HL Deb 04 June 1849 vol 105 cc1088-93

moved that this Bill be now read 2a. His Lordship said, that this measure had received very serious consideration in the other House; and he had undertaken to bring it before their Lordships, because, upon a former occasion, he had introduced a Bill himself, which was submitted to a Select Committee. That measure, however, was not proceeded with, owing to the difficulties of the subject. Since that period, a Select Committee of the House of Commons had taken evidence in relation to it, and the result of their investigations was a conviction that it was expedient to pass a Bill wholly permissive, allowing persons having limited estates to hind their heirs by agreement to grant compensation to tenants for improvements. The Bill was divisible into three parts. The first enabled parties having limited interests in land to enter into such agreements; the second made some improvements with regard to emblements; and the third allowed tenants to remove engines, buildings, and other fixtures erected by them. He would not conceal from their Lordships his opinion that the first part of the measure would require some amendment. It was proposed that parties having limited estates might enter into agreements with tenants to grant compensation for temporary improvements upon their farms, by the purchase and use of such manures, or of such articles of food for cattle, sheep, or pigs as might be specifically mentioned in the agreement, or for durable improvements by draining, marling, chalking, claying, or otherwise amending the soil, or by works of irrigation, or by the construction of new fences. In the case of temporary improvements no notice was required to be given by the tenant to the landlord of his intention to lay out money for which he should require compensation, except in the last year of a holding for a term of years; but in the case of durable improvements, the tenant was not allowed to execute any works for which he would be entitled to claim compensation, unless he furnished beforehand a statement in writing of the work to be done, and the estimated cost, and unless the landlord or his agent agreed, in writing, to its execution. This part of the Bill also contained provisions, which he considered very large, giving either party a power to terminate the agreement; so that if the bargain should turn out not to be satisfactory, the tenant could break it, and claim compensation from the heir, who, under the clauses as they stood, had no protection. It would, therefore, be necessary for their Lordships, in case they agreed with the principle of the Bill, to adopt measures in Committee, with a view to protect the interests of the reversioner. The excuse for legislating at all upon the subject was, that great injury was often done to farms by outgoing tenants, during the last two years of their terms. They neglected to improve, and ceased to expend capital; they "sheared" the land, as it was called, and left the incoming tenant to restore it to a proper condition. But there was another power to which he deemed it right to direct attention. In the case of land occupied by a subtenant, the original tenant was to have the power of making a bargain with the tenant in occupation, possibly to the extent of binding the landlord to pay the compensation which might be claimed at the expiration of the lease, or upon the death of the lives. In such eases, as the Bill provided no check upon the middleman, it would be necessary for their Lordships in Committee to devise some means for protecting the landlord from injustice in dealings between the first tenant and the occupying tenant. The next part of the Bill related to emblements, which, as their Lordships knew, were the profits of growing crops. For instance, a tenant of land, held under a lease for lives, ceasing to be tenant by the death of the last life, he having sown the seed in the ground was entitled to reap the crop. It had been found that where emblements were claimed, considerable damage was often done. The Bill, therefore, provided that where that was the case, the valuers should deduct compensation for use, occupation, and damage of the land, as a set-off against the claim for emblements. The last part of the Bill related to the removal of engines, buildings, and other fixtures, and it proposed to make the law uniform in this respect with the law relative to fixtures in trade. The tenant, therefore, was empowered to take them away, having first given the landlord the opportunity of purchasing. As the law now stood, the tenant was bound to leave them upon the soil. The object of the Bill was, then, as their Lordships would perceive, to assist tenants in the cultivation of the soil; but he was bound to repeat that it was not so perfect in its details as it might be made in Committee, with the assistance of the noble and learned Lord below (Lord Campbell), and of his noble and learned Friend now absent (the Lord Chancellor), whom he hoped shortly to see in his accustomed place.


asked if the Bill contained any provisions with respect to ecclesiastical property? It appeared to him, as it stood, that any person having a life interest in such property, might make bargains to bind his successors, just as any other landlord.


, in reply, said, there was no direct provision of the sort.


said, the Bill was absurd in some clauses, and injurious in the rest. It was absurd in those that were permissive, and unjust in those that were compulsory. It enacted, that persons might make agreements which they had the power to make already; whilst with regard to the compulsory clauses, anything more grossly unjust, or more likely to lead to fraud, could not have been framed. For example, a tenant for life was enabled to make an agreement with the occupier to lay out any amount of money whatever upon the land, and make it chargeable to the remainder-man within twelve years. So absurdly was the Bill framed, that though permanent improvements were divided from temporary improvements, the tenant might claim, eleven years after he had reaped the crop, compensation for the necessary outlay in the ordinary tillage of the soil. The expenses and profits of claying, soiling, marling, subsoiling, and every imaginable process in agriculture, were to be estimated and apportioned between landlord and tenant. The landlord was to keep a constant watch lest the tenant made an improvement, as he, the landlord, might have to pay for it; and the tenant was to have compensation for manuring a field or putting up a fence, all to run over twelve years. The remainder-man was thus liable for matters which were of common and daily operation; and the tenant for life might escape the whole of the burden which he ought to bear, by agreement with the occupier. He admitted, however, that the portion of the Bill which related to emblements was an improvement; but with regard to the subject of fixtures, he thought it would be better to leave it to be dealt with by special arrangements between the landlord and the tenant. Where there was a yearly tenancy, and a sum of money was laid out by the tenant, there was always an agreement by which the occupier did not lose; and wherever it was the practice to have yearly tenants, he found agriculture had advanced infinitely more than in those parts where it was the invariable practice to have leases. There were, however, other objections to the Bill. One was, that it would lead to an immense amount of litigation, and another, that there would be so much difficulty in the way of the valuers ascertaining the respective interests of the parties, that the good understanding which now prevailed between landlord and tenant would be destroyed. At the end of twelve years, how were they to estimate the value of so much manure applied to the land in that time, or any other improvement not durable? He repeated that the good understanding between landlord and tenant would disappear, especially where there were tenants at will, and both looked for justice from Acts of Parliament instead of mutual agreements. Under these circumstances, he should move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read the second time this day six months.


was by no means prepared to agree to the Bill as it stood; but he could not consent to its rejection upon the second reading, because it contained some good provisions, and was capable of great improvement. He doubted whether the first part of the Bill could be practically applied. All such matters, he thought, were best left to individual contracts; but the other parts of the measure relative to emblements and the removal of fixtures, in which the existing law was defective, were improvements. He objected, then, to the first part of the Bill, because it would cause litigation; and he supported the last part of it, because, with some amendments, it would stop litigation. For these reasons he could not consent to its rejection at this stage. He suggested that it should be read the second time, and pass into Committee, where it could be discussed in detail. That being done, he reserved to himself the power of saying aye or no upon the Motion for the third reading.


thought the Bill liable to objections, but these could be stated in Committee; and if his noble Friend could not then make the alterations thst were deemed necessary, it would be competent to move the rejection of the Bill on the third reading. He believed the Bill was capable of improvement, and would therefore support the second reading. His noble Friend (Lord Beaumont) said, it was already competent to parties to make agreements, and that this measure was not required. He forgot, however, that the Bill was necessary to meet the case of tenants for life; and he trusted, therefore, that he would not persist in his opposition to the second reading.


said, the Bill gave power to charge the reversioner, and that was a principle which he, as well as the noble Lord (Lord Campbell), regarded as unjust. He thought it monstrous to allow one man to throw a burden upon the property of another.

On Question, that "now" stand part of the Motion,

House divided. Content 9; Not-Content 5:—Majority 4.

Resolved in the Affirmative.

Bill read 2a accordingly.

House adjourned till To-morrow.