HL Deb 07 May 1888 vol 325 cc1437-41

(The Lord Privy Seal.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that he had caused to be circulated a Memorandum explanatory of the provisions of the Bill amongst their Lordships. The Bill was an amendment of the Irish Timber Act of 1783. The Act of 1783 encouraged the planting of trees by two classes of persons. The first class was that of tenants for lives renew- able for ever; and it was provided that when they planted trees they should be the absolute owners of the property as tenants in fee. The second class was that of tenants for life, or lives, or any term of years, of which 12 years were still unexpired. It was proposed to extend these provisions to a new class—namely, the tenants for statutory terms, which, as their Lordships knew, were for 15 years' renewal. There was one other class to which it was proposed to extend the Bill, subject to registration—namely, the class of tenants holding under a lease of not less than 31 years. He would like to say, in reply to several communications which he had received, that the Bill was not to be of a retrospective character, and that it would be obligatory that registration should take place within 12 months after the planting of the trees. It would be evident that it would not be possible for any tenant to claim compensation for trees that had been planted more than 12 months before the registration; and he further had to say that under the Bill there was no change made as to the right of tenants to plant trees. The only change which the Bill made was as to those who were to be permitted to cut them down, or to claim the property in them as their own. He begged to move the second reading.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Privy Seal.)


said, he was not quite clear that the description given of the Bill by the noble Earl (Earl Cadogan) was quite accurate. This Bill embodied in itself a great number of Acts of Parliament which were passed in the last century, and he believed it was most difficult to read those Acts of Parliament together. He ventured to suggest to their Lordships that they might be passing a Bill which contained a great deal more drastic concessions than they would wish to give. They were aware that under the Act of 1870 there had been a great number of concessions given, which they were told afterwards necessitated the Act of 1881, and they were told that the Act of 1881 necessitated the Act of 1887. Therefore, they were accustomed to what were called "germs" in these Bills. He wanted to suggest to the noble Earl that instead of em- bodying these numerous Acts of Parliament, they should embody the one Act of 1783 which he named. He (the Marquess of Waterford) had read that Act, and could say—speaking only as a layman—that that Act gave the whole of the powers which the noble Earl had mentioned. It was not an amending Act, so far as he could understand it; and it referred to no other Acts. He was afraid if they passed the Bill in its present shape their Lordships would be embodying a number of Acts of Parliament of which they knew nothing. He did not wish to prevent judicial tenants obtaining all the rights which the Memorandum stated the Bill would give them; but why embody a number of Acts when one Act which clearly expressed what was meant would suffice?


said, he thought it was singularly inconvenient to anybody who was interested in Irish legislation to have a Bill of this nature brought before their Lordships. It was quite impossible by looking into the Bill to make out what it meant. He went to several people for an explanation of its provisions, but without avail. What ho was afraid of was, that this Memorandum might not be quite so accurate as the noble Earl (Earl Cadogan) hoped it was. If it was perfectly accurate, then he had no objection to the Bill. But what he should have thought would have been much simpler than that, was to have repealed all those numerous Acts which, he might tell their Lordships, were so bulky that they would stand three or four feet from the ground if piled on top of each other, and which would take a lawyer a very considerable time to examine; as for a layman, it was absolutely impossible. The simplest way would have been to have repealed all those old Acts, and to have brought in one sole Act which would explain exactly what was meant, so that they might understand exactly what they were doing; because such an Act as this might be used in a way in which it was not intended that it should be used in Ireland, especially now, as their Lordships knew, that there was another Bill called a Timber Bill in the other House, which would come up to their Lordships in a later period of the Session, and which might undo what they were trying to do by this Bill. That Bill might never come up; but if it did come up, it would be a second amending Bill in the same Session of Parliament. The noble Earl, he thought, would do well to have the Bill recast.


in a minute criticism of the Bill, said, it was wholly unnecessary to incorporate all those Acts which had been mentioned relating to the planting of trees in Ireland. They are very difficult to interpret, and he was afraid that if they incorporated them all in the present Bill it would only Tead to confusion and embarrassment. He was entirely favourable to promoting the cultivation of trees in Ireland. What he intended to propose was that the Committee stage of the Bill should be postponed until after the Whitsuntide Recess, so as to give them full time for its consideration. He was afraid he could not accept all the statements of the noble Earl (Earl Cadogan) with regard to the rights of planting trees and their ownership in Ireland. The noble Earl had told them that it was perfectly settled law that the right of planting trees, quite irrespective of registration, had been established under the Land Acts. He could not accept that statement, and should like the noble Earl to mention the cases in which it had become settled law. He (Lord Fitzgerald) would point out that the statutory terms of 15 years, though of a shorter may be of a more continuous character than the terms contemplated by the ancient Acts, as at the end of every 15 years the rights of the landlord and tenant were liable to re-adjustment. At the same time, he should be glad that the statutory tenants in Ireland should have the benefit of some such enactment as was proposed by the present Bill, if it could be done with proper safeguards. But they knew from experience that legislation of the kind if unguarded was very apt to end in paring off or tearing up some rights of the landlords.


said, it was very gratifying to observe the horror with which the noble and learned Lord (Lord Fitzgerald) regarded the tearing up of the rights of the landlords. He could only regret that it had come rather late. The noble and learned Lord had not been quite so sensitive in the matter when measures of a very different character from the Bill for liberty to plant trees in Ireland were under discussion.


said, he was not a Member of the House while those measures were under discussion.


said, he believed that was so; and he supposed that if the noble and learned Lord had been here during all the time the legislation would have been very different from what it was. It seemed to him that the real scope and object of the Bill was not thoroughly understood. It was a perfectly reasonable proposal that the Committee stage should be postponed till after Whitsuntide, which, he hoped, would afford their Lordships ample time for sufficient examination of this perfectly innocent and harmless piece of legislation.


in explanation, said, for the information of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Waterford and others, that the present Bill did not propose to repeal any of the provisions of the ancient Acts. It was merely intended to give a most distinct intimation of what the Irish Timber Acts were, and it left them at large just as they were; but those Acts had been enumerated in the Bill in order that what they meant might not be left out of mind. There were no new rights created by the Bill.


said, he would remind their Lordships that a Bill precisely similar to this one had been amended in their Lordships' House in 1886; but, as differences of opinion had been found to exist upon its discussion, it had been dropped in the House of Commons. It provided, like this Bill, that tenants of statutory terms should have the same privileges as tenants for life, or lives renewable for ever.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly.