HC Deb 22 June 1883 vol 280 cc1265-9

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


said, he had intended to offer one or two observations upon this Bill on the second reading; but as it was taken at a time when the discussion would have interfered with Public Business, and as he was indisposed to obtrude upon the valuable time of the Government, he refrained from bringing the matter forward on that occasion. Now, however, that he had the opportunity, he wished to say that he thought if the great Sir Robert Peel could have been in the House that day he would regret that he had contributed in any way to the greatest social evil of any country, and would look with disapproval upon the mode in which a territorial possession was being founded in his name. When the last Settled Land Act was introduced, Lord Cairns, the author of it, said that after it was passed into law no further legislation would be required in this direction; but, as if in mockery of that assertion, this Session there had been a larger number of Bills introduced dealing with settled estates than in any previous Parliament. There were at present three Bills of this class before the House of Lords; and this was the third measure dealing with private settled estates by means of a Bill which had come before the House of Commons. He was bound to say, although he did so with deep regret, that if the House were disposed to do its duty with regard to this and similar measures it would insist on the promoters of the present Bill being relegated to the provisions of Lord Cairns' Settled Land Act; and if that was not sufficient for them and the creditors, they should be told to wait until the House should have passed a measure which was, perhaps, more urgently needed in England than any other in regard to land—namely, a measure dealing with encumbered estates. Under Lord Cairns' Act, Sir Robert Peel had power to deal with every acre of 10,000 acres included in the estate, except that portion immediately connected with the house and grounds. He (Mr. Arthur Arnold) was assured by solicitors in the House and in different parts of the country that one of the chief difficulties introduced by these Bills, and that which impeded the most useful operation of Lord Cairns' Act, was that there was a prohibition in the Act against the sale of the house and grounds of Drayton Manor. The present Bill really had for its object the keeping of 10,000 acres of land in one of the most fertile counties of England in embarrassed hands; and it would prevent the passing of a certain portion of the whole of the estate into hands which would make better use of it, so far as the interests of the people of the country were concerned. If Sir Robert Peel and his friends liked to make use of Lord Cairns' Settled Land Act, they could effect all they desired by the sale of some portion of this largo estate. There were in the United Kingdom some 50,000,000 acres of land in the position of the estate with which this Bill dealt; and all the ills of the country put together were slight, he contended, compared with that which was inflicted by the policy of settled lands. What was wanted in connection with the estate of Sir Robert Peel, and other similarly situated settled estates, was the adoption of the policy pointed out by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) in addressing his constituents in Lancashire, when he said— We need to get rid of those obsolete and artificial restrictions"— such as were contained in this very Bill— which prevent that natural distribution of land in a way that would be most advantageous to the State. As it was, embarrassed landowners could not, under Lord Cairns' Act, part with their whole estate; and, what was far more important, over the vast area of settled land in this country there was not an acre which could be—


The hon. Gentleman is now going beyond the immediate Question before the House.


said, he had only to add, with strict reference to this Bill, that he felt sure the great man who gave to the people of this country the blessing of untaxed food, all the more sweet because it was unleavened with the sense of injustice, would, if he could have been there that day, deeply regret that he should have contributed to this monster evil of this country, and would not look with disapproval on an humble follower of his policy, and one who entertained the deepest reverence for his memory, who, in the case of his own settled estate, ventured in the House of Commons to raise a protest in favour of free land. He regretted that he was unable to divide the House upon the question.


said, he felt that it was hardly possible for him to sit there without expressing the regret which he felt, and which, no doubt, would have been still more largely expressed if the House had been fuller, that any hon. Member should have felt it his duty to make such a speech as that which had just been delivered by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold). It would be an extremely unfortunate precedent if Bills of this class—Estate Bills to give a legislative sanction to arrangements made between private persons in matters which concerned only themselves, were to be dragged from the obscurity they had hitherto been allowed to enjoy, in order to form a theme for a tedious disquisition upon free land. He hoped it would be long before there would be a repetition of what he could not help regarding as one of the worst examples he had over seen of an abuse of the privileges enjoyed by hon. Members of that House.


said, he thought the remarks which had been made by the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) were hardly deserved by anything which had been said by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold). In his opinion, his hon. Friend had done quite right in calling attention to the present system of consecrating large interests of private individuals in Acts of Parliament, and of ignoring those interests which concerned the public. He hoped his hon. Friend would continue to enter a protest whenever a similar Bill was brought in. His hon. Friend had done good service, and he trusted he would persevere in the same course of action, notwithstanding the remarks which had fallen from the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge.


said, he thought the fact that his hon. Friend the Member for Salford did not propose to divide against the Bill showed, on the whole, that he was not opposing it. He (Mr. Labouchere) certainly felt called upon to protest against the view that when a Private Bill was brought down to that House any hon. Member did not possess the right of expressing an opinion against it. Surely his hon. Friend had a perfect right to do that. If his hon. Friend had taken a vote against the Bill, he (Mr. Labouchere) would not have sup- ported him; but he would have voted in favour of the measure. At the same time, his hon. Friend was fully entitled to be heard.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed, without Amendment.

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