HL Deb 21 July 1890 vol 347 cc318-27

House in Committee (on Re-commitment) (according to order).

Clause 4.


I have to propose an Amendment in this clause which is little more than verbal. It is to meet a doubt which has been raised by my noble and learned Friend Lord Selborne in Standing Committee, whether this clause might not cover, and ought not to cover, arrangements where money has been advanced, and where, therefore, the arrangement made is part of the security.

Moved, to insert in line 15, after "arrangement," the words "not being a security for the payment of money advanced."—(The Lord Herschell)—Agreed to.

Clause 11.


I have to move to add at the end of this clause a subsection to define incumbrances, so as to exclude determinable, annual, and other sums, which were clearly not intended to be included in its terms; but before doing so I have an Amendment to move in line 23, after the word "required," to insert the words "and also the amount properly required for payment of the costs of the transaction," That is in cases where mortgages are consolidated and arrangements made for the payment of a lower rate of interest.

Amendment agreed to.

Another Amendment moved, at the end of the clause to insert the following sub-section:— Incumbrance in this section does not include any annual sum payable only during a life or lives or during a term of years absolute or determinable.—(The Lord Herschell.)—Agreed to.

Clause 13.


The Amendment of which I have given notice, or the substance of it, was proposed in the Standing Committee on Law by the noble and learned Lord who introduced this Bill. His Amendment did not meet with the full concurrence of the Committee, and I have now to propose an Amendment which I think is a very important addition to that which was proposed by my noble and learned Friend, namely, a proviso limiting the power of tenants for life to raise money under this clause to the amount of half the rental of the estates. I think it should be borne in mind that the Act of 1882, which is generally called, I believe, Lord Cairns' Act, was brought forward very much in connection with the Act which had been passed in the year 1864 for giving powers to limited owners to raise money for the purpose of making permanent improvements upon their estates. Under the; Act of 1864 a great variety of objects could be attained by limited owners, but it did not include, among the permanent improvements provided for, the restoration of the mansion house or residence of the owner of the property. But in the year 1871 an Act was passed to which I should wish to call your Lordships' attention, namely, the Limited Owners Residences Act, which gave the same powers as were given by the Act of 1864 to limited owners to raise money for the re-building of their houses. The Limited Owners Residences Act, 1871, enables a tenant-for-life to re-build the mansion house under the powers of the Improvements of Lands Act, 1864, with which Act it is incorporated, and the Act of 1871 enacts that the re-building of a mansion house is to be deemed to be an improvement within the meaning of the Improvements of Lands Act of 1864. The other improvements within the meaning of that Act are all introduced in the Settled Land Act of 1882; but the provisions of the Act of 1871 were, unfortunately, excluded from the provisions of the Act of 1882. The result is that that improvement which was introduced in the Act of 1871, and incorporated into the Act of 1864 was excluded in 1882, and, therefore, all the benefits which accrued from the Settled Lands Act of 1882 are lost entirely as regards the Act of 1871. I have said that under the Act of 1882 a limited owner can sell his property, or can sell a portion of his land, and expend the proceeds in a variety of ways; he can spend it in irrigation, in draining, in plantation, in the building of cottages, in the building of homesteads, and in building farm-houses. He can do a great many other things; he can build for a good many other people; but there is one thing he cannot do, and that is he cannot build a house for himself. Well, my Lords, the question is, Is it fair, is it just, to have excluded this provision, which was incorporated in the Act of 1871, from the provisions of the Act of 1882; and now that your Lordships have an opportunity of re-enacting and bringing this improvement back again, of incorporating it with the provisions of the Act of 1864, and assimilating it to the other improvements which were included in the Act of 1882, I would humbly suggest that it ought to be taken advantage of. The noble and learned Lord opposite evidently thought that this was an opportunity of doing so, that it was in conformity with the principles of this Bill that this Amendment should be introduced. I have brought it down, I think, to very small dimensions. I am only asking that a limited owner shall be able to raise by the sale of land to the amount of as much as one-half the rental of his property for the purpose of effecting this very important object of permanent improvement. It is said by those who are opposed to this that it will discourage insurance. I must say I do not propose it with any idea of that kind. It is a great deal too small an addition to the powers given to act as a discouragement to insurance, and I propose it not at all to discourage, but as a supplement to, insurance. We know perfectly well when a house is destroyed by fire there is not only the loss of the fabric, but there is the loss of contents. Does the insurance meet that loss? When you come to counting the cost of restoration the insurance very rarely covers the loss, and I think this Amendment would give great assistance to those who, like myself, have had the misfortune to lose their houses, and are still under the obligation to restore them. Those who are connected with the agricultural interest, and who are dependent on the soil, know well that this country has passed through a period of great depression, and I think that every assistance which Parliament can give to relieve both landowners and tenants from the effects of that depression should be given. It is said, and I cordially agree in the statement, that property has its duties as well as its rights. A landowner to perform his duties must reside upon his property. Absenteeism is one of the evils which statesmen and Parliament have had to deal with in regard to Ireland. We do not want absenteeism here; it is an evil which we wish to avoid. In order that a man may reside upon his property he must have a house in which he can live, in order that he may perform those duties which devolve upon him. It is to assist in that object that I now propose this Amendment should be adopted in the name of my noble and learned Friend opposite, which I believe to be just and fair, and one which, I think, on grounds of public policy worthy the Support of your Lordships' House.

Moved, in Clause 13, page 4, line 11, after sub-section (iii.) to insert the following sub-section:— (iv.)"The re-building of the principal mansion house on the settled land; provided that the sum to be applied under this sub-section shall not exceed one-half of the annual rental of the settled land."—(The Earl of Feversham.)


I trust your Lordships will not agree to the Amendment which has been moved by my noble Friend. This matter was considered in the Standing Committee to which the Bill was referred, and the Standing Committee did not think fit to recommend this Amendment to the House. Let me call your Lordships' attention to this point: it is the duty of every wise man to insure his house, and if he does not insure it, it is on him and not on the inheritance that the burden ought to fall Then your Lordships should bear in mind also this: that a property is not improved by increasing the mortgages upon it. The powers of charging estates under Lord Cairns's Act are thought by some to be of doubtful expediency, and they are only justified on the ground that you charge the estate for re-productive work. It is supposed, and I hope the supposition will prove true, that precautions are taken that the money which the tenant for life is empowered to charge upon the inheritance is so laid out that the value and the proceeds of the inheritance will be in future increased. Now, I will ask how the inheritance can be in any way benefited by the building? of a mansion house? Clearly it is the duty of the tenant for life to insure, and it is his duty to re-build, if he chooses to re-build, should his house be burned down. But the increasing of charges upon the inheritance for works that are not in themselves re-productive must end in the ruin of properties, and be of no sort of benefit to the community. I have every sympathy with my noble Friend who has had this very misfortune, having had a house burned down some years ago, which is now in course of rebuilding, but I do not think the laws of the land ought to be altered to suit the convenience of Members of your Lordships' House.


This Amendment is somewhat vaguely worded. It says that the sum to be applied under this sub-section "shall not exceed one-half of the annual rental of the settled land." Now, what does the "settled land" mean? Does it mean the estate which surrounds the house, or does it mean any property the owner may possess in half a dozen counties which may be under the same settlement? Does it mean that money may be raised upon, or part of an estate in Devonshire sold to improve a house in Northumberland, or that money may be raised upon property in Derbyshire to improve or re-build a house in Leicestershire? The noble Earl spoke of this power not having been given in the Lands Improvement Act. I think if any money is to be raised on an estate for re-building a mansion-house it ought to be done under similar arrangements to those specified in the Estates Improvement Act, namely, that it should be paid back by instalments within a certain number of years; because clearly the restoration or rebuilding of a house does not add to the improvement of an estate: it is simply putting it in the same position as it was in before, which would be guarded by insurance. And it very often happens that the building of a mansion house, under the direction of a lavish architect, makes the house a burden to the estate which it is not able to bear. I think, therefore, that this clause, if it is to be adopted at all, would have to be limited, and that it should, at all events, be made more distinct that the land that is to be brought in and charged with the rebuilding of the mansion house should be the property upon which the mansion house is situate. I feel disposed to concur with the noble Marquess that it would be better to maintain the decision of the Standing Committee.


There seems to be a considerable amount of caprice in the arguments which have been put forward on this subject. I believe that until lately if a man over insured his house and it was burnt down he was in danger of being hung; and now it seems if a man under insures his house it is an argument to be used against him that he ought not to be able to charge his estate for the restoration. I had an experience the other day in having my house burned down, and I had insured it as far as I might safely do without endangering my neck under the law. I have, therefore, to meet the over expense of re-building the house by loan. The noble Marquess says such a charge ought not to be thrown on the estate, but it bears just as much on the estate to make up the sum required for re-building the house by loan, as by the charge possible, if this Bill passed. The noble Marquess says that a Bill should not be passed for the benefit of Members of this House, but it is not at all exclusively for the benefit of Members of this House that this Bill is proposed, but for all people who have houses with settled estates round them which may be burnt down. The noble Earl near me says he does not understand what "settled estate" the Bill means to charge; whether it means if a man has property in half-a-dozen counties he is to be empowered to charge to the amount of half the rent of all his estates for the restoration of his house. I quite understand that what the noble Earl who moves the Amendment means is that the property surrounding the mansion house burnt down should bear the cost up to half the rental. That seems to me to be a very moderate proposition. I do not suppose that any mansion house which is burnt down is insured to such an extent, or can be safely insured to such an extent as that the very moderate sum of half a year's rental of the property adjoining the mansion would not be a fair amount to contribute to such restoration.


My Lords, I did not mean to intervene in this interesting discussion, but I must say I am rather astonished by what my noble Friend, who has just spoken, has said. I was not aware that it was an offence in law to insure your house to its full value, and until the noble Lord points out the statute to which his statement would seem to have reference, I shall still remain under the impression which I hold that such insurance is a prudent, a proper, and an ordinary thing to effect.


I will only add one sentence. I see no objection to "re-building;" but I confess that "restoration" somewhat frightens me. Restoration is a term which is usually applied in the case of churches and buildings of an ecclesiastical character, and is generally understood to mean the destruction of the ancient character of a building, and in the case of a mansion house I should be very sorry that it should be done at the expense of the estate. I very much doubt whether it would not be better to confine it to rebuilding.


I shall be perfectly willing to accept the suggestion of my noble Friend.

A noble LORD

My noble Friends have attempted to raise a discussion on the principle of the Bill, but even if we could do so I think it would not be expedient upon re-commitment. I should view the Bill very differently according to whether it was to be regarded as a final measure or as a compromise, in other words, what is popularly called "the thin end of the wedge." But I am quite sure it is not introduced in that sense by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Herschell; and if it was to be one of a series of measures of this-sort I am quite sure he would tell us so. I had the honour of being upon a Committee with that noble and learned Lord, and I must say, if I may be allowed, he-showed so much consideration for the objections of his opponents, and of delicate feeling for the views of those with whom he did not altogether agree that it will always be a satisfaction tome to, if possible, meet him half way Taking this Bill, then, in the sense of being a final measure, and not in the way of a compromise, I will say that I should not oppose it if it came to a vote. But I object to the principle of this legislation on two grounds. I think the Bill so far from attaining the object desired, as it is regarded outside, frustrates it. I am not in the least speaking now of the motive of the noble and learned Lord in introducing the Bill, and very likely he knows of special cases where it may be of urgent importance on grounds of expense and practical convenience in cases of small properties of perhaps 25 acres; but there is a large section of the public who support legislation in this direction under the idea that it will facilitate the extension of land holding and the multiplication of freehold lodgings. Mr. Alm, before the Allotments Committee, said that was the ground of his support of the Land Transfer Bill. I would ask your Lordships to consider for a moment what is the most likely way in which these multiplications of holdings can be brought about in the way of sale; and I say, unhesitatingly, that it is in cases where the mansion and demesne are reserved. Where the mansion and demesne are sold, they pass away from the proprietor, whose family has, perhaps, held them for generations, it may be to some capitalist; whereas, if there is a reservation of the mansion and demesne, there is no reason why the land outside should not be sold in separate lots and to different persons. It is not the majority of those who support legislation of this kind who would wish to see the manors of England dismantled, or the parks, which are the distinguishing feature of the landscapes of England, destroyed and broken up. Wherever the mansion and demesne are reserved there is always a chance given to a family which has held the estate of recovering its position and maintaining itself in the locality where it has existed, perhaps, for centuries. Of course, the Bill is promoted in the interest of landowners, and it is so far of advantage to them that they will be in a better position to maintain their mansions. It occurs to me that where there is a difference between the tenant for life and the Trustees in nine cases out of 10 the members of the family are in favour of the retention of the mansion and demesne, and are with the Trustees as against the individual; and I say, in this legislation you are sacrificing the family to the individual. Those are the grounds upon which, though I should not vote against the Bill upon the principle, I should not vote for it as it is introduced before your Lordships' House by the-noble Earl.

On Question, their Lordships divided:—Contents 22; Not-Contents 21.

Resolved in the affirmative.


I would make one suggestion to the noble and learned Lord. It may be unnecessary, because the Court, as I understand, has to approve of these schemes, and it might, per-haps, deal with the matter; but it is quite obvious, supposing an insurance upon the house which has been burned down, it-would not be reasonable for the tenant for life to put the money in his pocket and raise the amount upon the estate necessary for the purpose of re-building the house. It ought, I think, to be made clear that the money received from the Insurance Company should go as far as necessary towards the re-building of the house, and that if sufficient for entirely re-building the house, no money ought to be raised. That ought certainly to be made plain.


I think so too, and also that the calamity must have happened—that the house must have been burnt down; because otherwise the tenant for life might pull down the house by way of improvement, and re-build it at the expense of the remainder man.


I would suggest to the noble Lord in charge of the Bill that the power should be limited to the estate on which the house is situate.


As the word "rental" is used in the Bill, I would ask, Does that mean gross or net rental?


With regard to the noble Earl's suggestion, I am not sure that the security against what has been pointed out would not arise in this way. These are improvements within the meaning of the original Act, and Section 26 of that Act provides that— Where the tenant for life is desirous that capital money arising under this Act shall he applied in or towards payment for an improvement authorised by this Act, he may submit for approval to the Trustees of the Settlement or to the Court, as the case may require, a scheme for the execution, of the improvement, showing the proposed expenditure thereon. So that the tenant for life would not be able to expend the money at his own pleasure without a scheme. Probably in that way he would be prevented doing what the noble Earl has suggested. With regard to its being confined to the particular estate, I apprehend the power ought to be confined; but I suppose the Court would see that it was an estate settled to similar uses to that for which the mansion house existed. It would not do for some remainderman to expend the money raised from one state upon another estate. That ought obviously to be guarded against. If it were confined to estates settled to the same uses, I do not know that there would be any harm. The remainderman would be the same, although the money would not arise from the same piece of land as that surrounding the principal mansion house. I take it, it would be better for the remainderman, rule, because he would get the estate with the mansion house upon the estate habitable instead of ruinous. That is the advantage he gets out of it.

Report of Amendments to be received on Thursday next; and Bill to be printed, as amended. (No. 212.)