HL Deb 08 June 1849 vol 105 cc1278-83

presented a petition from the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of the city of London in common council assembled, praying that clauses might he inserted to exempt the property of the Irish Society from the operation of this Bill. The petition stated that the property of this Society had always been well managed, and that the profits derived from it were devoted to educational and religious purposes; and that, in order to retain effectual control over it, their practice was to lease it to the tenants for a certain number of years, such leases being renewable in all cases where the conditions of the original lease had been strictly kept; and they complained that to compel them to convert these leases into perpetuities would deprive them of that necessary control.


had, when the question of the Irish Society had been brought under consideration in previous stages of the Bill, objected to the amendments proposed to meet this case; but, since then, he found that a clause had been introduced to protect the property of one individual from the operation of the Bill, and, though he was not disposed to think that every proposition for exempting any particular company or individual should be adopted, yet as the change had been made for the benefit of one person, he did not see how it could be refused when demanded by others whose case was equally strong. Under these circumstances, if his noble Friend should think fit to move that the Bill be permissive and not compulsory, he (the Earl of Wicklow) would support him.


, in moving the third reading of the Bill, said, in reference to what had fallen from the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) as to the power which remained of enforcing covenants, he was happy to be able to call his attention to a clause which had been drawn up by the noble Earl opposite, and suggested it as an improvement in the Bill. He (Lord Campbell) thought it would be a great improvement, and the provisions of the Bill were such as ought to satisfy any society or individual. The noble Lord then read the clause, which provided that in all cases when the rent was under 50l., the parties concerned should be at liberty to refer their differences to the assistant barrister of the county for arbitration in regard to Clause 2, which referred to the exceptional case alluded to by the Earl of Wicklow, he said his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, in introducing the Bill, had his attention turned to certain cases where, under private Acts of Parliament, the power of granting leases and other privileges were enjoyed. There were one such case, at least, which he (Lord Campbell) well knew, and which the noble Earl no doubt referred to. On that individual advantages were conferred by Act of Parliament, and these advantages were very valuable. He thought, then, it would be very hard to deprive that individual by one Act of Parliament of the advantages which he enjoyed under another, and, therefore, it was that his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor thought it advisable to make the case an exception. He (Lord Campbell), in the absence of his noble and learned Friend, did not feel himself at liberty to withdraw the clause; but, of course, it was still in the power of their Lordships to say whether or not this exception ought to stand. But he trusted their Lordships would allow the Bill to be read a third time. He said he should not now move the clause which he had read, but bring it up as an Amendment, when the question was before their Lordships, that the Bill do pass.


wished to recall their Lordships' attention to the position in which the Bill now stood; but, first, he might state, in regard to the clause which the noble and learned Lord had read to the House, that he would not oppose it. But in regard to the second clause, the Bill, when first introduced, did not contain it. That clause was introduced by his noble Friend (Lord Beaumont), upon the bringing up of the report, and introduced too without explanation. He (Lord Monteagle), however, took occasion happily to suggest that it should be printed; and, now that it had been printed, he wished to call the attention of their Lordships to it. The marginal note and the clause differed in effect. The marginal note was, "no grant required to be made where owners have converted leases into perpetuity by any private arrangement." The noble Lord then read the clause. The noble Lord said the two cases were quite different: the note and the clause did not refer to the same thing. He was opposed to the clause, as introducing an exemption on behalf of a particular case, and he would reject it as breaking down the principle of the Bill. What, then, was the argument in defence of the clause? Why, that it had been introduced consistently with the good faith of Parliament, who gave this individual an assurance in regard to certain arrangements which he might make. But he must remind their Lordships that a private Act of Parliament was an unexecuted Act, which had as little to do with public Bills as his marriage settlement, or the grant of his ancestor. If they were to allow this case as an exception to the measure, then he should argue that the case of the Irish Society was very much stronger, and ought to be admitted to the exemption which they claimed. He would say that it was their bounden duty to take care that legislation should be conducted on the principles of even-handed justice, so that there should be no preference of one case over another; and, above all, that no one within their Lordships' House should have privileges beyond others; that no Member of that House should have the express favour conferred of privileges which others beyond the bar were unable to obtain.


said, he should support the Bill, and he was not prepared to abandon the clause referred to, unless much stronger reasons were offered. The clause was his; the marginal note was introduced by others. But he spoke of the clause. He reminded their Lordships that when the Bill was introduced, he took the opportunity of stating that it proposed to take away the property of one man and give it to another, without giving the first any compensation. It took away the property from the lessor, and gave it to the lessee. He stated then that the object of the Bill was good; that it proposed abolishing a bad tenure, and substituting a better for it. But in doing that, in carrying out their good intentions, they must take care to do wrong to no man, to injure no one, in order to benefit another. This Bill, as it stood when introduced by the Government, was to benefit the middleman, and him only, whom it made first man in regard to the property. But, then, what compensation did they offer to the lessor? They found the lessor as he was situated at present, in possession of fines leviable at every renewal of the lease, and they proposed to convert these fines into a fee-farm rent; but they did not propose to give anything for the value of the reversion. It was to meet this defect in the Bill that he had introduced the sixth clause, which provided that compensation should be given for the reversion. He said, in regard to the exceptional case in the second clause of the Bill, that it stood upon the good faith of Parliament. Parliament had granted to a private individual the power of commuting leasehold into fee-simple, on terms such as were contained in the Act, and for the reason that this person could deal with his property in that way to greater advantage. He accepted the terms offered him by Parliament; he accepted the assurance granted him; and he went and dealt with his property on the faith of that assurance, never dreaming that he was to be deprived by one Act of Parliament of the advantage conferred on him by another. The noble Lord proceeded to contend that, in the whole works of M. Proudhon, there was not a passage which advocated so gross a violation of the rights of property as that contemplated by this Bill. It proposed to take away a man's station and position in the country as the owner of property, and, obliging him to sell, to convert him into a mere pensioner. When they were dealing with property, he recommended them not to commence with such a palpable injustice as this, or they would shake one of the first foundations and principles of all peace and order, namely, the security of property. Unless the clause, as proposed, were allowed to stand, he should certainly say "Not-content" to the third reading of the Bill.


reminded their Lordships that this was the last stage of the Bill. As his noble and learned Friend had proposed to introduce a very important clause, he hoped he would not press the third reading on the present occasion, but would give them time to consider it.


was understood to consent to postpone the third reading of the Bill until Monday.


said, he understood that the second reading of the Encumbered Estates (Ireland) Bill was fixed for Monday next. Now, that was a Bill which demanded their most serious consideration, both as respects its principle and details. Although he thought that the third reading of this Bill should be postponed, inasmuch as it required much more consideration than it had as yet received, he hoped it would not be fixed for a day when their attention would be occupied by other important business. He was of opinion that this measure should be permissive, and not compulsory; and he thought it exceedingly desirable that the Government should take further time to ascertain whether it was possible to adopt the permissive principle, and to amend the Bill in the way suggested. He wished to know whether it was intended to take the Leasehold Tenure Bill and the Encumbered Estates Bill on Monday, because he should protest against both being discussed at the same sitting, both of them being measures which required grave consideration and ample discussion.


said, it was his intention to take the second reading of the Encumbered Estates Bill on Monday; and, if time permitted, he hoped, considering the present circumstances of Ireland, the noble Lord would not object to their going on with the second Bill.

Debate adjourned to Monday next.

House adjourned to Monday next.