HC Deb 22 June 1892 vol 5 cc1751-60

Lords' Amendments considered.

Page 1—

Lines 14 and 15, leave out ("which appears to the Council to be suitable for agriculture") and insert ("acquired by a Council under the powers and for the purposes of this Act, and which").

Line 23, leave out ("not exceeding fifteen acres each") and insert ("in accordance with the provisions of this Act").

Amendments agreed to.

Page 2—

Line 27, after ("Act") insert ("or where the land has been hired by the Council on lease or otherwise").

Amendment agreed to.

Page 3—

Line 13, leave out ("a") and insert ("the").

Line 18, leave out ("part") and insert ("electoral division").

Lines 22 and 23, leave out ("all the costs of conveyance to the purchaser, including any") and insert ("the").

Line 37, after ("and") insert ("shall either").

Line 38, after ("instalments") insert ("of principal").

Line 40, leave out ("and") and insert ("or shall").

Line 41, leave out ("shall").

Amendments agreed to.

Page 4—

Line 12, leave out Sub-section (7).

Line 19, after ("Act") insert ("except as otherwise provided").

Line 27, leave out ("register") and insert ("list").

Line 30, leave out from ("let") to the end of clause.

Transpose Sub-sections (b) and (c) of Clause 9.

Lines 38, 39, leave out ("unless let with the consent of the County Council").

Line 39, after ("owner") insert ("or occupier as the case may be").

Line 41, leave out ("sub-divided or let") and insert ("divided, sub-divided, assigned, let, or sub-let").

Amendments agreed to.

Page 5— Line 7, after ("liquors") insert—"(g.) In the case of any holding on which, in the opinion of the County Council, a dwelling-house ought not to be erected, that no dwelling house shall be erected on the holding without the consent of the County Council.

Amendment agreed to.

Page 6—

Lines 1, 2, leave out ("sold a small holding to a purchaser") and insert ("purchased land").

Lines 2 and 3, leave out ("his registration as the proprietors") and insert ("their registration as proprietors").

Amendments agreed to.

Line 3, after ("thereof") insert ("with an absolute title"), leave out from ("1875") to end of sub-section, leave out Clause 11.

(12.40.) MR. CUST (Lincolnshire, Stamford)

I only wish to ask my right hon. Friend what are the intentions of the Government with reference to this clause, which in its final form was drafted by my right hon. Friend himself, or by the Government draftsman. It was sent to the House of Lords, and Lord Cadogan, who had charge of the Bill on the Second Reading, expressed himself in favour of the principle, recommending however that the clause should be omitted and an improved and amended clause inserted at this stage. In Committee in the other House the clause was struck out, and in the subsequent stage an alternative proposal by Lord Herschell was rejected. I now ask my right hon. Friend whether he intends to uphold the undertaking given by Lord Cadogan, or what course he proposes to take?


As the House is aware, when this clause was moved in the House of Commons originally I expressed the objections I entertained to it. Under pressure, however, I eventually inserted the clause on Report stage. Various points of difficulty were discussed in the other House, and a clause to carry out the view of my hon. Friend was opposed by the Prime Minister and rejected by a large majority. I own that so far as I am concerned I have not changed the opinion which I entertained when the proposal was made. Having in view all the circumstances of the case, the period of the Session, and in my great anxiety to do nothing to delay or prejudice the possibility of the Bill passing into law, under the circumstances I do not propose to make any alteration, but to accept the Lords' Amendment.

*(12.41.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

It is quite true the right hon. Gentleman expressed objection to the proposal when it was first introduced by the hon. Member for Stamford (Mr. Cust), but later, and after considerable discussion in the House, and when there were strong manifestations of opinion on the other side of the House in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member, the right hon. Gentleman gave way, and the hon. Member for Stamford withdrew his clause, with the object of another clause being subsequently proposed to deal with the subject in a more satisfactory way; and on the Report stage the right hon. Gentleman himself proposed the clause for the purpose of carrying into effect the object of the hon. Member for Stamford. Now, I have always understood that when a Minister in charge of a Bill after a long discussion agrees to an important Amendment he does so on behalf of his colleagues, and upon the understanding that Ministers in the other House will support the Amendment. The present case is much stronger than usual, because it was not merely the acceptance of an Amendment in this House. The right hon. Gentleman himself introduced the clause on the Report stage for the purpose of carrying out the object in view. The clause was, therefore, prepared by the Government draftsman, and was adopted after careful consideration by the Government. When the Bill went to the other House, Lord Cadogan, who had charge of it, stated that it was the intention of the Government to support the principle of the clause. He added that the clause as framed did not meet his view, but that at al ater stage he would support another clause having the same object in view. But when at a later stage a clause in this sense was moved from the other side of the House, the Prime Minister and the Government opposed the principle of it, and Lord Herschell's clause was rejected. The members of the Government, therefore, in the other House adopted a totally different course to that pursued by the Minister here, a course altogether contrary to the usual practice. The proper course is for Members of the Government in the other House to support a promise given or conclusion arrived at by the Members of the Government here. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Stamford proposes to disagree with the Lords' Amendment?


No, not unless the President of the Board of Agriculture is willing to consider a new clause.


That is a somewhat strange course to follow. I should have thought the hon. Member would have been prepared to move to disagree with the Lords' Amendment, and to support the view he entertained when the Bill was before the House. Under the circumstances, and in the present state of the House, and when the hon. Member who originally proposed the clause is not prepared to disagree with the Lords' Amendment, do not feel that I should be justified in asking the House to disagree with the Amendment. I must, however, enter my protest against the course pursued by the Government, which is extremely inconsistent and not in accordance with well-understood practice. The clause which has been rejected was an extremely valuable one. The change made in the measure will, I think, be productive of grave inconvenience. I need hardly point out we have direct precedent for the clause, because such a proposal in regard to small holdings passed both Houses last year in the Irish Land Purchase Act. Small holdings in Ireland are by that Act converted into personalty. That is a precedent and an exact analogy for the application of the same principle in this case. I observe that Lord Salisbury has stated as an argument for not agreeing to the clause that it is competent for the Local Authority to grant leases for land under the Bill for 999 years; but I will venture to say it is not competent for the Local Authority to do this. The power of the Local Authority is strictly limited, and it will not be possible for the Council to grant leases for 999 years. Such leases do not come within the general purview of the Bill, and therefore the course suggested by Lord Salisbury could not be followed. On the whole, I think grave inconvenience must result from this change, and it would have been a great benefit to those for whom the Bill is intended if the intention of making these small holdings personalty were carried out. If the Government had resisted the proposal of the hon. Member for Stamford when it was before the House the Government would probably have been defeated; and it is not to the credit of the Government after they saved themselves from defeat by concession that they should strike out that concession in the other House.

(12.48.) MR. BIRRELL (Fife, W.)

I hope the hon. Member for Stamford will have the courage to take the opinion of the House on the question. I regret the attitude of the Minister for Agriculture. No one who has had even the limited experience of conveyancing that I have had can doubt the hardships that arise out of the mode of devolution of real estate. It was said in the other House that this is not the Bill upon which to introduce such a change in the law, but I differ from that view altogether. What is it you are doing by this Bill? You are inviting, you are tempting, poor men to scrape together all their pecuniary resources for investment in land. Whether they will yield to the temptation I do not know, but for the purpose of arguing on the Bill we assume they will. A poor man is tempted by the favourable terms offered in the Bill, and invests all his money in a small holding. He dies intestate, leaving a widow and young children; the land descends to the eldest son, it may be an infant; the farm cannot be carried on, the estate must be sold, with all the attendant expenses, to the great loss of the family. We are told this is not a suitable time to make this reform; but I say when you are tempting a poor man to invest all his means in land you should make provision, in case of his dying intestate, for his property being distributed in a just and equitable manner. It is all very well for the Lord Chancellor to say that everybody should make a will. Even if the owners of these small holdings did make wills, such wills, like those of certain Lord Chancellors, might not be intelligible, and might give rise to long and expensive litigation. As we live in a betting age, I would not mind betting an even £5 note that if the will of the present Lord Chancellor were critically examined, flaws might be found in it, especially if he had drawn it up himself. After tempting poor people to invest their small savings in land we might injure them by putting them to the expense of making a will, which would perhaps afterwards require the decision of a Court. I, therefore, hope that the Lords' Amendment will be disagreed from.

(12.52.) MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)

I do not propose to follow the hon. Member who has just sat down into the question of wills. I only wish to express the hope that the Government will not allow7 the arrangement which was entered into in this House in regard to this matter to be set aside by their colleagues in the other House. I think that the Government should stand by it and make the best of it.


At the time that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stamford was accepted by the Government it was pointed out that it was a difficult matter, and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture did not accept it till the Report stage. Personally speaking, I was satisfied that when the clause left this House it had not been fully and properly considered.


I would point out that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture himself moved the clause.


I am aware of that fact, but I do not understand the necessity for the interruption; I simply say that the difficulty of working the clause had not been properly understood. When it came to be fully examined in the other House, a majority of the noble and learned Lords deemed it would be unworkable, and that it would not cure the evil that it was intended to meet. I think it will be admitted that their opinion is entitled to some respect on such a question. By the Act of 1890 it is provided that, in the case of the owner of a small landed property dying intestate, the widow is to receive up to £500 out of the proceeds of the sale. That provision would prevent to a great extent the mischief which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has pointed out as likely to arise under this Bill. Under all the circumstances, I am willing to take my share of the responsibility for the present position of affairs. I have done my best to advise my right hon. Friend in regard to this matter, but it does seem to me that it requires still further consideration. It is a question which cannot, in my opinion, be properly dealt with in a short clause. I would further state, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, that I can find no words in the Bill which would prevent County Councils from granting leases for 999 years or other long terms.

(12.58.) MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)

The action of the House of Lords in this matter has, I think, been extremely cruel—I might almost use even a stronger term. Where large landed properties are concerned provision is made by settlements and wills for the younger members of a family; but poor men are extremely reluctant to spend money upon lawyers for making wills, more particularly as the circumstances of their lives may change, and after making one will they may have to make another. Therefore poor men often put off making a will, and die intestate. Then, again, there have been numerous cases in which the eldest son may be a spendthrift, and the greatest hardship might be entailed upon the widow and younger children. The House of Lords have never used its power with less reason, justice, or consideration for the poorer classes than when it insisted on maintaining an antiquated system of succession.

(1.5.) MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)

I should be glad to see the Government revert, if it were possible, to their former position in regard to this matter, especially as we cannot alter the Act of 1890.

MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

There is no use in fighting against the Master of many legions. We can only enter our protest against the Government accepting, without a discussion, a clause in one House which they rejected in another, especially when the Government have the control of the other House. This Bill left the House of Commons before Whitsuntide, and there was every reason to expect that it would come back when there would be sufficient Members to consider it; but it has been deliberately kept back until the last moment, when it cannot be properly considered. We know the difficulties with which the House of Lords have been overwhelmed, its long Sittings, and the vast amount of business with which it has had to deal; but, at the same time, looking to the position which the Bill occupies, as the most important measure of the Session, the House of Commons has a right to expect that these Amendments shall be considered at a time when they would not be precluded from expressing an opinion upon them.


When the right hon. Gentleman says that the re-consideration of this Bill has been deliberately postponed in order to secure its consideration in a thin House, when practical discussion would be out of the question, I must differ from him altogether. So far as I and the Government are concerned, we have been anxious that the Bill should come before the House at a time which would allow of its thorough discussion; and I wish the House in fairness to consider exactly what the position has been, to recollect the circumstances under which this clause left the House, and to remember that I did my best to give effect to the pledge I gave that I would introduce a clause on the subject. But I think those who followed the discussion in the other House must have also been convinced that the clause suggested would not have worked satisfactorily or well. Then we are in this position—that if I were in the very last hours of the Session to attempt to deal with the matter, one of the most important objects the House of Commons could consider would be dealt with hurriedly and without full consideration. Then what should we gain? Although I am entirely in sympathy with the views of my hon. Friend I think the gain would be practically nothing, because the question will have to be dealt with in the near future; and thus we have to consider how many cases would be dealt with by this Bill in the meantime. I hope it will have a large operation, and come promptly into effect, but some months must elapse before people can come into possession of these holdings, and surely when they do take possession it is not to be expected that they will die off like flies. Possibly before even a single death takes place a new law will have been made, and, under hese circumstances, I hope the House will agree to accept the Amendment.

Question put.

(1.15.) The House divided:—Ayes 48; Noes 17.—(Div. List, No. 194.)

Line 24, leave out ("or sell").

Line 25, after ("doing") insert ("whether the holding is situate within a town or built upon or not").

Page 7—

Line 28, after ("section") insert— ("And before any such buildings or works as aforesaid are erected or executed on the land proposed to be sold.")

Line 34, leave out the first ("the") and insert ("any"), leave out the third ("the") and insert ("any").

Amendments agreed to.

Page 10—

Line 6, leave out ("their") and insert ("its").

Line 8, leave out from ("fund") to end of paragraph and insert—("The expression 'county elector' shall include burgess").

Line 27, after ("apply") insert— (8.) The expression 'county elector' shall have the same meaning as in the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1889.

Line 30, after ("Scotland") insert ("in lieu of Sub-sections 4 and 5 of Section 6 of this Act").

Line 33, leave out ("an annual feu-duty or ground annual") and insert ("a perpetual rentcharge which shall be a real burden affecting the holding").

Line 38, leave out ("feu duty or ground annual") and insert ("rent-charge").

Lines 40 and 41 leave out ("feu duty or ground annual") and insert ("rentcharge").

Amendments agreed to.

Page 11—

Line 1, after ("and") insert ("shall either"), and after ("instalments") insert ("of principal").

Line 4, leave out ("and") and insert ("or shall"), and leave out ("shall be repayable") and insert ("be repaid").

Leave out Clause 24.

After Clause 27 insert Clause A.

A. This Act shall come into operation on the first day of October, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-two.

Amendments agreed to.