§ (Mr. Carnegie, Mr. Fordyce, Mr. Craufurd.)
§ [BILL 4.] ADJOURNED DEBATE.
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [5th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word" That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "pending the consideration (by a Committee of the House of Lords) of the whole question of the Law of Hypothec as existing both in Scotland and other countries, it is expedient to delay the further consideration of this Bill,"—(Lord Elcho,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.369
§ MR. ORR EWING
said, he rose to resume the remarks which had been cut short on the previous occasion. His object in rising at that late period of the day was not for the purpose of shelving the question for this Session, but because he believed it to be a question of too great importance to go to a division upon without having all the arguments possible for and against the Bill, and many hon. Members were desirous of expressing their opinions. For instance, he was anxious to hear the grounds on which his hon. Friend opposite was willing to support the Bill on condition that urban property was secured from its operation. His hon. Friend would give them full and perfect reasons for the exception, and he (Mr. Orr Ewing) should entirety agree with him. But it was because there were just as sound reasons why the law should be applied to land that he opposed this Bill altogether. If his hon. Friend would refer to the evidence of 1866, he would find that the unanimous opinion of the witnesses was that if the Law of Hypothec were abolished as to land, it must be at the same time abolished with regard to houses and house property. He was sorry not to see the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire (Mr. M'Combie) in his place, representing as he did that important branch of intelligent, hardworking earnest men, the tenant-farmers of Scotland. He should like to have heard him give his reasons for desiring the abolition of the Law of Hypothec—what was the real grievance under which the tenant-farmers suffered, and show that they would be more prosperous if the law were abolished. He (Mr. Orr Ewing) believed that the interests of the landlord and the tenant were closely intermingled with each other—that the well-being of the landlord depended upon the prosperity of the tenant; and he believed, further, that it was the Law of Hypothec that had been the great means of making agriculture in Scotland what it was; and this because it had enabled a body of hard-working men to take farms which otherwise they would not have been enabled to take, and had enabled landlords to lay out money upon their farms in draining and other things that they would not have otherwise been able to do; and, above all, it had enabled them to grant long leases, and to delay the collection of the rents until fifteeen 370 months after they became due. He might be told that the best evidence of the opinion of the tenant-farmers of Scotland on this subject was to be found in the result of the General Elections. But he (Mr. Orr Ewing) said that the decision in Scotland was not owing either to the Law of Hypothec or to the Game Laws, but entirely to the question of the Irish Church. As to the agricultural clubs, they were local institutions, got up for political purposes, and represented the wealthy capitalists, and not the great body of the tenant-farmers. These gentlemen had made statements that the effect of the Law of Hypothec is to raise the rents, and to prevent tenant-farmers from obtaining credit from bankers and manure-dealers. But he thought the gentlemen who made these statements did not well understand the grounds on which these people get credit at all. It was when a man was known to be a good man of business, of good character, and economical in his living, that he got credit, and not because of the Law of Hypothec. It was only when a man became bankrupt that the Law of Hypothec came into operation. Did any hon. Gentleman believe that the manure-merchants only dealt with men who would in their anticipations become bankrupts? If the manure dealers knew a man to be unsteady and thriftless, even though he had some capital, they would not give him credit, and would not if the Law of Hypothec were abolished to-morrow. These gentlemen also said—"Why should not the landlord be content to have the same security for his rent that a merchant has for his debts?" But he (Mr. Ewing) would like to ask hon. Members whether it was the case that merchants had not facilities by law to get a perfect security over every transaction into which they enter? If a merchant or manufacturer consigned goods, he expected to receive advances from the house to which he sends the goods, who has a lien over the property. He knew a case of a bankrupt estate to the amount of near £500,000, for £260,000 of which some of the creditors had got security, and were paid in full—the unsecured creditors—of whom, unhappily, he was one—were to have 8d. in the pound when they could get it. But, supposing it to be the case that the manure-dealer was not placed exactly in the same posi- 371 tion as the owner of land, was there no reason why it should not be so? The manure-dealer had an opportunity from day to day, and from week to week, to ascertain the position of the farmer with whom he was dealing, and he could make his calculations whether he was likely to be paid or not. Men were never in difficulties, especially in that line of life, without its being well known to their neighbours. But the landowners did not stand in the same position. They let the land for nineteen years, and during the whole of the time they had no control over the land. They might have originally let the land to a well-to-do, well-meaning man, who might have since died, and his successor turned out a bad tenant, or he might have been ruined by bad debts, or speculations—surely such a tenant could not be regarded as an ordinary debtor. He should like to see the merchant who would enter into a transaction for nineteen years without having the strongest collateral security; it was perfectly absurd to compare the manure-dealer or the seed-dealer, who did business from week to week, with a landowner who lets his property for nineteen years at a stretch. Now who were the farmers who gave evidence before the Commission of 1865. "Why, Sir, they were great capitalists holding farms, the rent of which ranged from £450 a year to £4,000, and there was one family which paid an annual gum of £14,000 for rent. And what was the history of that family? The father, late in life, got a farm for which he paid £100ayear, and he secured the assistance of three or four able, energetic sons in managing his business. These four men went on adding farm to farm, until, from renting a small farm into which the father would never have been put but for this very Law of Hypothec, they had become such capitalists as to hold land to the rental of £14,000 a year. And what did the evidence of these capitalist farmers amount to? Why, to this—that no man should be allowed to take a farm who had not sufficient capital; that men of capital had now to pay more for their farms, owing to the greatly increased competition because of this law; and that the law prevented the application of capital to land. Now, he would ask the House to consider whether this law did in fact artificially raise the value of land? Was it not the case that every 372 business and profession was overcrowded, and that there was the greatest difficulty in any man choosing a direction in which to employ his ability and capital. He said it was a perfect mistake to suppose that there was a greater competition in the farming profession than in any other. Then, was it the case that the Law of Hypothec prevented capital being applied to land? Was there any country in the world where there was more capital applied to the land than in Scotland? He said, without fear of contradiction, that there was none. What was the practical effect of the law? Why, it absolutely gave, according to the computation of Mr. Jamieson, an accountant of Edinburgh, by reason of the delay in the collection of the rent, a capital of £7,500,000 to the tenant-farmers, wherewith to carry on their business. The system upon which land was let in Scotland was this —In the leases of arable farms the terms were nineteen years, and possession was given in the month of November, after the land had been ploughed. Grass and other lands were given possession of at Martinmas, and the rent was payable generally on an average of eighteen months after possession was given. If a farmer took possession of a grass farm, for which the leases range between nine and nineteen years, he got possession at Whitsuntide, paid half-a-year's rent at Martinmas, and the other half at the following Whitsuntide. So that on an arable farm the tenant had an opportunity of selling all the produce long before the rent is due, and on a grazing farm he had the produce of the land in his hands six months before the last half of the rent fell due. He did not advocate the maintenance of this law from the landlord point of view, although he believed sincerely, that they were well entitled to the protection of this law; but he advocated the maintenance of this law only in the tenant-farmers' interest. He believed the abolition of this measure was asked by great capitalists, for selfish purposes, and not for the benefit of the numerous class of tenant-farmers of Scotland. It was a contest between labour and capital, and he warned the House that if this Bill passed it would do the greatest injury to the tenant-farmers, and would prevent ploughmen and farm labourers, by frugality, self-denial, hard work, and skill, 373 raising themselves into the position of tenant-farmers.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
said, the question before the House was not, as the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr Ewing) evidently supposed, whether or not the Bill should be read the second time, but the Motion of the hon. Member for East Lothian, who did not go the length of moving the rejection of the Bill, but simply asked the House to postpone dealing with this question until the Committee that was sitting in" another place" had concluded its labours, and reported upon the evidence that had been laid before it. Singularly enough, Sir, the adjournment which his hon. Friend, who had charge of this Bill, was compelled to ask the House to assent to, had been of such length that they were now in a situation to deal with the whole question, for the Report of the House of Lords was now before them; and he would ask the careful attention of the House to the extraordinary nature of that Report, and to the evidence on which they pretend to found their opposition to any alteration of the law—for if hon. Members would look into the evidence they would find the most marvellous confirmation of the views he (Mr. Craufurd) and his Friends had always maintained in that House. He desired in particular to direct attention to the evidence of Mr. Hope, who stated that while the creditors sometimes got no dividend at all, and often a very small one, the landlord not only got 20s. in the pound, but sometimes a great deal more. Noble Lords, not a little astonished, asked how this was? Mr. Hope replied—In this way. He gets 20s. in the pound until his rent is paid, and the unexhausted manures of the manure merchants and the improvements, liming, and draining, and other things being newly put into the land, the sequestration being laid Tery often in the third or fourth year. All those improvements are kept by the landlord, without his giving any value for them to the creditors, and he gets that sum 20s. in the pound.Now, he (Mr. Craufurd) wanted to know if any hon. Member of that House would stand up and defend the law which gave to one creditor not only payment in full of his debts, but something more, to the detriment of other creditors? Was not such a law as that contrary to the whole spirit of our legislation in modern times, and contrary to the whole interest and benefit of the nation? It was contended by the supporters of the present law 374 that the effect of the law was to give credit to the tenant-farmer, and to enable him to borrow money at a greater advantage; but the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire (Mr. M'Combie) said in his evidence over and over again that he has held back his hand from assisting worthy farmers struggling in difficulties because of the Law of Hypothec. He said that if the Law of Hypothec did not stand in the way, and all creditors shared alike in the assets, he would frequently have helped men out of their difficulties; "but this law," he says, '' prevents me doing so, although I have confidence in the man." His hon. Friend said that he does not defend the old law, but that the modifications introduced by the Act of 1867 were sufficient for the protection of the tenant, and he points to the fact that there have been only a very small number of sequestrations under that Act. But sequestrations were not registered before 1867, and if it were true that so few have taken place since it was strong evidence of the honesty, industry, and trustworthiness of the tenants, and seemed to him the very strongest proof that the landlords would trust their tenants whether there be a Law of Hypothec or not. It had been said that the law included Law of Hypothec, and that the Law of Hypothec was the common law in all mercantile transactions. He (Mr. Craufurd) denied that this was the case. If hon. Members would not listen to him, they would probably listen to the evidence of the Lord Advocate before the Lords' Committee. He was asked—This right of hypothec, then, does not apply only to agricultural property, but it runs through the whole of real estate?" Answer—" It does; it is not part of the law; and it is not founded upon the principle of the law merchant, and consequently it has no correct analogy to other principles in the law, such as the right of retention by an artifice of goods, which he has retained in order to perform work upon them, and of the rights of hypothec, which is really a right of retention, excepting as far as these also are instances of special preferential rights, arising by operation of law; but this Law of Hypothec between landlord and tenant is the offspring of the land tenures, and of the principles upon which they are regulated.To the question, whether the right of hypothec did not apply to time charters, when a person hires a vessel, the owner of the vessel having the first claim over the cargo, as against all other creditors, the Lord Advocate replied— 375That, again, is one of the rights of lien, arising out of the law merchant and out of the necessities of commerce. I do not consider that that is an analogy." "Do you not consider," he was asked," the case of bottomry bonds an analogy?" The answer is, "I think not; a bottomry bond is a wager in very difficult circumstances, under which the creditor advancing his money is to get a very large return in the event of the vessel arriving safe, and in the event of the vessel not arriving safe, he gets nothing at all. I do not think that any very great light is to be thrown upon the question of the landlord's hypothec by those illustrations, excepting that it shows it is not inconsistent with the general principles of law that where the risk is unusually disproportionate to the interest there should be a special power of security. Beyond that I do not think there is much analogy in the cases. The real question is whether the landlord runs an unreasonable risk unless he has the right of hypothec, and on that question I think there is a great deal to be said both on the one side and on the other.Now, he (Mr. Craufurd) would like to know what the learned Lord thought was the unreasonable and disproportionate risk which the landlord runs. The landlord could never lose his land— the utmost he can lose is a quarter or half-a-year's rent. He would, from the necessity of the case, be in a better position without the Law of Hypothec than the manure merchant, inasmuch as his capital is secure, whereas the manure merchant risks both capital and profit. Let me now refer to what the Lord Advocate says in relation to the objection that if the Law of Hypothec were abolished every landlord would fore-rent his farms. The learned Lord is asked—It would be a considerable disturbance of the customs generally accepted in the country, would it not if fore-renting were to be the usual practice?" His reply is—"I am only speaking from impression, and my impression is that, even if the Law of Hypothec were abolished, the landlords would not fore-rent their farms. I think they would find, in the present state of matters, that it would be impossible to do so.He (Mr. Craufurd) believed that landlords would understand their interests much too well to oppress their tenants by fore-renting; but, supposing they did fore-rent, what would it amount to? As they got payment at an earlier date they would have to discount it by accepting lower rents. Then again it had been argued that the Law of Hypothec had enabled ploughmen and labourers to rent farms and become wealthy men; and it was asked would you abolish a law that has worked so beneficially? There was no fallacy more absurd than the post hoc propter hoc. The evidence 376 given before the Committee tended to show that these men rose in spite of the Law of Hypothec, and not in consequence of it; and he believed it would be found that for one man who has succeeded under that law hundreds had failed. If the Law of Hypothec were swept away to-morrow, landlords would still stand in a much higher and stronger position than any other class of creditors. And he was confident that if any impartial person, interested neither on the side of the landlords nor on the side of the tenants, would carefully consider the evidence the conclusion at which he would arrive would not be in accordance with the recommendation in the Report of the Committee in the House of Lords that the law should not be touched.
§ MR. READ
said, he knew how very dangerous it was for an English Member to take part in a Scotch debate; and he never ventured to do so except on one occasion; and he was then told that he had better attend to his own business. But he believed this question to affect not only the tenant-farmers of Scotland, but also those of England, and that was his excuse to Scotch Members for venturing to say a few words upon it. Now, the difference which existed on this subject on the north and the south side of the Tweed was very remarkable, and to him seemed quite incomprehensible. In Scotland this question was, no doubt, made a great party cry at the last election; but he could assure the House that during that election he was never asked, either in public or in private, what was his opinion with regard to the law of distress; he never heard it debated either in any agricultural society or in any Chamber of Agriculture. It might be that the tenant-farmers of England were so ignorant or so stupid that they did not know or feel the depth of degradation in which they were sunk, and that they required the intelligence of their brother agriculturists in Scotland to show them how helpless was their condition. He did not think, from what he could understand of this question, that there was any very great difference between the law of distress and the Law of Hypothec. It might be that there was a difference. It appeared as if the Scotch law with respect to sequestrations enabled the landlords to give longer credit to the tenant than was given in England; but, on the other hand, the 377 law of distress in England enabled landlords to go back for a long period, the tenants in this country generally only having three or six months' credit for their rent. Now, there was a good deal to be said both for and against the present law. As a large farmer and a man having a fair capital, he should say that it certainly produced undue competition for land, and that it often induced landlords to accept men of straw instead of looking out for men of substance. But if he were a small farmer, a man struggling in the lowest scale of agriculture, one whose capital consisted chiefly in his industry and his economy, he really thought he should be in favour of a Law of Hypothec. Why, how was it that a small farmer in England ever succeeded e Was it not because he did the work of two labourers and lived with the expense of one, and that through the indulgence of his landlord he was enabled to tide over those seasons of calamity and distress which must overwhelm and ruin him under different circumstances? He believed that if the law of distress in England were abolished to-morrow, and there were fore-rents instead of back-rents, half the small farmers in England would be ruined. In theory the argument was, he admitted, entirely in favour of the abolition of this law; the preference of the landlord was theoretically unjust, and it was not right that the man who risked only his income should be placed in a better position than the man who risks his property as well. But being a practical man, he looked to the result, and he found the result to be this—that the only man who was really compelled to give credit was the landlord; that the trader could make what terms he pleased, and the trading interest could find no fault in this respect with the agricultural interest; for although it might be slow in paying, it was sure; and that ninety-nine farmers out of every 100 pay 20s. in the pound, even without the aid of the Bankruptcy Law. He was not contented with merely stating his own opinion, he would, with the permission of the House, state that of his brother-farmers in Norfolk. Last year, having been asked to read a paper before the Statistical Department of the British Association on the advancement of Norfolk agriculture, he prepared a series of questions, which he sent to fifty of the chief farmers in that county. One 378 question was this—"What do you consider the chief hindrance to the further development of Norfolk agriculture?" The great majority of the causes assigned were insecurity of tenure, the operation of the Malt Tax, the over-preservation of ground game, and the increase of local taxation. There were several causes given, but not a single person mentioned the law of distress as a hindrance to the progress of agriculture. The replies came, be it observed, not from small farmers, but from men of large capital, men of intelligence and skill, men who had converted the naturally barren soil of Norfolk into one of the most productive soils in England; and he thought the opinion of such men ought to have some weight even with the Members for Scotland.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he wished to refer to one part of the question which had not been touched upon by any Member who had spoken. He alluded to that part which dealt with the town populations in the same manner as farmers were dealt with in the counties. Now, he ventured to say that they ought to be dealt with in a totally different manner. And he was in a position to say that when the deputation waited on the Government to suggest the issue of a Commission, not one word was said that houses should be included in the inquiry, and accordingly when the Commission was issued its attention was directed entirely to agricultural affairs, nor did the Commissioners put a single question, except incidentally, as to how a change in the law would affect the owners and renters of houses in towns. He (Mr. M'Laren) was quite prepared to show that there was no natural connection between the two cases, and that the interests of the occupants of houses would be injuriously affected by the application of the Bill to that kind of property, and unless the towns were to be exempted from the operation of the Bill he should vote against it. The cases of farms and houses, he repeated, were not, in the slightest degree, analogous. In cases of houses let at high rents no difficulty could arise—the difficulty lay with that very large class who could afford to pay only £5 or £10 rent. At present such persons had no difficulty in obtaining dwellings, because the landlord had a security in the furniture, and 379 it would be impossible for the many thousands of tenants of that class to give any other kind of security. In short, the greatest difficulties would arise if the Bill were made to extend to the case of houses in towns. It might be thought that the agricultural part of the question is so much greater than the town part that the latter ought to sink in the former. But that is not the case. From a Return which was moved for by the hon. Member for the Wick Burghs it appeared that, in the case of the agricultural subjects referred to in that Return, there had been 800 sequestrations during the last five years. That was a very small number indeed, comparatively, even if the process were in all cases carried out to the full extent of the law, which was not at all likely to have been the case. Consider the enormous value of the house property which would be affected by this alteration in the laws. The rents in Glasgow amounted to £1,750,000 a year; the rents in Edinburgh exceeded £1,000,000 a year; and the occupiers would be put to great expense and inconvenience in finding other security if the protection now enjoyed by the owners were removed. Such a course would resemble the Chinese plan of roasting a pig by burning down the house. The only justification was to be found in the sovereign will and pleasure of those who wished to include houses in order to secure uniformity. He entirely approved of the Bill as regarded the tenant-farmers, and if the hon. Gentleman would limit it to their case he would vote for it; otherwise he must vote against it.
THE MARQUESS OF LORNE
said, he was not in favour of the total abolition of the Law of Hypothec, but he did think it necessary that some modification should be made in the law, and thought it very desirable if the law of distress as it existed in England could be applied to Scotland. He should vote for the second reading of the Bill.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, there could be no doubt that this question was an important one, and he thought it was very strongly considered at the last election that it would be the duty of the Government to endeavour to deal with it. His own impression was that there was a great deal of practical grievance on the one side, and a great deal of practical benefit on the other, and he would briefly explain to the House the 380 view which, after due consideration, he took of this question. In his evidence before the Lords' Committee, he said that he thought the Law of Hypothec was not the offspring of the law merchant, but of feudal relations; and that, therefore, there was not sufficient analogy, in point of principle, between those liens or rights of retention which the law merchant had introduced in certain cases and this Law of Hypothec. Speaking as a jurist, he might say that the peculiarity of the Law of Hypothec consisted in this—that there was given, in this instance, what the law does not give in any other — security over movable property without possession. It had been said, and the statement might be true, that to a certain extent the landlord retained possession of his land, and only ceded to the tenant the productive quality of it; but still the peculiarity which he had mentioned remained; and therefore, in point of theory, you could not show any analogy between this case and others which had been introduced for the purpose of comparison. But when they looked at the practical question, there could be no doubt that the landlord was neither more nor less than a creditor holding security; that security not being latent but patent. Under the former law the landlord could follow grain which the merchant had sold, and that was inconsistent with what I have just mentioned; but since registration had been introduced no creditor could be deceived as he might have been previously. The landlord was therefore, he said, a creditor holding security which was patent. Now, his own belief was that, in point of principle, it would be better if this law did not exist. He did not say that it was Protection, or that it militated against Free Trade; but he thought that in all probability those who were engaged in agriculture would thrive in the end fully as well, if not better, without it. On the other hand, unless there were a real and substantial grievance, he should hesitate to run the risk which transition would necessarily involve. He thought that in the more cultivated districts the Law of Hypothec was of little avail; but that in the less cultivated rural districts of Scotland the abolition of the law would give rise to great inconvenience, and prove subversive of the relations of landlord and tenant, and therefore, though he should be disposed 381 to agree to considerable modifications of the law, he could not consent to its total abolition. He did not think the House would be disposed to refuse to read the Bill a second time, on the understanding that considerable modifications would hereafter be introduced. As regarded the interest of landlords in this question, he believed that the landlord must ordinarily get the full value of his land, and under no circumstances could or ought he to get more. An attempt to get more than the full value must injure himself, and an investment which was bad for the tenant would be bad also for him. He believed that inquiry would show that landlords had after all been great losers by hypothec, not as regards existing rents, but in the trouble, annoyance, and expense which always occurred in connection with bankruptcy proceedings. He did not think landlords would lose at all by the abolition of the law. They had a commodity to dispose of, and in a fair market they were sure to get the full value of that commodity. Just as if there were no security in the case of freight, goods would continue to be carried, so he believed land would not suffer in value by the abolition of the present law. The ultimate effect would probably be very slight, just as the effect would be slight if an artificer who now had the right of retention for the price of his work were deprived of it. He could not say that he had a great deal of sympathy with the individual tenant who made a complaint on this subject in connection with his lease. He knew what he was bargaining for, and he (the Lord Advocate) did not think he had any fair ground of complaint. He would make a similar remark with respect to ordinary creditors in cases of bankruptcy. Those creditors knew that the landlord had a special security, and that unless the claims of the landlord were satisfied they would get nothing. All these things had been greatly magnified and exaggerated. The question must be looked at a little more in relation to principle. They all knew that in cases of this kind it was not easy to forecast the result of legislation of this kind in a few sentences; but he would endeavour to state what it appeared to him would be the real result of the abolition of the law. As a landlord was a creditor with security, it necessarily follows that the law in relation 382 to land was founded upon the landlord's right. The Law of Hypothec operated quite as much when the tenant was solvent as in cases of bankruptcy. Bankruptcy was the exception; and the first question to be considered was whether the landlord was likely to offer the same terms without the Law of Hypothec as with it. It seemed to him by no means certain that this would be the case. The existence of a special security tended directly to limit the terms—in other words, the rent of the land, and the taking away of the security must have a tendency to increase the rent. Take the most familiar instance, that of a lender holding the security of an estate. While such security can be obtained, money was lent at 4 per cent; but if a law were passed forbidding anyone to mortgage his land, one result would be that a higher rate of interest would be demanded; just as in the case of freight if there were no security, owners of vessels would demand higher rates to cover the risk. The direct tendency of the abolition of the Law of Hypothec must be to alter the terms and conditions on which land is held. At present a landlord gave consideration for what he received in rent in the shape of a lease; but it was questionable whether he would do so if deprived of the security which he had in the Law of Hypothec. Whether it would be better for the tenant to be placed in that position is a question for him to consider. If the landlord exacted his rent—say £500—much sooner than he had hitherto done, the tenant would not have that money available for the purposes of his farm, and he must either abstain from using the money in that way, or must seek credit to meet his wants. His opinion was that the existing Law of Hypothec lowered rents, and that whether rent be raised in money value or on the conditions on which the tenant occupied his farm, the result was much the same. In all such matters as these there were collateral circumstances to be considered, and he should hesitate very much before advocating the abolition of the present law. He did not think the effect of that would be to drive small tenants out of the field; but he thought it would cause them to endeavour to eke out a livelihood by relying more on their own manual labour and less on hired servants. He believed that the small 383 tenants paid the rents the best, and he was afraid that the abolition of the law would lower the status of that class of tenants. There was another point to which he might refer to. Up to the present time the Scotch had had a most flourishing system of leases, under which they had had improving leases granted by the landlords to a large extent. It was said that tenants without capital have taken farms, and no doubt there had been a good deal of that. Of course this had been prejudicial, because the good farms had thereby been brought up to an artificial value; but the matter was one that would always right itself, because the landlords would not go on giving farms to men who would not pay their rents merely because they undertook a larger obligation than those who would. But, on the other hand, he could not understand that where the landlord was satisfied and the tenant was satisfied, and those who dealt with the tenant were satisfied, those who want to take a farm, but have not done so, should complain of the operation of the law and ask to have it abolished. The class of small farmers in Scotland was an important class, and a great deal of the improvement which had taken place in Scotland is owing to their exertions. By abolishing the present law they would be checking this improvement; because they would be inducing the tenant simply to live on his bare substance instead of showing an ambition to get on by improving his farm. These were his suggestions as to the tendency which the abolition of the existing law would, in his opinion, have. On the other hand, if the whole country could show a ready market, an easy means of communication, and a ready means of turning produce into money, he should not think the law of sufficient value to make it worth while to retain it; but when he looked at the small farms, and applied the considerations he had just urged, he was compelled to arrive at a different conclusion. On these grounds he was not prepared to assent to the Bill of his hon. Friend to the full extent; but he would state what he was prepared to assent to. In the Bankruptcy Bill, which was sent the other day to the House of Lords, the landlord's right of distress in England was cut down from twelve months to six months. It was a question whether in 384 the other House to which that Bill has been sent that clause will be retained. On the other hand, they had the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords —a Report to which his hon. and learned Friend referred in somewhat strong terms, and in reference to which he (the Lord Advocate) was be und to say that he thought no one who had read the Report and the evidence could fail to see that there was a great deal of evidence in the direction of the conclusions embodied in the Report. He had now to say that he was prepared, on the part of the Government, to allow the Bill of his hon. Friend to be read a second time, on the understanding that he would not press it further this Session. He could understand a proposition that the law of Scotland should be assimilated to that of England, in which case the landlord would have a right of distraint similar to that which he has in England. He could not understand the observation of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren) that it was possible to retain the right of the landlord in towns, and to abolish it in the country, because he did not see on what ground a law of that kind can be applied to the towns without being equally applicable in the country.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, he could not understand how his right hon. and learned Friend (the Lord Advocate), after the strong arguments he had used, in reply to the opinions which had been circulated throughout the country, as to the benefit to be derived by the tenant-farmers from the abolition of the law, could agree to the second reading of this Bill which went so directly to the teeth of his arguments. It was most important to understand what they were really voting upon. They were not about to vote on the question whether the law of Scotland proceeded on the principle of an excess of what may be rigidly required in the interest of landlord and tenant, nor whether some abatement of the law might be made in the interest of the community generally; but they were discussing the question whether the law should not be totally abolished, and whether the landlords should have any other remedy beyond that which is ac-corded to other creditors. He (Sir Edward Colebrooke) could not go to the extent of the proposal of the hon. Member for 385 Forfarshire. He thought his hon. Friend ought to consent to re-consider the question, and to bring in a measure which would have the effect of abating whatever seemed to be an excess in the law of Scotland beyond that of other parts of the United Kingdom, and that he should withdraw the present Bill. This would give them an opportunity of seeing whether they could not come to some understanding by which all that was anomalous in the law of Scotland might be remedied, so that ultimately they might agree upon a law based on principles applicable to the United Kingdom generally. This question was not to be argued upon any narrow or selfish ground of classes. It must be discussed as a principle, appealing not merely to landlords and tenants, but to all who had to deal with them. In this view, no distinction could be made between landlords and tenants in agricultural counties and in towns. It seemed to him that his hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate was somewhat hasty in assuming that this law was an offspring of our feudal relations. Much prejudice had been raised by the statement; but the law did not originate in the times of barbarism or feudalism, but was derived from the Roman law—from which it had descended—not merely to Scotland, but to every part of Europe, and even to the United States. As to the proposition that the landlord should be placed on the same footing as any other creditor, he thought that, considering the risk which the proprietor run in letting valuable property, whether a farm or a house, he was entitled to a fair amount of protection; and if this should be withheld from him, he would inevitably be driven to the necessity of protecting himself in a manner which might be far more injurious to the interests of the tenant than anything which could arise out of the present state of the law. No one could doubt the power the landlord in towns had of protecting himself. He might resort not merely to beforehand payments, but even to a system of weekly tenancies; but as regards landed property this was impossible. The conditions upon which a tenant entered upon a farm were such that he could only expect to reap the produce in order to pay the rent. There was no doubt that under these circumstances the landlord ran considerable risk. He thought there 386 had been a monstrous amount of exaggeration as to the advantages the tenants would derive from the abolition of this law. He could not say whether rents would rise or fall; but, certainly, the abolition would most injuriously affect the smaller farmers. But this was not merely a landlord and tenant question; it was a question which also concerned those who dealt with the tenants. If it were true that the law inflicted injury on third parties, that might be a sufficient reason for its abolition; but it was shown in the evidence given before the Commission that the third parties, such as the seed and manure merchants, if they only exorcised proper precautions, were free from any considerable amount of risk. Possibly the tenant might have to pay a little more — 2 or 3 per cent — for his goods, by way of his merchant's insurance; but this was the measure of the mischief. Believing that this law on the whole, whatever might be said with regard to some of its details, was beneficial to the interests of the community, and that its total abolition would be attended with disastrous results, he could not vote for the second reading.
§ SIR DAVID WEDDERBURN
said, that in the case of a law which conferred exceptional privileges on one class of the community at the expense of all others, the burden of proof lay not upon those who would abolish, but on those who would maintain such a law. In. the particular case before us, special protection is extended by law to that class who, from the nature of their property, stand far less in need of such protection than any other class in the country. A landlord who appeared as a creditor, claiming against his bankrupt tenant, could under no circumstances fail to recover his principal in the shape of his land; the worst that could possibly befal him was the loss of his rent or interest for a certain limited period. But those creditors who have furnished the tenant with various agricultural appliances, as essential to good husbandry as even the land itself, lose all ownership in the articles supplied, and have only a personal claim against the bankrupt for interest and principal alike. Then, in addition to recovering his land, he had a preferential claim for his rent upon the crop of the year for which the rent is due. Such a pre- 387 ferential security cannot fail to act injuriously to the interests of agriculture by the fatal blow which it gave to the credit of the farmer in his dealings with bankers, merchants, and tradespeople— indeed, with all the world, except his landlord. On the other hand, the special security enjoyed by the landlord stimulated undue competition for farms by placing men without skill or capital in a position to bid successfully against prudent and experienced farmers. Landlords in general had ceased to defend the existing law as beneficial to themselves, but professed to support it in the interests of the smaller tenantry. There could be no doubt that if it were abolished, landlords—or rather their factors —would be obliged to exercise greater judgment in selecting tenants possessed of skill, capital, and good character; and he believed that it was from this class, upon whom the responsibility would be thrown, that the chief opposition to the Bill had arisen.
§ MR. GRAHAM
said, it seemed to him that the question was divided into two parts, the first relating to the landlords in the agricultural districts—and this was one upon which a very strong feeling existed in Scotland. It was a question that had been discussed on every hustings during the late elections, and he believed that the general feeling of the farmers of Scotland was in favour of the principle enunciated in this Bill. With regard to the other question—as to the right of distraint in towns—no such point was ever mooted at the hustings, nor had any complaint been made to this House or to the Commission with reference to any evil alleged to have arisen in connection with this matter. The possession of a house and furniture was a necessity to the labouring man. A man who came into a town where he could not get a house for his family and his furniture was incapable of gaining a livelihood; but the possession of a farm was not a necessary of life to any man, because, at the worst, a man might obtain a living as an agricultural labourer. So far as the lien over household property in the towns was concerned, he fully concurred in the argument that there should be no abolition of that law; but, with regard to the Law of Hypothec, as applicable to farms, he regarded that as a totally different question; and unless the hon. Member for Forfarshire 388 was prepared to preserve the distinction between urban and agricultural hypothec, he could not support his measure.
§ LORD GARLIES
said, that the question whether this law was of Roman or feudal origin seemed to him not at all to the point —the question, to his mind, was—simply whether the law practically worked for good—whether it was really beneficial, or whether it was not. He must say that after what they had heard from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate to the effect that in his opinion the law on the whole is a satisfactory law, and that it would be a great pity to abolish it, he thought the conclusion the right hon. Gentleman had come to—that he would support the second reading of the Bill—was a most illogical one. It seemed to him that there had only been three points stated in favour of the Bill, one, that the retention of this law was a mere relic of feudalism; and next, that the law was beneficial to the small tenants, All he (Lord Garlies) could say was that the small tenants did not themselves seem to state so. The third argument was that of the hon. and learned Member for Ayr Burghs (Mr. Craufurd)—namely, that the Report of the Committee appointed by the other House to inquire into this subject was totally at variance with the evidence which they took. Now, he himself had only just become aware that that Report had been issued; but the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had just informed the House that he had been carefully through the evidence, as well as the Report of the Committee, and that, in his opinion, the Report was very well substantiated by the evidence. He considered that this question in reality affected five particular classes—namely, the landlords, the large occupiers, the small occupiers, the merchants and the land itself. With regard to the first four of those points, there had been so much discussion upon them already that he would not trouble the House by entering upon them; but as regards the soil itself, he could not help thinking that one great reason for preserving the law in Scotland was that it tended to the improvement of the land. If they were to abolish the Law of Hypothec entirely, there could not be a doubt that they would induce the landlords to give up the present wholesome plan of giving long leases, and that, 389 practically, it would come to their giving leases for a year, or at any rate, a very much shorter period than at present. With regard to the question of reserving the law as to urban property they seemed to him to have got into a very curious position. Some who were in favour of the agricultural hypothec were about to vote against the Bill because it included the urban hypothec; while the Lord Advocate supported the Bill because he was opposed to its principle. He thought this alone a reason why the hon. Member for Forfarshire should withdraw the Bill. No man in Scotland could tell why the Bill had been introduced at all, or what any hon. Member really thought about it. The fact was the Bill was an election cry, and an election cry was always an abolition cry; and at the last election the two chief cries — after the Irish Church question—were abolition of the Game Laws and abolition of hypothec. Moreover they were not national cries at all, but cries got up by certain local nonentities who desired to raise themselves into importance. All he would further say was that he was convinced that if this Bill should pass into law it would put the landlords into a false position of illiberality towards their tenants; that it would further have the effect of preventing a very praiseworthy class of men—namely, the small tenants in Scotland — from retaining the advantage of occupying a position of independence; and that it would act against the further improvement of the land in Scotland. He would support the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire.
§ MR. GRIEVE
was understood to object to the mixing up of the two questions of the Law of Hypothec in the urban and in the agricultural districts. He should be sorry to vote against the Bill, and he therefore hoped the hon. Member for Forfarshire would consent to eliminate the urban element from the Bill.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
said, it was very evident that hon. Members who have spoken upon this subject may be divided into two classes—namely, the urban and the agricultural Members—and it seemed almost impossible that the Bill could be argued on its principle on that account. The arguments of some hon. Members who were opposed to the Law of Hypothec 390 were rather amusing. The hon. Member for Edinburgh argued that it would be very improper and very injudicious to abolish the urban hypothec, because it would injuriously affect a large amount of urban capital. He forgot that if you abolish agricultural hypothec it would also affect most injuriously a very large amount of agricultural property. The hon. Member had also taken a case in which a farmer on entering his farm laid out £1,500; he became bankrupt, the landlord recovered the land, and with it the £1,500 which had been invested in it. But he forgot the converse case— which occurred far more frequently—in which a bad tenant run out and exhausted the land, so that the landlord lost not only his rent but his capital was deteriorated. The hon. Member for Edinburgh also stated that urban hypothec was in a different position from agricultural hypothec, inasmuch as the creditors do not suffer to so large an extent from the failure of the urban tenant as they do from the failure of an agricultural tenant. But there was. the case stated by the hon. Member for Forfarshire where the tenant takes a house, purchases furniture for which he does not pay, becomes bankrupt, and the landlord takes the whole furniture for his rent, and the seller loses every penny. In point of fact, this question was one which could not be argued in such a way as to separate the urban from the agricultural element. He would argue the question very much upon the ground on which it had been argued by the hon. Member for Edinburgh—namely, on the ground of expediency. The law was a relic of class legislation, and instead of dealing with it as such, which would only intensify it, they must deal with it on principles—they must consider the entire question of preferential securities. If it be wise to abolish the Law of Hypothec in agriculture it was right to abolish the law as applied to towns; and if it was right to abolish it in those cases, they ought also to abolish it in the ease of the ship-owner, of the legal agent, and the money-lender. His main reason, however, for upholding the law was, that it was the most expedient mode they had by which the landlord and tenant enter into agreements with each other. If they were to abolish the law, the landlord must have some other security. He would be sure to devise 391 some means of obtaining security before he lets the land to the tenant, and in all probability those means would be much more severe than the present Law of Hypothec. There was another point. If the landlord demanded security, the tenant would be running to all his friends and neighbours asking them to come forward as his securities, and thereby would be created a most obnoxious system of securities and warranties, which was always very much to be deprecated. The hon. Member for East Norfolk (Mr. Read) had put a distinction between hypothec in Scotland and distress in England very generally before the House, but he (Mr. M'Lagan) did not think that he had told them all he might have told. He could show that the proprietors of England had far greater security than those of Scotland. In the first place, the proprietor in Scotland could only use his rights of hypothec upon certain portions of the property of the tenant—for instance, he could not touch the furniture of the tenant. Now, in England, the proprietor could seize the whole of the property of the tenant that happens to be upon the farm. Again, the proprietor in Scotland could only exercise his right after going to the court and taking out a sequestration against the tenant, which he did publicly; but a proprietor in England, when the tenant did not pay his rent upon the day it was due, might put a man in possession of the farm and all upon it, and prevent the tenant from performing any operation upon the farm. Again, the proprietor in Scotland could only use his right of hypothec within three months after the rent was due, but the proprietor in England could do that for a year after the rent was due. The only advantage which the proprietor in Scotland had over the proprietor in England was that he could hypothecate the crops of the tenant prospectively, and that advantage arose from the different mode under which the rent is paid in Scotland as compared with this country. The rents in England were mostly fore-rents, in Scotland they were back-rents. In England a clause was inserted in the lease that the tenant must pay the first half-year's rent three months or six months after he entered, whereas in Scotland it was not paid for fifteen months, which gave the tenant very great advantage over his brother in England. He 392 wished to remind the hon. Member for Forfarshire of what occurred on the Commission of which they were both Members. Mr. Elliott, a great opponent of the Law of Hypothec, then said that if they abolished the Law of Hypothec, they must have a law of ejectment much easier and more stringent. At present it was most difficult to eject a tenant even for non-payment of rent; the lease generally having a clause providing that he must go out on becoming bankrupt. His conclusion was that if the hon. Member for Forfarshire would consent that his Bill should be re-modelled so as to be a measure not for the abolition of the Law of Hypothec, but for modifying it, he would give him his support; but if not, he should vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire.
§ SIR GRAHAM MONTGOMERY
said, he was glad to hear from the Lord Advocate that in his opinion there ought to be a Law of Hypothec, and that there was no distinction between the two cases of the urban and agricultural hypothec; indeed, he did not think that any hon. Member had attempted to uphold the distinction. But Ms object in rising was to appeal to the hon. Member for Forfarshire to withdraw it for the present Session. It was only that morning that Members had received a copy of the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords, which contained some valuable evidence as to the state of the question as affecting land in many European countries. It would not be right to affirm the principle of the Bill until the arguments adduced by the Committee of the House of Lords had been considered. Another reason against passing the Bill was that only two years ago the Law of Hypothec was greatly modified, and the manure and seed merchants placed in a much more favourable position, and he thought it was not advisable to make any further changes until it was seen how the law worked. He thought that, considering the discussion that had taken place, and that it was impossible that the Bill should become law this Session, the hon. Member would do well to withdraw the Bill.
§ MR. ELLICE
said, he hoped his hon. Friend would listen to the appeal made to him, and withdraw the Bill. He was always well inclined to follow the advice given by the Lord Advocate, who was 393 generally a man of prudent and moderate counsels; but he must say that on this occasion he thought his right hon. Friend was asking the House to stultify itself. They were asked to read the Bill a second time. That meant to affirm the principle of the Bill. The object of the Bill was described to be "to abolish the Law of Hypothec in Scotland." Now it seemed to him that to abolition by far the larger number of Members, even on the Ministerial side of the House, were opposed. Ho would urge on the hon. Member, as he had urged on Sir James Ferguson when the late Government were in power, to assimilate the law strictly to the law of England. What was right in respect to England was right in respect to Scotland, and to that extent he thought the present law should be abolished. But if the Bill were restricted to that, it took nine out of ten words out of the Bill. The Bill involved two principles— the alteration of the Law of Hypothec as regards the tenant in counties and in be roughs. His constituents were totally opposed to the latter. As regards the agricultural tenant, he had read the Report of the Committee of the Lords, and he must say that, although most witnesses were adverse to the Law of Hypothec, they altogether failed to substantiate their case. It was evident that, with regard to the amount of capital, the effect of the abolishing the law would be to restrict the number of small tenancies, and to throw them into largo farms, and the result would be that while a distinguished Member of the Government was advocating the creation of a small proprietary, this law would tend to destroy the small tenants and to throw them back into the condition of labourers. He defended the present law on the ground of expediency. He thought it ought,to be assimilated to the law of England; but in other re-respects he would be sorry to see the law abolished.
MR. CARNEGIE, in reply, said that the general arguments used against the Bill appeared to resolve themselves principally into the ease of the small tenants. Now, there was a witness— Mr. James Sinclair—examined before the Hypothec Commission who came from a part of the country where the tenancies were almost all fore-rented, and where, consequently, the Law of Hypothec was a dead letter. He (Mr. Carnegie) asked
this gentleman whether he had any difficulty in getting good tenants for these small fore-rent farms. He replied—
We find no difficulty in getting good tenants paying fore-rents. Most of the tenants on my own property are either the sons of small farmers or have been small crofters or blacksmiths, or persons connected in a small way with agriculture." He was then asked—"It does not consist with your knowledge that fore-rents have prevented these people from taking farms and raising themselves?" and the answer was —"No; I have never found any difficulty in letting a farm.
In answer to another Member of the Commission, he stated that the tenants under £50 were diminishing; but he gave it as his reason that no tenant could afford to take a farm which would not afford a threshing-machine. It seemed, therefore, as a matter of fact that where fore-rents existed they did not prevent the better class of labourers and others from getting small farms. The learned Lord Advocate had made a sort of proposal to him which he had some difficulty in quite understanding. Of course, he knew that if he read the Bill a second time he could go no further with it—the period of the Session showed that—but he should certainly take a division on the second reading. But if his hon. Friend meant that he should have his support if he took the second reading on the condition that he would modify the Bill, he would certainly do nothing of the sort. Next Session his hon. and learned Friend could make any proposition for a modification of the law; but for himself (Mr. Carnegie) he should certainly take the very earliest opportunity next Session of re-introducing the Bill. With regard to the urban hypothec, his object in introducing the Bill was to remove the evils of the system from the land, and, for the sake of consistency and uniformity, he included in the Bill the whole subject. But he considered that the two subjects were not entirely identical, though no doubt they were analogous. But he was willing to consider in Committee any alterations or Amendments that might be made in this subject. The question of urban hypothec was not a vital part of the Bill, and he did not consider that any hon. Member who should vote for the second reading thereby pledged himself to the abolition of urban hypothec.
said, he should vote for the second reading of this Bill, reserving to himself, however, perfect right to deal in any manner with it that might seem fit when in Committee.
said, that all the Members for burghs, with the exception of one, had spoken in favour of retaining urban hypothec, and it seemed to him that the reason was not far to seek— it was that the very class who complained of the existence of this law in the country were the landlords in towns. His own constituents were of opinion that the same rule should be applied to the town and country. He regretted that they had not had the opinion of a Scotch tenant-farmer. All those who had spoken were landlords; and, without attributing to them any selfish motives, he could not but think that they were not likely to be very well informed as to the feelings of the tenants. He believed that on this question the tenants were on the one side, and the landlords on the other.
§ MR. FORDYCE
said, that almost the whole of the tenantry in the very large county he had the honour to represent were opposed to this law; and last year he presented a Petition, signed by no fewer than 1,300 of them, to that effect. They regarded it as a relic of feudal times; they believed that it crippled the proper cultivation of the soil, and that it interfered with the good feeling which should exist between landlord and tenant.
§ MAJOR WALKER
said, he believed that among the landlord class there was no strong hostility against modifying the law. They looked at the agitation against the Law of Hypothec as an hypothetical grievance, and they believed that, whether the law were modified or abrogated, they had the power to protect themselves. In that belief they were prepared to meet half-way, or more than half-way, any honest proposition which might be made for the modification of the law. He had only had time to cast a hasty glance over the Report of the Lords' Committee, and the whole of Scotland was in utter ignorance of the results of the inquiry. Surely, then, it would be most premature to pledge themselves to deal with the law, or any part of it, before they had made themselves acquainted with the most valuable contribution to the literature of the subject.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he was able to remember for half-a-century the county in which he dwelt; and the tenantry in the county—perhaps the most industrious in Scotland—had sprung into existence through the Law of Hypothec. Had it not been for this law those small farms would have been thrown into larger holdings, and the agriculture of Scotland would have remained very much in the position it was in sixty years ago. They had had to encounter the difficulties of a great war— the proprietors for the most part were without capital; and it was only the facilities which were afforded by the Law of Hypothec that enabled the tenants to cultivate their farms. The hon. Member (Mr. Campbell) had regretted that they had not had the opinion of a tenant-farmer in the course of the debate. But the hon. Member forgot that they had evidence taken before the Committee, the opinion of a most eminent tenant-farmer, the Member for West Aberdeenshire (Mr. M'Combie), who stated that if the Law of Hypothec were abolished there would be much less competition for farms, and that they would get a more "respectable" class of tenants. But on being asked if the present tenants were not respectable, he explained that he meant men with more money in their pockets. They had also the evidence of Mr. Shepherd, one of the first breeders in Scotland, altogether in favour of maintaining the present law. In Aberdeenshire they were all breeders of cattle, and it was impossible for a man to sink in credit without its being apparent to his neighbours that he was going back; because his cattle decreased, and when these were going he received no credit from his manure merchant, or from anyone else. If a man in East Lothian fails—which was very rare, owing to their self-helpfulness— he went away, and his whole stock-in-trade consisted of a few sacks and a little manure. But no man could enter on a farm who had not got a stock of cattle, which was absolutely sufficient to secure his creditors and his landlord as well. He believed that the whole of this thing had been got up, first of all, as an electioneering cry; and, secondly, for the purpose of monopoly as respects the large farmers. Nobody could read the evidence given before the Committee of the House of Lords without 397 being perfectly satisfied that such was the case.
SIR JOHN OGILVIE
said, he had heard with great surprise the course the Lord Advocate said he intended to take in regard to this Bill. He said that he would vote for the second reading on condition that the hon. Member for Forfarshire would consent to certain modifications, which were very fully explained by the Lord Advocate in detail; and that unless his conditions were complied with he could not consent to the second reading. Now not only had the hon. Member not accepted the proposal of the Lord Advocate, but he had distinctly pledged himself not to entertain it, and announced his intention to bring this Bill again before us at the earliest possible period of the next Session. He could not, therefore, understand how the hon. and learned Lord Advocate could consistently support the second reading of this Bill.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, it was unquestionably quite competent when a Bill was brought in for a certain object, with part of which hon. Members might agree, and with part of which they did not agree—it was in that case quite competent to the House to take the course of voting for the second reading. Now he expressed his opinion quite distinctly that he was against the total abolition of the Law of Hypothec, but that he thought its operation ought to be restricted to the point at which landlords in England were allowed to distrain; and he said that if his hon. Friend would go no further with this question, he was prepared to support the second reading out of respect to the strong opinions held by the country, and with a view to a modification of the law, in the sense he had mentioned. He must confess that his hon. Friend had not acceded to that proposal in the spirit in which he made it. He repeated he was entirely opposed to the total abolition of the Law of Hypothec, but he should vote for the second reading; but he gave his hon. Friend fair warning that if, next Session, he pursued the course he had declared, and which he was fully entitled to pursue, he (the Lord Advocate) would not feel be und again to give him the opportunity of having his Bill read a second time.
thought it his duty as a burgh Member to declare that he 398 should oppose any distinction being made between the rural districts and towns. He could not see that there was any difference in principle between rural districts and towns, and the limitation was simply urged, as he understood, upon the ground of the difference between the two in the amount of property at stake.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in promising to vote for the second reading of a Bill of which he disapproved, was only following the example set in "another place," and doubtless hoped to improve the Bill in Committee. If he should not succeed in doing that, the same result might happen in this case which had happened with regard to another measure.
§ MR. C. DALRYMPLE
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary came into the House and adopted the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate; but he thought he could not be aware of the strong and convincing speech made by that right hon. and learned Gentleman against the Bill, or he would never have consented to vote for the second reading. He (Mr. Dalrymple) supposed the right hon. Gentleman would go into the same Lobby on the same understanding. But he wanted to know if the whole of Her Majesty's Government were going to do the same, with the same conviction, as was shown in the strong and very remarkable speech of their right hon. Colleague.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 127; Noes 91: Majority 36.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for this day month.