HC Deb 21 May 1862 vol 166 cc2007-13

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, its object was to afford facilities in raising money by the owners of land in fee simple in Ireland, who were a very numerous class, without rendering a judgment necessary or the more expensive auxiliary of a mortgage. The proposition was, after the Landed Estates Court had granted a perfectly clear title to an estate, to allow the Court to give to the purchaser, if he asked for it, a right to possess, use, or disuse debentures charged on that estate, and included in the conveyance in the way pointed out in the Bill; so that if in after life he should require to raise money to meet any exigency, it should not be necessary for him to have recourse to a mort gage or judgment, but should have the means of helping himself from his own re sources. The Bill had been draughted by one of the Judges of the Landed Estates Court, and had received the unanimous approval of all the other members of that court; it was proposed altogether in favour of the landed interest, and the only class who would be probable sufferers under its operation would be the legal practitioners; but he knew they were far too enlightened, liberal, and just to offer opposition to any scheme intended for the benefit of the country. The objections urged against the measure proceeded upon the assumption that after a man had obtained a clear title it was undesirable to give him facilities in re-incumbering the property, and a supposed case of a rash and profligate man was always adduced. But would not a man of that character get through his property if these facilities never existed? And did it follow that he would be ruined sooner because he could obtain money upon reasonable terms instead of at an exorbitantly high rate? The rental was examined in the Landed Estates Court, and therefore all questions of value and title were concluded; and it was only necessary to fix the amount to which the issue of debentures should be authorized. Under the present system a man with an income of £2,000 a year wanting to borrow £500 was obliged to apply to his lawyer, who possessed himself for the purpose of his title-deeds, and in all probability retained them for the rest of his life. He again made application to an agent, who shook his head and talked of the difficulties in the money-market, which could only be surmounted by one of two causes—either appointing his son to act as receiver over the estate, or upon payment of a reasonable bonus. Mean while, the landlord pressed for the loan of money which he was anxious to obtain; and the solicitor replied, that after he had drawn out an abstract of title and com pared it with the register, and submitted it to counsel for opinion, his client might hope to receive the money in a period somewhat shorter than was occupied by the Siege of Troy. Railway companies were authorized to issue debentures on security much less valuable than that presented by the owner in fee, and he confessed he could see no objection to the proposal, for the system of registry which the Bill included was of so perfect a character as to preclude danger from fraud or forgery. The scheme had been originally propounded by the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. Scully); but until its details were connected with the machinery of the Landed Estates Court, he did not believe that its working would have been safe. In support of the measure there was the very highest testimony. The present Solicitor General for Ireland, in a paper read before the Social Science Congress, strongly recommended the adoption of Judge Longfield's proposal; and he might remind the House that the learned Judge himself, before he attained his pre sent high office, was a Fellow of the University to which he belonged, was distinguished for his mathematical attainments, and was at one time Professor of Political Economy. His mode of conducting the important business which came before him was known to the House, and he had only to add that he believed his clear head, strong sense, and sound judgment were not likely to be led astray on a subject with which he was so intimately acquainted.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2°.


said, he understood that there was no objection to refer the Bills both of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin and the hon. Gentleman the Member for the County of Cork to a Select Committee; and he took the liberty of suggesting, as the subjects had a natural connection with each other, that the other measure which had just been under the consideration of the House should be referred to the same tribunal. At first sight, it would appear as if his right hon. and learned Friend, having abolished, as far as in him lay, one species of security in Ireland, was endeavouring to create in its place another description of security. For some years Parliament had been doing its best to disencumber landed estates in Ireland; but now it seemed to be thought desirable that Parliament should create a new machinery for re-encumbering them. Whether the framers of these two Bills had or had not succeeded in guarding against the evils which were felt when judgments were transferable, nobody could read them without being sensible of the extreme importance, as well as the extreme novelty of these plans, for their applicability was not confined to Ireland. His hon. Friend the Member for Cork County was certainly entitled to the credit of priority of invention in this case, whether it was a good invention or a bad one. He did not undertake to pronounce positively, at present, whether it was good or bad: he was aware that the hon. Member had paid great attention to the subject; and upon the kindred question of the registration of title to land the country was, no doubt, indebted to him for able and useful suggestions. But the main features of this plan appeared to be that half of the landed estates in Ireland were to be melted down into marketable securities, and that the Landed Estates Court was to become a bank of issue of transferable securities—not transferable from hand to hand, but by registration, in much the same manner as Consols at the Bank of England. His right hon. Friend appeared satisfied that the Court would, in all cases, get at the actual value of the estate. When sales took place, no doubt an approximate value might be arrived at; but it was obvious that a very different degree of credit was due to value ascertained by the evidence of surveyors and valuers; and from the nominal value serious deductions must be made, especially with regard to property of a fluctuating character, such as houses and mines, which did not depend on the permanent value of the land. It was one thing to form an opinion of the vigilance of a court from past experience of business with which it was well acquainted, and quite a different matter to place under its discretion and control the hypothecation of the whole land of Ireland, to be administered upon a system entirely novel. The Bill of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin provided greater securities than were contained in the other Measure; but on its side, also, the Bill of the hon. Member for the county of Cork profess ed to offer some advantages. The hon. Member for Cork proposed to superadd to the transfer of these debentures by entry on the register another mode of transfer by memorandum, which would make the debentures negotiable by indorsement, if not actually transferable by delivery from hand to hand, which would in effect be creating a new currency in addition to that already existing in the country. He did not presume to offer opposition, in this stage, to either of the Bills; but it was well the House should have time to reflect upon the large and momentous question which they were called on to decide. Especially in the face of the great authorities which had been quoted, he would not venture to form any final opinion. It might be that this was a great and valuable discovery in the interest of the landed proprietors of both countries; but the House could not fail to see that it must he attended with import ant results, not only to the landed proprie- tors, but to all those who were in any way concerned in the monetary operations of the country; and, if he did not deceive himself, under either plan the beneficial ownership of the land to the extent of the debentures proposed to be issued would be, to all intents and purposes, severed from the duties of the proprietor.


said, the subject was not wholly a novelty, as in 1853 he brought in a Bill which was read a second time, and which embodied the whole of the scheme now laid before Parliament. He gave every support to the proposal of his right hon. Friend; for though it differed in details, the principle was identical, having been borrowed from his own original measure. The difference between the "Debentures on Land" Bill and the "Land Debentures." Bill reminded him of King James the First's famous conundrum "What is the difference between live fish and fish alive?" The letter "a," and no more. He had no objection to the Bills being referred to a Select Committee, for he believed the more the subject was investigated the more surely would the principle of land debentures be approved.


said, he could not agree with the observations of the Solicitor General, that by sending the Bill to a Select Committee the House would not pledge itself in favour of the principle of the Bill. He should prefer to see it rejected at once. He objected altogether to the principle of the measure. There was really no necessity for it, and no specific evils had been pointed out which would be cured by it, The Landed Estates Court disposed of property to the amount of a million a year, and there was never any lack of purchasers. In that respect, therefore, the Bill would answer no useful object. Some years ago the present Master of the Rolls introduced a Bill to empower the Landed Estates Court to endorse borrowing powers on the conveyances which they granted, that every purchaser of an estate could borrow half the purchase-money immediately after he got the conveyance. He and others opposed that Bill, and it was withdrawn. He was equally hostile to the present Bill. He questioned the propriety of affording great facilities for embarrassing landed property. He could not see the difference between the debentures which would be created by the Bill and the judgments which had been denounced so loudly. He was afraid that the proposed scheme would offer great temptations to land-jobbers, who would purchase estates merely for the purpose of selling them again as soon as possible. The issue of an enormous amount of new securities would have a very injurious effect on existing securities on land. There was one county, for in stance, where only a single estate had passed through the Estates Court, the practice being to raise money by private mortgage; but if this Bill passed, mortgagees would be tempted to exchange their present investments for the new securities. He doubted whether the landed interest desired the Bill. He knew a number of landowners who did not. There was no difficulty in raising any amount of money as a first charge on land in Ireland at 4½ per cent interest, and funds for improving property could also be raised on the most advantageous terms. His right hon. Friend had referred to the in convenience of voluminous title-deeds, but the Bill would not provide the slightest remedy for that evil. The proposal must therefore be very carefully dealt with; and if the Bill were sent to a Select Committee, some pledge should be given that no further proceeding should be taken during the present Session.


supported the Bill, and suggested that the extent to which debentures should be is sued might be limited to a third of the value of the property.


opposed the Bill. The debentures would be likely to get into the hands of low attorneys, who were already great money-lenders to tenants; and it would affect existing mort gages unfairly.


said, that as a lauded proprietor in Ireland he viewed the proposal with the greatest possible alarm. The establishment of the Encumbered Estates Court had been, on the whole, a most successful and beneficial measure; but the scheme before them was of a retrograde character.

Bill read 2°, and committed to the Select Committee on Judgments Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill. [Bill No. 203.]

And on May 27 Select Committee on the Judgments Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill and the Land Debentures (Ireland) Bills nominated


House adjourned at ten minutes before Six o'clock.