HL Deb 19 April 1864 vol 174 cc1283-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving the second reading of the Bill, said, it might be divided into two parts, the one of which embodied all the provisions which had been found most useful in the numerous Drainage Acts which had been already passed, and the purposes of which it was proposed by the Bill largely to extend. These Acts had hitherto applied only to the drainage of land, while it was clear that there were many other things equally important. The present Bill would, therefore, in the first place, facilitate the power both of borrowing money and applying it to the improvements for which it was meant to provide. The Bill was accompanied also by many greater securities than existed at present. The machinery was to be worked by the Inclosure Commissioners, and there was a safeguard introduced at the outset in the shape of the Report of an assistant Commissioner, to the effect that the proposed expenditure would tend to increase the annual value of the land to an extent more than equal to the interest of the money to be raised, the principle of the measure being that the land should be charged only with a terminable annuity in respect of the outlay. Thus, suppose the contemplated improvement was to be accomplished for £100,000, the Report of the assistant Commissioner must certify that the additional annual value of the land would exceed 5 per cent on the sum proposed to be expended. Then, after the work had been accomplished, and not till then, the Commissioners would deliver to the landowner a certificate entitling him to create a terminable annuity, charging the land with the repayment of the sum ex- pended, with interest, the latter not to exceed 5 per cent, and the period to be not longer than twenty-five years. Other provisions in the Bill would enable a landowner to arrange with the tenants for an augmented rent in proportion to the improvements completed. A second and a more important division of the Bill was one which had its origin in the Report of the Committee which had been appointed last Session to inquire whether it was desirable that the power given to the landlords to charge their estates with terminable annuities, in order to raise money for drainage and building, should be so extended as to enable them to raise it on similar terms for the purpose of taking shares in railways passing through their properties. The conclusion at which the Committee arrived, was that it was quite possible to ascertain the augmented value to be derived by an estate from the construction of a railway through it, or so near it as to be readily accessible, at least with the same certainty as the improved value to be derived from drainage and building. It was, therefore, proposed by the Bill to apply the same machinery with regard to the construction of railways as the former part of it provided in the case of drainage and the other improvements enumerated. All that was necessary was that a Report should be obtained from the Assistant Commissioner, stating that the land would be benefited by the landowners' promoting the construction through it of a railway either in progress or about to be commenced, by subscribing or taking shares. Then he would be empowered to act as in the case of the other works to which he had alluded. The latter portion of the Bill conferring that power, was specially hedged in, however, by precautionary provisions. For instance, it was provided that the railway should be completed and opened for public use before any charge could be made upon the land, and then that the charge should be limited to the amount actually paid up. And it was specially set forth in order to facilitate the arrangements with the tenant, that the railway shares should be issued proportionately to the parties concerned; as, for example, if £2,000 were to be subscribed, and 2,000 shares issued, and the land was charged with a terminable annuity for twenty-five years of £100 a year, and suppose the tenant to have paid the augmented rate for three or four years, amounting to £200, he would be entitled to have an equal amount of certifi- cates. The great object to be attained was the accuracy, certainty, and workability of the Bill; and as the subject required most careful consideration, if their Lordships would agree to read the Bill a second time, he should be prepared to move that it be referred to a Select Committee. Much yet required to be done to place the law in regard to tenants for life and tenants in remainder in a satisfactory condition. The result of the English system of the settlement of estates was that in a great many cases the successive possessors were never more than life tenants. The consequence of that state of things was, that these persons were deprived of the power to make such improvements as might be necessary from time to time to bring out the full value of their estates. It was only lately that a course of legislation had been entered on for the purposes of investing a tenant for life under proper control with the authority absolutely required for the successful management of the property. At the same time, while it was right that the tenant for life should be at liberty to make necessary improvements on the estates, it was a question whether the remainder-man should not have power to compel the tenant to perform that duty. For example, take the law as to waste. Actual or positive waste committed by a tenant for life exposes him to legal consequences; but that which was known to the law as permissive waste was a thing for which there was at present no remedy, and in regard to which the tenant in remainder had no redress against the tenant for life. Thus, the latter might allow buildings to fall into a mass of ruins, or let the land on such terms that the very marrow of the land might be extracted from it, and might leave it in this impoverished and desolate state to his successor, who would have no means of protection or redress. He hoped that the Select Committee would take care that, while the tenant for life obtained the advantages which the Bill proposed to give him, correlative duties should be imposed upon him. He had omitted previously to state that any person interested in land, and objecting to the exercise of the power of the Commissioners under this Bill, would have a summary and expeditious mode of appealing to the Court of Chancery.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


was understood to express approbation of the Bill.


said, the law on this subject was at present in a very confused state, and the noble and learned Lord deserved credit for having brought it before the House. The most objectionable feature of the Bill was, in his opinion, in regard to the borrowing powers.

Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly; and referred to a Select Committee. And on Thursday, the 21st inst., the Lords following were named of the Committee;—


And on Friday, April 22nd—

THE EARL of BANDON, The Viscount HUTOHINSON, and The Lord PONSONBY added to the Select Committee.

House adjourned at Seven o'clock, till To-morrow half past Ten o'clock.