HC Deb 25 June 1851 vol 117 cc1229-39

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of this Bill, said he believed he should be best consulting the convenience of the House by stating shortly the provisions of the Bill for which he asked its sanction. He earnestly implored the House, however it might deal with the details of the measure, not to refuse to take the subject into its consideration. He might allude to a rumour prevalent during the last few days regarding the results of the enumeration of the people, which had recently taken place in both countries under the orders of the Government census. He did not wish to anticipate the results which they would all hear soon on authority; but unless they wore greatly misinformed he feared they must prepare for a state of figures with respect to the census of the sister country which every man of feeling must regard as most deplorable; and if there was no other ground on which he could ask the House to lend its time and favourable consideration to a project which proposed to deal out some measure of relief to a portion of a population which had suffered to an unparalleled degree, the prevalent conviction of the fact he had referred to would justify him, Apart from that, there were some other matters which deserved consideration. He moved some time ago for a return of the number of persons against whom judgments in ejectment had been obtained in Ireland for the three years preceding 1850, and for those three years the total number was 35,416. He thought no one would say it was an exaggeration to state that these figures represented at least 250,000 persons who were affected by those evictions. He did not mention this with the view to raise hostile discussion as to the cause of that state of things. All he asked was, that the House would bear it in mind, and that, in addition to that, they had an additional stimulus from a new quarter—he meant the wholesale system of evictions by the Incumbered Estates Court. The Incumbered Estates Court was called into existence for the purpose of doing two things. It was said that the proprietary to a great extent was so embarrassed that they could not make improvements, and that it was necessary to have a new proprietary. In the course of the discussion on that Bill, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham) made a remark which had been fully borne out by the events. He said the great object was to keep on the soil the capital which accumulated upon it. In common with that right hon. Gentleman, he ventured to express an opinion that the expectation would prove illusory that great masses of capital would go over from this country to be invested in land in Ireland; and it was now proved, in the first report laid before the House of the proceedings before Baron Richards and his Colleagues, that out of 587 persons who had purchased land under the Court in the last eighteen months, only thirty were persons whose addresses were in this country. Therefore it was evident that if they wanted a substantial class of purchasers of land in Ireland, they must seek them not from without, but from within the community in Ireland. But there was another fact connected with the purchasers worthy of note. It was also stated that nearly half of the 587 purchasers who had bought lots, had become proprietors of land, for which they had not paid more than 1,000l. thus intimating distinctly that they must seek for competition among smaller and more limited capitalists. But the second object that was proposed by the Incumbered Estates Commission, he took it, was this—that the occupying classes should be placed in the condition that English tenants generally were placed in, that of having those about them with capital to put the land in working order, or that they should be induced themselves to lay out a moderate portion of capital in the permanent improvement of their holdings. But if they had a class who, in order to obtain any tenure of the soil, were obliged to invest the whole of their capital in its purchase, it was evident they must wait a considerable time before they could obtain that improvement which was desirable. Now, he thought every practical man would admit that if it were possible to find a condition by which the occupying purchaser would be called upon to lay out only a portion of his capital, they would obtain the best sums that could be offered for the estate; he meant buying the estate suject to a rental. He knew that he should be met by the objection, that they were bound in the first instance to secure the paramount object that the creditors should not be damnified. He entirely conceded that principle, and if it could be shown that if his proposals were adopted, the estates as a whole would be sold for less than they would otherwise fetch, then he admitted that he should have an uphill case to bring before the House. But he thought inquiry would satisfy any impartial person that that was not so. He thought if they could devise a system by which a tenant should become a purchaser of one-fourth of the rent, and the remaining three-fourths were reserved, they would get more by that distribution of the estate. He had had communications with a great number of persons, professional and otherwise, who had had extensive dealings in land sold under the Incumbered Estates Court, with reference to the improved value which he thought the land would have if sold in this way, and he would read the opinion of Mr. William Gibson, a solicitor of great practice, who said— My experience has impressed me with a very strong feeling in favour of letting land upon long tenures. I feel, therefore, that this Bill is a move in the right direction, especially that portion of it which would enable the tenants to pay one-fourth of the value as a fine. This provision is calculated, in my opinion, to be of the greatest benefit to all parties concerned. It will serve as an investment for the small capitalist as well as the larger, and I think you may be sure that land so disposed of will command a good price in the market. Another opinion, which he would read to the House, was that of Mr. Power, who said, "I trust this Bill may pass into a law." Mr. Power went on to state the reasons why he thought land thus sold would bring an improved value, and he ended by saying, "I think the value of estates, one-fourth of which was purchased by the tenant, as you propose, would greatly increase." Now, what he proposed was, that power should be given to the Commissioners of the Incumbered Estates Court upon the valuation which they made in order to sell land, and which they might make more stringent if they thought it was not sufficient, to grant a lease to a ton-ant who had been in possession for a certain time, and who placed himself out of arrears, and who held to the amount which they had decided in a recent Act of Parliament, entitled him to the elective franchise—that he should be entitled to come in and ask for a lease under the terms mentioned, after an absolute order for the sale of land had been made. Now, whatever hon. Gentlemen might think of the rights of property, he thought it must be confessed there was no interference here. No one could be injured. The new purchaser would, of course, be subject to any leases so made; but between the outgoing of the old proprietor and the incoming of the new, they would give a security to the occupying tenant which would induce him to invest his labour and capital. As his hon. Friends opposite were well aware, from the time a mortgage was executed by the old proprietor, he had ceased to be able to make a lease; and by this Bill they would place the tenant in a position which the landlord would have put him in if he had had the power. In case the tenant had capital sufficient, he proposed that he should have the option of a lease in perpetuity at three-fourths of the rent, paying down a fine of one-fourth. He believed that the reserved rent of three-fourths would sell for more in proportion, than the entire rack-rent would sell for. Some hon. Gentlemen might be apprehensive of frauds, or at least of interference with their vested rights as landlords, and therefore he bad inserted a provision to protect that class of persons. Where a mortgagee, in order to realise the amount of his incumbrance, came into court, and afterwards the incumbrance was paid off, and the landlord returned into possession, the lease would not be made as against him. He did not know that it was necessary to detain the House any longer by dwelling on the details. If the House would consent to read the Bill a second time, they might be considered in Committee. But he would again urge on the House whether something of this kind was not necessary under present circumstances. They had a state of things which had gone on avowedly unsatisfactorily for the last seven years, and various Bills had been introduced both by the present and preceding Governments to amend the relations of landlord and tenant. This year no Bill at all was introduced; and unless the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford) should bring in the Bill that he promised, they must all go back to their constituents and say there had been no attempt made this Session to improve the relation of landlord and tenant. He did not think that any one Bill would be a panacea for the ills of Ireland. He did not profess to provide for those evils in this Bill. He only asked them to deal with one particular class. A great deal more remained which this Bill did not touch, but it did not interfere with further legislation, or greater legislation, which could only be successfully attempted by Government. But if he had shown the House that there was a class of tenants really worthy of consideration, he would respectfully ask the House not to dismiss the only proposition made this Session for their relief, without at least some consideration.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


trusted that the Government would not for a moment, listen to this Bill. If it was a Bill intituled "a Bill to prevent any purchasers from being found for any Incumbered Estates in Ireland," he could understand it. The object was that land should be altogether leased in perpetuity as against the purchaser. Under such circumstances, was it possible that any purchaser could be found? It was hardly worth while to enter into a disscussion of its provisions, because he thought that they were so absurd as to render it impossible they could be assented to. If such a measure passed, it would have the effect of completely ruining property in that country by preventing the possibility of anything like a fair competition for the purchase of it. He, therefore, trusted that the House, even upon the ground of courtesy, would never assent to such a measure proceeding one stage further.


said, that if he thought the Government had any intention to permit this Bill to pass through a second reading, he would have given notice that he would move for its second reading that day six months. If this measure passed into a law, it would put an end to all security of property in Ireland. Such attempts at legislation as this did more injury to the introduction of capital into the country, and to the promotion of industry in Ireland, than anything that could well be imagined. What Ireland wanted was to be let alone. If property were adequately secured there, the country would go on advancing towards prosperity. The proposed measure violated the rights of property by throwing into the hands of three Commissioners the power of leasing any portion of the lands referred to them for sale, to any person, for 999 years, who could muster but one-fourth of its value. All they wanted in Ireland was simply the same security for life and property which they had in this country. He happened to have an account then by him which showed that the Incumbered Estates Court was already overburdened with the ordinary business appertaining to it, and already were the public serious sufferers by this state of things. By their own return it appeared that up to the 31st of March the total incumbrances amounted to 4,086,192l. The total amount of property sold up to the same period was only 1,350,616l., leaving a deficiency of 2,735,576l. against the unfortunate creditors, who to this extent were left without any fund to pay them. Of the amount sold, only 848,000l. had been paid to the creditors. When the money was paid into court, it was lodged in the three-and-a-quarter per cents; but every day any part of the purchase-money remained unpaid, there was an accumulation of interest at the rate of 5 per cent going on, making a difference of 1¾ per cent to the prejudice of the property. The owners, as well as creditors, therefore, under the existing system, suffered severely; and yet they were now called upon to pass a Bill which would give the Commissioners increased jurisdiction over property, which would aggravate considerably the losses already suffered by those who were entitled to their protection and commiseration. He would be happy to lend his best assistance in rendering the law in every respect more effectual for the attainment of justice; but he would never consent to abandon altogether the rights of property, which he felt he would be doing if he did not oppose the measure of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. T. M'Cullagh).


said, he regretted very much that no Member of the Government was present when this measure was introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk; for so extraordinary a piece of legislation was never even introduced by the Ministers themselves for Ireland. He believed it was nothing more or less than a bold scheme of confiscation, which it was impossible could be entertained for one moment by that House.


was surprised to hear the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) say that what Ireland wanted was to be let alone. Was not the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that by the last census for Ireland it was ascertained that the population had diminished within ten years from 9,000,000 to 6,000,000? In the absence of any measure from the Government for the improvement and amelioration of the social condition of Ireland, he would support the principle of the present Bill, although he was by no means willing to bind himself to all the details. The Bill of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. T. M'Cullagh) was intended only to deal with lands that were not cleared from incumbrances, and upon which there were tenants. The fair purchaser could not be interfered with by this Bill, for it pro- posed that the Commissioners, before the lands were sold, should have power to grant leases to tenants who were not in arrear, and who were prepared to pay down one-fourth of the value of the property in question. There wore a great many serious defects in the law under which these estates were sold. The most lamentable mistakes were made as to the value of land in Ireland. He implored the Government to let this Bill pass its second reading, and to give the House a chance of making it something like a complete measure in Committee. It was perfectly certain it would prove a most decided improvement to the existing system.


said, he should have risen earlier, but he was anxious to see whether there was a second Member of the House who would support this Bill. He conceived that it was objectionable, not only in its details, but in its principle. It was impossible that it could be made anything like an effective measure by any amendments that could be made in it in Committee. It proposed a most unjustifiable encroachment upon the rights of property. He thought there could not be a more obnoxious proposal, unsupportable by any principle, that any body of Commissioners appointed for a particular purpose with a temporary power should be constituted into a body to administer the property of the landlords in Ireland which was encumbered to a greater or less extent. To say that land should be leased out on the terms prescribed by this Bill, was utterly irreconcilable with the rights of property, and therefore it was that he opposed the Bill. There might be cases calling for the interposition of the Legislature; but the question was, whether they should tolerate such a Bill as this even by reading it a second time. The Encumbered Estates Court was instituted to cure a great evil, arising from property having got into the Court of Chancery. The great complaint was, that the Court had power by its receiver to lease land, and therefore persons were interested in keeping the property unsold; and the Incumbered Estates Court was instituted for the purpose of facilitating the sale of property so circumstanced. In conclusion, he begged to move, that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.

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 had consented to have his name placed at the back of the Bill, because he was very anxious to see an attempt made at some practical measure which would relieve the wretchedness of the population of Ireland. He did not say that all the details of the Bill could be adopted, but he cordially agreed in its principle. He considered that, under existing circumstances, the occupying tenant had no motive whatever for improving the land. The improvement should be made by either the occupying tenant or the landlord. The landlord, even if he had the inclination, had not the means of expending capital in improvements. Therefore some system should be adopted, such as compensating the occupying tenant for any capital expended by him in improvements, to remedy the present defective state of landholding. What was the cause of the low rate of purchase obtained for property under the Incumbered Estates Commission? Simply because the purchases were valued at a nominal income. In the last Session of Parliament, the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government pledged himself to bring in a Bill this Session to remedy the present state of things; but it had not appeared. He (Mr. S. Crawford) could assure the House it was not by famine alone that the country was becoming depopulated; extermination prevailed as well under the operation of the poor-law, which had the effect of driving the people off the soil. The people—the very bone and sinew of the land—were leaving the country by thousands; and by and by they would be constituted a nation of paupers, for this reason, that there was not encouragement given for the investment of capital. A law regulating the relations of landlord and tenant was the only means of affording that encouragement and security to the tenant. He therefore hoped the right hon. Secretary for Ireland would bear in mind that the people of Ireland had suffered great disappointment by the neglect of the Government in carrying a Landlord and Tenant Bill. It was now sixteen years since the question of a change in the law in that respect had been brought before that House; and though the Government had done nothing itself to amend the law, every proposition which had been brought forward by others had been resisted by them. He considered that the Bill would effect some improvement; and, in the absence of any proposition on the part of the Government, he should give his vote for the second reading.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 15; Noes 94: Majority 79.

List of the AYES.
Butler, P. S. O'Flaherty, A.
Corbally M. E. Perfect, R.
Crawford, W. S. Reynolds, J.
Grace, O. D. J. Scully, F.
Grattan, H. Somers, J. P.
Higgins, G. G. O. Williams, W.
Keogh, W. TELLERS.
O'Brien, Sir T. M'Cullagh, W. T.
O'Connor, F. Roche, E. B.
List of the NOES.
Anderson, A. Hindley, C.
Arkwright, G. Hotham, Lord
Armstrong, Sir A. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Bailey, J. Jones, Capt.
Barrington, Visct. Kershaw, J.
Bernard, Visct. Lacy, H. C.
Blair, S. Lowther, hon. Col.
Bowles, Adm. Macnaghten, Sir E.
Brotherton, J. M'Gregor, J.
Brown, W. Matheson, Col.
Bunbury, W. M. Milner, W. M. E.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Moody, C. A.
Campbell, Sir A. I. Morris, D.
Carter, J. B. Mullings, J. R.
Chatterton, Col. Nass, Lord
Chichester, Lord J. L. Napier, J.
Clay, J. Newdegate, C.N.
Clements, hon. C. S. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Codrington, Sir W. O'Brien, Sir L.
Conolly, T. Ogle, S. C. H.
Corry, rt. hon. H. L. Packe, C.W.
Cowan, C. Palmer, R.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Pigott, F.
Davies, D. A. S. Pilkington, J.
Duckworth, Sir J. T. B. Portal, M.
Duff, G. S. Powlett, Lord W.
Duncan, G. Prime, R.
Duncuft, J. Rawdon, Col.
Dunne, Col. Renton, J. C.
Edwards, H. Rice, E. R.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. Robartes, T. J. A.
Evans, W. Sandars, G.
Fergus, J. Scholefield, W.
Ferguson, Col. Somerset, Capt.
FitzPatrick, rt. hon. J. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Forster, M. Spearman, H. J.
Freestun, Col. Spooner, R.
French, F. Stanley, hon. E. H.
Goold, W. Thicknesse, R. A.
Grogan, E. Thompson, Col.
Hallewell, E. G. Tyler, Sir G.
Hallyburton, Lord J. F. Vesey, hon. T.
Hamilton, G. A. Vivian, J. H.
Harris, R. Watkins, Col. L.
Hastie, A. Wawn, J. T.
Hastie, A.
Heneage, E. TELLERS.
Herbert, H. A. Hatchell, J.
Heyworth, L. Bouverie, P.

Worns added. Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to:—Second Reading put off for three months.