HL Deb 01 April 1892 vol 3 cc460-3

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


I have to ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to a small measure which has passed the other House of Parliament, and has also I believe received the sanction and approval of the Government. It is a Bill to extend to all assurances by deed of land to Local Authorities for any purpose for which such Authorities are authorised to acquire land, certain exemptions from the provisions of the Mortmain Act which have been granted already in the case of elementary schools, public museums, dwellings for the working-classes and other such objects, the effect of which would be, if those exemptions were in force, to render it impossible for the conveyance of land to be made to any Public Authority for any public purpose except upon valuable consideration, or unless twelve months expired before amuse could be made of it. By way of illustration I may say that one of the objects of the Bill is that Country Road Authorities may thus acquire land by deed from neighbouring proprietors who may be willing to give it without selling it, for the purpose of improving their roads, straightening and rounding off corners, and so on. I believe the want of this provision has been found inconvenient in many cases. I can conceive of no possible objection to its being granted in the cases described—namely, where Local Authorities are authorised to acquire the land.

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


My Lords, I only want to say a word in support of this Bill. I think it is a useful measure, although the noble Lord opposite said it was a small one. I should have introduced provisions of this sort last year into the Mortmain Bill, which I introduced myself; but for the fear of weighting it too much I strictly confined it to matters that appeared then to be more or less urgent. I am quite sure it will be a useful reform to amend the Act in this manner.


My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the harmony and agreement that appears to have been entered into between my noble Friends on my right and on my left; but I must say that I regard this Bill with something like despair. We thought that we had settled the Mortmain Act, and I confess that I have never myself been very much enamoured of the Mortmain Act; but if once you are to have a codification of the Mortmain Act, and then you are going little by little to introduce exceptions, I do not know to what extent the codification of any branch of the law will extend. I must say I very much protest against the mode in which this alteration is effected. Is there any noble Lord in the House who knows the extent and degree to which this Act will extend? I do not believe there is one of your Lordships who does, for this reason: that instead of saying plainly what is wanted, by this Bill Section 6 of the Mortmain Act is to apply— Not only to the assurances therein mentioned, but also to any assurance by deed of land to any Local Authority, for any purpose or purposes for which such Authority is empowered by any Act of Parliament to acquire land"; and then, For the purpose of this Act, 'Local Authority' has the same meaning as in the Local Loans Act, 1875, and 'assurance' has the game meaning as in the Mortmain and Charitable Uses Act," 1888. I cannot help thinking that this is a very bad example of a very bad system of legislation, by the reference of one Act to another without giving in the slightest degree the true effect and meaning of the Act as it is proposed to be passed. And I myself do not know (and I must confess the same ignorance that I have imputed to your Lordships) to what extent it will go. I must say to my noble Friend in charge of the Bill that, between this time and the time when it comes before the Standing Committee, I will take care to make myself acquainted with it; and, although I do not propose to oppose the Second Reading, I shall certainly see whether it will not be necessary to excise some of the powers by this Bill given to any Local Authority for any purpose whatever. It seems to me much too wide, and, at all events, to require very careful consideration.


My Lords, I do not wish to make any remark of course upon what the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has said. He knows far better about these things than I can pretend to do; but so far as this Bill concerns the Department I represent in this House, there is no objection whatever to the Second Reading. At the same time, it is thought that a great many Amendments may be brought forward when the Bill comes into Committee; and of course when notice is given of those Amendments they will be considered.


I may perhaps be allowed to say one word, with a view to the next stage, with reference to my noble and learned Friend's observations about the codifying of the Mortmain Laws. My noble and learned Friend does not mean of course that, because you codify, you are never to amend; but what he has said does suggest, I think, that it would be desirable to consider whether the title of the Bill should not be altered. It really is an Amendment of the Mortmain Act by the extension of Section 6, and the definition of "assurance" is that which is in the Mortmain Act; and I suggest that the title, instead of being the "Local Authorities (Acquisition of Land) Act," should be the "Mortmain and Charitable Uses Act, 1892, to be read with the principal Act." I think that would be an improvement in view of the fact that the law has been codified.


With regard to something that fell from my noble and learned Friend as to legislation by Reference, I wish to throw out for consideration by the authorities in this House,—I do not like to propose it until it has been sufficiently considered,—whether it would not be possible to adopt a useful reform in that respect into our proceedings here. Nobody imagines of course that the system of legislation by Reference is more convenient for those who have to administer or interpret the law; but it is much more convenient for those who have to pass the law. It is found that many Bills actually would not pass at all unless some such contrivance were introduced. I believe we owe to Lord Thring the original devising of that plan, or at least the extending of it to a large area; but I would suggest that, without interfering in the least with the salutary practice of passing Bills in that way, when they get to the last stage of this House we should then substitute for the Reference the quotation from the enactment to which we refer, which would very greatly assist the researches of those who have afterwards to ascertain what the law is, and how it is to be administered. The only evil would be that it would add slightly to the printer's bill; but I do not think that would be a formidable drawback.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2ª accordingly, and referred to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.

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