HL Deb 26 April 1866 vol 182 cc2067-8

House in Committee (according to Order) on Re-commitment.


said, the Bill had been called a class measure, but it applied as well to the humblest cottage as to the greatest mansion or the most magnificent castle. The object of the Bill was to disturb as little as possible the present mode of proceeding in sales by auction, and at the same time to put an end to a state of things which was by no means creditable either to the law of England or to the practice of the Courts of Equity. In consequence of what passed in Committee upon the Bill, he thought it his duty to take the opinion of experienced solicitors in London and the country, and also of some eminent auctioneers, and then for the first time he discovered that it was the invariable custom of auctioneers to bid at auctions, perhaps a dozen times, without announcing their intention to do so. Now, he felt bound to tell these gentlemen that every one of the sales which had been carried on upon that system was absolutely illegal, and could not stand for one moment. The auctioneer could not bid unless there were some restrictions upon him. He did not mean to say a single word against the character of any of the gentlemen who conducted those sales, but, nevertheless, the system was open to the most serious objection. Now, if this Bill passed, the effect of it would be that if a man proposed to sell without reserve, he must say so; and if he desired to sell with reserve, he would be at liberty to do so, provided he stated clearly that such was to be the case; and if the price was not reached which the owner wished the property to go at, the auctioneer must declare the estate unsold. If the auctioneer should reserve to himself the right to bid either once or as often as he liked, he must state distinctly that he did so, and then there could be no objection to it. In fact, such a condition might be absolutely necessary, in order to protect the seller and to prevent estates being snapped up much below their value.


said, that the principal object which he had in view in the suggestions which he had made to the noble and learned Lord was that the conditions of sale should be set forth in print beyond the possibility of mistake—namely, whether the property was to be sold without reserve or subject to a reserved price, and whether the seller or his agent reserved to themselves the right to bid. He must express his regret that the Bill, instead of being confined to land, did not extend to all cases of sales by auction. It might have been difficult to make it so comprehensive; but at the same time many abuses, such as he had previously pointed out to the House, might have been dealt with. He approved the Bill so far as it related to sales of land by auction.


concurred with his noble and learned Friend that the Bill would effect an amendment in the law. It would be a salutary reform, although it did not extend as far as he could have wished. With respect to the observations of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Romilly), he quite agreed with him that great evils existed in the sale of ordinary chattels. In too many instances such auctions were regular swindles; but they did not stand in the same category as auctions of land did. There were, as they all knew, fictitious sales in the City to which unwary people were entrapped. It was desirable that more effectual means should exist than were now available to put down this species of swindling.

Amendments made: The Report thereof to be received on Monday next; and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 89.)