HL Deb 01 May 1879 vol 245 cc1483-92

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

Moved, "That the said Report be now received."—(The Lord President.)


rose to move the Resolutions of which he had given Notice—

  1. "1. That the conservancy of rivers and watercourses and the prevention and mitigation of floods are duties properly incumbent upon owners of lands;"
  2. "2. Conservancy boards ought to consist of owners of lands only, by which class also all rates for the above purposes ought to be defrayed."


rose to Order, and submitted that it was irregular to move an abstract Resolution on the Report of a Bill.


, however, thought that the noble Earl was in Order.


had framed his Amendment as two Resolutions, because he thought that form would be the most convenient for its consideration. The reason why he proposed that this taxation should fall wholly on the owners, instead of in part on the occupiers, was because the improvements contemplated by the Bill were in the character of permanent improvement of the estate. There was not a farmer in the country who had contemplated that at a future time he would be taxed for having drained his land into a river. He maintained that the cost of the improvements generally ought to be paid by the landlord; and all the tenant ought to pay for was the increased value of his holding, and what he paid for that ought to be paid in the shape of additional rent. For those reasons, he begged to move his Resolutions.

Amendment moved, To leave out from ("That") to the end of the motion, and to add ("1. The conservancy of rivers and watercourses and the prevention and mitigation of floods are duties properly incumbent upon owners of lands; 2. Conservancy boards ought to consist of owners of lands only, by which class also all rates for the above purposes ought to be defrayed.")—(The Earl of Camperdown.)


submitted that it would have been more convenient if the objections contained in the Resolutions of the noble Earl had been moved by way of Amendment to the second reading of the Bill, when its principle was affirmed; or, at the very latest, as an Amendment when the Bill was in Committee. The Motion before the House was that the Report of the Amendments be received. Therefore, if the noble Earl's Motion were successful, the Report would not be received; and that showed the inconvenience of the course which the noble Earl had adopted. But he (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) objected to the Motion both in point of form and because he did not agree with the noble Earl that the occupiers were not concerned in the general drainage of the country. No doubt, the landowners were largely interested in the improvements proposed to be effected under this Bill; but be submitted that the occupiers, if not equally, were, at all events, to a very great extent, interested also. There was direct evidence that in some parts of the country when floods prevailed water stood for weeks and months over the whole farms, so that the tenant could not get on his land to carry out the ordinary occupations of agriculture. The occupier was, therefore, as much interested as the landowner himself upon that ground, and also upon the ground of sanitary consideration, for the prevalence of those floods contributed much to fever and ague. Consequently, not only the occupier, but also the agricultural labourer, was injured to a great extent by the absence of measures that were necessary for carrying away the water. The noble Earl had admitted that if the occupier was not rated he could not expect to have a seat at the Board; and if the Conservancy Boards were deprived of the services of the occupiers of land, they would, in many cases, be deprived of some of the most valuable members, who brought to bear on questions at issue great knowledge of the country, experience, and business habits. The noble Earl thought that the occupiers should be rated, not in the form of a rate levied by the Conservancy Board, but in the shape of additional rent. If, however, an arbitrary rate was to be imposed by the landlord on the occupier of land in that way, the occupier would be in this position—that he would be rated for the purposes of the Act to any extent the landlord might think fit, while he would have no voice whatever in the imposition of the taxation which he would be called upon to pay. For these reasons he should oppose the Resolutions.


said, he did not see that any objection need be urged to the form in which this matter was brought before the House, it being a very common thing to propose a Resolution on the Question of the Report being received. If the noble Earl's Amendment were carried, it would only delay the reception of the Report one day. With regard to the Main Question, it must be borne in mind that the works which were proposed to be carried out under this Bill were permanent works—probably of considerable magnitude, and tending to increase the permanent value of certain portions of the land; that, on the other hand, a large number of tenants in this country were tenants from year to year, who had but a very temporary interest in the improvements for which they were to be called upon to pay. Some of these small tenants would be called on to pay for works from which they would not derive a benefit to the amount of a single penny, and they would find themselves saddled with charges for drainage works which had been carried out without their supposing that they would be called upon to pay the expense. With respect to the question of the occupiers not having a seat on the Board in the event of their not being rated, as proposed under the Bill, he thought they would have a much more potent voice if they were rated in the form of an addition to their rent, as suggested by his noble Friend, because they would be in a position to judge how far the improvements added to the value of their farms, and to say what additional rent they were prepared to pay. The question of their having to pay an addition to their rent would settle itself, because they would not be called on to pay additional rent if the value of their holdings had not been improved by the works. Therefore, he agreed with his noble Friend that the landlords were the persons to be charged for permanent improvements under the Bill.


opposed the Resolutions. To say that because these were permanent works the rates were to be thrown exclusively on the owners was to go against the principle which had been hitherto recognized in such matters, and this Bill followed the precedent of all former Drainage Acts in charging the occupiers as well as the owners; and in towns, and oven in some rural districts, the principle adopted in regard to sanitary improvements was that the charge should fall in some proportion on the occupiers. He should be sorry to see the proposal of his noble Friend accepted, because if their Lordships adopted the 1st Resolution, they must adopt the 2nd—if they put the whole rate on the owners they must exclude the occupiers from having a place at the Board. Now, the tenant-farmers had a very considerable interest in the matter; they were very valuable members of Conservancy Boards, and it would not be for their benefit to be deprived of their duo share of representation on questions in which they were so largely interested. He considered that the principle of rating proposed in the Bill was a good one.


suggested that this was a most unfortunate time for imposing fresh taxation on the farmer. But he desired to know how it was that this Bill, which was a taxing Bill, had originated in the House of Lords? The other day the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack had put aside a Bill relating to the Law Courts because it imposed new taxes, and therefore held that it ought to emanate from the House of Commons. Where was the line to be drawn? That was a Bill which would have taxed only a very few persons—this was one which would tax a largo portion of the community. Why, then, should it originate in their Lordships' House?


said, the distinction was that the Bill relating to the New Law Courts was a taxing Bill entirely, whereas the Bill now under consideration only contained certain taxing clauses. There was no doubt that there were clauses in this Bill which were taxing clauses, and that a great many Bills passed through their Lordships House which had taxing clauses in them; but the practice of their Lordships was that after treating these clauses as if they were in the Bill for the purpose of argument and illustration, when the Bill had been read the third time, and before the Question was put, "That the Bill do pass," these "privileged clauses," as they were called, were struck out. The Bill, as read the third time, was printed in black ink; but the clauses that were afterwards struck out were printed in red ink. Everyone knew what that meant. In the case of the Bill relating to the Law Courts, however, the clauses were all money clauses, and to have sent it down to the Commons with the money clauses struck out would have been to send down, practically, a blank sheet.


expressed entire approval of the Resolutions, which were for the convenience of the House, and, so far from being abstract propositions, were compact statements which made the matter clear at once, whilst Amendments scattered over the Bill would have been more difficult to understand. With regard to what had been said about the farmers getting no voice in the matter, they always bad a voice as to increase of rent; but it did not follow that there would be an increase. There would be a decrease in the case of lands which are now annually flooded, and which, as the farmers say, manure themselves, if this Bill should put an end to those floods.


was also understood to express a feeling in favour of the Resolutions.


thought, also, that the arguments were in favour of the Resolutions.

On Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Motion? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 57; Non-contents 36: Majority 21.

Cairns, E. (L. Chancellor.) Melville, V.
Templetown, V.
Airey, L.
Bedford, D. Bagot, L.
Northumberland, D. Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Richmond, D.
Rutland, D. Clinton, L.
Colchester, L.
Ailesbury, M. Cottesloe, L.
Ripon, M. de Ros, L. [Teller.]
Salisbury, M. Digby, L.
Ellenborough, L.
Forester, L.
Beaconsfield, E. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Beauchamp, E.
Dundonald, E. Gordon of Drumearn, L.
Harrowby, E.
Manvers, E. Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)
Mount Edgcumbe, E.
Nelson, E. Hampton, L.
Onslow, E. Hanmer, L.
Ravensworth, E. Harlech, L.
Rosse, E. Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)
Saint Germans, E.
Stanhope, E. Massy L.
Strange, E. (D. Athol.) Norton, L.
Strathmore and Kinghorn, E. Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)
Waldegrave, E. Rayleigh, L.
Wilton, E. Ribblesdale, L.
Saltoun, L.
Bridport, V. Tollemache, L.
Cranbrook, V. Ventry, L.
Hawarden, V. [Teller.] Windsor, L.
Lifford, V. Winmarleigh, L.
Somerset, D. Foley, L.
Greville, L.
Lansdowne, M. Hammond, L.
Houghton, L.
Airlie, E. [Teller.] Lyttelton, L.
Camperdown, E. [Teller.] Monson, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
De La Warr, E.
Derby, E. Mostyn, L.
Ducie, E. Northwick, L.
Fortescue, E. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Granville, E.
Jersey, E. Selborne, L.
Kimberley, E. Stanley of Alderley, L,
Lovelace, E. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Minto, E.
Morley, E. Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)
Redesdale, E.
Selkirk, E. Stratheden and Campbell
Spencer, E.
Sydney, E. Sudeley, L.
Thurlow, L.
Bateman, L.

Resolved in the Affirmative; Original Motion agreed to, and Amendments reported accordingly.


again urged his objection to the proposition in the 5th clause with respect to the proportionate contribution of uplands—namely, that the proportion to be paid by uplands should not exceed a fourth of the contribution in respect of flood-lands; and moved a Proviso proposing to exempt uplands from rating until certain conditions should have been fulfilled.

Amendment moved, in Clause 5, page 2, line 26, after ("floodlands") insert— ("Provided always, that until all mill-dams, weirs, or other artificial obstructions to the free course of the river in the floodlands and intermediate lands are removed, or other works constructed therein affording equal relief to the flow of water as would be obtained by such removal, no rate shall be imposed on the uplands for any expenditure to be incurred for the relief of floods in the floodlands or the intermediate lands respectively caused by subsoil drainage in the uplands.")—(The Earl of Redesdale.)


repeated that the scientific evidence taken by the Select Committee of their Lordships' House showed that the drainage of the uplands increased the floods in the lowlands. One of the most eminent civil engineers in the country, Sir John Hawkshaw, in giving evidence before the Committee of the House of Lords in 1877, expressed a decided opinion that the uplands should bear a portion of the expense occasioned by the water which they poured down upon the lowlands. Accepting the view of Sir John Hawkshaw, he could not agree with the proposal of the noble Earl; but he was willing to reduce the proportion of expense payable by the uplands from one-fourth to one-sixth, and had placed an Amendment on the Paper to that effect.


concurred with his noble Friend at the Table (the Earl of Redesdale) in thinking that it would be a gross injustice to tax upland owners for damage occasioned by obstructions in watercourses which the lowland proprietors had raised for their own advantage. In cases where the natural channels were not sufficient to carry all the water away, a portion of the damage caused by flooding might be fairly attributed to the uplands, but not otherwise. The definitions in the Bill appeared to him open to some objection. "Intermediate lands" were described as lands draining by sub-soil drainage into the principal river of the district. It followed, then, that "uplands" were lands which did not so drain, which was surely not what the promoters of the Bill intended. He could not, therefore, accept the proposition of the noble Duke; but should support the Motion of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees for the exemption of uplands.


pointed out to the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) that his argument might be used with equal force in favour of the lowland proprietors. Supposing a mill had been standing in a valley for a century, and that no flooding ever occurred until some agriculturist of the new school, full of the science of his time, established himself on the uplands, and, by means of a new system of drainage, brought down a much larger quantity of water in a shorter time, and thus caused the floodings which it was the object of this Bill to prevent. What an injustice to saddle all the expense upon the lowland proprietor. With regard to the definition of "uplands" in the Bill, he would remind the noble Earl that where there was no sub-soil drainage there might be ditches, which would answer the same purpose.


said, it was found that the definitions originally contained in the Bill would not work well, and those now in the Bill had been inserted in their stead. He was not prepared to say that they were the best that could be found, and he should be happy to listen to any suggestions which could be made for their improvement. As to the general question now under discussion, he thought it had been conclusively shown that the drainage of the uplands had inflicted injuries on the lowlands; and even in the case of the so-called obstructions to the natural course of the water, it should be borne in mind that though these mills and dams might have existed for years the floods were a matter of comparatively recent date. He should certainly oppose the Amendment of the noble Earl.


thought the Motion proposed by his noble Friend deserved careful attention. Something was to be said for the argument of the noble Marquess in the case of intermediate lands, because they had obtained some considerable advantage for themselves. But it was different with the uplands. They were free from the infernal machinery of sub-soil drainage.

Amendment negatived.

On the Motion of the Duke of RICHMOND and GORDON, the word "fourth" was struck out from the clause, and the word "sixth" inserted instead.

On the Motion of the Duke of RICHMOND and GORDON, the following Amendments were agreed to:—

Clause 6 (Constitution of Conservancy Board).

After line 37 insert the following subsection:— (6.) "The order may provide for the combination of two or more sanitary authorities for the purpose of the election of members of the conservancy board, and where the district of a sanitary authority is partly within the district of the conservancy board those members only of the sanitary authority who represent wards or parishes wholly or partly within the district of the conservancy board shall vote in the election of the members of such board. In lieu of Clause 25, insert— (Incidence of conservancy rate.) The incidence of any conservancy rate levied under this Act in a conservancy district shall be determined in each case by the order establishing the conservancy board of that district, subject to the provisions of this Act, and subject as follows:—

  1. (1.) "So far as any portion of the rate is levied in respect of any existing work which a person has specifically contracted to perform or pay for, or in lieu of any existing rate which a person has specifically contracted to pay, the order shall, as far as practicable, provide for that portion of the rate being ultimately borne by that person.
  2. (2.) "In any other case, subject to the provisions of any specific contract made with respect to the rate, the order shall as far as practicable provide for the equal division of the rate between the landlord and the occupier.
For the purposes of this section—
  1. (1.) "The expression 'existing work' means the cleansing, repairing, or otherwise maintaining in a due state of efficiency of any such watercourse or outfall for water, or of any such wall, bank, dam, or other defence against water as exists at the date at which the order comes into operation, and the expression 'existing rate' means any rate leviable at the same date.
  2. (2.) "The expression 'landlord' means any person receiving from the occupier of any land the rent for such land otherwise than under a lease granted originally for more than thirty years, and of which not less than ten years are unexpired, and the order may provide for the deduction of any portion of the rate by such landlord from the rent 1492 payable by him in respect of the said land to any person otherwise than under such a lease as aforesaid."

Other Amendments made.

Bill to be read 3a on Monday next; and to be printed as amended. (No. 67.)

House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter before Five o'clock.