed that any interference on the part of the Government to lend money would be exceedingly dangerous and liable to abuse. [Mr. SLANEY: It is not public money.] He knew that it was intended to allow only private individuals to lend, but such a measure would give them a lien over the lands, overriding all mortgages. If the object of the hon. Member was merely to simplify the law, and enable landed proprietors to borrow money on land, he should cordially approve of it. But if they departed from the principle of drainage and making the soil productive, they would open the door to great abuses, for money might be advanced for the purpose of building houses or ornamenting grounds. He trusted that the House would not extend the principle already laid down.


said, he understood the hon. Gentleman that it was public money that was to be granted, and if it had been, lie should have opposed the introduction of the Bill; but after the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shrewsbury, he thought it extremely desirable that such a Bill should be introduced. He was surprised at the observations of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, seeing the amount that Scotch gentlemen had got of the public money. There was one objection of the hon. Gentleman's which he thought scarcely tenable, which was, that the security for the money to be advanced was to take priority of all mortgages. Supposing it did, the advancing of this money had enhanced the value of all the property, and he thought it was but fair that it should take the priority. He hoped the Bill would be so framed that it would be productive of beneficial effects.


said, it would he unnecessary to see that the money was applied to the purpose for which it was borrowed. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Slaney) spoke of the Enclosure Commissioners as the tribunal in England; but he (Colonel Dunne) knew no tribunal by which it could he applied in Ireland. It was quite clear that free trade had altered the system of cultivation in Ireland. Wheat had ceased in a great measure to be cultivated, and flax was cultivated instead. He had received a letter that morning from the chairman of a poor-law union, in which it was stated that in that district the cultivation of wheat had entirely fallen off, and flax was cultivated. The cultivation of flax required mills, and he stated this to show that some assistance of this kind was required.


said, if landowners chose to tic up landed property by all kinds of restrictions, they ought to see, at all events, that, as far as legislation could effect it, means should be taken to prevent the country from getting into a state of dilapidation, and prevent large districts from being absolutely without the means of improvement. He was consulted some time about an estate strictly entailed, and to which a. gentleman succeeded at a certain time of life. The estate was out of order, the buildings generally dilapidated; and the question arose how could this gentleman, with so short a tenure, find the means of putting it in order? He remembered particularly one proposal made was to lay out a sum of 3,000l. or 4,000? on a farm of 400 or 500 acres, and it was absolutely essential that that sum should be laid out, in order to procure a good tenant; so that here was this gentleman, with a tenure of probably only a few years' duration, called upon to lay out four of five years' value upon one farm, and if he did not do that, then the land could not be improved. Though he believed it to be difficult to secure the application of the money in all respects in the most expedient manner and for the purposes for which it was wanted, still ho thought the attempt worth making, and he cordially gave his support to the lion. Gentleman's measure, leaving it to those who were more acquainted with rural affairs than he was to see that adequate precautions were taken when the Bill was in Committee.


said, that lie should not have said a single word if the hon. Gentleman had not talked at him, and he should not have opposed the Bill though he thought it impracticable. The hon. Gentleman would remember that when this Bill was discussed last year, it was rejected by a majority of two to one, and he found that if was rejected by three to one of the English county Members who voted, lie should leave it in their hands. He should not oppose the introduction of the Bill, but he thought it right to give his opinion en it.


said, he was one of the majority last year who voted against the Bill for what he considered good and sufficient reasons; but he was much surprised afterwards at the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exche- quer, who supported a Bill giving to Ireland the privilege which he denied to England. If proper precautions were adopted, he thought in many cases advances might be most beneficially made.


said, what he stated last year was, that so far as the Exchequer was concerned he was perfectly indifferent. He left it to the English Members to decide for England, and to Irish Members to decide for Ireland. The English county Members, by three to one, rejected it, and lie put no obstacle in the way on behalf of the Exchequer; and therefore the hon. Gentleman had not rightly stated it.


What the right hon. Gentleman said was that he saw very great difficulty in preventing fraud in certain instances, and afterwards he allowed a similar Bill for Ireland.


said, he had had communications from Scotland that a Bill of this kind was much wanted. The money advanced for drainage would be useless unless they could erect farm buildings.


said, he would read to the House what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did say last year. He would do so, because it was an important argument in the ease The right hon. Gentleman said— With regard to contracting loans for the construction of farm buildings in Ireland, lie was willing, as it appeared to be the general wish of Gentlemen connected with that country, and as there were possibly circumstances in relation to Ireland, which did not exist with respect to England, to assent to that proposition. He had endeavoured as briefly as possible to explain the object of the Bill; and the notice on the paper clearly showed that his intention was "extend the provisions of the Private Money Drainage Act, of 1849." The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing his Budget, had alluded to the necessity of giving assistance to the landed interest in certain cases, and he thought great facilities might be given with respect to the erection of farm buildings.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Cochrane and MR. Forbes.

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