HC Deb 21 April 1884 vol 287 cc243-7

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the measure was one of great simplicity. Its primary object was to amend the law respecting the administration of the personal estate, and the escheat of the real estate, of deceased persons. It was considered desirable to afford to the Crown some protection against claims made against it with regard to the property of persons who died intestate. The Bill provided that where the administration of the personal estate of a deceased person was granted by a nominee of Her Majesty, any action or other proceedings against such nominee for the recovery of the personal estate should be of the same character and subjected to the same rules of law and equity, including the Statute of Limitations, in all respects as if the administration had been granted to the nominee as one of the next of kin. By this provision the Statute of Limitations would be held to apply in favour of the Crown Solicitor where the Crown Solicitor wished the administration of the estate by reason of the intestacy of a deceased person. It further provided that where a person died without an heir and intestate in respect of real estate, the Law of Escheat should apply in the same manner as if the estate were a legal estate in land held directly from Her Majesty. The object was to prevent claims being raised up that were of a fictitious character, or attempts to recover from the Crown, notwithstanding the Statute of Limitations. If any objection was likely to be raised against the Bill it would be an objection of detail rather than anything else, and would be best considered in Committee. Power would be given to the Court to sell the interest of the Crown in any real estate, and there would also be power to waive the right of the Crown in certain cases. He did not think any difference of opinion as to the principle of the Bill existed, and any Amendments which hon. Members placed upon the Paper would be fully considered in Committee. Under the circumstances, he trusted the House would allow the second reading to be taken.

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


said, he had no wish to interfere with the progress of the Bill. He had, however, a strong objection to the second reading of the Bill on that occasion, inasmuch as it contained much technicality of detail, and had, moreover, only been delivered that morning. It had become too much the practice to slip Bills of this character through the House at a late hour, when it was absolutely impossible for them to receive that full consideration which their importance demanded. It might be said that the Bill had the advantage of coming from "another place;" but even with that undoubted advantage he did not think it a convenient course that it should be put into the hands of hon. Members in the morning, and be taken for second reading on the evening of the same day.


said, he had expected the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) would move the adjournment of the debate; but as he had not done so, he rose for the purpose of moving the adjournment, on the ground that the Bill had only been delivered that morning, and that it was impossible to discuss it properly at that hour (1.15). The Bill contained clauses of a technical character, which hon. Members had not had time to consider. He thought it should be established as a principle in that House that no Bill delivered in the morning should be proposed for second reading on the same day.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Major General Alexander.)


said, he should certainly like further time for considering the Bill. There was a case in his own county (Galway) involving the sum of £150,000, the claimants of which would be debarred by the Bill, if it became law, from establishing their claim. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury was probably acquainted with the case to which he referred. Although, of course, it seemed very absurd that all the members of the family in question should think they would get the money, there was no doubt in his mind that one of them was entitled to it. The Bill would clearly place them in a bad posi- tion; and he, for one, felt it his duty to vote for the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayrshire (Major General Alexander).


said, the Bill, no doubt, at first sight appeared of some technicality; but further examination would, he thought, show that, although of considerable importance, the clauses were not so technical as they appeared. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury had pointed out the substance of the Bill, which might be described under three heads.


I would point out that the hon. and learned Member should confine himself strictly to reasons against the adjournment, or otherwise, of the debate.


said, his reason against the adjournment of the debate was that the principle of the Bill was a matter of great difficulty; and that, although a measure of importance, it would receive in Committee the large amount of attention which it demanded. He thought the House might very well agree to the Motion for the second reading; and he ventured to suggest to his hon. Friend in charge of the Bill, that he should agree not to put it down for the Committee stage until a week had elapsed, in order that if any hon. Member, on looking further into it, should think it required further discussion, such discussion might be taken on the Motion for going into Committee.


said, he hoped there would be no attempt to force the Bill through the House at that Sitting. There were upon the Paper 35 Orders of the Day, and it was simply impossible that hon. Members could have read the Bill in the short time during which it had been in their hands. He, for one, although of course it was the duty of Members to do so, had not had an opportunity of reading it. He protested against the unbusiness-like way suggested of reading the Bill a second time, and leaving its principle open for discussion on the Motion for going into Committee; and he trusted the House would agree to the adjournment of the debate.


said, if this were a Bill merely dealing with a few technicalities, which could be discussed in Committee, he should be disposed to vote against the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. But it was a Bill which extended the principle of the Law of Escheat, and that, too, in a very unfair way. The Secretary to the Treasury said that where a Trustee found himself discharged from his trust the Crown had no claim on the property; but he would point out that by this Bill the Crown would acquire an entirely new right. That certainly was an important question of principle, on which the sense of the House ought to be taken at a time whem full consideration could be given to the question.


said, he understood that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury proposed to make certain alterations in the Bill when in Committee which would meet the objections which were felt with regard to it on that side of the House. The principal objection felt in the House and throughout the country with reference to the proceedings of the Government in the matter of intestate estates was the want of publicity, the result of which would be that large sums of money—the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) had instanced a case in which £150,000 were involved—would be dealt with in almost absolute secresy. It must, he thought, be in the mind of everyone that it was desirable that the utmost amount of publicity should be given in matters of this sort. If the hon. Gentleman were prepared to give the House an assurance that he would in Committee insert a clause directing that details should be given with complete fullness and clearness in the annual account published, he thought the chief objection of hon. Members would be met, and that they would be inclined to defer discussion until the Committee stage of the Bill. ["No, no!"]


said, he hoped the House would agree to the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend, because he liked to stick to the Rules of the House; and he thought that as the Bill had not yet been seen by anyone the House ought to have an opportunity of considering its provisions before it was proceeded with. The Bill had only been delivered that morning, and there had been no opportunity of considering the principles upon which it was based, and which were principles which the Secretary to the Treasury had admitted might involve serious consequences to individuals. He, therefore, sincerely hoped the consideration of the Bill would be postponed; otherwise its second reading must be prevented.


mentioned that the Secretary to the Treasury had said he would not take the Bill if there was serious opposition to it.


said, it was obvious that this was not a little measure. It introduced a new principle with regard to equitable escheat, and interfered with the rights of private lords, and he must support the Motion for Adjournment.


said, he was, of course, not going to resist this proposal; but he thought the only serious argument against going on with the Bill was that of the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Bartelott). On that ground he would assent to the adjournment; but he hoped advantage would not be taken of the adjournment to block the Bill, and prevent its being fairly discussed on the next occasion when it came on.

Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned till Monday next.