HC Deb 25 July 1851 vol 118 cc1548-50

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1.


wished to call the attention of the House to the great distress existing in the Highlands of Scotland, and would suggest that some measure should be introduced similar to that which had been passed with respect to Ireland.


said, that a system of legislation had been introduced with regard to Ireland alone, which ought to be more generally applied. He highly approved of the principle of this Bill. With reference to the distress to which it was intended to apply, a great portion of that distress was in the Western Isles, in which some of the estates were in the hands either of infants or of other parties not precisely of the denomination of owners. He would suggest that, on the third reading of the Bill, an Interpretation Clause should be added to it, showing how its provisions would apply to such cases. He wished to call to the recollection of the Committee a petition he had presented, during the present Session, from a gentleman of the name of Martin, a most intelligent proprietor in Skye, in which, with reference to the mode of repayment of the advances for emigration from the distressed districts in Scotland, it was recommended that some security for such repayment should be taken on the lands assigned to the emigrants in the colonies to which they might transfer themselves. He thanked the Government for having taken up this subject, and hoped the points to which he had referred would engage their attention.


could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that he had listened with interest to the suggestions he had thrown out. No doubt the distress in many parts of the Highlands was deplorable; but he was of opinion that it was not at all so dreadful as it had been represented by some interested parties. It was, however, sufficiently aggravated to warrant the introduction of such a Bill as the present; and he was happy to find that the measure had met the approbation of the hon. and learned Member for Newark, whose suggestions for its improvement in matters of minor detail should be attentively considered. He had no doubt that the works contemplated by the Bill would be attended with advantageous results.


begged to offer his cordial thanks to the Government for having brought forward the present measure, and also for the genuine sympathy which they had at all times manifested in the sufferings of the destitute poor in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. He approved of the Bill, and would give it his unhesitating support; but he hoped that the Government would next Session take into consideration the practicability of introducing some alterations in the law of entail, and some modifications of the relations between landlord and tenant, which would supersede the necessity of emigration—a step to which the Highlander was known to entertain the strongest objection.


said, that it was not easy to get the inhabitants to leave their native place; but when at the close of the American war some of them emigrated to the banks of the St. Lawrence, they and their descendants became a thriving, and even a wealthy population, and a great benefit to the colony. If they now got land at a cheap rate in the west of Newfoundland, where a good deal of fish was to be had, he thought they would greatly benefit that colony as well as improve their own condition.


should like to know how the emigration of the bone and muscle of these districts could at the same time improve the colony to which these poor people were sent, and the owners of property in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, from which they were sent. He thought this measure would afford only a partial and insufficient remedy for the distress which existed, and that it would lay the foundation for still greater misery. When there were hundreds of thousands of acres required for grouse and deer, the poor people must have short commons. He thought that an efficient Poor Law would be the best mode of making the owners of land find employment for the poor.


said, that the hon. Gentleman was not acquainted with the condition of society in these localities; if he were, he would not speak as he did.


was apprehensive that the position of the incumbrancers might be prejudiced by the contemplated advances.


considered that the security of the incumbrancers would be improved in proportion to the improvement of the estate.

Clause agreed to:—as were the remaining clauses.

House resumed.

Bill reported without Amendment.