§ SECOND READING.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL CADOGAN
My Lords, this is a Bill brought forward by Her Majesty's Government in fulfilment of a pledge made I think to the noble and learned Lord opposite last year. The object of the Bill is substantially the same as that of last year, namely to put the occupier, under certain circumstances, in the position of the owner for the purpose of carrying out the Drainage Acts. When the noble and learned Lord brought in the Bill last year he was kind enough to withdraw it.
§ EARL CADOGAN
But the noble Lord had charge of it in this House and withdrew it on a pledge that we would produce a Bill this year. This Bill is substantially the same as that; but there are two changes in it which are intended to meet the objections raised by the noble Lord (Marquess of Waterford). In Clause 3, lines 12 to 16 have been added, giving to the proprietors the same powers as they have at present of putting a veto on the formation of a drainage district, provided that the owners of one-third of the land implicated record a vote of dissent from the scheme. In other words, I must point out to my noble Friend that, if a sufficient number of tenants may vote for a scheme, the landlord still has the power of veto. Then the other Amendment which we have introduced in the Bill is to be found in Clause 6. By last year's Bill, if the tenant's interest was determined, following that which was then believed to be the law, the landlord became liable to the charge of arrears thereof; but, by the present Bill, in the future, if the interest of the person primarily liable is determined, then the rent-charge and one year's arrears only are to become a charge on the landlord. The noble and learned 1540 Lord will remember that there was a matter before the Courts at the time, and it is in consequence of the decision then arrived at that we have introduced this Amendment in the Bill.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Earl Cadogan.)
§ * THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
My Lords, I think this is a much better Bill than that of last year; but still I have objections to certain clauses. I object very much to the proposal that the landlord is to pay one year's arrears. I cannot see why that should be inserted. And why, at the termination of the tenancy, when the landlord is likely to be put to a large amount of expense, should he be charged for one year's arrears for work from which he has obtained no benefit? The effect will simply be that the Drainage Board will never attempt to collect the last year's arrears. When a tenancy is falling out at the end of a lease, or when a man is likely to be evicted, they will not take the least trouble to collect the arrears, but will merely apply to the owner in fee to pay them; it will save them a great deal of trouble; but I think it would be most unfair. Then the owner will have no power to collect those arrears from the outgoing tenant; he, the owner, will have to pay them in every case. I hope my noble Friend will agree to leaving that out. I object also to putting charges upon an inheritance to which the owner has never had anything to say. While I think this Bill is very much better in respect of the landlords, in that a certain number of them may object to the drainage improvements being made, at the same time I think they should not be charged with these arrears. The Public Works Department will have no inducement whatever to keep up the maintenance of the work if they can make those charges upon the fee. Then I have attempted to understand Clause 8, but I have been perfectly unable to do so. It seems that the Board have got into some difficulty and have put in that clause to get them out of it; but it is difficult to understand what the advantage of the clause is. I have consulted others who know about these Acts and they have not been able to explain it.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
Then there is another alteration in this Bill of which my noble Friend did not tell us in Clause 9, which enables occupiers to borrow as small a sum as £50 for a drainage improvement. It seems very ridiculous that such a small sum as £50 can be borrowed for such a purpose; it is only an inducement to these small tenants to borrow money. I think it would be very much better to leave the law as it is. At the present time £100 is the lowest amount they are able to borrow. My Lords, I remember the noble Duke whom I do not see in his place (the Duke of Argyll) protested against these advances being made to small tenants throughout Ireland, which probably would do the tenants no good and would not be satisfactorily expended upon improvements. I hope the noble Lord will not keep the clause as it is with regard to that. Then I will draw the noble Lord's attention to Clause 10 which I think is much too elaborate in its present form to collect such a small sum as £5; it gives enormous powers of creating trustees and everything of that sort for the purpose of collecting a very small sum; and I think that might be amended with great advantage. Then, my Lords, I think there is a mistake in punctuation in Clause 12. If the noble Lord will turn to line 16, it reads thus—Means the sum for which a drainage Board assesses rates and taxes, the proprietors of the land.I think the comma between "taxes" and "the proprietors" must be a mistake. I believe the noble Lord is putting down this Bill for to-morrow, and, therefore, I will put down the Amendments that I have named on the Taper this evening, if that will suit the noble Lord.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
My Lords, I would only say that this Bill seems to me to be a complete redemption of the pledge which was given by the Government when I withdrew the Bill of last year.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.