HC Deb 23 June 1898 vol 59 cc1280-2

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 agreed to.

Question put— That clause 2 stand part of the Bill.

MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)

I merely wish to ask a question as to this clause, as to why it has been repealed. I find that the section referred to, about to be repealed, imposes some very beneficial restrictions as to the letting of property in connection with Greenwich Hospital, of which the Admiralty are trustees. If this clause is repealed it seems to me that it will give the Admiralty the freest possible power to sell their property whenever they like, and however they please. Now, there are at the present moment most beneficial restrictions. For example, they are unable to let their agricultural land upon leases enduring for less than 21 years; their building land, also, they are only able to let at 99 years, and so on. They are bound to let their property at yearly rentals, and to exact the best possible rental, and are not permitted in any way to take as a consideration a fine in lieu of rent. Well now, I think myself, seeing that this property is trust property, and is held for the benefit of seamen and marines, that we are entitled to hare some explanation as to why this clause, no doubt carefully thought out and discussed in times past, should be repealed. I am anxious that there should be given no power to repeal a clause of this class without we have an assurance that it is in pursuance of some beneficial purpose—that there is some beneficial purpose in view. I think we are entitled to some explanation as to why this clause should be repealed.

MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)

The object of repealing this clause is, I think, that the reasons for which it was first enforced no longer have the same weight. The repeal of the clause will give the Admiralty greater power of turning their property to the beat advantage. The Act which contains this clause, placing this restriction on Green- wich Hospital property, was passed when the property was not under the control of the present trustees. It is now vested in the Lords of the Admiralty. It is found in practice that the restrictions imposed by the Act prevent our making the largest sum of money, whether by rental or fine, that can be obtained. That is particularly the case, Mr. Lowther, in regard to certain public house property which we hold in London, where the impossibility of exacting fines prevents our getting the full value of the public-houses. It is the custom of the trade for brewers to make advances to the tenants. They will not make advances on property which is rack-rented. If the rent is brought down by the payment of the fine, they are then willing to make advances to the tenants, and better tenants can be obtained. I think, Mr. Lowther, on general grounds the time has come when these restrictions may well be done away with. The whole tendency of legislation in recent times has been to remove restrictions on the management of such property as this. In the case of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, I believe they are bound by no such restrictions at all. In the case of Crown lands the restrictions have been reduced to the lowest possible limits. The Lords of the Board of Admiralty, acting as trustees for Greenwich Hospital, have always the Greenwich interest in view in making the most of their property, and the honourable Member is probably aware that there is a further safeguard in that the consent of the Treasury is necessary to any sale of property before it can come into effect. I hope these reasons will satisfy the honourable Member that these were good grounds for repealing this clause, and that he will raise no objection to it.

Question put— That clause 2 stand part of the Bill.

Agreed to.

Clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6 agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported with Amendments.

Bill read the third time, and passed.