§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. CLARE READ
said, that last night he received information by a telegram from the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. James Howard), who was to have moved the second reading of this Bill, that indisposition would prevent him being in his place to move the 1645 second reading, and, therefore, he (Mr. Read) had to perform the very painful duty of asking the House to discharge the Order for the Second Reading of the Bill, and of giving Notice, on behalf of his hon. Friend, that, should the present Parliament sit again after the present Session, he would, at the earliest opportunity, re-introduce the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Order for the Second Reading of the Bill be discharged."—(Mr. Clare Read).
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
expressed his regret at the conclusion at which the hon. Member for South Norfolk had arrived, in moving that the Order for the Second Reading of this Bill be discharged. It was a most important question, especially as regarded the agricultural interest, and no one was better able to deal with such a subject than the hon. Gentleman. Moreover, he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) thought it was proper that the country should learn the opinions of the great Conservative party upon the question of tenant right. Under these circumstances, he hoped the House would not permit the Order to be discharged, but insist on the Motion for the Second Reading being proceeded with, and the subject thoroughly discussed, and with that object, would move, as an Amendment, that the Order be proceeded with. If it were postponed, the House, on a hot afternoon in July, would have to deal with the Bill of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate)—namely, the Monastic and Conventual Institutions Bill.
§ MR. CORRANCE
believed the Bill of his hon. Friend to be a most important one, but at that late period of the Session, he exercised a sound discretion in moving that the Order be discharged. He regretted the absence of the hon. Member for Bedford, and still more the cause of it; but although the Bill might involve a question of great importance, it was too late now to discuss it. He did not think that the House should be turned into a debating society for the purpose of merely discussing this question just before a General Election.
said, he hoped the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle would divide the House on the proposition of withdrawing the Order for the Second Reading of the Bill. It was a question of great importance, and should 1646 therefore be discussed by the House, and not withdrawn in the inconsiderate manner proposed by his hon. Friend. The majority of the Conservative party had expressed their intention of voting for the second reading of this Bill, the object of which seemed to be to catch popular favour. He, therefore, thought the Bill should be submitted to discussion, and he was opposed to the discharge of the Order for its Second Reading.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he had heard with some surprise that last night, at 12 o'clock, a notice had been posted up at the Carlton, stating that the Bill would not be proceeded with at the morning sitting; and although his hon. Friend (Mr. Clare Read) did not think fit to proceed single-handed with the measure, there could be no doubt that he was quite able to deal with it. He (Lord Elcho) had given Notice of an Amendment, declaring that the House was not prepared to prohibit freedom of contract between landlord and tenant. Considering that the subject had been so largely discussed, and that pamphlets had been published upon it, he regretted that no discussion could now take place. He believed that there were in the Bill principles which were good and sound, but that there were other things in it which were wild, and on which Parliament ought to put its foot.
§ VISCOUNT ROYSTON
said, that he had heard of no opinions on his side of the House in favour of the second reading of the Bill as it stood. He had, however, heard that if certain clauses were withdrawn, there would be no objection to the second reading. He greatly regretted that the discussion could not be proceeded with; but, on the other hand, he did not believe that the Bill would prove satisfactory to the country. The absence of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. James Howard) was an unfortunate affair, and still more so the cause of it; but he thought the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) had exercised a wise discretion in moving that the Order be discharged. Many distinguished Members of the Conservative party were now discharging their duty at the quarter sessions. He therefore deprecated any attempt to proceed with the Bill.
regretted the absence of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. James Howard), and the postponement of a 1647 more useful and interesting discussion than often occupied the House on a Wednesday, and he did so the more especially, as it was one which had received the careful consideration of the Government, and upon which they were prepared to express their opinion, if the Bill had proceeded to the second reading. The course of proceeding in withdrawing the Order was exceedingly unusual, and no man was better able to handle the subject than the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read); but in the unavoidable absence of the promoter of the Bill, no other course could perhaps be taken. He hoped, therefore, his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would not insist that the House proceed with the discussion.
§ MR. WHITWELL
thought that the country at large would extremely regret the withdrawal of the Bill. After the expression of regret by the right hon. Gentleman, and the interest said to be taken by the Government in the Bill, a day ought to be fixed for a discussion on the second reading.
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
also regretted the collapse of the discussion, but he agreed that it would be unusual and inconvenient to force it on under the circumstances. As to one principle of the Bill—so far as compensation to tenants for unexhausted improvements was concerned, a large number of hon. Members on that side of the House had already granted it. As his hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk did not wish to undertake the question single-handed, he thought he had taken the proper course.
§ LORD HENRY SCOTT
said, he had always understood that the main principle of the Bill was, that compensation should be given for unexhausted improvements, where it was not secured by other means. Where that could be obtained it was most desirable. At the same time, he very much deprecated the provisions which would preclude the right of free contract. Such a principle was as applicable to commerce and to trade as it was to agriculture, and Parliament could not possibly sanction it.
said, that the country believed that there was some unwillingness on the part of the House to express their feelings on the principles involved in the Bill. Although the Bill did not 1648 extend to Scotland, it was regarded with great interest by agricultural constituencies there, who would naturally regret the withdrawal of the measure. He had received a great number of communications respecting it, and if the House went to a division he should certainly vote that the Bill be proceeded with.
§ MR. WREN HOSKYNS
thought the withdrawal of the Bill was one of the greatest calamities of the Session. A discussion upon it would have shown who were the true friends of the farmers in that House. He hoped that the Government would take steps to have a full discussion on the subject. The question was brought before the House in 1848 by Mr. Pusey, and had remained dangling ever since. At that time the Conservative party were against tenant-right.
§ MR. PELL
thought the hon. Member for South Norfolk was perfectly justified in moving that the Order be discharged. He contended that after the posting of a notice at the Carlton Club to the effect that the Bill would be withdrawn, the House could not, in the absence of their Leaders, proceed with the discussion of this measure. What would have been said in the course of discussion would have had greater reference to the next General Election than to the actual merits of the question.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHERLOCK,
as an Irish Member, would have liked to have heard the question discussed, because, notwithstanding the Irish Land Act, there was a good deal of excitement in some agricultural districts in Ireland, and the Land Question was not considered finally settled there. The Bill appeared to go further in some respects than the Irish Land Act.
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. and learned Member that the Motion before the House was that the Order for the Second Reading of the Bill be discharged. To go into the merits of the Bill upon such a question would be quite out of Order.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHERLOCK,
resuming, asked the House not to assent to the withdrawal of the Bill, as the whole of the United Kingdom was interested in a discussion of this question.
§ MR. A. EGERTON
said, the principle of compensation for unexhausted improvement was generally admitted; but objecting, as he did, to other parts 1649 of the Bill, his vote upon the second reading would have depended upon the concessions which were made by the promoters. The hon. Member for South Norfolk would have been unable to give any satisfactory assurance upon the point, and had therefore exercised a sound discretion in withdrawing the Bill.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he had sent to the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. James Howard) a telegram to which he had received no reply, informing him that his Bill would be taken first that day. Universal disappointment would be caused by the withdrawal of the measure.
§ MR. G. E. M. MONCKTON
said, that his constituency strongly objected to the Bill. It was true that they were protected by local custom; but they felt that under the Bill they would be in a worse position than they occupied now.
said, the 2nd of July was quite a sufficient justification for withdrawing the Bill, for no one could expect any legislation on the subject during the present Session. There seemed to be a fixed determination on the part of the House to do no Business on Tuesday and Friday evenings. If, therefore, the Bill went on, time would be wasted, and worse than wasted, in making speeches upon a matter which everybody knew perfectly well would come to nothing.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
observed that the votes of many hon. Members would depend on the concessions which the hon. Member for Bedford intended to make; and as that hon. Member was not present, he thought the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clare Read) was perfectly correct in the course he had taken. If the Bill had proceeded, he (Mr. M'Lagan) would have been prepared to show that, while fully recognizing the tenant's right to compensation, the plan set forth in the Bill was not the best calculated for the advancement of agriculture.
§ VISCOUNT MAHON
said, he concurred with the promoter of the Bill as to the principle of compensation for unexhausted improvements, and hoped the Bill would be introduced next Session without the objectionable clauses restricting freedom of contract.
§ MR. MUNSTER
pointed out that the Bill had been before the House since the 13th February, and therefore he 1650 was surprised that it should not be proceeded with.
§ COLONEL NORTH
contended that there was no time left in that Session for properly discussing this subject, which was one of very great importance to the country generally.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, that after the expression of the opinion of the House, he should not press his opposition to the discharge of the Order. The discussion that had taken place was no doubt highly instructive.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Order discharged; Bill withdrawn.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he thought it of the utmost importance that the House should discuss the general question of interference with contracts. He would, therefore, give Notice, that on the first favourable occasion, he should move as an independent Motion the Resolution which stood in his name on the Notice Paper:—That this House, while ready to consider any well-devised measure which, in the absence of any lease or agreement, proposes to give reasonable security to the capital of the Tenant invested in the land, and due protection to the property of the Landlord, is not prepared to prohibit freedom of contract in England between Landlord and Tenant.