HC Deb 11 July 1853 vol 129 cc29-33

Order for Committee read; House in Committee.

Clause 70 (What may be taken as a Distress).

Amendment again proposed, in page 23, line 39, to leave out the words "growing corn, hops and roots, fruits, and other produce."

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

The Committee divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 54: Majority 8.

Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."


said, he should move the expunging of the clause, on the ground that it was fatal to the rights of tenants, which as much deserved to be respected as the rights of proprietors.


said, the clause had been fully discussed on Friday last, and, now that a fair division had been taken upon the question, he trusted that no further opposition would be offered to the passing of the Bill through Committee, which he was most anxious to effect that day.


said, he had understood that the words on which they had just divided were not to be pressed; and upon that understanding many hon. Members had absented themselves from the House that morning. For himself he could not admit that there was any necessity for the Bill passing through Committee that day; and if such enactments as those contained in the clause under consideration were to be persisted in, he should not care if the Bill never passed at all. He should vote for expunging the clause.


said, he must deny that there had been any arrangement or understanding on Friday last that the words in question were not to be pressed.


said, he could see no difference between growing crops and crops after they had been severed from the land. No such distinction was recognised in Scotland or England; and what objection could there be to assimilating the law of the three countries in this respect? With every feeling on behalf of the tenant, he should vote for the clause.


said, he looked upon the Bill from beginning to end as one of pains and penalties against the tenantry of Ireland. He admitted that it was difficult to distinguish in principle between growing and cut crops. He had come to the conclusion, on the whole, that the right of distress should not exist at all unless there was reason to suppose that fraud was contemplated by the tenant—in fact, that the distress should operate simply in the way of a ne exeat regno, or an injunction. If the clause were agreed to, he should certainly take the sense of the House on the third reading.


said, he must regret that be was not in his place before the last division was taken, to make the few observations which he would now take the liberty of addressing to the Committee on the subject of this clause. If he was not mistaken, they were now discussing the question of whether the right ought to be conferred upon the landlord of distraining upon the growing crops of his tenant: that was substantially the question they were discussing. It was right, however, that he should state that in 1846 he introduced au Act of Parliament altering the law in that respect. He took that course in conformity with what appeared to him to be a wise recommendation in the Report of the Devon Commission, as well as in conformity with the wishes and opinions of the Lord Lieutenant of the time, and under the advice of the present Master of the Rolls. That change in the law he had no reason to regret, for although during the fatal period of the famine in Ireland there did occur an occasional instance of the surreptitious removal of growing crops, yet he was now happy to say that he was not aware of any recent instances of that nature which could justify their reverting to the old system. Whatever might be the right of the landlord in England respecting growing crops, it certainly had seldom or never been enforced in giving the power of distraint. For himself, he must say, after pretty long experience as a landlord, that he had never exercised the power of distress upon a tenant of his own; and, if it were now proposed practically to extend to Ireland a right of distress upon growing crops, which did not exist in England, he should certainly take the opportunity of voting against such a proposition.


said, he must support the clause as it stood; he could mention several cases where crops in Ireland had been cut down and carried off on a Sunday. Such proceedings invariably led to scenes of confusion and demoralisation, and he therefore hoped the Committee would not hesitate to change a law which served to encourage such a bad state of things. He hoped they might be able to abolish the right of distress altogether; but he thought that, taken in connexion with the other parts of the Bill, the clause was necessary. The Bill was improved in one respect, upon which he regretted that the right hon. Baronet was not present to hear the discussion on Friday. It was, that whereas the landlord had the power of distress for the recovery of six years' arrears, this Bill reduced it to one year, while great improvements were introduced in the mode of proceeding. He therefore trusted the Committee would allow the clause to stand part of the Bill.


said, that he thought he had reason to believe that his right hon. and learned Friend himself had no very strong opinion on this subject. His right hon. and learned Friend said he hoped to see the right of distress abolished altogether, and yet he retained that right in its most obnoxious form in the present clause. With regard to the removing of the crops on the Sunday, that was provided for in the Bill, because it was made a misdemeanour, and that was certainly a stronger law than any that existed in England.


said, he should support the clause. He had known numerous cases in which bands of infuriated men had assembled on the Sunday, and carried off the whole of the crops from the ground.


would suggest that the discussion should be taken upon I the third reading, because there were other matters contained in the clause besides that under review, and matters which it would certainly he desirable not to negative.


said, he was opposed to the clause. The question seemed to be treated as if the tenant had no other creditor but his landlord. It was the oppressive power already possessed by landlords over tenants which frequently prevented independent persons coming to their rescue, and assisting them with their capital, as was frequently done in the case of trade.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 103; Noes 74: Majority 29.

Clause agreed to; as were also Clauses 71 to 72.

Clause 73 (Distress not to be made on Sunday or at night).


moved to omit the words "unless the same shall become necessary by reason of any fraudulent removal of the goods and chattels liable to such distress."

Amendment proposed, in p. 24, 1. 21, to leave out from the word "sunrise" to the end of the Clause."


said, he objected to the clause, and must express his surprise that the Bill should in any case permit distresses to be made on Sundays. They were now endeavouring to close the Crystal Palace on Sundays, and he was shocked that such a power as this should be taken, under such circumstances, in favour of the landlords of Ireland.


said, the views of the hon. and learned Serjeant were exceedingly strange. The clause decided that distresses should not be levied on Sundays, Good Fridays, or Christmas Day; and the words objected to merely provided that the distress should be made on those days, in the case of a fraudulent removal. Nothing could be more reasonable than such a provision.

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

The Committee divided:—Ayes 106; Noes 60: Majority 46.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 74 (Removal of property after sunset to evade a distress a misdemeanour).


said, he should move its omission on the ground of its excessive hardship. If a tenant merely dug up potatoes upon a Sunday night, he would be liable to be punished as for a misdemeanour.


said, it was not necessary to constitute a misdemeanour that crops should be removed; they must be removed fraudulently with the object of evading the payment of rent.


opposed the clause; but before the hon. Member had concluded his objections, four o'clock arrived, when the Chairman left the Chair.

The House resumed.

Committee report progress.

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