HC Deb 01 August 1853 vol 129 cc1113-5

Order for Third Reading read.

Bill read 3°.

On the Motion "That the Bill do pass,"


moved the omission of the words "growing corn, grass, hops, and roots, fruits, and other produce," from the 71st clause. His object in proposing that Amendment was to prevent the reintroduction of the very objectionable right of distraining growing crops. That right had never existed in Ireland until the year 1816, and it had been abolished in the year 1846 in compliance with a recommendation of the Devon Commission. In moving that Amendment, he stood, therefore, on conservative ground, for he was for leaving things as they were. He admitted that there were many provisions in the Bill which would effect valuable improvements in the existing law; but he should rather see it lost altogether than carried with the words to which he was then objecting.


said, it was true that the power which landlords had formerly possessed of distraining growing crops had been repealed in the year 1846, in conformity with a suggestion of the Devon Commission, of which he had been a member. But landlords had been placed by that measure in a worse position than other creditors, who might seize the crops as well as any other goods of a debtor. The result was that many frauds and scenes of violence had arisen in consequence of tenants having entered into collusive arrangements with persons who obtained executions against them, and then seized their growing crops, so that the landlords had no means of recovering the rents to which they were entitled. The Bill now before the House contained many clauses of a mitigatory character as regarded the recovery of rent. For instance, under the existing law a landlord had the power of distraining for any amount of rent that might be due to him; but by that measure the power of distraint to be possessed by a landlord was limited to the amount of a year's rent. Again, a landlord had the power under the existing law of issuing a warrant of distress signed by himself or his agent; while under that Bill he would be obliged to make an application to a magistrate, who alone could issue such a warrant. His right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Napier), who had prepared that Bill, did not think it proper to deny altogether to the landlord the right of distraining growing crops; but he (Mr. Hamilton) had to state that his right hon. and learned Friend was prepared still further to mitigate that power. He proposed the introduction of an Amendment which would make that clause applicable to those cases only in which a landlord was prepared to swear before a magistrate that be had reason to believe that a tenant intended to cut the crop with the view to evade the payment of his rent. His right hon. and learned Friend wished that the clause should be further amended by the insertion of a proviso to the effect that a landlord who should distrain a growing crop should not be entitled to any expenses for watching the property beyond those which he might have incurred during a period of fourteen days. He hoped that the House would accede to those proposals, and would not adopt the Amendment of his noble Friend.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 70; Noes 94: Majority 24.


said, he could not allow the Bill to pass without making an observation. He wished English Members to be aware of the true nature and character of this measure, as its objects were in accordance with the principles advocated by chartists and repealers, and they tended to put down the gentry of Ireland, and raise up the tenants in their places. In illustration of the objects of the advocates of the Bill, he would refer to the meetings which had been held by them out of doors, and particularly to an assembly at Kells, in the county of Meath, at which the hon. Member who represented that county (Mr. Lucas) attended, and declared that he and his coadjutors were pledged to oppose in Parliament any Government which did not make Cabinet questions of "religious equality" and of "tenant right," as embodied in Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bill, and also complained that certain Irish Members connected with the present Government, who had centered into similar pledges, had taken the first opportunity that presented itself of breaking their plighted word. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland (Sir J. Young) had acted unfairly upon the subject, because he had placed upon the Select Committee which sat on this Bill the names of those hon. Members who were pledged in the manner he had just stated; end at the same time he had positively refused to allow two hon. Gentlemen to be put upon the Committee from that (the Opposition) side of the House. In conclusion, he denounced the policy of conciliation and expediency which had been pursued towards Ireland, for it was his opinion that as long as the Government continued that policy peace would never be restored to that country.

Bill passed.