§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House be now put into Committee on the said Bill.
§ LORD PORTMAN
hoped that their Lordships would not consent to proceed, at this period of the Session with this Bill, which contained sixty clauses, affecting all the real property in the kingdom. He could venture to say, from the attention he had given to the subject, that no such Bill as the present had ever passed through their Lordships' House; for it not only interfered with all the property specified in the Bill, but with a great quantity which no one would suspect was touched at all, unless, in reading the various clauses of the Bill they bore in mind the construction that the interpretation clause put on various words. He considered that the powers given to the Commissioners were too large, for under this Act they were empowered to sell any portion of anybody's land not exceeding three acres, to anybody whom they might think fit to authorise to buy it. This, he thought, was rather strong, and it was made still more so when they remembered that the word "land" meant mills. Now, as mills seldom stood on so much as three acres, the consequence of this would be, that the Commissioners would be empowered to sell every mill in the kingdom, and the Commissioners themselves were to fix the amount of compensation to be given in such cases. They were also empowered to appoint an engineer, who, as soon as he was appointed, became an assistant Commissioner, invested with all the powers given under the Drainage Act. He thought that, under the present measure, too much licence was given, and he objected to it also, because it did away with the checks which they had under the old Drainage Act. The Commissioners had large powers to deal with property under 50l., but, in the cases of those who were able to do good battle on their own account, the Bill made exemptions in their favour, as in the case of the Crown; there was also an exception in favour of all canal navigations, because the parties concerned in such works were powerful bodies; and his noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had thought it necesary that that duchy should be exempted. 965 He (Lord Portman) thought that when their Lordships saw that the powerful had been protected, they would endeavour also equally to protect the small proprietors. Had this Bill been carefully watched by the law officers of the Crown, he believed it would never have passed the House of Commons; and, supported as the Bill had been by the Drainage Company—the vice chairman of which had the conduct of the Bill in the other House, though he (Lord Portman) believed that gentleman to be as pure as any Member of that House—still he could not help thinking that, under these circumstances, the Bill should be viewed with some suspicion. He trusted his noble Friend would consent not to proceed further with the present measure, but would next Session take up the subject and have a Committee carefully to consider whether they could not have a perfect drainage without committing the injustice with which the present Bill was fraught. The noble Lord, in conclusion, moved an Amendment, to leave out "now," for the purpose of inserting "this day three months."
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, that a few days ago, when considering the Resolution proposed by a noble Lord (Lord Redesdale) as to not taking the second reading of Bills after a certain day, they had had a debate upon the question of Bills coming up late to that House; but his noble Friend who had just sat down seemed to be pushing that Resolution to rather an extreme verge, when he endeavoured to induce their Lordships to refuse to consider a Bill, which he (Earl Granville) believed to be most unobjectionable in its character, and which had been most carefully discussed and considered in the other House, morely on account of the advanced period of the Session. His noble Friend, referring to the interpretation clause, said, that the Bill gave the Inclosure Commissioners the power of purchasing land and mills whenever they pleased. He could only say that the Commissioners had hitherto enjoyed precisely the same powers as were conferred by the present Bill, without any charge having been brought against them of having misappropriated those powers with regard to the purchase of mills. His noble Friend quite misapprehended the matter, because it was absurd to imagine that the Bill gave any arbitrary power to purchase mills. It was merely intended for the purpose of effecting an easement, where such might be necessary. His noble Friend also objected to 966 what he termed the very objectionable power given to the Commissioners, of authorising any person they thought fit to purchase land wherever they pleased—as if these people were about to take possession of land for their own purpose! Why, the principle of the Bill was one which had been affirmed previously both by their Lordships and by the other House. It was, that there being at this moment a more urgent demand for drainage than at any former time, there should be the power vested in Commissioners for securing out-falls. The most useful works of this description were frequently stopped by the impossibility of obtaining outfalls, and he put it to their Lordships—who were always most anxious to preserve the rights of property—whether, when a great and useful object was to be attained, and proper conditions were placed upon the attainment of it, a proprietor was to be allowed, from a "dog-and-manger feeling," and no other, to interfere with these operations, which might be of the greatest benefit to others, and ultimately even to himself, and even although he was to be amply compensated for any damage that might accrue to him? His noble Friend had objected also to the exemption clauses. So far as the clause for securing the rights of the Duchy of Lancaster was concerned, he assured his noble Friend that it was not at his suggestion, or that of his predecessor, that it had been inserted; it had been done by those who had drawn up the Bill morely as a matter of form, there being exemptions of exactly a similar nature in previous Bills. He certainly could not think that on account of the exemptions, therefore any case had been made for throwing out the Bill. He was not inclined to think any worse of the measure because it had been promoted in the House of Commons by a Gentleman who was connected with the Drainage of Land Company. That Gentleman was no political friend of his, but he said, without hesitation, that there was no single person in either House of Parliament, of whatever politics, in whom he would more entirely confide in any matter that required perfectly straightforward, honourable conduct, than Mr. Ker Seymer, who had introduced this Bill into the other House. He should be happy to consider any suggestions for improving the Bill in Committee, but he thought his noble Friend had shown no reason why this very useful measure should be postponed to another Session.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, he had come to the conclusion that the powers granted under the Bill were extravagant beyond measure, as interfering with the property of other persons besides those who might promote the undertaking. He felt he had no other alternative than to regard the Drainage Company as the actual promoters of the Bill, and he believed that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. K. Seymer), in consequence of his position relative to that Company, had been induced to try for this extension of powers. He felt quite certain that a Bill of this nature ought, previous to its becoming law, to be fully reviewed by a Select Committee of their Lordships; and he, therefore, trusted that the noble Earl would accede to the suggestion of his noble Friend opposite (Lord Portman), and not press it this Session.
§ On Question, that "now" stand part of the Motion, their Lordships divided:—Content 13; Not Content 23: Majority 10.
§ Resolved in the negative; and House to be put into Committee on this day Three Months.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.