HL Deb 26 July 1872 vol 212 cc1864-9

Order of the Day for receiving the Report of the Amendment, read.

Moved, That the said Report be now received.


, in moving that the Report be received on that day three months, said, he did so on the ground that the Bill was an invasion of the rights of property in the case of lords of the manors.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") and insert ("this day three months.")—(The Duke of Northumberland.)


said, that when the Bill was before the House on previous occasions, lords of manors jumped up right and left and declared that it would confiscate their rights. He (Lord Kinnaird), however, could not for the life of him make out what those rights were. The lords of manors were something like the dog in the manger; they could not inclose commons themselves, and they wished to prevent other people from inclosing. The poor, however, had extensive common rights, and, in his opinion, every exertion possible ought to be made to preserve those rights in a legitimate manner. Instead of that, he thought this Bill did not go far enough in the protection of those rights, but that it went too far in favour of the interests of lords of manors. After the noble Earl who had charge of the Bill had endeavoured to meet the objections of noble Lords opposite, he was rather surprised that the noble Duke (the Duke of Northumberland), who, he supposed, was one of the lords of manors, should rise up to oppose the reception of the Report.


said, the noble Lord (Lord Kinnaird) had shown that he knew nothing of lords of manors or of their rights. Political economists said that all these inclosures were for the benefit of landlords, and not for the benefit of the people; but that, to say the least of it, was a great exaggeration. He believed these inclosures were greatly for the benefit of the people. These inclosures had brought more land into cultivation, and in that way tended to raise both the price of labour throughout the country and the productive power of the land. At present he had two parishes—one where everything had been inclosed, and the other about five miles off where there was a large common; and he was quite certain that the people in the inclosed parish were better off than the people in the other parish. Lords of the manor were willing to give sites for churches, chapels, and burial grounds, schools, recreation, and allotment grounds where they were required; but they objected to this being made a general rule, applicable to cases where such grants would serve no useful purpose. Instead of passing that crude Bill it would be better to refer the matter to a Select Committee next Session.


said, he would not deny that legislation on the subject might be desirable, but must urge that the Bill could not be properly considered by the House of Commons, which had more pressing business before it, and that Amendments made by that House could not be adequately discussed here, at the very end of the Session. The noble Lord (Lord Kinnaird), who had come forward as the advocate of donkeys and geese, might rest assured that their interests would be better served by the defeat of the Bill than by its passing.


said, that while he did not wish to complain of the opposition offered to the Bill at that stage, he thought the course pursued by noble Lords opposite somewhat illogical; for if they disapproved of the principle of the Bill, it should have been opposed on the second reading; and if they disapproved of its details they might have amended them in Committee. He denied that the Bill was crude; that it had been carelessly considered, or that it was carelessly drawn and a measure of confiscation, sanctioning the levying of black mail. The subject had been under the consideration of the other House during three years; it had been discussed by two Select Committees; and the fact that commons had remained uninclosed must have made known to those interested that legislation was pending, so that they could not complain of being taken by surprise. The Bill, moreover, had been severely criticised on six different occasion in that House; but, notwithstanding the severity of the ordeal to which it had been subjected, the portion of the Bill referring to suburban commons had hardly been touched upon, no substantial Amendment being made; and though as to rural commons, Amendments had been made, the main features of the measure had not been injured, remaining practically the same as when introduced into that House. It proceeded upon no new principle as alleged; but was, in fact, a supplementary measure to the Act of 1845, and if it was a measure of confiscation, the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Northumberland), to be consistent, would have to move the repeal of previous Acts upon the subject. The fact was, Parliament did not wish to inclose commons; it merely facilitated inclosures when they were desired, and in return exacted certain, conditions. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) admitted that the State had a right to take a certain amount of land in return for the privileges which it granted; and the question in dispute between them was merely one of degree. The noble Marquess said one-tenth was too much; he (the Earl of Morley) said that the proportion settled by the Act of 1845—namely, 1 per cent, was obviously insufficient, and that the minimum of 10 per cent fixed by the Bill was a great improvement, and far from excessive. The question of facilitating the inclosure of commons was one of State policy; but he would remind their Lordships that there was a great and influential party in the country, not merely of one political complexion—and who, moreover, were constantly increasing in strength—who desired that commons should be kept open for public use. He ventured to ask their Lordships whether they, like the noble Marquess, trusted to the mutability of the human mind, in the hope of securing a better bargain than that offered by the Bill?


I did not say, on the occasion referred to, the mutability of the human mind, but the mutability of the House of Commons.


said, however that might be, many persons regarded the terms offered by the Bill as being far more favourable than they should be; and he would ask those who wished to keep open the commons to consider whether it would be wise to refuse that offer in the hope, based upon the mutability of the House of Commons, that at some future time they would obtain better terms. In conclusion, he must say he hoped the House would not accede to the proposal of the noble Duke.


said, his reason for opposing the further progress of the Bill was the time of the Session. They ought, on no account, to send down a Bill to the other House when that House had already more business than they knew what to do with, and had slaughtered a great number of important Bills which they were unable to pass. If this measure were sent down to the House of Commons at so late a period of the Session, it would, on account of the Government having been defeated on some clauses and provisions of the Bill which they wished to retain, be returned to them with Amendments which they had already discussed and rejected. In the interests of legislation, therefore, their Lordships should not set the example of sending measures down to the other House at a period of the Session when it was impossible they could be properly discussed, and especially when they considered that they had a right to expect that measures would come up to them at a proper period of the Session. He wished to know why this Bill had not been introduced earlier. The subject had been under the consideration of two Select Committees of the House of Commons, and yet the noble Lord, having the whole matter fully before him before the commencement of the Session, had not thought proper to introduce this measure until the 21st of June, with the result that their Lordships were discussing in the fourth week in July the propriety of sending it down to the House of Commons. He thought that circumstance alone was sufficient to induce their Lordships to reject the Bill.


said, he had no desire to prolong the debate, but would tell the noble Lord opposite (Lord Redesdale) why the Bill had not been introduced sooner. He (Earl Granville) had always done his best to get Bills introduced into the House at an early period, notwithstanding the great inconvenience and disadvantage which was generally acknowledged—and especially by Lord Grey—to be attendant upon bringing Bills first into that House. That objection, however, was felt to apply so strongly to this and other Bills, that he was not able to give their Lordships an opportunity of considering the measure at the beginning of the Session. He should not relax his efforts in future; but he was not sure that he should be strengthened by the course taken by their Lordships with regard to the Bill under discussion. They were asked on various grounds to reject the Bill. It was said that it would not be courteous to send down the Bill at so late a period; but he believed the other House would be glad to receive a Bill which retained in the main the provisions recommended by a Select Committee of their own House. The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Northumberland) said the Bill interfered with the rights of property, and other arguments were urged against it; but it appeared to him that the course proposed to be pursued in rejecting it was most illogical. In the first Committee on the Bill, unexpectedly, there was a majority in favour of certain clauses; and he could understand the normal majority saying that as those clauses had been agreed to because they were away, they must stop the Bill in some other manner. But that was not done. The majority insisted that the Bill should be re-committed; and when it was re-committed, the majority carried out their views with regard to every point of the Bill; yet now they said that, as they had been so successful, they were bound to reject the Bill at this stage. A more unreasonable course he had never seen taken.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 53; Not-Contents 65: Majority 12.

Resolved in the Negative; and Report to be received this day three months.