HL Deb 12 August 1850 vol 113 cc1013-6

Bill read 3a (according to Order), with the Amendments.


said, that some legislation was necessary with respect to the practice which had become so prevalent in Ireland of carrying away crops. He now intended to propose an additional clause intended to repress that crime. But, first, he would take the opportunity of denying a report which had been circulated, that he was the author of the Landlord and Tenant Bill. He had had nothing to do with it, and was the only person on that side of the House who had objected to its provisions. He could not believe that if Her Majesty's Government were really in earnest in wishing to put a check to the system of depredation which prevailed in Ireland, they would be disposed to make any objection to the reasonable proposition he was going to make. He was at a loss to know what defence the Government could give of their conduct, in permitting the state of turbulence and violence, and the loss of life which prevailed last year, in consequence of large bodies of persons assembling to assist tenants in carrying off their crops, to continue without making any attempt to put a stop to it. It had been proposed in the House of Commons, during the debate upon that Bill, to assimilate the law of England and Ireland on the subject of landlord and tenant; and his proposition was, to insert a clause in the Bill giving the Irish proprietor the same protection which the English proprietor enjoyed. The noble Earl then read the clause, which was to the following effect:— And be it enacted, that if any tenant, lessee, or occupier of land, or any other person, shall knowingly and fraudulently take or carry away any goods or chattels from his land, in order to prevent any payment of rent, it shall and may be lawful for any landlord, lesser, or owner of the land, to exhibit a complaint against such tenant, lessee, or other person, before two justices of the peace, who may examine, convict, and in a summary way determine the same.


could not consent to the insertion of the clause proposed by the noble Earl, though he would not then enter into an argument on the subject. The observation of the noble Earl referred to but part of a very great question, and it was impossible for Parliament to legislate wholly on one side of that question. It was one which should not be taken up piecemeal; and while care should be taken for one party, the interests, and, he might say, the rights of the other, should not be neglected. It would be necessary both for landlords and tenants that this subject should be considered next Session; and a most difficult one it would be found to be.


said, the clause now proposed contained a summary of the law in England with regard to fraudulent tenants; and the same law had existed in Ireland until that most absurd of reports, the Devon Report, was issued, which recommended its abolition. The Commissioners had disagreed respecting that report; but, seeing that they must do something, they at last settled among themselves that the nostrums of each were to be agreed to. The settlement reminded him of the plan of putting a parcel of Motions into a hat, and adopting them according as they were drawn out. Now, the fact at present in Ireland was, that many of the tenants, with the view of evading the payment of rent, were removing their crops from one county into another. The question might be called a landlord and tenant one; but, in his opinion, it would be found a poor-rate question, a county-cess question, and a question greatly affecting the petty creditors of the fraudulent farmers. Was this state of things to be permitted to continue until next February or March, and was Ireland to be kept quiet by allowing every man to rob his neighbour? He regretted to find that the tenant-right meetings now being held in Dublin were attended by many of the Presbyterian clergy, as well as by large numbers of Roman Catholic priests; and he concluded by deprecating the strong language which had been used in the House of Commons in the course of the late debates against the Irish landlords.


approved of the clause, though he considered it might endanger the safety of the Bill; and therefore he hoped his noble Friend would withdraw it. Still, he was so sensible of the merit of the principle involved in the clause, that if it went to a division he must support it.


said, he should certainly divide their Lordships upon it, as he could not consent to relieve Her Majesty's Government from the responsibility which attached to them, arising out of the present state of things in Ireland.


said, that the rejection of the clause at present might throw difficulties in the way of a just consideration of the whole case next Session. Still, the allusion of the noble Marquess with respect to piecemeal legislation came in the wrong place; because if they waited for a general system of legislation on the subject it would never come at all. He hoped the noble Earl would not press the clause to a division.


said, the principle upon which the House of Commons had acted was the principle of communism, namely, to remove all protection from property. [Earl GREY: No, no!] He was not surprised at the interruption of the noble Earl, as his relative had opposed a similar proposal in the Commons. He wondered that he had sat silent so long.


thought it perfectly clear that whatever might be done in another Session, the introduction of the clause now would only cause the loss of the Bill, upon which they were all agreed.

On Question, that the Clause stand part of the Bill,

Their Lordships divided:—Content 6; Non-Content 22: Majority 16.

Clause negatived.


said, that he had another Amendment, and he could not allow the Bill to pass without giving their Lordships an opportunity of considering it. The noble Earl, adverting to the defective state of the law, and the evils that existed, the ejectments and the pulling down of houses, said, it could not be denied that such a system unfortunately prevailed, but it prevailed contrary to the wishes of the proprietors. The alteration he proposed was this: By the 31st clause jurisdiction was given to the justices over all houses and parts of houses, provided those houses were situated in any city, town, or village. Now, if it were proper to give this power over houses situated in any city, town, or village, why should it not be extended to houses in every part of the country? He could see no reason; and therefore he proposed to leave out the words "situated in any city, town, or village," the effect of which would be to extend the jurisdiction to houses all over the country. To a certain extent, this would assimilate the law of England and Ireland. He appealed to the noble Marquess, whether this proposition was not totally unobjectionable. If the noble Marquess saw fit to reject the Amendment, upon him he would place the responsibility of all the ejectments and pulling down of houses that might hereafter take place.


said, that the Amendment moved by the noble Earl raised a question of landlord and tenant, which had nothing to do with this Bill. The noble Earl proposed to extend the jurisdiction to houses in all the rural districts; but the effect of that would be to include all the houses that were left for a calendar month—a result the noble Earl would scarcely desire. The Amendment of the noble Earl would give rise to a discussion on the whole question of landlord and tenant, and the present Bill was not intended to meddle with that subject.


defied the noble Marquess to bring forward a good reason for rejecting the Amendment. The noble Marquess's objection was, that it would bring the power into the rural districts; but he must ask his attention to the fact that the Bill applied to "villages;" and what were villages but rural districts? He complained that the noble Marquess would give no reasonable ground of objection to a reasonable proposition for amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.