HL Deb 20 February 1882 vol 266 cc1076-8

, in rising to present a Bill for facilitating sales, leases, and other dispositions of Settled Land, and for promoting the execution of improvements thereon, said, the measure was substantially the same as the one their Lordships on two previous occasions assented to and sent down to the other House of Parliament. The object of the Bill was to give to tenants for life and other limited owners of settled estates, as an incident of their estate, full and, as he thought, satisfactory, powers for the beneficial enjoyment and improvement of settled property. There was no doubt that, more or less, it had been the object of settlements, more especially of modern settlements, to give powers of this description in the settlements; but the principal points in which those powers had been found to come short were these:—In the first place—and to this he attached great importance—the powers were given with very rare exceptions to the trustees and not to the tenants for life. They knew that trustees wished to act with great safety and, as far as they could, with freedom from responsibility; and there had been a reluctance on the part of trustees to engage in any exercise of those powers. The natural arrangement would, therefore, be to have the powers safely guarded, and to intrust the exercise of them to the tenant for life. The next failure was that the powers had not gone far enough. They did not provide for leases and the execution of improvements to that extent and in that way which circumstances required. There was another matter in regard to which there was a failure. So far as he knew there was no power of settlement to authorize the trustees of a limited owner, if the limited owner should be of opinion that it did not suit his taste and capacity to manage landed estate, to sell the estate and convert it into money under conditions. All these shortcomings this Bill proposed to remedy; and he thought; he stated what was correct when he said that if this Bill became law it would for every good purpose put the limited owner of property in the position in which the owner of fee simple stood; and it would lead to the more easy and free circulation of land and the execution of improvements of land as if the land were owned by an owner in fee simple. He owned himself—having observed the reception this measure met in the country—that, so far as he knew, it had been approved by all persons interested in the development of land, and had not been disapproved of by any persons who wished to go further than that Bill proposed to go—looking at the circumstances, he regretted very much that the Bill had not become law a couple of years ago. He believed if it had become law a great amount of the suffering which had been endured would have been avoided. It was a remarkable thing, in the two large volumes which had been laid upon the Table of the evidence taken before the Royal Commission on Agriculture, that of the great number of witnesses who had spoken on this measure he did not find one who did not approve of this Bill. In the two volumes—more evidence, no doubt, had yet to come—the witnesses who gave evidence took different views on many things; but they all agreed in approving of this Bill. He thought this was very strong testimony from those who were practically acquainted with the subject. There was one qualification in the Bill as to the power of sale—namely, that before the tenant for life could sell an estate it would be necessary to obtain an order of the Court. He also observed that in the former Bills a distinction was drawn between future settlements and existing settlements; but, after full consideration, he had come to the conclusion that no distinction was necessary, and that the powers proposed to be given by the Bill should apply to existing and future settlements alike. He begged to move that the Bill be road a first time, and he hoped that his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, who had supported the Bill when not in Office, would give it his support during the present Session.

Bill for facilitating sales, leases, and other dispositions of Settled Land, and for promoting the execution of improvements thereon—Presented (The Earl CAIRNS.)


said, he had expressed himself in favour of the principle contained in the Bill not only when he was not in Office, but when he was in Office, and he believed he repeated his opinions on every occasion. Nothing that had happened had changed his opinion that the measure, if passed, would be a very decided improvement on the present state of the law. The change which his noble and learned Friend had made with regard to existing settlements had been supported by him. Whether or not the Government would still be prevented from giving active assistance to the passing of the Bill was a point as to which he was not authorized to enter into any undertaking on their part; but he was glad that the noble and learned Earl had again drawn the attention of Parliament to this subject.

Bill read la. (No. 19.)