HC Deb 05 May 1873 vol 215 cc1541-3

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time,"—(The Lord Advocate.)


said, he must complain that his hon. and learned Friend had vouchsafed no explanation of his Bill—which was one rather difficult to understand. It was introduced without remark, and now the second reading had been proposed without remark. The Bill proposed to alter the law of entail in Scotland and to unsettle the Act of 1848, which placed the Scotch entails on the same footing as English entails. He had no strong feelings in favour of entail; but he wanted to know what were the reasons which had induced the Government to introduce a Bill of that kind; what were the mischiefs it was proposed to remedy; what were the objects it was proposed to secure? He had had communications from several parties in Scotland, who had expressed their difficulty in understanding what was the object of the Bill as regarded the alteration of the law of 1848. He did not wish to oppose the Bill, provided the Lord Advocate could give good and sufficient reasons for its introduction; otherwise he should reserve his right to oppose the Bill when it went into Committee, by which time the country would be better enabled to express an opinion upon it.


would not say anything about the entail part of the Bill, or to the desire to introduce the English system, but he desired to protest against the stringency of the clause relating to bequests to public charities. He thought the Bill should be deferred for some time to allow of an expression of opinion in Scotland in regard to its provisions.


said, the Bill was an improvement on the previous Bill, which was defective in this respect—that while it gave the best facilities for disentailing, it left intact the powers which owners had to entail. He was aware that the Bill did not meet with the entire approval of entail proprietors, but it gave the best facilities for the sale of property, and his own opinion was that they should give the best facilities for this, unless reasonable provision were made for other members of the family besides the heir. He also hoped the right hon. and learned Lord would re-consider the part of the Bill relating to mortmain.


said, the reason why he had refrained from making a speech in moving the second reading was that, as he could only make one speech according to the rules of the House, he thought it better to wait to hear what the objections to the measure were before making any remarks. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gordon) had asked for certain explanations of the provisions of the Bill. He (the Lord Advocate) presumed that he had done this on behalf of others; because as the Bill had been in his hands for some time, and considering his position at the Scotch Bar, if he did not understand it, the plain course for him to take would be to move its rejection, on the ground that it was unintelligible; but, as he had not done this, he presumed his hon. Friend had understood it. He (the Lord Advocate) had, however, had conversations with various Scotch Members, who seemed thoroughly to understand what the Bill proposed. Now, as to the change which the Bill made in the Act of 1848, the first thing, which must strike everyone who had read it was that it prohibited entails for the future, and that it rejected the Act of 1685, under which entails existed in Scotland, and which was not done by the Act of 1848. The Bill proposed to dispense with certain restrictions as to date of birth of heirs apparent, or nearest heirs qualified to give consent to sale, and to allow efficacy of consent without reference to the date of birth. With respect to the freedom given to the proprietors of entailed estates, he had to explain that under approbation of the Court they might, on the security of the estate, expend money to the amount of six years' revenue for the purpose of improvement, and it was to be observed that the Bill made it possible for proprietors to resort to the Court without any considerable loss either of time or money. That was an entirely new provision. The Act of 1848 made no change in that respect at all, but only gave credit to the successors of an heir of entail for three-fourths of any money spent by him for improvement. It was said there was no provision for proceeding under the Report of the In-closure Commissioners; but he would undertake to have the defect in this respect made good before the Bill passed out of Committee. In answer to the hon. Baronet the Member for Lanarkshire, he proposed to give the Judges power to overrule what were called the mortmain clauses.


and Mr. CRAUFURD complained that a Bill of so much importance and intricacy should be discussed at half-past 1 in the morning — Mr. CRAUFURD objecting to the growing habit of bringing on Scotch business after midnight.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.