§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Rosebery.)
§ EARL CAIRNS
said, he did not intend to oppose the Bill at this stage. On the contrary, from his present information, he was disposed to give it his support. He wished, however, to urge upon his 1222 noble Friend the desirability of allowing a reasonably long period to elapse before the stage of Committee, so as to enable the House to consider the Bill carefully. Amongst other things, there was a power in the measure very similar to the Settled Land Bill, which had passed through their Lordships' House, and was now in "another place." Under the present Bill, unless he were mistaken, the money produced from a sale in Scotland must be invested in the estate and be subject to the restrictions of the entail; but under the Settled Land Bill the money might be used for various other purposes—for example, the improvement of other land. Ho was by no means certain that the securities with regard to the money produced by the sale of land were as wide as they should be in the present Bill.
THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH
said, he was not going to oppose the second reading of the Bill; but he thought some more information with regard to it was wanted. His noble Friend ought to have given some general details as to the object of the Bill. There had been so many alterations of late in the Law of Entail in Scotland that it was very difficult to know what the law was. In the 7th and 10th clauses there were some important points, these provisions being of an extremely stringent character. There might be very good reasons for the next heir refusing his consent to the disentailing of the land; but if he did, as he understood the Bill, the heir in possession had only to apply to the Court. The Court was not called upon to make an investigation to satisfy itself that the application was right and good; but it should immediately proceed to direct a sale as if the consent had been obtained, whether the heir liked it or not. Cases might arise with regard to minors, in which such powers as these might lead to great hardships. He referred to these points to show that the noble Earl in charge of the Bill ought to direct his attention to them. The Bill had been brought on for second reading so rapidly that he had not had time to communicate with Scotland and obtain the views of the Legal Profession in regard to it, or to ascertain the general feeling of the country. Moreover, the half-yearly county meetings were all over, and there would be no opportunity, at any rate for some time, to obtain an. 1223 expression of opinion from them. He thought the noble Earl should allow them ample time, though, of course, he would not ask for a very considerable delay, before taking the Bill in Committee. It would be necessary to consider several Amendments, which it would take some time to prepare.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
said, it seemed to him the object of the Bill was practically to do away with entails in Scotland altogether. As be understood the provision, any heir of entail in possession would be able to disentail his estate without the consent or against the wishes of the next heir of entail. There would be no power to prevent the disentail by the fact that the next heir of entail was under 21 years of age, or of any legal disability. He was not at all opposed to the principle of the Bill; But he hoped the noble Earl (the Earl of Rosebery) would, when the Bill came into Committee, explain what would be the practical effect of its operation. He quite agreed, although there had been many Entail Bills for Scotland, that it was highly desirable that some such Bill as this should be passed, because at this moment it was almost impossible to understand exactly what the law really was, there were so many different cases. There were the cases of those old entails before the passing of the Rutherford Act; there were the new entails subsequent to the Act, and the entails which had been altered by the Act of 1875. In consequence of the different Acts, which only applied to some entails and not to all, there was a state of confusion, and he thought it was highly desirable to put a stop to that state of things. He hoped the noble Earl would agree to postpone the Committee for some little time, so that if the Bill passed it would be a satisfactory one, and that they should not require any further measures dealing with the same subject.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, as it does not appear that any other noble Lords wish to address the House, I will, with your permission, say a very few words in reply to, or in acknowledgment of, what has been said; because, as a matter of fact, my first duty is to thank the House very sincerely for the spirit in which it has approached the consideration of this Bill. As regards what has been said about the haste with which this Bill has come to the 1224 second reading, I will only say that, having heard no word of objection privately or publicly against the Bill, I fixed the second reading for to-day; but if any noble Lord had wished me to postpone it, and given mo the slightest intimation to that effect, I should have thought it my duty to accede to the request. I need hardly say that any day which is convenient to the noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns) and the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Buccleuch) will be fixed for Committee on the Bill. As regards what the noble and learned Earl said, I admit that, in my opinion, there is very great force in it. I do not myself think that the uses to which the entail money are to be applied under the Bill are sufficiently wide; but, in introducing a Bill of this nature to your Lordships' House, it is necessary for the Government to consider not merely what is desirable in the abstract, but the attitude which might be maintained by noble Lords towards it; and, therefore, I think we introduced a Bill in this respect, as in others, of an extremely moderate character. As to what fell from the noble Duke, I have to thank him very warmly for not offering his opposition—which would necessarily be a most powerful opposition—to the Bill. It is quite true that the next heir under this Bill will not have the option or power of opposing a sale, but it is true that his interest will be preserved from the result of the sale; and I would remark that, if the opposition of the next heir were to be valid against such a sale, it would be practically of no use bringing in a Bill at all; because under the Act of 1875, passed under the late Government, the power given was to dispense practically with all consent except that of the next heir; and, therefore, if we did not dispense with the consent, and make one step in advance, it would have been useless bringing in a Bill at all. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lothian), whoso support of the Bill I must also acknowledge, seemed to be a little vague as to the main object of the Bill. The object of the Bill may be stated in one word; it is, that no man in future, no landed proprietor, need remain under entail unless he chooses; but all the interests which have been hitherto respected are respected now. If the heirs of these estates get their due proportion, I do not think there is much to complain 1225 of. The noble Duke, I think, complained that I had not offered any explanation of this important measure. The fact is, I did offer an explanation when I introduced the Bill—only the audience was exceedingly limited. At the suggestion of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), I have added a Memorandum to the Bill, which will give a far more lucid explanation than I could give. I do not know that there is anything else which has fallen from the noble Lord that renders it necessary for me to say more. I can only repeat my thanks to noble Lords for the spirit in which they have received this measure, and ask them to give it a second reading. I shall consult their convenience in naming a day for the Committee stage.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday the 29th instant.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Five o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.