HC Deb 14 March 1881 vol 259 cc1031-5

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Sir Henry Holland.)


said, the subject was most intricate, and required very careful consideration. With regard to that portion of the Bill which dealt with agricultural machinery taken on hire and use for farming there could be no possible objection. There was no difficulty whatever in knowing to whom agricultural machinery, such as steam ploughs, thrashing machines, and so forth belonged; but when they came to the second part—namely, that which dealt with cattle, he was bound to say they were confronted by a question full of difficulties, difficulties which the draftsman, if he had comprehended, had certainly not met. The Bill enabled a tenant to have on his land whatever stock he chose, to consume the produce of the land, and left the landlord with no remedy for the recovery of his rent. It was, no doubt, considered questionable whether or not it was desirable to continue the system of distress for rent, and he (Mr. Pell) had his own views upon the subject; but it was perfectly clear that a Bill was defective which allowed a tenant the right to do just as he pleased with the land, and yet allowed the landlord no power to obtain his rent. The Bill was a direct encouragement to fraud. The 3rd clause provided for the owner of the cattle giving notice of his agreement to graze the land; but there was nothing in the clause to enable the landlord to know what cattle were put upon the land, or how to distinguish the cattle of the dealer or of the person grazing the land from the live stock of the tenant himself. There would be a jumble, and possibly a law suit between the landlord and tenant, or between the landlord and dealer or banker or person who had found the stock, or who had advanced the money. That was the first objection he had to the Bill. But the serious defect of the Bill lay in the 4th clause, where the framers of the measure desired to do justice to the landlord. They proposed to enact that the landlord might require the owner of the cattle, in the case of a tenant owing rent and holding the farm, to pay any sum or sums of money which might thou be due, or from time to time be due, in respect of agisted cattle, to him, the landlord, in discharge of rent. But it was obvious that the tenant would avail himself of this Act, and would say to the agister of the cattle—"Here I am in difficulty. I have 200 acres of land; I pay £2 an acre to my landlord, and rates and taxes. I do not think I can give you all the grass keeping; but you may have it from the 1st of March to the 1st of September for £400." The dealer would say—"I think that a fair bargain;" whereupon the tenant would say—"I am short of money; if you pay me £350 down on the nail you may have the grass keeping." The dealer would be likely to close with such an arrangement; and where was the landlord to look for his arrears of rent out of money due for agistment when it had been discounted and prepaid? The clause really suggested to people the means of doing that which was hardly fair to the landlord. He ought to apologize for de- taining the House at that hour; but the subject was one of great importance, and one with which he was thoroughly conversant. He had agisted cattle; he had taken in cattle himself; and he considered the Bill had not been framed with sufficient care. He would suggest, therefore, that the hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill should not proceed with it at that hour, or, what would be better still, that he should agree to refer it to a Select Committee.


said, after listening to the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) he found there was only one point on which it was desirable that some words should be introduced—that was, to meet the case of the tenant receiving money in advance. In all other respects the Bill amply guarded the landlord, because notice was to be given by the owner of live stock to the landlord. If the owner did not give notice his cattle remained distrainable. He trusted the House would allow the Bill to pass through Committee, when he would accept the Amendments on the Paper, which were nothing more than verbal; and on Report he would consider what words should be introduced to meet the special point of detail to which he had referred.


said, he had been asked by many of his Colleagues to say one word in favour of the Bill. They desired it to be extended to Ireland, where nearly every day cases occurred which illustrated the questions dealt with by it, and they had remained in the House for the purpose of aiding the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Holland) in advancing the measure.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Short title), and Clause 2 (Interpretation of terms), agreed to.

Clause 3 (Live Stock and agricultural and other machinery exempted from distress).

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 20, to leave out the word "an," and insert the words "a bonâ fide."—(Sir Henry Holland.)


drew attention to the case of live stock getting upon land, and wished to know how they would be affected by the Bill? Further, a team of horses might be sent upon land for the purpose of removing timber. He thought that in such cases great injustice might sometimes be done under the Bill, which, he thought, hardly went far enough.


said, there were many farms in Suffolk, the owners of which were unknown to anyone but the tenants, who generally would not allow the landlord's name and address to be known, particularly if they held their farms at a low rent. Very often, also, no regular agent was employed, the rent being paid into a bank. Therefore, he thought it would, in many cases, be impracticable to give notice to the landlord. He thought the assumption ought to be that the cattle belonged to the tenant, and suggested that if distress was put in the owner of the stock should give notice to the sheriff, who should hold the money until the question was decided. The question of ownership of cattle, even when all the facts of the case were known, was a very difficult one. There ought to be some power to decide to whom the stock actually belonged; but as to giving notice to the landlord, he was quite sure that in his part of the country, at any rate, it would be quite impracticable. He had no desire to delay the Bill, which had, however, come forward rather suddenly. Still, he thought if time were given the clauses might be made more simple and more effectual.

Amendment agreed to.


said, he wished to make it absolutely certain that the live stock which might be put out for agistment did not belong to the tenant farmer; and, therefore, proposed to add words for that purpose.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 23, after the word. "stock," to insert the words, "together with a statement of the number of each kind of such stock with the owner's marks thereon."—(Sir Walter B. Barttelot.)

Amendment agreed to; words inserted accordingly.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 (Payment by owner of live stock to landlord of sums due for agistment or feeding).


said, the clause required consideration on the ground that it only gave power to the landlord to give notice to the owner when there was rent in arrear. He should, therefore, move to report Progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Whitley.)


hoped the Motion would not be pressed. The landlord would give notice that when the rent was in arrear the owner of the live stock was to pay any sums due in respect of the agistment to him, and not to the tenant.


said, a landlord might let a farm for a year, no rent being due for half a year. In the meantime the tenant might be receiving rent week by week, and when the landlord came at the end of the term he would get nothing.


trusted the Motion to report Progress would not be pressed, inasmuch as the Amendments that might be necessary could be brought up on Report. As it was exceedingly difficult for private Members to go forward with Bills, it was very desirable that they should not be unnecessarily delayed.


said, that the clause before the Committee was so far from providing what was right and just that he thought time Committee should agree to report Progress. The clause, as it stood, was an encouragement to tenants unable to pay their rent to obtain money down from other parties and depart with it, in which case the landlord would have no remedy whatever. This section, in his opinion, required re-consideration.


pointed out that the hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill was prepared to meet all objections; and he, therefore, hoped the Motion for reporting Progress would be withdrawn.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause verbally amended, and agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to, with Amendments.

Preamble agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next.

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