HC Deb 31 March 1886 vol 304 cc400-16

Order for Second Reading read.

DR. FOSTER (Chester)

, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that the object of the Bill was to confer upon Local Authorities power to acquire land, and afterwards to let the land to the poorer agricultural classes. The principle was already upon the Statute Book embodied in several Acts of Parliament. These Statutes were very complicated, and practically unworkable; but they indicated the principle embodied in the Bill. It was, therefore, no new principle, but one in accordance with the traditions of English legislation. The principle of the Bill had also received a large amount of support in the debate and in the division upon the Amendment to the Address moved by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), upon which the late Government had been defeated. In the debate the principle received not only the sanction of the right hon. Gentleman who was now Prime Minister, but also the sanction of some Members of the late Government. The Bill, or some legislation in the same direction, was required in the interests of the rural districts. It was the best Conservatism to support a Bill of this character, for it would have the effect of bringing back and keeping the agricultural classes in the rural districts. They were the backbone of the country; but the number of persons engaged in agriculture was fast decreasing. During the last 20 years in England 027,000 people had ceased to be engaged in that industry—that was to say, more than 30,000 people a-year were leaving the rural districts to enter towns or cross the sea. Parties on both sides must regret that this depopulation was sapping the strength of the country. In 1861 the agricultural population in the country formed l–10th of the whole population. By the process of divorce from the soil which had been going on, the proportion had been reduced to l–19th, while the other classes of the working population had all increased, according to the last Census. The causes of this were threefold—the bad wages, bad cottages, and bad prospects of the agricultural labourers. Wages were again beginning to decline, and it was sad to think that men should have to support themselves, their wives, and families on 12s. a-week, or even less. From such wages it was impossible for labourers to pay the reasonable rental of good cottages. What was wanted was such a condition as would enable the rent of good cottages to be paid. A great many insanitary cottages had been pulled down by landlords, who were only too ready, in many cases, to take a hint from the Sanitary Inspector in the direction of demolition, without doing anything in the direction of reconstruction. Thus the poor had been driven to herd together in villages under very unwholesome conditions. As to the prospects of the agricultural labourer, was it not melancholy to think that, after a life of incessant toil, he could only expect to end his crippled old age in a workhouse? The purpose of the Bill was to cheer and stimulate the efforts of the industrious labourer by giving him an opportunity of adding to his earnings by the cultivation of an allotment, the produce of which would help to maintain his household, and, if there were any surplus, be sold, for his benefit. The cultivation of an acre allotment would, it was calculated, add 4s. a-week to a labourer's income; and it would have the additional advantage of supplying him and his family with more nutritious food than they could now obtain. The Bill also made provision for the purchase of small holdings of 10, 20, 30, or, perhaps, 40 acres, in the interest of the labourer who was able to save up and repay the necessary part of the purchase money. He justified the interference of the Legislature on the ground that the rural population had been reduced to its present miserable condition by long legislative neglect, and by the absorption of the common lands to swell the estates of large landowners. The position of the labourer had gone down for the last 100 years, for in 1770 the purchasing power of his wages was relatively greater, his house rent proportionately less, and he had the benefit of the common lands for pasturage, fuel, &c. In the agricultural prosperity between 1853 and 1877, when landlords' rents went up some 27 per cent. his wages were but slightly increased, and he suffered from the loss of his rights to commons and waste lands, 7,000,000 acres of which had been in-closed to swell the broad acres of the rich. It was true that the system of allotments had existed for some hundred years under voluntary arrangements; but during that time voluntary effort must have done its work very badly when they had that keen land hunger on the part of the peasantry of which many hon. Members on the Liberal Benches were witnesses. The agricultural labourers of the Eastern Counties more especially were driven to trust to some measure such as he was proposing, rather than to the voluntary efforts which had disappointed them for so many years. Voluntary effort would still leave much for Local Authorities to do; and the Local Authorities, he believed, would do the work more effectually than any voluntary effort in the past had given them reason to suppose it would do in the future. Even although, according to a recent publication, l–14th part of the cultivated area of the country was happily blessed with benevolent landlords, it was necessary to take care of the rest. And in the area which was blessed with landlords willing to do their duty to the labourers, and in many cases, he was glad to say, more than their duty, they had evidence that the allotments were of a comparatively small size. He found that in more than one-half of the instances the allotments did not exceed a quarter of an acre; whereas this Bill sought to allow one acre arable, or three acres pasture, so as to enable the labourers to eke out the scanty earnings on which they had to live, and bring up their families in decency and comfort. The objection was raised that voluntary effort was willing to do all this. His answer was that the principle of compulsion would never be applied if voluntary effort did its work. They were anxious that the labourer should have his acre of arable land, or three acres of pasture, under conditions which would give him security of tenure, and make him thoroughly independent both of landlord and farmer. But the power of acquiring land for the purpose of restoring the agricultural labourer to the soil was not compulsory on Local Authorities, but was permissive to them. They would not buy laud if there was no desire nor demand for that land. If voluntary effort were sufficient the demand would never arise, so that hon. Members who believed that voluntary effort was capable of doing all that was required had no need to oppose the Bill. The principle of the Bill had been on the Statute Book for 65 or 70 years. It was a principle which could be applied without hardship and without injustice; for certain clauses of the Bill recognized, most tenderly and thoughtfully, the interests of the owner of the soil. It proposed to take no land except under conditions which were necessary to the welfare of the community. The interests of the community demanded that in certain cases there should be individual sacrifice for the common good; but by these thoughtful clauses of the Bill it was arranged that any compulsory purchase of land should be made as tenderly and carefully as possible with regard to the owner's interests. He believed the Bill had been skilfully drawn, but he did not contend that it was perfect. It had been drawn with an earnest desire to help a longsuffering and patient class of the com- munity, who, at the end of a long life of incessant toil, found, under existing conditions, no refuge but a pauper home, or a pauper's grave. This was a state of things which was a disgrace to our legislation, and a scandal to our civilization. It was not beyond the intelligence and ability of the House to make the Bill perfect in the interests of the class in whose cause he asked them now, on grounds higher than Party politics, to read it a second time.

MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)

, in seconding the Motion, expressed himself gratified at being able, as a new Member, to make his first speech in the House of Commons in support of the long-suffering and patient class his hon. Friend had referred to. While not endorsing every word or clause of the Bill, he was prepared to stand by the great principle contained in the 40th and 41st clauses, that principle being summed up in the one word "compulsion." There was hardly an hon. Member sitting on the other side of the House—certainly not one representing an agricultural constituency—who would say he was not thoroughly in favour of the allotment system. The book recently published by Lord Onslow contained evidence enough of the general interest—the newly-found interest in many cases—taken in the question. It had been shown again and again that the giving of access to allotment land was of the greatest benefit to the agricultural labourer. The question to what extent these allotments were necessary was a matter of detail. The principle of the Bill, which alone he urged upon the acceptance of the House, was that it was for the well-being of the country—of the agricultural labourer, of the farmer, and of the landowner—that this question should be settled by giving every agricultural labourer access to a sufficient quantity of land for his wants. In a debate at the opening of the Session the late Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster spoke of the poor labourers with 12s. a-week, and the hon. Member who moved the second reading had also spoken of 12s. a-week as their normal wages. He begged to say that in the case of a very large proportion of the parishes in East Gloucestershire wages were not 12s., but only 9s. a-week. He had read in that morning's papers lines which might fitly be applied as an epitaph to an agricultural labourer— Here lies a poor fellow who always was tired, But he lived in a world where much was required. Weep not for me when death doth us sever, For I am going to do nothing, for ever and ever. Was it wonderful that this was the tone of a great many in this country? ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members might say "Oh, oh!" but he should like to see them live on 9s. a-week. He wished to do something to improve the position of that class, and give them some chance in life; and nothing could be done which would help them so much as by giving them land in the manner proposed by the Bill. It had been acknowledged from the Front Bench opposite that agricultural wages were more likely to decrease than to increase. That was the way in which the labourers themselves wished their position to be improved, and the man who wore the shoe ought to know best where it pinched. Compulsion was necessary in order to make evil men do what good men willingly did at present. The condition of the labourers had been slightly improved by their possession of the franchise, and in Gloucestershire there were allotment tenants who paid at the rate of £9 per acre before the General Election, and £7 10s. now. Even the latter figure, however, was altogether in excess of the agricultural value of the land. Over nearly the whole of Lord Eldon's property men were paying 50s. and 60s. an acre for allotment land of the same character as had been recently let at 12s. and 15s. an acre. He had 73 answers to inquiries he had sent out, and he found that in hardly a single case was the land let at the agricultural rent. He asked—Was this fair? Was it the way to encourage men? In the name of the agricultural labourers, he prayed the House not to raise any difficulties to the second reading of the Bill. Let Members amend it in Committee as much as they liked; but let them make one step to show that that House was in earnest in taking up the cause of the agricultural labourer. With regard to the element of compulsion, it was necessary, because without it the Act would be a piece of waste paper.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Dr. Foster.)

MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

said, he believed the House would unanimously agree in the sympathy which had been expressed for the condition of the agricultural labourer at the present time. He wished, however, that the Mover and Seconder had given the House some explanations with regard to the details of their Bill, which appeared to be a measure of a very remarkable character. He sympathized as much as the hon. Members could do with the lowness of wages which labourers were receiving at the present time; but what was it owing to? It was owing to the unfortunate depression, in agriculture, brought about largely by the great foreign competition which it had to encounter. With the permission of the House, he wished to say a few words both upon the object which the hon. Members had in view as well as upon the machinery by which they hoped to give effect to it. Now, both hon. Members had spoken as if the Bill dealt with allotments alone, whereas it dealt with small holdings on the one hand, and with allotments on the other. As far as allotments were concerned, he had no opposition whatever to offer to any legitimate scheme by which a large extension of the system throughout the country might be brought about. The hon. Member would find before many months were over, from the Returns now being obtained, that probably allotments existed already in far greater number than he supposed. Allotments, however, were one thing, but small holdings were another; and he was not prepared to give his consent to any legislation whatever by which the burden of the provision for an indefinite number of small holdings, which under the Bill might be as large as 40 acres, and an indefinite number of tenants was to be thrown upon the rates and ratepayers. No doubt the principle of compulsory acquisition of land had often enough been recognized in legislation; but the Bill enabled the Local Authority to take and purchase any land at a price which was to be fixed independently of the owners and by somebody else altogether. He would not call this by any such name as confiscation, or rob- bery, or spoliation, because he did not think that it was necessarily any of these; but it was indispensable to show that the purpose for which the land was wanted was a good one. Now, as regarded small holdings, they had never proved, and he did not think they would ever prove, anything of the kind. It was not, therefore, on the ground of confiscation or spoliation that he was opposed to the Bill, but on totally different grounds. He opposed the proposal, first, because he held that at the present time compulsion for the purpose of creating small holdings was altogether unnecessary; and, secondly, because he believed it to be an impracticable and unworkable proposal, and one which would be injurious to the interests of the very people whom it was proposed to benefit. As everybody knew, there was an enormous quantity of land in the market which the owners were only too keenly anxious to sell; and, that being so, where was the necessity for compulsion? He maintained that the scheme would not answer, and that it would be injurious to the very people themselves. Why? The land was to be bought and paid for. But how was the land to be paid for? Out of the rates. Well, what would probably happen? He would assume that the holding, having been bought and paid for out of the rates, was sold again or relet in the way proposed in the Bill. Suppose there was a succession of bad seasons, and a further fall in the prices of agricultural produce—which a great many people told him must be contemplated—what would happen then? There would happen what had constantly happened in the past. A great many of the new tenants would find that through no fault of their own, they had nothing whatever with which to pay rent. What would the unfortunate men, who had nothing to pay the interest due to the Local Authority, wish to do under those circumstances? Would they wish to seek out the landlord, who might happen to be of a warm-hearted and generous disposition—although the Radical Party seemed to think there were no landlords of that description, who might have lived upon the same estate all his life, and whose forefathers for many generations had retained the respect and affection of their tenantry? Or would these unfortunate men prefer to lay their distress before the parish Board? Hon. Members could not doubt what choice the tenants would make. He was opposed to the creation of small holdings in the manner proposed by the Bill—first, because he believed compulsion to be unnecessary for that purpose; and, secondly, because he believed the scheme of the Bill to be impracticable, and one which, for the reasons he had given, was not likely to work for the benefit of the persons it was desired to assist. Allotments, in his opinion, stood on a different footing altogether. He believed that to place within the reach of every labouring man the possibility of obtaining within a reasonable distance of his home, or, better still, immediately around it, a convenient piece of land for an allotment was, probably, the most substantial boon that, under all the circumstances, could be conferred upon him at the present moment. He was in favour of securing to every agricultural labourer throughout the country the means of obtaining such an allotment for himself. The size of the allotment he would not specify. That was a matter of detail. Some people thought that a quarter of an acre was as much as a labourer could cultivate. The Bill proposed that it should be an acre; but, without wishing to dogmatize, he might say that it seemed to him that an acre was too large to be an allotment and too small to be more than an allotment. Probably, on the whole, half an acre would be the best size, though he should defer his judgment on the matter. He saw no difficulty whatever in providing these allotments, because it was undoubtedly to the interests of the landlords of the country that it should be done. He was not aware that there would be the slightest opposition offered to it on their part. It must be to the interests of the landlords, as well as of the community at large, that the great population which lived upon the soil should be happy and contented, and he could not imagine for a moment that the smallest opposition would be offered by the landlords to a scheme of this kind. So strongly was he of this opinion that, speaking for himself, he might say that in case this could not be accomplished without compulsory measures, he should not be afraid to resort to legislative compulsion. But compulsion should be the last resort, in his opinion; and his complaint as re- garded this Bill was that compulsion was the one thing of all others put in the foreground from beginning to end. It gave little option to the landlords, but empowered the Local Authority, whether the landlords were willing to sell or not, to adopt compulsory measures at any moment they pleased. The late Secretary for Scotland made an observation to which he attached a good deal of importance. He said that compulsion was desirable to the extent to which it encouraged voluntary effort. If it became necessary to introduce a compulsory measure that was the test that he should like to see applied to it. He had now explained pretty fully to the House his views on the subject of allotments, and he had shown that he appreciated entirely the motives in which, for the interests of the rural population, this measure was proposed, and he sympathized very largely with the objects that they had in view, and which he understood to be the amelioration of the condition of the agricultural labourers of this country. But he must speak in very different terms of the machinery by which it was proposed to carry those objects into effect. The Mover and Seconder, who were responsible for this Bill, had said nothing about its details; but his examination of the Bill convinced him it was one of the most remarkable legislative enactments he had ever seen. For instance, Clause 4 provided that it should be lawful for any Local Authority to sell to any person a small holding on certain terms. It seemed to be forgotten that the Local Authority had first to purchase the small holding before it could sell it. Nothing was said about the Local Authority purchasing until the 40th clause. In another clause the purchaser of a small holding was not only not required to pay more than a quarter of the purchase money down, but he was absolutely precluded by the terms of the Bill from ever discharging the debt remaining. The first effect of that extraordinary provision would be to maintain in perpetuity that dual ownership of land to which he had always taken great exception, and the mischief attending which had been amply proved by recent experience in Ireland. Her Majesty's Government was credited by rumour with intending shortly to introduce a measure to remedy the evils of dual ownership in Ireland. Of course, high rent must always be paid in the shape of the interest upon the purchase money which remained over upon the holding. In connection with this matter there was a curious inconsistency in Clause 5, which provided that the Local Authority might make loans to the holder of any small holding for buildings, and any other improvements. The Bill stated that the first condition of making loans on a small holding was that it should be free from mortgage, after having previously declared that three-fourths of the purchase money should remain as a charge on the holding for ever. Clause 4 displayed the most remarkable differences of treatment between ordinary existing owners of land and owners who had purchased their land under the Bill from any Local Authority. If the owner who had purchased from the Local Authority was for any purpose dispossessed by the Local Authority, he was to receive most exceptional treatment, including 10 per cent compensation for compulsory sale, and allowances for inconvenience and disturbance. On the other hand, the owners of the land purchased by the Local Authority were only to receive such price as would be given by a willing purchaser to a willing vendor without any compensation for compulsory sale or inconvenience. He was at a loss to understand why this difference should be made between one owner and the other. More strange than anything else was the power contained in Clause 6, which he understood to mean that if by mistake a Local Authority bought from one man property which might turn out in reality to belong to another, then the real owner, if he came forward, was not to have the land restored to him, however good his title, but to receive a certain amount of compensation for damages. Then there was Clause 7, which contained a principle which he should never have expected from the nine names which were on the back of the Bill. There was not one of those hon. Gentlemen who at some time or another had not denounced the principle of primogeniture. The principle of primogeniture was that the whole real estate on an intestacy should go to the eldest son. But the Bill went further, for it absolutely compelled the owner to make an eldest son, whether he liked it or not. He was not to dispose of his holding except in one of three ways—(1) by registered mortgage of the entire holding; (2) by registered transfer of it; or (3) by devise to one person of the whole estate. If that was not making an eldest son, what was? Then there was Clause 40, which, after all, was one of the main clauses of the Bill, under which powers of compulsory purchase were given to the Local Authorities. It could not be complained of that clause that its terms were not sufficiently wide. Any Local Authority might purchase or take on lease or by way of sale or exchange any lands, whether situate within or without their district. The first thing that occurred to him was this—when he remembered who was the author of the Bill, he began to fear that the Corporation of Birmingham might insist upon purchasing the whole of the small property which he happened to possess in Lincolnshire. There was absolutely nothing to prevent the Corporations of Liverpool, Manchester, or Birmingham purchasing any land in any part of the country, unless he had misread the Bill. When it was remembered that the favourite doctrine of the authors of the Bill was that the population should be restored to the soil, that was probably their meaning. There was, however, this limitation—the landlords might save the houses. The Local Authority might consider, under Sub-section 2, the amenities and conveniences of the owner's property. So far as practicable they were to avoid interference with "the parks, mansions, dwellings, labourers' cottages, labourers' allotments, gardens," &c. But suppose they did not, in their wisdom, find it practicable, then the landlords had no protection. The next clause seemed to contemplate farming on a gigantic scale by the Local Authorities. They had power to improve any land. They might improve any amount of land not belonging to them. They might enter upon drainage works, irrigation, embankment works, the strengthening of fences, reclamation of land, make watercourses and gardens, village greens, carry out the construction or enlargement of any of such works, &c. What opportunities were thus opened up for waste and jobbery, for mismanagement and unlimited expenditure in these gigantic undertakings! There was only one possible safeguard. Fortunately, the Bill had not taken powers to borrow money from anybody. The Local Authorities were dependent entirely upon whatever they might get from the Treasury. By Clause 48 the Treasury might from time to time make advances out of moneys supplied under any Act of Parliament of such moneys as might be deemed expedient. That was a considerable safeguard. Moreover, he did not think any Treasury in this country would be guilty of the supreme folly of advancing a sixpence for such purposes. He hoped he had made it perfectly clear that there was no lack of sympathy whatever for the agricultural labourers of this country on his side of the House. He did not know what course the Government were going to take; but he had the intention of introducing a Bill on the subject himself, so that his views should not be open to misapprehension. While they were not prepared to sanction legislation for the purpose of creating holdings of 40 acres and less wholesale throughout the country by burdens imposed on the rates, they were ready to give every legitimate facility and encouragement to the creation of allotments on the widest and most extensive scale. But when he considered the machinery by which it was by the Bill proposed to carry out such a scheme he must oppose it himself, and he hoped his hon. Friends would do the same.


I desire to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the progress which he has made upon this subject in the course of the last two months. The speech he made from that Box is very different from the one which he delivered from this Box two months ago. It differs in this respect. The speech delivered two months ago, we all remember, was an emphatic "No."


It was am emphatic "No" to a Vote of Censure, and to nothing else.


The emphatic "No" was accompanied, if I remember right, by very able arguments—the right hon. Gentleman's arguments are always very able—against the whole Bill advocated by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings). Well, I describe the speech to-day not as an emphatic "No," but an ambiguous "No," to the proposals in this Bill. The early part of the speech was in favour of the principle of the Bill. The latter part of the speech was rather like the old description of a mermaid, which ended rather with the tail of the ancient fish with which we were formerly familiar. But what does the right hon. Gentleman say in the earlier part of his speech? Of course, he is in favour of improving the wages of the agricultural labourer. We all are; but his method is one with which we are familiar. He says the low wages of the agricultural labourer are due to foreign competition. Oh, yes; but there were low wages when there was no foreign competition, and what was the state of the labourers' wages then? Do you think you are going to the agricultural labourers of England and tell them that they had better wages under the old system of Protection? There was a former Colleague of the right hon. Gentleman in Lincolnshire, who is not now a Member of this House, who preached that doctrine a little higher than the right hon. Gentleman. But it did not commend itself to the agricultural labourers of Lincolnshire.


What were the wages 10 years ago?


What were the wages 40 years ago? But I will not follow that argument, for time is pressing, and I shall not follow the example of the right hon. Gentleman in occupying so much precious time by a Committee argument of detail, which took up more than half his speech, and which has nothing whatever to do with the principle of the present Bill. The principle of the Bill is to give to local communities power to hire land, which land shall be employed for two purposes—either as small holdings or as allotments. The right hon. Gentleman objects altogether to small holdings——


You have misunderstood me. What I said was, that I objected to small holdings the provision or burden of which was to be thrown on the rates and on the ratepayers.


I quite understand that. But what in the world does it signify? If small holdings are a good thing, and if allotments are a good thing, why should not both be provided? But it is said that the rate- payers will have to bear the burden of providing both the small holdings and the allotments. But who are the ratepayers? Why, they are the people of the community, and it is they who will have to judge whether or not it is a good thing for themselves and for the people among whom they live to have these allotments. The right hon. Gentleman opposite appears to look upon the ratepayers as something quite distinct from the community; but they are the people who will have to bear the burden, and who will have to be the judges in the matter. Then I go back upon the argument of the right hon. Gentleman as to the principle of the Bill; and in doing so I omit, for the moment, all reference to the argument whether small holdings are a good thing or not. For my own part, I think they are. I was brought up in a Northern parish, where every labourer had his three acres and a cow, and a very good thing it was; and I am very sorry to say that here I find, in the South, parish after parish where the children cannot get even a drink of milk, because the farmers will not sell it. In Yorkshire—I am sorry to say that I am speaking of some 45 years ago—every labourer had his grass plot and his cow; but things are very different in the South at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman says that he is in favour of allotments. Well, that is something. But how are they to be obtained? The right hon. Gentleman says that there are enough of them at present.


I did not say that.


Then the right hon. Gentleman does not think that there are enough of them. If there are not enough of them, why are there not enough? For generations there have been landlords, and there have been people who want allotments; and yet there are not enough of them. Why is that? It is because the voluntary efforts have failed. Then comes the question of compulsion, and the right hon. Gentleman does not deny that compulsion is necessary.


What I said was that I did not desire compulsion, but that I was not afraid of it.


The right hon. Gentleman says that he does not desire compulsion, but that he is not afraid of it—that is the ambiguous "No." Two months ago the right hon. Gentleman was afraid of compulsion, and now he is not. I say that if there were not as many allotments as were wished, and if voluntary means hitherto had not supplied them, there must be compulsion somewhere. And to whom were the powers of compulsion to be given? Why, to the community who bore the burden; and surely they may be trusted to prevent their money from being wasted if compulsion is adopted. [A laugh.] Why not? Why should the ratepayers desire that the expenditure which will fall on themselves should be wasteful and oppressive? I cannot understand the argument of the right hon. Gentleman at all. If the right hon. Gentleman is really in favour of allotments, and is not afraid of compulsion, and if he admits that the community is, or might be, the proper body to provide land which should be laid out in allotments for the good of the labouring poor, why is he against the principle of this Bill? In Committee he can propose to deal with the clauses regarding small holdings and with the clauses regarding compulsion if he is not satisfied with them, but these have nothing to do with the principle of the Bill; and therefore, as regards that principle, I take it that it is that the community should have power, under proper restrictions, to acquire land for these purposes. I have, at the present moment, neither time nor inclination to criticize the details of this measure. In my opinion, a measure of this importance ought to be in the hands of the Government, and its principles ought to be, and will be, dealt with in any measure of local self-government which may be introduced by Her Majesty's Government. With regard to the financial proposals of the Bill, I think that if I had time I might offer some criticisms upon them from the Treasury point of view; but I shall not be seduced into doing so at the present moment even by the example of the right hon. Gentleman. The question is, are we to say "Aye" or "No" to the principle of allowing land to be acquired for this purpose? Speaking for myself, I am in favour of the principle of this measure, although I do not desire such a Bill to be in the hands of a private Member. It is a Bill for which the re- sponsibility ought to rest with, the Government; but I can tell the right hon. Gentleman opposite, when he makes an attack upon the principle of this measure, I shall take exactly the opposite course with regard to it which he has indicated he intends to take.


, who rose amid loud cries of "Divide," said, he repudiated the claim of hon. Members opposite to figure as the only champions of the agricultural labourer. This measure was intended as a colourable fulfilment of the pledges which hon. Members opposite had given during the General Election to provide the agricultural labourer with three acres and a cow. He had gone carefully through the Bill, and he could find in it neither the three acres nor the cow for the agricultural labourer, nor for any of the classes for whose benefit the Bill was intended.

It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.

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