HL Deb 26 June 1845 vol 81 cc1205-7
Lord Portman

moved the Second Reading of this Bill.

Lord Beaumont

opposed it as useless and totally uncalled for. The measure only enacted that that should be done on compulsion by law, which was at present voluntarily by private agreement. He moved that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.

The Duke of Richmond

supported the Bill. He thought that this was a favourable period for the enacting of some such measure. He did not believe that the Bill before their Lordships would tend to dissolve the ties happily subsisting between landlord and tenant. It was very desirable that the tenant should have some security. Much as he approved of leases, he did not think that was a subject upon which the Legislature ought to pass any positive enactment compulsory upon the proprietors of land; but he was of opinion that this Bill would, at all events, tend to secure some of the objects desired. He contended that the measure was one which would facilitate the improvement of this country, by means of, and through the tenantry, and that it would be only an act of justice towards them to give its provisions the force of law. There was now a great disposition on the part of the tenantry to improve their land, and that disposition would have increased but for recent legislative measures. The desire to carry out improvements, however, still pervaded a great body of the tenantry, and he thought they ought not to discourage it by refusing to consider this Bill, especially after the recognition of its general principle the other evening in the debate on the Irish measure by noble Lords on all sides. Though he did not altogether like the wording of the Bill in many respects, still, approving as he did of its principle, as it had been explained by the noble Lord who moved it, he should support the second reading.

The Duke of Cleveland

observed, that a similar Bill had been brought in last year by the noble Lord (Lord Portman), the principle of which had been approved, and it had been referred to a Select Committee, but was ultimately withdrawn on account of some technical objection. He thought, therefore, they were bound not to reject the second reading of this measure. He would not enter into the question of what was the best system of management—whether it was more advisable to let the land on lease or by tenancy at will; for his part he had always been in favour of the tenancy-at-will system. But he thought, to ensure confidence in the tenant, it was necessary that he should have every reasonable indulgence extended to him, and that he should be impressed with the idea that if he expended his money in permanent improvement, he should be amply compensated by his landlord. In many cases he was aware the Bill would be a dead letter, in consequence of the liberal manner in which the estates were managed, and the perfect good understanding that existed between the tenants and their landlords. But at the same time it could not be denied that there were many cases in which the measure would be most useful, and insure justice to the tenant; and so far from creating ill-feeling between the landlord and tenant, it would unite them together in one common interest, and promote good feeling between them.

Lord Ashburton

was surprised to find the two noble Dukes supporting a measure which he believed, so far from producing harmony and good feeling between landlord and tenant, would make a lawsuit inevitable between every tenant who quitted his farm and his landlord. What was to be done in cases where the tenant held his land under lease, and where the improvements were made under the stipulations of the lease? Was it to be made a subject for arbitration what amount of compensation should be given to the tenant for those improvements which he was bound by his lease to make, and which were considered in the terms upon which the land was leased? The custom of the country and the common law of the country was sufficient for all the purposes for which this Bill was brought forward, and to ensure due protection to the tenant. He considered there was no necessity for the Bill, and should, therefore, vote against it.

Lord Wharncliffe

said, that nine times out of ten interference of this description did more harm than good. All that this Bill proposed to give to the tenant he had already, by the custom of the country; it was, therefore, unnecessary. It might be said he had supported a similar Bill for Ireland, the principle of which was compulsory; but then the circumstances of the two countries were dissimilar. In Ireland the tenant was protected by no such custom as existed in this country, consequently some legislative measure for his protection was required. His objection to the measure was, that there was no occasion for it, and that legislative interference would, therefore, do more harm than good.

The Duke of Richmond

observed that there were many parts of England in which the custom of compensating tenants for liming, chalking, and such like improvements did not prevail, and he considered that the advantage should be extended to all.

Lord Portman

contended that the object of the Bill, so far from promoting lawsuits, was to give the tenant a summary mode of enforcing just claims, by arbitration. It was to afford an easy and summary remedy, and consequently, to avoid expensive lawsuits. The Bill was so worded, that it would give compensation only for those permanent improvements which were made by the tenant with the sanction of his landlord, and upon the understanding that he should be paid for them, but for which the amount to be paid was not settled; but which amount would, under the Bill, be settled by inexpensive arbitration, instead of by expensive suits at law. The Bill would not interfere with the stipulations of any lease, or give compensation for such improvements as were made under the conditions of a lease.

On Question, that "now" stand part of the Motion? House divided:—Contents 7; Non-Contents 11: Majority 4.

Resolved in the Negative.

House adjourned.