HC Deb 18 February 1852 vol 119 cc724-8

Order for Second Reading, read.


moved the Second Reading of this Bill.


would suggest that the second reading should be postponed for a week. The provisions were of a complicated nature, and the Bill had been in the hands of Members only about twenty-four hours. He had been requested to send down to the country copies of the Bill to individuals interested in copyhold tenure, and he wished to ascertain their opinions before the Bill was read a second time.


said, it would be clearly his interest, as an independent Member having charge of a Bill for which he desired the support of the House, to give ample time for its examination; but in this cast he did not think the appeal for delay by the hon. Member who had just spoken was well founded. If this were a new measure, he would at once have acceded to the request of the hon. Member; but he had brought in the Bill last Session, and the Select Committee to which it was referred, directed him to report the Bill to the House, who allowed it to be circulated during the recess. He had, too given public notice that he should bring in the Bill on the first opportunity during the present Session, and, with the exception of one technical portion, he had not altered one single part of the Bill, but had abided by the instructions of the Committee. The measure was therefore as well known now as it would be two months hence, and he would ask the House, under these circumstances, whether it was right to put off the second reading for a whole week?. To do so would be to inflict a great hardship upon those hon. Gentlemen who had thought it their duty to come down to discuss the measure.


urged, that persons interested in the measure should have an opportunity of being heard against it by petition or otherwise.


said, he must confess that he did not entirely understand the Bill, and thought it undesirable that such important interests as were involved should be dealt with so rapidly. When the hon. Member (Mr. Aglionby) spoke, of this measure having been brought in at the end of last Session, he must be perfectly well aware that Bills introduced at that period were rarely sufficiently well-considered by the country. In his own county (Lincolnshire) a great many varied interests would he affected by the Bill, and he should probably receive petitions to present against it. He hoped, therefore, it would be a general understanding that the House would adopt no hurried legislation on the subject, but that sufficient time would be afforded for fully considering the measure.


said, he was perfectly ready to explain the provisions of the Bill if it were the wish of the House that he should do so. [Cries of "No," and "Yes."] When he he heard on the one side "yes," and on the other side "no," he would take the liberty of exercising his own judgment, and doing what he thought was fair. The principle of the Bill might be stated in two words; it was in accordance with the recommendation of the Commission on Real Property that sat in the year 1832. If hon. Gentlemen would refer to the book in the library containing the Report of that Commission, they would see the reasons that induced them to recommend that Copyhold tenure should be abolished. A Committee had also been appointed to inquire into the subject, on the Motion of Lord Campbell, then Her Majesty's Attorney General, and that Committee gave its most serious consideration to every part of the question. That Committee almost unanimously agreed—and it was the late Sir Robert Peel's opinion—that a Bill should be passed for the voluntary enfranchisement of copyholds, and that after some time a measure for compulsory enfranchisement should be passed. Ten years had since passed, and the Legislature had not yet made the enfranchisement compulsory. He had brought in Bills during the last two years to compel the enfranchisement of copyholds. Those Bills were read a second time on each occasion, but they did not meet with the approval of certain hon. Members, and particularly those connected with manors. It was said that his measure was a one-sided measure—that it compelled the lord, and did not compel the tenant. He (Mr. Aglionby) answered that it was one thing to compel a man who exercised an oppressive tenure against a number of individuals to do a certain act on receiving compensation, and it was another thing to compel men who were satisfied to hold under that tenure to pay the lord of the manor for their enfranchisement. The House had last year referred both his Bills to a Select Committee, who excluded what they thought was objectionable, threw overboard his notion of onesided compulsion, and made it compulsory on certain terms on both parties to act under the measure. That was the principle of the present Bill, and if it was now read a second time it would be for the Committee to settle the details. The object was to enfranchise copyhold tenure in such a way as to give full compensation to the lord of the manor, to do justice to the tenant, and also do justice to the stewards of manors. The question of compensation would be left to the Commission for Copyhold Enfranchisement, to whom also it was proposed to leave the carrying out of the compulsory enfranchisement.


said, he had had this Bill so short a time before him, that he could not say he perfectly comprehended it. He was most anxious to see a Bill that would carry on the enfranchisement in an equitable manner both to the lord of the manor and tenant. He had opposed the Bill which had been brought forward on former occasions, and he felt inclined to oppose this on the same ground, that this was a one-sided measure, and that it was a compulsory measure that would act unequally and be unjust to the lords of manors; and in many instances it would be exceedingly oppressive to the tenants, who would be called on to pay sums of money which it might be inconvenient for them to pay. He had great doubts whether they could have a compulsory measure; but they ought to give greater facilities to both parties to come in voluntarily. But there was another objection to the Bill. He wished to see the copyhold tenure—the antiquated feudal tenure—abolished, because the real object of that tenure in former times had now passed away. But this Bill did not abolish copyhold tenure, because the enfranchisement was to entered on the court roll which was to be kept in existence. [Mr. AGLIONBY: That is not so.] He understood that it was so. It was to be converted into an annual rent-charge, which would be attended with all the inconvenience of the copyhold tenure, and, after all, it would not be anything like the fee-simple. His opinion was that if they meddled with it they should give the freehold at once, and that, above all, they should not require any record in the Copyhold Court, as this Bill would do. [Mr. AGLIONBY: No!] The hon. Member said "No." The hon. Member declared before that that he wished to keep the Copyhold Court as a Court of Registration; that he had supported a measure for the registration of deeds; and, that, having failed in that, his object was to make the Copyhold Courts serve to register deeds. It was for this reason that he was opposed to this Bill. He thought it was an unjust Bill, giving preference to the tenant over the rights of the lord of the manor; and that it would be an unjust measure, as retaining the old Copyhold Courts, with all their objections and grievances. He thought that it would not give a freehold instead of a copyhold tenure, which was the thing to be desired. Another objectionable provision in the Bill was the giving compensation to stewards. Why, it was a stewards' Bill. He had a Copyhold Court, and he was obliged to pay an attorney every year for holding the Court. He considered this to be a grievance; but he was told that if he did not do it he might lose some of his rights. The attorney was amply paid for his work; but if there was an end of the work, did they mean to say that the attorney had a vested interest in that employment? He believed that when the Bill was fairly examined, it would be found that it was not worthy of support.


hoped the Bill would pass. It was a mere matter of detail whether compensation should be granted to the stewards. He agreed with the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Strickland) that they were not entitled to compensation; but this could be settled in Committee. The principle of the Bill was, that it simplified tenure and lessened expense, and to that principle he was favourable.


said, the hon. Member for Preston (Sir G. Strickland) only dealt with the details of the Bill, and not the principle. In two counties for which he could speak, the greatest difficulty was found in uniting small farms, in consequence of the copyhold tenure. The House had already sanctioned the principle of the Bill; he hoped, therefore, it would be permitted to pass.


wished to correct an erroneous impression of the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Strickland). The object of the Bill was really to make the whole of the copyhold property free, and the retention of the Courts was to make it apparent to the world that it was free. As to the compensation to stewards, the proposition merely was, that on the execution of a deed of enfranchisement they should have one set of copyhold fees only, including the deed of enfranchisement. As far as the Bill went, he believed it to be a very good Bill.

Bill read 2°.