HC Deb 01 April 1862 vol 166 cc399-404

said, he rose to move for leave to introduce a Bill to au- thorize the issue of debentures on land in. Ireland, in connection with sales made by the Landed Estates Court. The object of the measure was to remove some of the difficulties which now beset the proprietors of land in Ireland who wanted to borrow money, and to make them the masters of the situation, so that they should not be dependent to the extent which they now were upon the country attorney or the lender of money. Its principal provisions were, that when a person had purchased an estate out of the Landed Estates Court, or had cleared his title in that Court, the Court should have power to authorize him to issue debentures to the extent of one-half the value of the estate. These debentures might be of any amount from £200 to £1,000. A notice of their issue would be endorsed on. the conveyance, and there would be in the office of the Court a book in which their counterfoils would be contained. From the moment at which the Court gave permission for their being issued they would take precedence of any other encumbrance which might be created upon the estate, and the owner would be able to issue them at any time at which he required money. The debenture would be equally as secure as a railway debenture, and, like a railway debenture, would require a stamp, the amount of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer must fix. On being transferred the debenture would also require to be stamped and registered. When first he heard a paper on the subject read by Judge Long field, he felt inclined to be sceptical; but, on looking into the scheme, be found not only that it was practical and safe, but that it was difficult to meet it with valid objections. The Judges of the Landed Estates Court were unanimously of opinion that the plan could be safely worked, and without leaving a door open for fraud; and the Bill only carried to its legitimate conclusion the principle upon which the Landed Estates Court was established, that of giving landed proprietors in Ireland the enjoyment of the full value of their own property. It was not till within the last twenty-four hours he learnt that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the county of Cork, who many years ago wrote a paper on this subject, had also brought in a Bill dealing with the same subject. Bearing in mind, however, the weight of authority attracted by the measure he now ventured to propose, he hoped the House would not refuse its assent to the introduction of the Bill.


I do not rise to oppose the Motion for leave to bring in the Bill, but I think the House ought seriously to consider the effects of the measure proposed by the lion, and learned Gentleman. He has told us that it would be safe, as not being liable to open a door for frond, and that it would be advantageous to the landed interests of Ireland. I have no doubt, with the arrangements stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, it would be safe as far as the; holders of the debentures are concerned; though whether they would be altogether safe in regard to the payment of interest is a question between them and the owners of the land. But I submit that we have gone hitherto on principles diametrically opposed to those on which the Bill is founded. Experience showed that great public and private inconvenience arose from the fact that estates in Ireland were greatly encumbered, and that the nominal proprietor was frequently not the actual owner. No improvements, however desirable, could be made, and it was to correct this state of things that the Encumbered Estates Court was established, by which persons having estates deeply affected by mortgages were enabled to sell them without much expense, and to transfer them to new proprietors possessed of capital, who were therefore more advantageous for the public interest. But the tendency of this Bill is to encourage landowners to revert to that system of embarrassment from which the Landed Estates Court was intended to rescue them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says, when a man buys an estate worth£40,000, he is to be allowed to create debentures to the extent of£20,000, bearing interest, I suppose, at 5 per cent. When he has paid interest on half the value of his estate, what will remain to him for the purpose of keeping up and cultivating the property? Everybody knows that the nominal rental of a landed estate is liable to very great drawbacks, amounting possibly to a fourth or a third, according to circumstances. I think the landowner would soon find that he had reduced him self very much to the condition of those proprietors whom it was thought expedient to relieve from the nominal ownership of their estates. Unlike the case of a mortgage, in which usually a single holder comes periodically for the interest of the money he has lent, there will be twenty or thirty holders of debentures, whose names, perhaps, the owner will hardly know, for these debentures are to become a species of currency, transferable from hand to hand. In the case of a mortgage persons can foreclose, but I should like to know what is to be the remedy of the holder of these debentures.


He will have the power of sale peremptorily in the Landed Estates Court.


In the case of several debentures, some of which are paid regularly and some of which are not, what are the persona to do? Are they to apply for an immediate sale of the whale estate or of portions, and what portions?


There will be no difficulty at all.


No difficulty ! Very well. But if there be no difficulty attendant on the process, I imagine the facility will lie rather in the rapidity with which nominal owners will be; dispossessed of their estates, and that in reality it will be properties and not debentures which will be made transferable from hand to hand.


expressed his opinion, that the principle of the measure was a sound one. The noble Lord at the head of the Government was taking too good care of the landed proprietors of Ireland, who might very well be intrusted with the management of their own affairs. The hon and learned Member for Cork (Mr. Scully) was in reality the originator of this measure, and deserved the credit of the Bill. The Bill was calculated to make property more valuable.


said, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had paid the landed proprietors of Ireland a very bad compliment. The noble Lord's speech amounted to this, that those proprietors were spendthrifts, and that their credit ought to be curtailed. He did not think that that general accusation was well founded, and he ventured to submit that the provident ought not to be punished for the faults of the improvident. The principle of land debentures was not new. It had been in operation for a great number of years in Prussia and other countries.


said, he would ask permission to trouble the House for a few minutes on the subject, because but for it he never should have troubled them at all. He never should have come into Parliament only for that question. When Sir John Romilly introduced his Security of Advances Bill, he brought the subject under the notice of the Irish people, and in 1853 it was incorporated in the larger scheme for the registration of titles, which he laid before the House last year. He remembered the time when the matter was treated with ridicule; but it had now been taken up by the right hon. Gentleman who had filled the office of Attorney General for Ireland under the Earl of Derby's last Government, and who was the incoming Attorney General tinder the next Administration. The plan of land debentures was brought under the notice of a Royal Commission some years ago The Commissioners stated in their Report that the system was not within the range of the inquiry submitted to them; but they further observed that there might be facilities for trying it in Ireland, where strong opinions had been expressed in its favour. Among the eminent authorities who had given evidence in favour of the principle were Mr. Commissioner Long field and Mr. Commissioner Hargreave, both Judges of the Landed Estates Court. He felt sure, that if the noble Lord the First Minister applied his common sense to the question, he would adopt the views entertained by those who were in favour of those debentures. Instead of the proposal tending, as the noble Lord stated, to re-establish the system of encumbered estates, it would have exactly the opposite effect, because it was proposed that the value of the debentures should not exceed one moiety of the value of the land, and thus a check would be imposed on the borrowing of money.


said, he was bound to say he could see no practical difficulty whatever in carrying out the measure. If there were an Encumbered Estates Court in England, the measure could be applied to this country with advantage. The debentures were to be issued under the authority of the court, and only to half the value of the land. Under such a system the lender would not want to sell the land; but if he wanted his money, he could sell his debenture for the full amount. The Bill propounded a new and important principle for the landed interest, as it enabled landowners to borrow at the lowest interest, and at small expense.


observed, that in the case of raising money by debentures upon land in England it was necessary to satisfy the Enclosure Commissioners that the money was to be spent in improving the estate, and if there were such a provision in the Bill, it would get rid of much objection to the measure.


said, that in reply to the observations of the noble Lord, he wished to observe that according to the doctrines of political economy you could not teach a man prudence by legislation. In reference to the question under discussion, they must consider the people whom it was proposed to legislate for as men who wanted money. By the Bill it would be in the power of the court to issue debentures on a portion of the estate and the remainder would be perfectly free; whereas now the whole land became mortgaged and the owner embarrassed by the appointment of a receiver. By the Bill the money could be easily obtained, while the estate would be improved and expense saved.

Leave given. Bill to authorize the issue of Debentures chargeable on Land in Ireland in connection with Sales made by the Landed Estates Court, ordered to be brought in by Mr. WHITESIDE and Mr. LONGFIELD.