§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the second time."—(Sir George Balfour.)
§ MR. VANS AGNEW
said, he opposed the Bill on the ground that the proposal it made trenched upon the rights of property. He did not deny that some improvement might be made in the cottages of labourers in Scotland, but he was not prepared to consent to a measure like the one under notice. A similar measure was introduced into this House the Session before last. There were many objectionable features in that Bill; and some of them had been renewed in this Bill, but not the whole of them. Now, what this Bill did was to raise a presumption that if a tenant or occupier erected any building upon the land, it should be held to belong to that occupier or tenant, and when he left the landlord must pay him for it. It might happen that a landlord having a tenant whose lease had not many years to run, would desire not to let the same land again for arable purposes. He might wish to let it out for grass, or he might desire to join two farms together; yet under the Bill he might be compelled to pay for cottages for which he had no further use. At all events, as far as he read the Bill, there was nothing to prevent it. The occupier was to place his cottages where he pleased, without the leave of the landlord, and therefore a tenant might place a cottage near his own house, on his green. He should be glad to see a Bill passed which would enable landed proprietors who had had real value added to their estates by the 1615 tenants, to be charged with the cost in a less expensive made than by applying to the Court of Session. At present there was a Bill before Parliament for that object, and this Bill ought not to be read a second time without clearing that matter up. The interpretation clause of this Bill said nothing about the materials of which the building was to be built. It said nothing of the minimum size of the doors and windows, and nothing as to sanitary matters. The promoters of the Bill, in fact, said nothing as to whether the cottage was to be such a one as if built in a town would be sanctioned under any of the Improvement Acts. If the landlord was to be called upon to pay for the cottages, he ought to have some security that they were proper buildings, and that they should not be houses built with timber from his own estate, and merely thatched. It would be a strong measure to call upon the landlord to pay for cottages the walls of which were only built of clay. The Bill was so carelessly drawn that he found no safeguards whatever in it. There was nothing to prevent the cottage being built of mud, and below the level of the ground, and yet the landlord was to be called upon to pay for such a building. There was another point worthy of consideration. The Agricultural Holdings Bill for England was now before Parliament, and in it there were three classes of improvements, and one of these included the erection and maintenance of buildings. Now, they had been informed that a similar Bill would be introduced for Scotland. He, therefore, asked those hon. Members who had introduced the Bill whether it would not be wiser to wait until the Scotch Agricultural Holdings Bill came into this House before pressing this measure forward?
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, the Bill was intended to enable tenants to do that for the landlords which the landlords would not do for themselves. It was not denied that there was a great lack of cottage accommodation in Scotland, and a great portion of the illegitimacy of the country was attributed to the want of cottage accommodation in certain districts. The county which the hon. Member who had just spoken represented stood pre-eminently high in its illegitimacy statistics, and it would be especially benefited by the Bill. He was therefore surprised— 1616 And it being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.