HC Deb 28 July 1896 vol 43 cc838-40

"In the construction of sub-section two of the fifty-eighth section of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, the word "town" shall be construed to mean a town having a population according to the last oensus of at least two thousand."

He said it was quite true that the Bill in its present shape was exactly that in which the Government originally introduced the towns park section, and perhaps rather better; but they still left the question of what was a city or a town undefined. He trusted the Government would see their way to say that a city or town within the section must be of a reasonable size.

Clause road the First time.


said the proposed limit was inserted in the Act of 1887, but he did not think that was a reasonable thing to do. It seemed to him that towns under 2,000 would very likely be those which would chiefly negative protection. Lord Justice Fitzgibbon, in his evidence before the Committee last Session, said it was impossible to arrive at a conclusion merely by looking at the number of inhabitants.


contended that the only way in which things could be set right was by putting in some sort of population limit. He himself had an Amendment further down in which he proposed that no town should be deemed to be a town within the meaning of the 58th section of the Land Law (Ireland) Act 1881, or of the seventh section of the Land Law (Ireland) Act 1887, unless the town was within the district of an urban sanitary authority under the Public Health (Ireland) Acts. In some form or another the word "town" ought to be defined by the Bill.


said that he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would adopt some limit with regard to the population of a town, because there was great doubt as to what a town really was as distinguished from a village. The present want of definition led to a great deal of litigation, and the Irish tenants would be much dissatisfied if something were not done to define the meaning of the words "town park." The word "town" was a most elastic one, and if a definition of it were required anywhere it was in Ireland. A population of 2,000 appeared to him to be a sufficient limitation, and would not materially affect the landlords' right.

MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

said that perhaps he might be allowed to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the use of the phrase "populous places" instead of "towns." He thought that the substitution of those words for the word "town" in the Bill would be a great improvement.


said that if the suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite were to be adopted, some inconveniences and absurdities might be expected to arise. For instance, if 2,000 population was fixed upon as the limit, a place having 1,999 inhabitants, which would not be a town, might find itself raised to the rank of a town because a lady in it happened to give birth to twins. ["Hear, hear!" and "Question!"] That showed the absurdity of the proposition of the hon. and learned Member.


said that the conclusion that had been arrived at was that the population was the test of a place being a town. The law upon the point ought to be so clear that every man would know what his right was. A definition of a town should be given in a Bill so as to form a guide to the Judges, and that could be easily done by taking a population limit. There was nothing to prevent the landlord from regaining possession of a town park holding if the property was required for development. The theory on which the opposition to the clause was based was that the landlord should have the right by the eviction of those town park tenants to take the property of one man and hand it over to another. The supporters of the clause did not want to deprive the landlord of anything that equitably belonged to him. All they wanted to secure was that the property of town park tenants should not be taken away from them. Of all the land of Ireland, town parks were farmed the best; and on no land was there such a lavish expenditure of money, care, and nursing as on the town parks. It was, therefore most unjust to deny the protection of the Land Acts to those tenants.


, said he rose not to discuss the vexed question of town parks, but, as a practical politician anxious for the smooth passage of the Bill, to appeal to the House not to plunge itself into the unfathomable bog of the town parks' controversy, but to accept the decision come to in the Committee stage that they should leave the question untouched.

Clause negatived.

*SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth) moved, after Clause 27, to insert the following clause:—