HC Deb 08 July 1853 vol 128 cc1413-9

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clauses 33 to 35 inclusive were agreed to.

Clause 36 (A tenant may cut turf on his land, under certain limitations, unless restrained by a covenant in his lease).


said, the practice of cutting turf on a farm was a most objectionable one. He himself had a good dual of mountain bog land in Ireland, and if such a clause as this were passed, he should certainly in future take every opportunity to insert provisions in his leases to prevent its operation, so objectionable to him was the practice of cutting turf from land which might otherwise be reclaimed and made susceptible of cultivation.


said, he must explain that power was only given by the clause to cut turf from unreclaimed bog land.


replied, that that did! not lesson his objection, for much of that unreclaimed bog land might be cultivated to some extent under proper care and treatment.


said, he thought it was absolutely necessary that the tenant should have an opportunity of cutting turf on his land for the purposes of fuel, which he might not be able otherwise to procure in the district in which he lived. Quite sufficient protection was given to the landlord, when power was given to him to prevent the operation of the clause by the insertion of a covenant with that view in his leases.


said, he hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) would insist on the clause. If the hon. and gallant Colonel (Colonel Dunne) had read the clause through, he would have seen that it effectually provided against any abuse of the practice of turf-cutting.


said, he should support the clause on the ground that he knew many cases in Ireland in which the circumstance of the landlord having deprived the tenant of his right of turbury, had been made use of as a punishment for political offences.

Clause agreed to; as were also Clauses 37 to 42.

Clause 43.


said, he objected to the clause, as only re-enacting an Act of the 9 Geo. IV., unrepealed, by which power was given to magistrates to issue a precept to restrain tenants from the commission of malicious waste in reference to houses. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) also went a good deal further than that Act, for he sought by this Bill to apply it to the com-mission of waste upon land—a principle which neither the law of England nor of Scotland recognised. He (Colonel Greville) did not propose to alter the existing law; he wished to leave the law as it stood by the Act of George IV.; and he would move an Amendment in accordance with that view.


said, the Act of the 9 Geo. IV. only met a particular case—namely, the injury of houses; but cases very frequently occurred where waste or injury was committed on land, and then the remedy was a reference to the Court (if Chancery, which, besides being tedious and expensive, was powerless in stopping the waste whilst the rights of the parties were being ascertained and determined. The clause sought to remedy that grievance by giving power to the magistrates, on information, merely to stop the further commission of the waste, until the question could be tried before a superior tribunal.


said, that the object would be answered by making the clause applica- ble to houses alone. At the same time he did not touch upon the precept to the magistrate, which he thought a useful provision both to landlords and tenants.


said, he should support the clause. If the principle of the existing Act of Parliament was good as to buildings, there was no ground why it should not be extended to land, which might be wasted by the tenant.


contended that these matters did not refer to the clause under discussion. The question was, whether it was necessary to put the word "timber" in the clause or not, and whether the rights of the landlord were not sufficiently protected in this respect by a previous clause. He thought they were.


said, he would reconsider the subject.

Clause postponed.

Clause 44 (Magistrate's precept to restrain waste).


said, that he had an Amendment to propose. This clause involved the same objectionable principle as the last. If, however, the right hon. and learned Gentleman would consent to reconsider this clause also, he would not press the Amendment.


said, he could not consent to extend his pledge to this clause.


then said that he would move the rejection of the clause altogether. By this clause a power would be given to any one magistrate, upon an affidavit made before him, to issue a precept to restrain the occupier of any land from doing that which it might afterwards be shown he had a perfect right to do. No such power existed in either the English or Scotch law, and he did not see why it should be introduced into that of Ireland.


said, he approved of the clause, as he considered that it proposed a mild and inexpensive mode of staying waste until the matter could be inquired into at the next petty sessions. The operation of the clause would be to bring cheap justice home to the poorer classes in Ireland.


said, he was convinced by experience of the necessity of the clause.


said, that the law was perfectly clear and satisfactory as it stood at present, and he therefore objected to its being altered. The remedy provided by the Court of Chancery was quite sufficient for the landlord, and he therefore hoped the Committee would not sanction the proposed change.


said, the clause would confer a far greater boon upon the tenant than the landlord, for it was absurd to suppose that a poor tenant could resist an expensive suit in Chancery, even though he might have right and equity on his side. Now how would the clause act? Why, in case of dispute between the landlord and tenant, the former would go before the assistant barrister, and obtain an ad interim order, which the tenant could appeal against to the Court of Petty Sessions at a very moderate expense indeed; but he could not do that in a Chancery proceeding except at an enormous cost, and the order in Chancery for the ejectment was, in the majority of cases, made peremptory in the first instance.


said, he fully concurred with the observations of his hon. and learned Friend. It was a great delusion to suppose, as one hon. Gentleman seemed to think, that sufficiently philanthropic counsel could be found in the Irish Court of Chancery who would be ready to take up the case of an injured tenant for a fee of two guineas. Attorneys and counsel were not so easily satisfied as that, and the poor tenant who was dragged into Chancery by his landlord had much better convert his goods and chattels into cash and be off to America, than attempt to resist the suit. It could not be done except at an enormous expense, and, consequently, the change proposed by this clause ought to be passed, if it was only on the ground of bringing cheap justice to every man's door.

Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: — Ayes 61; Noes 18: Majority 43.

Clause agreed to; as were also Clauses 45 and 46.

Clause 47 (Summary possession of small tenements wasted).


moved the omission of the clause.


said, that it would be very hard indeed if a landlord did not possess the power of summary ejectment if a tenant committed wilful injury or damage on premises which the landlord was bound to keep in repair.


said, that this clause was to be considered in conjunction with Clause 7, on which they divided yesterday; and as he believed that the effect of it would be to make the-cottiers the serfs of the landlords, he would vote against it.


said, he would vote for the clause if it was to apply to houses only, but if it was to apply to the land also he would vote against it.

Question put, "That the Clause as amended stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided: —Ayes 59; Noes 18: Majority 41.

Clause agreed to; as were Clauses 48 to 64 inclusive.

Clause 65 (The landlord before putting in a distress must obtain the warrant of a magistrate).


said, he should move the omission of the clause, on the ground that the existing right of distress operated less injuriously on the tenant than would a law which would eject him altogether if there was a gale's rent due. He thought there should be a right of distress also, in order to prevent the tenant from making a fraudulent removal of the crop.


said, that he entertained strong doubts as to the right of distress at all, but he should certainly support any clause that would prevent the landlord from being the immediate enforcer of his own rights.


said, he approved of the change of the law of distress introduced into this clause; but he would carry the principle still further, and say that the whole management of a distress, from its very beginning to its close, should be taken out of the hands of the landlord altogether, and confined to a body provided by the Executive, who should be analogous to the constabulary in Ireland.

Amendment negatived; Clause agreed to.

Clauses 66 to 69 inclusive agreed to. Clause 70 (Power to distrain, inter alia, growing crops in payment of rent in arrear).


said, he wished to propose that the words conferring the power of distraining growing crops should be struck out. Up to the year 1816, the landlords in Ireland had not the power of distraining growing crops. In that year the power of distraining growing crops was conferred upon the landlord, and continued up to 1846. Its operation had been so injurious in Ireland, that the late Sir Robert Peel abrogated the power, and so the law remained up to the present time. The present Bill proposed to go back to that abrogated system, in opposition to experience, and the opinion of some of the best authorities in Ireland. He hoped, therefore, the Committee would support his proposition.


said, he felt bound to defend the clause as it stood. Under this Bill the power which the landlord heretofore possessed would be greatly restricted. As the law at present stood, a landlord had the right of distress for six years. This Bill confined the right to one year, and it should be the year immediately preceding the getting of the magistrate's warrant to levy the distress. It was not quite true that the landlord could not distrain growing-crops now; for although he could not do so directly, he could distrain them indirectly, by the circuitous and more expensive process of a suit in Chancery. It was notorious that of late years the tenants in some parts of Ireland had a habit of cuting down the crops and removing them to friends' houses on the Sabbath, so as to evade the law and cheat the landlord. He thought this was a practice which should be put a stop to, and believing that the alteration proposed was for the benefit of the tenant as well as landlord, he should press the adoption of the clause, for he considered it essential to connect the existing anomalies in the law, and to prevent practices of a dishonest and demoralising nature.


said, he thought that the power given by this clause was most oppressive and unjust, and would have a contrary effect to what was intended. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had fenced round the rights of landlords with sufficient securities, without giving them the direct power of distraining growing crops. The Bill made it a misdemeanour to cut down and convey crops on the Sunday.


said, he did not think that if this clause were retained in its present form, it would be used by landlords generally to harass their tenants. The landlord had power, however, already to eject any tenant who owed him a year's rent; and the only advantage which he would derive from this clause was, that in a suspicious case he might distrain growing crops to recover half a year's rent. The evil sought to be remedied was attributable to a shameful mismanagement; and, looking at the general position of tenants at present, he thought the proposed power unnecessary, and would recommend the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) to reconsider the clause.


said, that the law in England and Scotland gave power to the creditor to seize the growing crops in those countries. He, therefore, could not understand why the landlords in Ireland should not have the same rights as creditors generally had in England and Scotland.


said, that the landlords in Ireland were already sufficiently protected in their rights by the law as it at present stood, without introducing a principle into their law which was calculated to produce the most mischievous consequences. The Devon Commission had strongly recommended the repeal of the Act by which growing crops could be seized, seven years ago; and it was repealed by the Government of, Sir Robert Peel; but the right hon. and learned Gentleman now asked Parliament to re-enact it, at a time too when there was no pretext for it.


said, that by the 76th clause constables were authorised to prevent the carrying of crops on Sunday—a provision which he considered rendered the present clause needless.


said, he should certainly support the clause, believing that, in its result, it would tend to the benefit both of tenants and landlords, and would cheek the demoralisation which arose from the constant attempts on the part of tenants to defraud their landlords. This clause had, so far as he understood, been supported by the Government in the Select Committee, and it was with regret and surprise that he now found the Government opposed to it. Some reason ought to be given for this change of opinion.


said, he would be glad to know what Members of the Government had voted in the Select Committee in the way indicated by the hon. Member who had just sat down.


was at a loss to understand what desire there could be to oppose this clause, unless it arose from an anxiety to enable tenants to defraud their landlords.


said, he was certainly under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland had himself voted in the Committee in favour of this clause.


said, he had not.

House resumed; Committee report progress.

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