§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now taken into Consideration."—(Mr. Vans Agnew.)
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
opposed the Motion, remarking that he was sorry to offer any opposition to the majority of the Scotch Members; but his action was certainly not in opposition to the majority of the Scotch tenants. He had hoped that the Scotch Members would have thought better of it, and would not have persevered with a measure which affected the whole rights of property. He would not waste the time of the House by repeating the arguments which were manifestly against the Bill. His hon. Friend (Mr. Vans Agnew) said that the law, as it at present stood, gave the landlord greater protection than all the other creditors. Of course it did. The land during the lease was, in point of fact, made over to the tenant to do 1402 very much as he liked with, and the landlord ought to have prior claim for his rent over the tradesman who supplied the farmer with manure or with food and clothing. He much regretted that the Government had given their support to this Bill, and he trusted that even at that stage it would not be pressed.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
also thought it very undesirable that a Bill of this kind should be hurried through the House without that full discussion which hitherto it had not received. Hitherto he had taken a somewhat neutral position on this question; but he must protest against the assertion that there was a universal feeling in Scotland in favour of this Bill. His doubts were not in the interest of landlords, and in that he did not share the feeling of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baillie Cochrane); but he thought the opinions of the Scottish people were not so unanimous as had been represented. The fact was, that although there had been, doubtless, a considerable agitation and a very strong feeling on the part of an influential class of largo farmers in support of the Bill, the remainder of the population were inactive, not understanding the nature, effect, or scope of the Bill, and thus not actually opposed to it. The constituency he represented was, of course, an urban constituency; but although they had been told that the passing of this Bill would be favourable to those who traded with farmers, he had failed to discover any enthusiasm in that constituency on the subject. He felt that those who had a practical knowledge of the matter would be more likely to understand it than he who had spent great part of his life away from Scotland; and if he had believed that any strong feeling existed in favour of the Bill, he might support it in deference to that feeling. Personally, as a matter of principle—and he had occasion to consider the matter narrowly—he did see great objection to the Bill as it now stood. He believed that if the measure passed in its present unqualified shape, it would render it exceedingly difficult to conduct necessary contracts between landlords and tenants, and especially in the case of the smaller tenants; and it was in the interest of the latter class that he asked that full consideration should be given to the subject. It must 1403 naturally result from the passing of this Bill that not only the larger rural hypothec, but the smaller hypothec and the urban hypothec, and also the Law of Distress in England, must be abolished. He was convinced that it was necessary to cut the Law of Hypothec clown to the narrowest limits; but if it were totally abolished, it would be illogical to retain the principle in any other form in any part of the Kingdom. It seemed to him, as the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) stated on a former occasion, that the conduct of the Government in the matter was open to the gravest suspicion, and that it was clearly the result of the prospect of the contest in Mid-Lothian. The Government could not honestly support the Bill, unless they were also prepared to support the proposition to abolish the Law of Distress in England and Ireland, and to abolish urban hypothec. He had consulted one of his constituents—a large grain merchant—who was likely to be well informed on the subject. That gentleman said to him—"You ought to support the Hypothec Bill." He replied—"That's all very well; but which is the Bill you would like me to support, because I could not approve of the abolition of hypothec without any restriction whatever?" The grain merchant said—"You are perfectly right; and he would be a fool who would propose simply to abolish the present hypothec, without something to take its place." That principle was universal in old countries, and also prevailed in new ones—America, for instance, and he doubted whether they could get rid of it.
§ MR. VANS AGNEW
thought it unnecessary that he should now meet arguments which had been already used and discussed. Those arguments had, in fact, been thoroughly thrashed out, not only this Session, but in previous Sessions; but in reply to the hon. Members for the Isle of Wight and Kirkcaldy, who said there was not a consensus of opinion on this point in Scotland, he would remind them of the Division which took place four years ago, when, out of 45 Scotch Members, 42 were in favour of the abolition of hypothec. Again, the second reading of the present Bill was carried by a majority of 127, and out of 49 Scotch Members who voted, 47 were in favour of the second reading. He thought that was a complete answer 1404 to those who said it was not the wish of the Scotch constituencies that this Bill should pass; and he was very sorry that a Bill which was so thoroughly wished for in Scotland should be opposed by hon. Members who either represented or came from Scotland.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he could not understand the views of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), and must express his regret that the hon. Member had been so long out of the country, and had not had the benefit of the discussion on hypothec which had been going on for the last 20 years. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would not require another 20 years to convert him on the question. As regarded the views of the smaller farmers, the hon. Member might safely leave that matter to the representatives of small farmers. The whole of the county Members, with one exception, had agreed that in the interest of the smaller farmers, as well as in that of the larger, hypothec ought to be abolished. With regard to the consideration of the question in the meantime, he hoped the Government, or their legal Representative in Scotland, would put Amendments on the Paper which would really deal with the somewhat difficult legal questions involved in this Bill. When the measure was in Committee he thought it went rather quickly through, and that the House had not proper time to consider it; for he doubted whether the legal Representative of the Government had, at the time, fully realized the effect of the Bill as it then passed. He thought even the hon. Member (Mr. Vans Agnew), who had charge of the Bill, did not at that time fully comprehend what would be the effect of his measure. He hoped, and thought, the House had a right to expect on such a question the legal Representative of the Government should become responsible for the amendment of the existing law, in order to carry out the intention of the House, without the risk of involving the country in great legal difficulties after the Bill became law. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman was prepared to become responsible for the Amendments which appeared on the Paper, he had no objection to the Bill going through after admission on the question, whether Clause 2 stood part of the Bill, upon which he felt compelled to take the opinion of the House,
§ MR. ERNEST NOEL moved the adjournment of the debate. It was impossible at that hour to go into all the considerations imported into the Bill by the Amendments which had been put down. They did not know how the Government were going to deal with these Amendments; and until they knew that, it would be quite impossible for them to consider the Bill properly.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Ernest Noel.)
§ MR. CHARLEY
considered that after the principle of the Bill had been settled on the second reading, and the details of it in Committee, it was very hard, indeed, upon those in charge of the Bill that it should be stopped in this manner.
§ MR. GREGORY
expressed an opinion that the Bill would place the tenant in a worse position than before. Instead of giving the landlord a remedy by distress, it gave him a remedy by ejectment; and it was, practically, an invitation to the landlord to put this extreme remedy in force.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
was urging that the alterations which had been made in the Bill had rendered it as much a measure of pains and penalties as a measure of relief, when——
§ It being 10 minutes before Seven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till this day.
§ House adjourned at Five minutes before Seven o'clock, till Monday the 9th of June.