HL Deb 13 March 1832 vol 11 cc126-8
Lord Kenyon

, in moving the committal of the Agricultural Labourers' Employment Bill, said, his object was, not to give encouragement to the inclosure of waste lands, but to allot one-seventh of all commons and waste lands hereafter to be inclosed for the poor. He did not wish their Lordships to give their assent to a General luclosure Act, but he thought nothing could so much tend to raise the condition of the agricultural labourers, as putting them upon the footing of small farmers. He was of opinion—and their Lordships would, he had no doubt, agree with him in that opinion—that it would not be desirable to burthen such persons with the payment of tithes; and he, therefore, proposed, by this Bill, that all waste lands inclosed under its provisions should be exempted from tithes, and that a portion of such land should be allotted in lieu of them.

The Duke of Northumberland

did not object to the principle of the Bill, but he entertained some doubts as to the mode in which it would affect the rights of Lords of Manors and Lords of Forests. Consequently, he wished for further time to examine its details. He would, at the same time, say, that there were large tracts of land in Northumberland, which, during the war, had been converted to tillage, but were now again laid down with grass. Some of these might, probably, be usefully converted for the purposes of the Bill.

The Marquis of Salisbury

assured the noble Duke, that the rights to which he alluded, were carefully guarded in the Bill.

The Earl of Carnarvon

did not think the Bill calculated to confer much benefit on the poor, as small allotments of good land near their cottages were much better than large allotments of bad land, probably at a distance from their abodes. He was afraid that the quality of the land they were likely to get under this Bill would be found of the worst description. He thought that their Lordships ought to look, not only at the principle, but at the details of the Bill, and these details he thought most defective. But, supposing that these details were not so objectionable as he thought them, still the Bill was defective in the mode in which it proposed to carry the enactments into effect. As the Bill now stood, a majority of the holders of the land in a certain district might in-close it, while the owner of two-thirds of the land in that district might be abroad, and the inclosure might be made, without his having the least knowledge of what was going on; and then, when he came back, might find that it had been inclosed in his absence. The Bill did not seem to him sufficiently to protect the rights of absent parties.

Lord Suffield

regretted, that something had not yet been done for the relief of so valuable and large a body of men as agricultural labourers; he hoped, however, that this subject would, ere long, occupy the attention of Government. He was well aware, that Ministers had been so much occupied by the great measure of Reform, that they could not conveniently turn their attention to this subject. With respect to the present Bill, he believed that it would be beneficial to the labourer rather to have land near his cottage, than a larger plot at a distance.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells

entertained an objection to giving a poor man so large a portion of land as two acres, believing that he would not be able to cultivate it to advantage. He would, how-ever, reserve his objections till the House went into Committee.

The Earl of Falmouth

recommended his noble friend near him to postpone the Committee until Monday-week.

Lord Kenyon

consented to the suggestion.

Committee postponed.