§ House in Committee (according to Order).
§ LORD ST. LEONARDS
, who was almost inaudible, was understood to object to many of the provisions of the Bill, and to say that in his opinion a more hazardous measure had never been brought forward.
§ LORD PORTMAN
did not think that the Bill was open to so much objection as the noble and learned Lord appeared to think. Many private Acts contained the powers embodied in this general Bill. He thought great advantages would attend the passing of the Act in this respect, that whereas some of the clauses gave powers and facilities not afforded by the existing state of the law, any railway company seeking to have the benefit of them would have to come under the whole of the regulations of the Bill. The railway companies who thus adopted the Act would be put under a restraint to which they were not at present subjected.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
thought the landed interest generally were much indebted to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack for having not only collected the various statutes on this subject and consolidated the law, but also for encouraging a principle which, instead of being detrimental, would be of great advantage to the landed interest.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he was placed at a disadvantage in replying to the objections of his noble and learned Friend by the circumstance that he had not been able to hear more than one word out of twenty that Were spoken by his noble and learned Friend. He could only say that, if the law relating to landed property had been allowed to remain in all respects as it was sixty years ago, that law would have operated as a continual drag upon the progress of society. Land ought not to be kept strictly bound by the system which prevailed in former times, but facilities should be afforded for improvements by the owners. It was desirable to make the law and its amendments keep pace with the interests of society, and to further instead of retarding them. The noble and learned Lord had objected that a tenant for twenty-five years should have the power of charging an estate; but from this it would appear that the noble and learned Lord had not read the Bill. It was provided that no charge could be created for more than twenty-five years, and in ordinary cases the tenant for life might be expected to survive that term, so that the estate would be handed down to his successor improved and unencumbered. Of late years powers for the improvement of land had been given to private companies, varying and conflicting in their character, and it had become necessary that the Legislature should step in and create, once for all, such definite general powers as ought to be given. That object was sought to be attained by the present Bill. Its provisions had been discussed with the greatest care in the Select Committee, and had been adopted after full comparison of the existing powers granted to various companies. He believed that the Bill if passed would confer great advantages on the country.
§ EARL GREY
said, that if the noble and learned Lord (Lord St. Leonards) wished to abolish the whole system of settlement of landed estates, he had only to act upon the narrow principle of preventing improvements which seemed to meet with his approbation. It was only the relaxation of the old laws during the last twenty years, which had prevented the law of settled estates from being swept away as an intolerable nuisance to the country. Since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, an enormous sum of money had been laid out in the improvement of land under the powers granted to private companies. 1828 Without those powers those improvements could not have been effected, and much injury and even ruin would have befallen many proprietors of land. One witness who was examined before the Committee stated that he himself had valued land in Scotland for improvements to the extent of a million sterling. As he (Earl Grey) was the person who first proposed to extend to the construction, of railways the same facilities for raising money which had already been given for the improvement of land, he wished to add one word upon that subject. It was clearly proved before the Committee last year, that a railway in the vicinity of a landed estate was an improvement as ascertainable as draining, building, or any other work. The Bill, as it stood, only proposed that money should be charged on land to the extent of the annual increase of value given to it by the projected railway, on the supposition that not one farthing was received in shares. He might mention an instance in which the construction of a railway near certain lands on the Humber, had increased the annual value from £1,150 a year, to £1,540 a year, and the object of the present Bill was to give facilities for such improvements as that. If they adhered to the principle already adopted, there was no reason for excluding railways from participating in the advantage.
§ LORD ST. LEONARDS
assured his noble and learned Friend that he never had been opposed to rational progress and improvement; nor had any one assisted more than he had, in removing from the statute-book all enactments which were no longer necessary.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, he certainly agreed with this Bill, which would be a great improvement on the existing state of things. He was extremely anxious that the measure should be made compulsory on all companies. He had made this proposition in the Select Committee, and regretted exceedingly that his proposition had not been accepted.
wished to say two words in justice to his noble and learned Friend (Lord St. Leonards). It was a very great mistake to suppose or represent him as an enemy to the improvement of the law. He had some right to speak on that subject, as no one had taken greater part than he had done during the last forty years in effecting changes, and what were considered improvements in the law. Now, he could answer for his noble and 1829 learned Friend — on no occasion, whether in office, before he acceded to office, or since leaving office, had he been a decided persevering adversary of these improvements. On the contrary, he was bound to bear testimony to the great value of the help he had received in all those measures from his noble and learned Friend.
§ The clauses of the Bill, as amended by the Select Committee, were then presented, road, and agreed to.
§ The Report of the Amendments to be received To-morrow.