HL Deb 30 July 1896 vol 43 cc1008-13

THE EARL OF RANFURLY moved, "That this Bill be now read a Second time." He said the Measure had passed through the other House unopposed, and its chief objects were to prevent the delay which had taken place under the Act of 1883 and to improve the machinery of former Acts. Before going through the various clauses as briefly as he could, he would like to say that owing to a printer's error the Memorandum of the Bill was incorrect. A clause that was struck out was mentioned in the Memorandum, and a clause which appeared in the Bill—he referred to Clause 6—was not mentioned at all, and all the clauses after Clause 5 were wrongly numbered. [A laugh.] The clauses which would shorten the length of time began with Sub-clause 1 of Clause 1. That shortened the public notice which it was necessary for the sanitary authority to give of the day of their meeting from 14 days to seven. Sub-clause 2 allowed sanitary authorities to discuss at subsequent meetings a scheme though no notice be given, but it obliged them to give three days' notice of the meeting at which they came to their decision. Sub-clause 4 authorised notice to he served on the landowner at some time or another after the advertisement was inserted in the papers, and it further reduced the number of insertions of the advertisement from three to two consecutive weeks. Sub-clause 5 permitted notice to he served on owners by registered letters. Clause 2 enabled the sanitary authority, if petition was lodged against part of a Provisional Order, to divide the Order into two parts, and to proceed at once with the unopposed part. It was worthy of note that in the past five years only 66 out of 134 Orders had been opposed, and out of 166 cases, in only four was the whole of the Order opposed. Much delay, however, was caused in the erection of a large number of cottages. Clause 4 enabled the sanitary authority to enter into possession of the land at once on the confirmation of the Order, the landlord being fully protected as regarded either the rent or the purchase money as the case might be. The other clauses were intended to simplify the procedure. Thus, Sub-clause 3 of Clause 1 provided for a representation or certificate by the sanitary authority being signed at any stage of the proceedings. Sub-clause 6 protected the owners by providing that seven days' notice should be given them of any Local Government Board Enquiry, whereas under the existing law no notice was required. Clause 3 substituted the machinery of the second schedule of the Housing of the Working Classes Act 1890 for the provisions of the Lands Clauses Act, so far as the compulsory purchase of land was concerned. The former Act was far more suited for small lots of land than the latter Act. Clause 5 provided that— The tenancies created by lettings under the Labourers Acts shall be deemed cottier tenancies, notwithstanding that the allotment exceeds half an acre and by the terms of the letting the tenant is bound to keep the windows of the cottage and the fences of the allotment in repair.

Clause 6 provided that— The inspector who holds the Inquiry and who makes the complaint, and who has authority given him to exercise the powers of the sanitary authority, need not be the same inspector,

and Clause 7 was as follows:— The object of this clause is to continue the Labourers Acts for five years. These Acts are at present temporary, subject to continuance by the Annual Expiring laws Continuance Acts.

He trusted that they would give this Measure a Second Heading. He could not see that there was anything contentious in the Bill now before them. The objection which he fancied some noble Lords raised was not to what was in the Bill but to what was not in the Bill. Their Lordships must be well aware that at that stage of the Session in the other House it was not easy to pass an opposed Measure. This Bill was brought forward as an unopposed Bill, and it was impossible to accept any Amendment, which would turn it into an opposed Measure. He begged to move the Second Beading of the Bill.

LORD SUDELEY moved to leave out the word "now," and to insert at the end of the Motion the words "this day three months." He had no objection whatever to the principle of the Bill, knowing that anything that would shorten and cheapen procedure must be an advantage. The Bill came to them under the following circumstances. When first brought in by Mr. Balfour it contained a clause which was now omitted and the purport of which was explained in a Memorandum. The Bill in its subsequent course was referred to the Grand Committee on Law, and when in I hat stage, at the instance of Mr. Dillon and Mr. Redmond, the clause was withdrawn by Mr. Balfour, but he did so on the understanding that he should bring it in next year as a Bill itself. Now they had already three Bills for Labourers' Dwellings in Ireland—in 1860, 1883, and 1889, and with this Bill and the Bill of next year they would have five Bills. As no inconvenience would be caused by putting off this Bill, he thought it would be more advantageous to do so, and let the Bill of next year deal with the clause omitted and consolidate the other Bills.


hoped his noble Friend would not press this Motion. He claimed to have some knowledge of the subject, and as to the objection that the Bill would be availed of to put in evicted tenants, he saw no objection to that if they complied with the principal condition of the Act of L883—namely, that they were bonâ fide agricultural labourers. He could not agree that the Bill could be looked upon as a contentious Bill.


said the Bill contained some useful provisions, and he hoped Her Majesty's Government would give favourable consideration to Amendments which might be proposed.


hoped his hon. Friend would not press his Motion to a Division. There was no doubt that these Acts had been occasionally abused, and undoubtedly the Return showed that in not a large number of cases but in a certain number of cases cottages had been improperly let to persons who should not have been allowed to occupy them. The proportion under the Act of 1888 was not large, and it had not increased since that time. Out of 11,000 or 12,000, only a small number had been let either to evicted tenants or to persons for whom they were not intended. The object of the Bill was to shorten and amend procedure under the existing Act, but it did not do away with any of the existing precautions, nor did it deprive the Privy Council of the power of checking abuses under the Act. With regard to the 5th Clause, it was the only contentious one in the Bill, and owing to the limited time at their disposal, if they had persisted in it there would be no prospect of passing the Bill into law. That was a point which no doubt could be considered at a future stage of the Bill.


said the noble Marquess admitted that some cottages had been improperly let, and he wished to prevent that. He had no objection to the evicted tenants as such, but the Guardians in many parts of Ireland had a way of doing their business which was to stick in these men to make themselves popular. In 1883 a Bill was passed for the labourers, and the Act had been quoted all over the world as showing that the Irish labourer was well off, because the State could provide him with a cottage and a certain amount of land. Now a Bill enlarging that was brought, in, and they were asked to forego opposition when the whole principle of the Act of 1883 was done away with—namely, that labourers only should be admitted to these cottages. If Clause 5 were omitted, Tom, Dick, and Harry might have these cottages. If the evicted tenant were admitted, why not, the landlord, ruined by successive legislation and bad times? ["Hear, hear!"] Many Boards of Guardians would sympathise with them. ["Hear, hear!"] He would press upon the noble Lord in Committee that they should put forth all their power to insist upon Clause 5 being reinserted, else the Act of 1883 would be chucked to the winds.


asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said there was nothing in the Measure that dispensed with the machinery for labourers being admitted to these cottages, and there was machinery for keeping it to labourers only. The machinery which at present existed was difficult to work, and Clause 5 was intended to improve it. There was no doubt that a small number of other people had been admitted by the Boards of Guardians into these cottages, but the Local Government Board could make the Boards of Guardians turn out those who were not bonâ fide agricultural labourers.


asked what were the provisions by which the Local Government Board could take action in this matter?


said he was not able to state them at the moment, but he would be happy to give the noble Lord the information later.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.