HL Deb 19 June 1876 vol 230 cc1-4

moved, That there be laid before the House—a Return showing whether the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875, have or have not been adopted upon the estates held by the Duchy of Cornwall, the Charity Commissioners, and the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital.


said, he thought the noble Earl would see the propriety of amending the Return moved for by omitting the reference to the estates of the Duchy of Cornwall. It seemed to him that they had no more right to require a Return with reference to those estates than they had with reference to the private estates of any Member of that House. Therefore, he hoped his noble Friend would strike out that portion of his Motion. With regard to the Charity Commissioners, he had to say that they did not hold land, and, consequently, the portion of the noble Earl's Motion which referred to them was inapplicable. As to the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital, they were abolished by an Act passed in the 28th and 29th of the Queen—a fact of which he had supposed the noble Earl would have been aware. If the noble Earl substituted "Board of Admiralty" for "Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital," there would be no objection to the last part of his Motion.


said, that if the object of the noble Earl was to know the fact relative to the Duchy, and not to require a formal Return, he would give him the fact, and beg him to omit the Duchy of Cornwall from the Return. The noble Earl was verging on an inquiry into personal affairs—although he (Viscount Portman) must admit that the management of the Duchy was of public importance, inasmuch as good management averted requisition for public money, while a bad system, such as existed in former reigns, was a public evil. The fact, then, was that as to the advice given by the Council of the Duchy to the Prince of Wales as to contracting out of the Act; more than two-thirds of the Duchy estate was on lease, and therefore out of the Act. The remainder was held on agreement until the terms could be arranged for leases. The Council had advised to contract out of the Act where intermixed lands were in question, because in respect of these it was of great importance that they should be unfettered. Once under the control of the Act, no one could escape it; but while out of it any one might contract into it wholly or in part, at any time. It should not be forgotten that Parliament had so little confidence in the provisions of the Act that it directed all owners and occupiers to decide within a given time whether to accept or to decline to accept the scheme; and no one who was responsible to successors could fail to decline while the data for valuations under the Act were so imperfect that only now were experiments about to be made to enable honest valuers to form a calculation of the value of unexhausted manure. The Duke of Bedford, with the wonted liberality of his family, had placed land and money at the disposal of eminent men to try to form a basis for valuation; but he ventured to predict that the best we could hope for was a series of negative results. The House of Commons struck out of the Bill the only test of value which the noble Duke the President of the Council proposed—namely, the increased letting value of the farm. Parliament had put before them a scheme, and they must work it out patiently, always recollecting that science and practice were both required to guide them.


agreed with the noble Viscount, rather than with the noble Duke, as to what had been said about the Duchy of Cornwall. He would amend his Motion in the way proposed.

Motion amended, and agreed to.

Return showing whether the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1875, have or have not been adopted upon the estates held by the Board of Admiralty: Ordered to be laid before the House.—(The Earl of Camperdown.)