§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was unnecessary for him to dilate upon the present unfortunate position of agricultural interests in this country. The facts were sufficiently evidenced by unpaid rents, unlet farms, ruined tenants, as well as ruined landlords, and the considerable extent of land going out of cultivation, abandoned by both landlords and cultivators. This state of matters had been going on for the past 10 years from bad to worse, and they might well ask what Parliament or the landlords had done to avert the disaster which seemed to be impending. He did not know that the agriculture of the 1323 country had been sensibly benefited by the Royal Commission appointed some years ago, or by the concessions given by the Agricultural Holdings Act, as they had been of too niggardly and uncertain a character. They failed to give the tenant that security of tenure necessary to stimulate that higher degree of cultivation which was the only means of enabling him to meet with and contest against foreign competition. Although the agricultural depression might be due, to some extent, to bad seasons, the main cause of the existing difficulty, in his view, was the low price of agricultural produce, resulting from the competition of other agricultural countries. Farmers did not complain of the abundance of food, but that their hands were tied, that they wore overburdened with high rents, and other disabilities which it was in the power of Parliament to remove, and that, unless that were done, they could not enter into competition with farmers abroad. It seemed to him that the only hope for agriculture in this country was to place the farmers, as much as possible, in the advantageous circumstances possessed by foreign producers. Take the case of the Western States of America and the North-West of Canada as compared with this country. There the farmers owned the land; and even admitting that their farms were mortgaged, that would only amount to a tax of about 2s. per acre. They cultivated almost exclusively with their own labour, or that of their families; and even with 100 acres, he did not think the farmer would have to pay more than £30 for labour for outside help. The farmers in America and Canada had one disadvantage, however, in competing with the British farmer, and that was the large amount of transport they had to pay. The existing Atlantic rates was no criterion; for wheat was at present brought from New York to London at a cheaper rate than from places within 20 miles of the Metropolis. Taking the railway transit alone with the average Atlantic freight, the cost to the American producer was about 10 s. per quarter; while the average cost of transit to the British farmer was 2s. 6d.; leaving an advantage to the British farmer of 7s. 6d. per quarter, or about 30s. per acre. That was a very substantial advantage; and if the British 1324 farmer had free hands and security of possession, he would be still able to maintain his ground against the foreign producer, and, at the same time, be able to pay a moderate rent. He did not propose in his Bill to make the farmers of this country owners of their own land, neither did he propose that they should have land rent free; but what he did propose was that they should have perfect freedom of cultivation, that they should have security of tenure, such as would give them that assurance which was necessary, in order to encourage that high farming to which they must resort if they were going to meet the competition of the American farmers. Parliament could also offer facilities for the breaking up of large farms into smaller holdings. He was not going into the controversy as to the cost of production on large farms as compared with small farms; but he appealed to the experience of every landowner Member, whether he did not let his small farms with far greater facility than his large farms, and at higher rents per acre. He did not propose to make the subdivision of farms compulsory. He only proposed to give reasonable facilities for subdivision where landlords and tenants were agreed. The first part of the Bill proposed to deal with existing leases, and to make provision for the alleviation of the grievances of farmers in Scotland who now hold under 19 years' leases. That subject had already been discussed at some length by the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Aberdeenshire (Mr. Esslemont) to the Address, at the commencement of the Session, and he did not desire to take up the time of the House by again entering upon the various arguments which were then pressed; but he had some encouragement in recurring to this subject again, because it would be remembered that the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, who was then Secretary for Scotland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), opposed the Amendment, and declared that it was impossible for Parliament to consider such a proposal as to interfere with contracts, that it was quite unprecedented, and that the Government would oppose it to the last. Since then, however, a change had come over the spirit of the dream of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, because a Bill had been introduced in 1325 "another place" which proposed to do for the leaseholders in Ireland that which the Representatives for Scotland unsuccessfully entreated the House to do for the farmers of Scotland. What grounds of difference wore there between the tenants of Ireland and Scotland? He (Mr. Barclay) ventured to say that the tenants under the 19 years' leases in Scotland had done as much to improve their land as the tenants in Ireland, The position was exactly the same. But political exigencies seemed to have coerced the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government; and now they had a proposal brought forward, on the responsibility of the Government, to give to the Irish tenants that relief which they would not give to the tenants of Scotland. He was, therefore, very willing to hope that the Government had come to a better frame of mind upon the question; that they had so acted because they recognized the justice of the case, and that they were not compelled by fear of the Irish tenantry to grant to them what had been demanded for the tenantry of Scotland. It would be a most unfortunate suggestion to put before the tenants of Scotland that the House of Commons would only legislate for them upon compulsion, and that the only hope they had of getting grievances remedied was not on the grounds of justice, but fear. With respect to leases, there was nothing in the Bill to prevent landlords and tenants agreeing to a reduction of rent; but either party could appeal to the Land Court to fix a fair rent. At the conclusion of the lease, the tenant surrendered his farm, and then the landlord and tenant might make such bargain as they thought proper. One of the objections urged against the Amendment on the Address was that almost all the landlords of Scotland had given fair reductions. He was there to deny that such was the case. He only knew of a few cases in which it could be said that landlords had taken up a fair position with regard to their tenants, and had given the concessions which the nature of the case demanded. Reductions had been given in a great many cases, he admitted; but small reductions were entirely inadequate. In many cases the reductions did not exceed 10 percent; whereas, if the rent had been reduced according 1326 to the reduction in the value of produce, there would have been no rent at all. In one or two cases, he had seen that landlords had agreed to give the tenants their farms upon mutual arbitration. The landlord appointed one valuator and the tenant another. He accepted that proposal as fair, where the tenant really had power to appoint his own valuator; but, in the majority of cases, the offer to arbitrate was a farce, as the valuers were appointed by the landlords only. Many of the tenants in Scotland under 19 years' leases took their farms when prices were at the highest rate, and for several years rents had been paid out of capital; but that could not continue. In many cases the landlord simply allowed the tenant to sink into arrears of rent, out of which it was hopeless he could emerge; and he would appeal to landlords whether it would not be wiser to face the difficulty in time, and put the farmers in an independent position by agreeing to give them their farms at such rents as tenants could fairly pay upon the present basis of prices, and when prices of produce increased, then the question of a higher rent could be reconsidered? He did not propose to give the existing tenants any fixity of tenure. He proposed that fair rents should be fixed, and that, at the close of the lease, full compensation for improvements should be given according to the principles laid down in the clauses of the Agricultural Holdings Act. He should be quite satisfied with the clauses inserted in the Crofters Act, and which gave the tenants and crofters in the Highlands full compensation for improvements, on the basis of the increased letting value of the farms due to their improvements. He could not see why the crofters and large tenants in the Lowlands of Scotland, were not on grounds of equity and justice entitled to the same consideration as the crofters in the Highlands of Scotland. The second part of the Bill dealt with the subject of future tenancies. He did not propose, under the Bill, that the State or any authority should interfere to fix fair rents under future leases. He contemplated that landlord and tenant should be free to agree as to what rents were to be paid for the farms; but he made certain statutory conditions for leases which, in his opinion, were 1327 indispensable to the successful cultivation of the land. The first condition was that the contract should be in writing; and, in the second place, that the tenure should be in perpetuity, so long as the tenant paid his rent. This latter he considered to be an essential condition of successful farming in the future. [A laugh.]Hon. Members might smile; but he did not think they had studied sufficiently the economical facts with which they had to deal. Where was the farmer now who was putting money into his farm? The land of the country was being impoverished from year to year; partly because farmers had less confidence in the future, and partly because they had not money to spend in manures. He wished, therefore, to make it a statutory condition that the man who cultivated the land should have the right of cultivating it in perpetuity, so long as he paid the rent, and did not dilapidate the farm. He provided, also, that the rent should be stated in money; but there was a provision which would enable the landlord and tenant to agree upon a produce rent. When they agreed on the money rent they were at the same time to agree what quantities of certain articles the produce of the farm represented that money; and at the end of every three years, the tenant should be be bound to pay the landlord, the following three years, the equivalent in money of the fixed quantities of agricultural produce specified in the lease, at the average price of the preceding three years. The proposal was, that a money rent should be fixed upon the basis of the average prices of a term of three years. He thought it would be inconvenient to have the rent changed every year. He did not think that three years was too long a period. He provided, also, an arrangement which would enable the Land Court or Commission to fix the average prices continuously of those articles of agricultural produce which might properly be selected to make up a produce rent. In fixing the average he did not confine himself to cereals; but would also take in the prices of beef, mutton, dairy produce, and also other produce of the farm. Taking such an average, they could eliminate, so far as practicable, the element of uncertainty as to the future. These were the princi- 1328 pal provisions of the Bill in regard to rent. He had endeavoured to bring about the changes, which seemed to him absolutely necessary, in a way the least injurious to existing interests, and which would be most for the benefit of all parties concerned, including the public. He did not propose, as he had already said, to interfere with the landlord and tenant in fixing future rents; but he thought the State was entitled to see that the cultivator should hold the land on such terms as would stimulate him. to adopt the best form of cultivation. No doubt, the change in the position of the landlords would be distasteful to many of them; but it was a change forced upon them, not because of agitation, but by economic causes, which they were powerless to resist. The change had resulted from competition, and the struggle would result in the survival of the fittest. But the system would not be without its advantages for the landlord as well as the tenant; the landlord would in future be saved nearly all the expense of management, for under this system the tenant would do all improvements. That would greatly facilitate the improvement of farms; and, as the tenant would work more economically than the landlord, the improvements would be carried out at a smaller cost It was well known that a large proportion of the income of the Legal Profession was derived from the management of estates. The change would be somewhat unfortunate for the Legal Profession, because under it the landlord would have little difficulty or expense in the collection of ground rents, while the tenants would have to undertake the repairs and improvements that would be necessary. He had now indicated the principal provisions of the measure as to fixity of tenure; and he would only say that the principle which underlaid the measure and which he was endeavouring to carry out was this—that by this system of tenure the tenant would be stimulated to make more out of the land than under any other form of tenure whatever, and if that were so, the tenant would be in a position to give the landlord the largest possible amount of rent that the land would yield. He was not much in favour of the tenant's owning the land. There were certain practical disadvantages connected 1329 with such a system; one being that it necessitated the tieing up of the tenant's capital to a much greater extent than would be the case under the system he proposed. In his view, the most desirable form of possession the cultivator could have was to have the land at a moderate rent, with perpetuity of possession. There was one provision of the Bill he wished to call special attention to. That was the part of the measure which proposed that any contract between landlord and tenant should be registered in a public register kept for the purpose. He proposed that the land should be transferred from tenant to tenant by written registered contract, and that the ownership should be determined by entry in the public register, coupled with possession. That seemed to him a solution of many of the difficulties attending the title to freehold land, and the difficulties of transferring land. By the system he proposed the transfer of freehold land would simply be a transfer of rent charges. He contemplated by the measure that the man who cultivated the land should have it in perpetuity, subject to the condition that the rant agreed upon be paid, and that he did nothing to depreciate the farm. The present tying up of ownership of land in various hands prevented the improvement of the land. Under the system he now proposed, seeing that the tenant would have free hands to improve the land, and to invest what capital he desired in it with security that he would reap the fruit of it, the tenant would make the improvements, the landlord would have his rent charges, and, so far as entails and settlements were concerned, any questions that arose would only be between the different beneficiaries, but the public would not be injured by it. The other important matter in the Bill was with regard to the creation of small holdings. He did not propose to make the breaking up of large farms compulsory; but he proposed that Parliament should give facilities for the creation of small holdings. The difficulty landlords felt at present in breaking up largo farms into small holdings was in providing capital for the new houses and buildings necessary. Now, he proposed that the Treasury should advance money to an extent not exceeding £2,000,000 in all, for the purpose of erecting the necessary buildings on these 1330 newly - created smaller holdings. He stipulated that the holdings should not be smaller than 20 and not larger than 100 acres; and he limited the advances to £5 per acre for holdings of between 20 and 50 acres, and to £4 per acre for holdings of between 50 and 100 acres. These loans would be repaid by instalments, in the first place, by the tenants to whom the money was advanced; but the loan would be secured as a first charge on the holdings, and that would make the loan perfectly secure. At the end of 25 years the tenant—the industrious tenant as he hoped—would have paid off the whole amount of the loan, and the landlord would have for the risk he had incurred during these 25 years, a better security for the due payment of his rent in the future. He believed that would be a very great advantage to the landlords; because it was the universal experience in Scotland that a landlord would get more for a farm of from 50 to 100 acres than for one of larger extent. Indeed, it was almost impossible to get tenants for larger farms, and he believed it would grow more and more difficult in the future. What he proposed the Treasury should do, should, no doubt, be done by the landlords themselves in their own interests; but, unfortunately, in these times many landlords were not well situated, and, therefore, he proposed that the Treasury should intervene with Parliamentary sanction to advance up to £2,000,000 sterling for the purpose of facilitating the creation of smaller farms. There ware some other provisions in the Bill as to the acquisition of land for public purposes; but he would not detain the House by going over these. He had as briefly as he could slated the principal provisions embodied in the Bill, and he would add that, under the system, the landlords would, obtain a much greater rent than under any other. He recommended it on that ground to the landlords; but it would be of great benefit to many of the smaller tenants also. He did not propose to give existing tenants any advantage in the retaking of farms. He proposed that, on the expiry of their present leases, they should make a new bargain; but he proposed that, in doing so, they should have that satisfactory system of tenure which must be come to in one form or another before very long. He would 1331 commend the measure as a very conservative one, for this reason, that it would give—more than now was the case—the people an interest in the land. If they had the people of the country largely interested in the land, it was one of the best securities they could have for the stability of their institutions; but, at present, only the few had such an interest. Another effect of the Bill would be largely to increase the rural population, for, by its adoption, they would be able to settle a great many more people on the land. By means of the smaller farms, he imagined that many of the population who were at present landless, would be able to make a comfortable living out of the land. They would also, under this system, get rid of the complaints with regard to, and at the same time very much relieve, the pressure of unskilled labour drifting from the country into the towns—a cause which had aggravated the distress of most of our large towns. If the people had a chance of living in the country, they would remain there; but, under existing circumstances, they were gradually being compelled to drift away to the towns. The increase of the rural population would also create an increased demand for our manufactures, and they would have more consumers and not necessarily more producers. If Parliament laid down a reasonable, a just, and an equitable system of tenure which would open up the means of livelihood, he thought they would spread contentment and industry throughout the country; and he had very great confidence that the system would stimulate the prosperity, not only of the rural districts, but also of the towns—not only of agriculture, but also of manufactures—and would produce a prosperity not less great, but perhaps more permanent, than that which followed upon the adoption of a Free Trade policy in this country. He moved the second reading of the Bill.
DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeen, W.)
, in rising to second the Motion, said, that after the full exposition which the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) had given, he did not intend to detain the House at any length regarding the provisions of the Bill. If this Bill were passed, the relief given to the agricultural industry of Scotland would undoubtedly be very great. The Bill 1332 would be beneficial in three different directions. In the first place, it would be distinctly beneficial in the case of the tenantry. There was to be an opportunity for the revision of rents under 19 years' leases. There was to be given security of tenure, under which alone a tenant would have inducement sufficient to put into the land what was necessary to produce sufficient crops to benefit himself. Another important point was that under this Bill the tenant would be rewarded for keeping his farm up to the highest point of agricultural fertility. It was a great drawback that the Agricultural Holdings Act did not make that secure. The efforts of farmers to keep up their holdings to the highest point of fertility had been used against them by landlord or valuer in putting on an increased rent at the end of the lease. Under this Bill the tenant would be amply recompensed by the increased value of the tenant right. Then he would have the advantage of free cropping. Of course, the tenant would not be such a fool as to do anything which would diminish the fertility of the soil, and therefore he could be trusted with that freedom. He (Dr. Farquharson) advocated this Bill also in the interests of the landlord. He was himself a landlord—a confession which it required some courage to make now-a-days in that House—and he was certain, after looking over this Bill very carefully, and considering its provisions, that it was framed quite as much in the interest of the landlord as in the interest of the tenant. It would be a substantial advantage to the landlord. In the first place, the rent would be very much safer than it was at present. Then the landlord would be relieved of all expense of making improvements. He himself would be able to cut off every year sums of money which he was now compelled to spend on improvements. If he had not spent these sums, he should now be in a very tolerable financial condition, instead of being, he was sorry to say, somewhat in the other direction. Best of all, he would point out that, under this Bill, the tenant would get compensation by a sure and certain method instead of getting it under the Agricultural Holdings Act under conditions of litigation, annoyance, and expense, which not only very often put him on bad terms with his landlord, but often prevented 1333 him from getting his duo. Although a well-meant measure, the Agricultural Holdings Act had completely failed to give that confidence to the tenants which they required in the present depressed condition of agriculture. Then they were to have a Land Court to settle arrangements instead of the present hazardous plan of valuation. They knew what valuation meant. It meant that one valuer was appointed by the tenant and another by the landlord, that these disagreed, and that then the oversman came in and settled the matter according to his own views. The Land Court was well defined and carefully arranged—to be presided over by a Judge of the Court of Session. He had no doubt that under it agricultural arrangements would be carried out with far greater advantage both to landlord and tenant than they now were. Thirdly, he advocated this Bill in the interests of the general public, because it stood to reason that if the tenant had greater confidence that every improvement he made on the land would be absolutely his own, he would naturally put more into the land, and the more he put into the land the more would come out of it. The public would get the advantage of the increased produce. Then the tenant would not—so often as was the case at present—allow the land to run out in the latter part of the lease. The tenant would get his compensation from the incoming tenant in tenant right, and, of course, it would be to his advantage to keep up the highest point of fertility right to the end of the lease. A good many objections had been made at various times to proposals of this kind. It had been said that they would act very injuriously against the smaller class of tenants—that the agricultural labourer who had saved a little money, and wanted to take a farm, would not be able to compete with richer men for the tenant right. There would have been a good deal in that objection if it had not been that it was completely covered by the landlord's pre-emption. Then they had heard something of a landlord being only a rent-charger. If, however, the landlord was a sure rent-receiver, he would occupy a valuable position. He did not see why a landlord should be on worse terms with his tenants or get less pleasure out of his land under this Bill than was the case 1334 at present. A great many of the disputes between landlords and tenants arose in connection with improvements, but under this Bill the tenant would entirely make his own improvements. He should hope that the relations between landlords and tenants, instead of being injured, would rather be improved. In connection with the Irish Land Act, they were told that when property was sold round the residence of a proprietor, he ceased to live in the country; but the study of the recent Blue Book proved the entire fallacy of that statement. He had not the slightest doubt that, even if the tenants round a landlord's residence were in this condition of independence, the landlord would still remain and enjoy his position, and confer the benefits which a resident landlord always did. He had great pleasure in supporting the Bill, and hoped they might be in a position that day to arrive at a second reading.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now road a second time."—(Mr. J. W. Barclay.)
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said, that though he represented a London constituency, he was a Scotchman with some knowledge of his country, and he bogged to move the rejection of this Bill, which was ill-advised, unnecessary, and uncalled for. The hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) stated that for the past 10 years agriculture had been going from bad to worse owing to the depreciation of prices of produce. The remedy was certainly not to be found in this Bill. It proposed to give security of tenure to the tenant, which was, no doubt, a very good thing in itself. But in the present state of affairs in England and Scotland, with so many farms vacant, any tenant who paid his rent was practically quite secure in his holding. He knew many instances in Forfarshire and Kincardineshire where tenants hold under 19-year leases, and who found no difficulty in getting them renewed; and he knew instances in which farms had remained in the same family for several generations. The tenants of Scotland did not want the whole system of land tenure remodelled on the lines of Irish legislation, for the Irish Land Acts of 1870 and 1881 were proved to be gigantic failures. The only way of fixing a "fair" rent was to allow the 1335 laws of supply and demand to have free scope, and by agreements between man and man. Any attempt by third parties to fix a rent which should be fair for 15 years, must break down. The Bill also proposed to create perpetuity leases. But this would be most unjust. Why should a landlord be compelled to lease his land in perpetuity to anyone? Then, as to the proposal for a re-valuation every three years, he would point out that a tenant might let his farm run down just before the re-valuation, in order to get a low rent.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
I do not propose that there should be any change in the rents except as depending on the value of the produce. There is to be no re-valuation of the farm.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
said, he objected to the power given to Local Authorities to compulsorily acquire sites for dwellings. Such a power would enable a Local Authority to cut up a large estate and ruin it. Three-fourths of the land of Scotland was grazing land, and a proposal to cut out portions of large estates and pitchfork small farms throughout the country would work very badly. It would not be fair or equitable towards the landlord to empower Local Authorities to purchase land beyond their own district. This piece of legislation, which was an ill-advised, ill-digested measure, was one of the least desired and least required of any he had ever seen in his life. It was not asked for by the people of Scotland. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. R. G. Webster.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
said, he thought it rather curious that when a Bill of this importance had been proposed by the hon. Member for 1336 Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) and supported by the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire (Dr. Farquharson) no one on the part of the Government, or on the Conservative side of House, who was in any way familiar with the subject, should have risen to address the House upon it. He assumed, from the silence of Conservative Members who represented Scottish county constituencies, and who were themselves landlords, that they admitted that a measure of this kind was urgently wanted in many respects by the tenant farmers of Scotland, and their silence did them credit. At any rate, he should be very much astonished to hear any of them deny that the hon. Member for Forfarshire had brought forward an overwhelming case for the interference of this House. But what did hon. Members do in this case? They knew that the Government had attempted to prevent the Bill being discussed, because one hon. Member had blocked it; and now, when it had come on for discussion, they selected an hon. Member for a London constituency to move its rejection. That hon. Member knew very little about it.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he did not mean to say the hon. Member had not a perfect right to speak on matters relative to his native country. There were many Scotsmen who had not been in Scotland for a great many years, and who did not know what was going on among the Scottish agricultural population; and when he found that a born Scotsman, like the hon. Member, had found a refuge in St. Pancras, he could not help thinking he had not spent much time among the agricultural population of Scotland, and was not entitled to tell the House that this measure was not wanted. He hoped the House would consider that, perhaps, he (Mr. Anderson) had some right to speak on this question, because he represented a constituency that was deeply interested in it. He had from time to time discussed the question with his constituents, and only last week he had communications with many farmers in the North of Scotland respecting it. Such was the condition of agriculture in Scotland at the present moment, that the case of tenants under existing leases was abso- 1337 lutely desperate. It must be admitted that the existing rents for land in Scotland were far too high. Farmers were bound, under these leases, to pay these high rents. They struggled to pay them, and did pay them; and to a great extent they had paid them out of their capital—so much so that he was sorry to say that many who were called substantial farmers had very little of their capital left. They had sunk a great portion of it in their farms, and they were in this position—that, if they left, they had no means of getting it back. The present Agricultural Holdings Act did not give them any remedy. Everyone knew that the present law was inedequate, and he ventured to submit, when they had tenants in this condition, that nothing could be more reasonable than a provision for fixing fair rents, such as was introduced in the first clause of this Bill. That seemed to him one of the most important provisions. The next seemed to him also to be of great importance—namely, to practically abolish the schedules of the Agricultural Holdings Act. Then came the question of disposing of the tenancy. He had often asked the question, why could not the tenant of a farm be able to dispose of his tenancy? It seemed to him most extraordinary that, if he wanted to go to some other part of the country, that was the only thing he could not dispose of. It seemed to him if that could be done it would encourage farmers to expend capital and improve their farms. The question of allotments was one of very great importance, and he thought the Conservative Party had come to the conclusion that it was one of their cardinal principles. The principle of the compulsory purchase of allotments was admitted by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) in the now famous Dartford speech; and since then they had also understood that the "three acres and a cow" policy was accepted by the Conservative Party. Therefore he was astonished at the remarks of the hon. Member opposite.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
said, that he had not spoken against the principle of allotments, but against the manner in which it was given effect to in this Bill.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he failed to see the distinction. He had never heard 1338 of any other principle of allotments than that which was embodied in their Bill—namely, that of giving Local Authorities power of compulsory purchase. It was of the highest importance that this House should encourage the agricultural labourers of the country to look to the time when they could get land for themselves. At the present moment it was absolutely impossible in many parts of Scotland for an agricultural labourer to get land. This was only a fair concession to make to the agricultural labourers of Scotland. He appealed to hon. Members not to vote against a Bill of this kind. Hon. Members opposite seemed to think that no reforms were to be carried out in reference to the land, until they had a rebellion in the country. Although there was no open agitation in Scotland, there was a very deep feeling among the tenant farmers on this subject. And if the opinion of the Scottish tenant farmers were taken, he believed they would be unanimous in their support of this Bill. ["No, no!"] He knew the lairds would not be unanimous. He was speaking of the tenant farmers. If the lairds persisted in saying "No," they would bring about an agitation such as they had had in Ireland. Feeling that many of the proposals of this Bill were most essential, and were desired by the tenant farmers of Scotland, he hoped the second reading would be agreed to.
§ MR. BAIRD (Glasgow, Central)
said, that, probably, the hon. Member for St. Pancras (Mr. R. G. Webster) had had as much experience on this subject as the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson), whose experience in Scotland, so far as he knew, had been confined to the two brief canvassing expeditions in which he had contested his seat. Before reading the Bill he looked to see who were the hon. Members whose names were upon the back, and he believed that everyone of these Gentlemen sat for constituencies in the North of Scotland. They in Scotland had always thought that the people of Aberdeen-shire wore those best able to take care of themselves; but now they found that the Aberdonians were the very people who were coming and asking Parliament to interfere with their contracts. He did not know what warrant the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn had for saying that rents in Scotland were far too high, 1339 unless it was that in the course of his canvass he had met with farmers who were of that opinion. But the hon. Member took it upon himself to speak for the whole of Scotland. With regard to the Dartford speech, although they, on that side, agreed with the main part of the programme there laid down, they had not committed themselves to the whole of it, and certainly not to the compulsory purchase of allotments. In fact, he was not sure that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) had proposed it. He did not agree with the hon. Member that the tenant farmers of Scotland would vote for the Bill. At all events, if the hon. Member came to the county which he (Mr. Baird) knew best, he was perfectly sure he would not gain the seat. An hon. Member in supporting the Bill spoke of the advantages to the tenant farmers and others of having perfect freedom of cultivation. He (Mr. Baird) considered that the tenant farmers had already freedom of cultivation. There were very few landlords in Scotland who would interfere with a good tenant in regard to his methods of cultivation. Reductions of rent had been given in many instances to a much greater extent than 10 per cent. In some cases 30 per cent had been conceded. With regard to the disadvantages arising from the fall of prices, he might point out that, on the other hand, there had also been an enormous decrease during the last two years in the price of artificial manures. If this Bill passed, the interest of the landlord in his own estate would disappear altogether.
§ MR. BAIRD
The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire (Dr. Farquharson) pointed out the advantages to the landlords of getting rid of the expense of improvements. All he (Mr. Baird) could say was that it had been a great pleasure to him as a landlord to make those improvements for a good many years; but if this Bill passed, he should leave them to his tenants, and whether they would be as efficiently carried out by the tenants as they had been by the landlords remained to be seen. Then it was said that the expenses of management would be abolished. To a certain extent, no doubt, the expenses of man- 1340 agement would be abolished by the provisions of the measure; but against that they must put the expense of the litigation that would take place between landlord and tenant. Great improvements had been carried out under the old system; and he appealed to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Haldane) whether he had ever seen a county in England or Scotland brought into such a magnificent state of cultivation as the county of which he was the Representative? He objected to the discussion of the whole system of land tenure in Scotland on a Wednesday afternoon in a thin House, and, in his opinion, a Bill of this nature—which revolutionized the whole land tenure of Scotland—should be brought in by a responsible Government, not by a private Member. The Bill was most drastic, and not only did it alter the whole system of land tenure in Scotland, but it introduced the Irish system of legislation, introducing the three F's—fair rent, fixity of tenure, and free sale. Fixity of tenure and free sale he objected to altogether. He could not object to fair rent; but he objected to the system by which fair rent was to be established, and he wished that it should remain as it always had been, a matter of arrangement between the man who wished to hire the land and the landlord. He denied that the old land system of Scotland had broken down. What was wanted was not a new system, but fair rents under the old system. He believed that if the farmers of Scotland received a reduction of rent they would not desire any of the other provisions. One provision, he must say, he agreed with—and if the hon. Member would bring in a separate Bill dealing with that he would support him—namely, a Bill to provide for money being advanced to landlords, for the purpose of breaking up large holdings and erecting the necessary buildings the tenants, no doubt, used to have a great grievance in respect of unexhausted improvements; but that grievance had been met to a considerable extent by the Agricultural Holdings Act of Scotland. This Bill proposed to do in Scotland what had already been done in Ireland, and he did not think the results of the land agitation in Ireland were such as to induce hon. Members to apply them to Scot- 1341 land. The Bill provided also for dual ownership; and he had always considered that the most objectionable feature of the result of the Irish Land Act, and, for his part, he would much sooner be purchased out altogether. If the House was to interfere with the relations between landlord and tenant in Scotland it would be much better to buy out the landlords at once. In the part of Scotland with which he was acquainted, the South and South-West, there was no feeling in favour of this Bill. The tenant farmers had been getting substantial reductions of rent, and they did not wish to be interfered with in regard to making their contracts, and he hoped the House would not consent to read the Bill a second time.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeenshire, E.)
said, he could well understand that there was no special call from the Central Division of Glasgow, which the hon. Member (Mr. Baird) represented, for that Bill, nor did he expect that there would be; but, if the hon. Gentleman spoke for the West of Scotland, he could only say that since he (Mr. Esslemont) moved an Amendment on the Address in regard to Scotch leases, he had been inundated with letters from tenantry in the West of Scotland, saying that they did indeed feel extremely the present depression of agriculture, and pleading with and praying him not to relax his efforts. The writers said that the dread of landlords and factors was continually upon them, because the factors and the landlords had been coming down upon those who were known to be agitators for the reform of the Land Laws of Scotland, and men had been sequestrated for no other reason than that. In fairness to the hon. Member who had just sat down, he must say that he knew a good deal about the family of the hon. Member, and that they, as well as the hon. Member himself, had been among the most improving proprietors in Scotland, and had done a great deal for the improvement of agriculture, and for the advantage of tenants. He (Mr. Esslemont) did not hold exactly the same views as his hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) on the question of dual ownership; and he rather agreed with the hon. Member for the Central Division of Glasgow that it would be, per- 1342 haps, better to put an end to that system, and that some means should be adopted by which the cultivator of the soil should, in point of fact, become proprietor. But, at the same time, he must say he was rather surprised at some of the doctrines enunciated by hon. Members on the other side of the House. With respect to the Dartford speech, it had disappeared from view, and its author, the distinguished Member of the Government who was responsible for it (Lord Randolph Churchill), had disappeared too. ["No, no!"] Why, nothing else but closure and coercion, which had replaced it, had been before the House ever since the Session began; and the programme of the Dartford speech had been relegated to the dim and distant future. So far as hon. Gentlemen opposite were concerned, he should be glad to hear a responsible enunciation of policy on behalf of the Government on this question. The right hon. Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) had introduced several Bills for the compulsory purchase of land for allotments; but, now, hon. Members opposite seemed to go against that policy; but he supposed that they were prepared to vote against the right hon. Gentleman on the question. The principle of compulsory purchase was admitted, and the only question to be settled was that of compensation. Compulsory purchase was no new principle. It was only looked upon as a monstrous thing when it was applied to tenants getting land from the proprietors. He would be astonished if any hon. Member would stand up and say that a proprietor had the right to resist the purchase of land for any public purpose, provided he was fairly compensated. The hon. Member for the Central Division of Glasgow said that tenants who went in for good husbandry were always allowed freedom of cultivation; but, if that was so, why did proprietors insert in their leases, that a tenant who deviated from a certain course would be liable to pay a heavy fine? Then they were told that reductions of 10 or 15 per cent on the rents were being made he (Mr. Esslemont) had seen many receipts for those reductions, and, as a general rule, they embodied a clause whereby, if any improvement belonged to the tenant at the end of the lease, the 10 or 15 per 1343 cent was to be deducted. It was in the power of the landlord, in the same way, to say that, if he allowed a change of cropping, the sum due to him for that change would be a deduction at the end of the lease. Then, the hon. Member opposite said there was a thin attendance; but that was usually the case when questions appertaining to Scotland were being discussed. Would the hon. Member deny that, if there was any hope of practical legislation, there would be a large attendance? The hon. Member, however, had paid a compliment to Aberdeenshire, and far be it from him (Mr. Esslemont) to reject it. The hon. Gentleman said he understood that the people of Aberdeenshire were as well able to look after their own interests as the people of any other county of Scotland. He (Mr. Esslemont) quite agreed with the hon. Member in that statement. It was on account of their intelligence, ability, and discernment of their interests, that they had sent two Members from the city, and two Members from the county, who were entirely in favour of the principle of the Bill; and he did not think it would be denied that these hon. Members to a large extent represented the most intelligent opinion of Scotland upon the principles of the Bill, and it was also a strong reason why the measure should pass. The hon. Member for East St. Pancras (Mr. Webster) was entirely at sea on the clauses of the Bill. It was true that leases had been held by the same family from one generation to another. He knew well about that succession; and he knew how effectively at the end of each lease, the capital that had been created by the tenant was appropriated by the landlord. It was because the tenant had not the accumulations of past generations to stand by, that now he had to look only to bankruptcy for relief. It had been said by hon. Members opposite that there was no agitation in Scotland upon this question. As to that it had been his duty, as well as his endeavour, to put down any agitation which he conceived to be an objectionable or un-Constitutional kind; but he warned the Government and the other Representatives from Scotland that were then present in the House, from information he had from all parts of Scotland, that it would not be possible to resist a very strong agita- 1344 tion in favour of the relief of the tenants of Scotland, and in favour of a large measure of reform of land tenure in years to come. There would be no want of agitation even among the law-abiding people of Scotland. It should be remembered that in consequence of an agitation in the Highlands, the Government had to pass the Crofters Act. He would, however, acknowledge that many of the landlords in Scotland had met their tenants in this crisis in a most generous and ready manner. For instance, one of the largest proprietors in the connty he represented had met the present emergency by offering his tenants either the relief due to outgoing tenants, or a re-valuation of their farms. But, generally, he knew that many more in the south of Scotland had met their tenants more fairly than in the north. In Aberdeenshire there was practically no fall in the rent roll whatever, and they had positive proof that the landlords in that county had not readily met the claims of the tenants. Legislation, however, was sought not on account of the benevolent and generous landlords, but for those who had not done their duty; and those who had met their tenants would not be touched by any Bill like this. Without committing himself to every detail of the Bill, he gave it his cordial support.
§ MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
said, the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) had depicted the state of Scotland with great fairness and impartiality. But he (Mr. Stewart) could not say the same of some of his supporters, and he could not congratulate the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Esslemont) upon the speech he had. delivered. All the landlords the hon. Member seemed to know were landlords of the most tyrannical and cruel character—
§ MR. ESSLEMONT
I did not say anything of the kind. What I said was, that a large proportion of the landlords had met their tenants in the most generous way, and I wanted this measure for the minority.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, the greater part of the hon. Member's speech appeared to be taken up, not with a criticism of the Bill, but with inveighing against a class of men who were in very depressed circumstances, and had great difficulties to contend with. The 1345 hon. Member had stated that when the landlord did give a reduction of rent, it necessarily came off the compensation which was due to the tenant at the end of the lease. That might occur in Aberdeenshire; he did not know whether it did or not; but he had never heard of a case of the kind in the South of Scotland. Many of his friends had given abatements to a very large extent. His Party had been taunted with not giving allotments to labourers; but that was a mistake. With regard to the allotment system, he thought the more occupiers of the land they had in this country the better it would be for the country. They did not wish to tie up enormous tracts of land in the hands of a few men; on the contrary, they were anxious that the land should be better distributed; but no one would buy land in Scotland. In the South of Scotland there were large tracts of suitable land allotments; but no one could be found to buy it, and the consequence was that the land remained in the hands of a few proprietors. What they did object to was, that the Local Authority should come down and seize any choice portion of land on an estate, or a policy, or garden, they pleased. There was nothing to prevent them doing that in this Bill, and the practice would give rise to serious abuses. A Local Authority might seize some choice piece of land close to a mansion house, and convert it into allotments. They might even go outside the precincts of a locality where they had influence, and might claim, in another district, the jurisdiction which they exercised in their own locality. That, he considered, would be most unfair, and it would give rise to all sorts of complaints. He agreed with the hon. Member in the principle of giving allotments. He thought the Local Authority might have power to point out that such and such land was suitable for allotments, and ought to be laid out in allotments; but when it came to compulsory purchase he thought the landlord was justified in having an appeal to a higher tribunal, which would be perfectly fair and unprejudiced—in England, say, to the Local Government Board; in Scotland to some Board that might be constituted. The hon. Member said that the Dartford speech was now quite ignored; but it had been stated to him (Mr. Stewart), 1346 on the highest authority, (bat the principle of the Dartford speech was still adopted, and that measures on its lines would be laid on the Table of the House. He was aware of the great difficulties which the tenants had to endure at the present time; and he thought the landlords, in many cases, did not thoroughly realize the great gravity of the situation. If they had technical education in agricultural matters, such as he proposed, he believed that many of the present difficulties would disappear, and there would be no necessity for such radical measures as that now under consideration. The hon. Member for Forfarshire had stated that the main principle of this inroad upon old legislation consisted in this—that if they adopted his Bill they would get as much as they possibly could out of the land, and that the tenants would have every inducement, not only to work harder, but to make money and acquire a better livelihood and better means of paying their rents. He doubted that very much. He knew this—that there were thousands and tens of thousands of acres of land of a second quality in Scot-land. That land had once been brought up to a very high standard of production by the use of artificial manures, but it was now suffering from that cause. It had been thoroughly exhausted, and what that land required was rest. It either must be laid down in grass, or some system of husbandry must be devised by which they might bring it up to its old standard. The Bill before the House would be a very great invasion of contract. It would introduce into the Scottish system fixity of tenure, free rule of culture, free sale, and fair rent. They had succeeded in agriculture better than any other country in Europe. They had reclaimed waste lands, perhaps, on too large a scale; and they had shown that the system hitherto pursued in Scotland was one that had worked well. Up to a few years ago there was no system like the 19 years' lease system, and the tenantry throve under it. He maintained that the proper thing for the landlord to do was to have a revaluation of property, if he could not come to fair terms with his tenants. But that revaluation must not be made by one valuator, but by two valuators, so that they might have equal justice distributed between landlord and tenant. Hon. Members opposite invited them, 1347 on a Wednesday afternoon, in a small and listless House, to overturn the existing system of land tenure in Scotland, in order to satisfy what he hoped was a passing through a rent crisis. They had the bitterest experience of similar or analogous legislation since 1870 in Ireland; and if that did not stand as a warning beacon, he did not know what that legislation had taken place for. It had not done much good to Ireland. If they applied this drastic legislation to Scotland, they would find that, instead of a good feeling between landlord and tenant, and that "gif-gaf" which made good friends, they would have very sad results. In the place of that being as it was at present, the unwritten law of the land, a very different state of things would come rapidly about. As to the proposal for produce rents on the basis of the Cars' prices, his experience was this. Eight or 10 years ago, in one of the Southern Counties of Scotland, a great many tenants had rents based on the price of wheat; but the consequence was that the tenants preferred a money rent. he did not think the tenants of Scotland would be satisfied with the revision of rents every three years, as suggested by the hon. Member; nor did he believe that a multiplication of small farms would tend to increase production. Such a statement was contrary to experience. How was it possible for a small tenant to have the buildings necessary for the health of his cattle? They could not expect the small tenant to have the necessary capital for carrying on agriculture. He did not believe they would ever get any Government to advance the £2,000,000 proposed by the hon. Member for Forfarshire to enable the landlords to break up large farms and erect buildings for small ones; nor did he believe the investment, if made, would be a good one. As it was rents had been reduced in Scotland, not only by 10 per cent, but by as much as 20, 30, and even 50 per cent. While he was convinced that the hon. Gentleman who proposed the Bill was actuated by the best motives, he did not think the proposed legislation of the hon. Member, drastic though it was, if it passed, would effect what he intended, nor would it ameliorate the condition of the tenantry of Scotland. He was entirely opposed to the principles of free sale. Its only effect would be to make the landlords 1348 take less interest in the land, and would drive them away out of the country. Old people, also, whom the landlord now employed, would have to go to the workhouse or drop into the large towns. If they injured one class they might be sure they would injure all classes of society, and if they injured the tenant they would injure the landlord and the shopkeeper also. He did not think the Bill was wanted. As regarded fixity of tenure, the hon. Member, he was sure, would receive the support of neither the House nor the country; while, as regards free sale, the country would be dead against him. But with regard to fair rent, he would be very glad if the hon. Member could bring that about in the speediest way.
§ MR. H. F. H. ELLIOT (Ayrshire, N.)
said, he thought they ought to be grateful to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) for bringing forward the Bill and letting the House know the opinions of the tenant farmers of Scotland, as the honest and industrious farmers were entitled to have their claims fairly considered by the House. But, in his opinion, if this Bill were passed, it would be injurious to the tenants, as well as to the landlords and the country generally. The Bill which was brought in, from the tenant's point of view, was a Bill that would really bind his hands; while the landlords would have no inducement to advance money to be spent on improvements, and but for which large tracts of land would at the present day have been lying waste. There were some good points in the Bill, but there were others which he did not like. The Land Question would have to be faced sooner or later; but he believed it could be postponed for a long time if the landlords tried to live more on their estates, sent away their factors and agents, and went into the question for themselves, and when there was any doubt as to the rent give the tenant the benefit of it.
§ SIR ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL (Renfrew, W.)
said, he felt thankful to the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) for giving the House an opportunity of discussing a most important subject. he objected most strongly to the proposal to make in future tenancies in perpetuity. That would not be of very great value to the tenant, and it would be a very great damage to the 1349 welfare of agriculture generally. What they ought to do was to enlist the sympathies of landlords and tenants in the same way as manufacturers and their workmen. If the Bill were passed, the landlord would be a simple rent-charger, and he would have no interest in seeing that the buildings were kept up, and in advancing money for improvements. Although agriculture was suffering from great depression at the present time, he hoped that by co-operation and by the improvement of implements they might be able to compete successfully with the immense amount of foreign produce brought into the country. If they took away the incentive to the landlord to advance money, they might be certain they would not have that improvement which was necessary to place the prosperity of the agriculture of the country on a satisfactory footing. He had no objection to the proposal to institute a Land Court. He had always himself endeavoured to meet his tenants in a fair spirit, and he had been in the habit of taking the fiars' prices as a basis upon which to calculate his rents, and in that way he and his tenants had got on uncommonly well. But if that were not sufficient, where landlords and tenants could not agree, he thought it would be an advantage to have a tribunal—such as a Land Court or Commission—which could fix authoritatively what was a fair rent, because landlords were sometimes debarred from making the reductions they might otherwise do owing to the awkward position in which it might place other landlords who were not so able to make similar reductions. the question of allotments should not be dealt with in a Bill dealing with rent and agricultural arrangements, but should be brought in by a Bill dealing with the subject of local government—such a Bill as was promised by the Government, or something like it. With regard to fixity of tenure, if there was a tenant right which was to be purchased by another tenant coming in, and if that man had a large capital, they would really be defrauding the poor man from being able to start in life as an agricultural tenant. In that way they would shut out the class of ploughmen who had really formed the backbone of the farming class of this country. That was an interference with the whole system in Scotland, and in the circumstances it was 1350 impossible that anyone who desired the welfare of agriculture could be able to vote for a Bill in which they had fixity of tenure.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
We have an indication of the nature and character of this discussion in the fact that of the four authors of the Bill only one remains in the House at the present moment; two have never appeared at all; two have spoken, but one of the number only spoke, and then disappeared. At the same time, I thoroughly agree with what has been said on this side of the House quite as much as on the other side—namely, that the hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill—the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay)—deserves the thanks of the House for the interesting speech he has made in doing so. His contributions on the subject of agriculture are always extremely useful to the House; but I say that there is a pretty plain indication that he and his Friends look upon this as a purely academical discussion, not likely—now or in the near future—to lead to practical results. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Esslemont) is a very sanguine man, and when he speaks of the unanimity of feeling in Aberdeenshire upon this question, it is only an indication of the extreme power which possesses the inhabitants of that region of looking after themselves. The most astonishing feature about the whole measure is a proposal to carry out what is practically an agrarian revolution for the purpose of getting greater produce out of the land of Scotland; when the fact is that Scotland, of all countries in the world, has, under the existing system, done the most extraordinary and incredible things in the way of obtaining production out of the soil. It is under the system that now exists between landlord and tenant that the farmers of Scotland reclaimed vast tracts of country in Scotland—that in the time of our forefathers were thought utterly unfit for agricultural purposes at all—these have turned it into gardens, and have been able to produce more to the acre than has been raised in any other country in Europe. I want to know whether it is supposed that if the hon. Member's Bill had been brought in in 1820, and had been carried, it is possible for any sane man to conceive 1351 that the state of agriculture in Scotland would have been higher than it is at the present moment. [An hon. MEMBER: Yes.] I venture to say that it would have been nothing of the kind. The sums of money which have been laid out by landlords—and I suppose the hon. Member for Forfarshire will admit that the landlords have laid out large sums of capital as well as the tenants—would never—as experience proved—have been laid out if the country had been broken up into small holdings, where the tenant, having no claim upon the landlord at all, because the landlord would have been a mere rent-charger, would have had to expend the money and make the improvement himself. Wherever we found, throughout the world, a person who had to do the work of the soil himself, and to find the capital necessary for improvements, we never did find that the land is properly cultivated—[Cries of "Oh, Oh!"]—I mean in countries similar to our own—I am not speaking of countries where the farm buildings may consist of a log-hut—in such cases we never find improvements carried out. But, further than that, we are now asked by the hon. Member what difference there is between tenants in Ireland and tenants in Scotland. I think the hon. Member will agree that that is not for those on this—the Ministerial—side of the House to answer, because the distinct ground stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and his friends for their agrarian legislation for Ireland was that the case of Irish tenants is different from the case of tenants on this side of the Channel; and when the Liberal Government dealt with the case of the crofters, the House was told that theirs was also an exceptional case, quite different from the ordinary case of landlord and tenant. Time will not permit me to go at length into the arguments on this matter, and a good deal of what I had intended to say has been said by my hon. Friends on both sides of the House. I would call attention once more to the extraordinary fact that what is now proposed to be introduced by this Bill is the very thing which, tenants at their request had excluded from leases a good many years ago. In the year 1850 almost all the 1352 agricultural rents in Scotland were wholly or in part calculated according to the price of grain, and not wholly according to money. It was at the instance of the tenants themselves that that was altered, and it was because although at that time it was thought that prices would never go up again after the Corn Law had been repealed, in 1853, 1854, and 1855 large fortunes were made by the tenants of Scotland in consequence of the extraordinary prices to which grain rose in those years. As to what is proposed in the Bill in regard to allotments, there seems to be some confusion in the minds of hon. Members between the question of allotments and that well-known question now described by an expression which has become classic—" Three acres and a cow." The two things are totally different. The object of allotments is to give the agricultural labourer in his leisure time the means of cultivating some small piece of ground by hand, with the view of employing that time to advantage, and to procure for his own use necessaries which he might have to get from a distance. This Bill provides for giving allotments anywhere that the Local Authority may fix. I think the House will agree with me that, until you have a Local Authority of a different kind from what you now have, you will not have a wise or prudent Board for carrying out any system of allotments—certainly not of the broad and comprehensive character contemplated by the Bill of the hon. Member. When you have a system of local government and of Local Boards, then you may without difficulty go into the question of allotments. By the interpretation clause of this Bill, power is taken to take allotments, and the authority may go out of its own jurisdiction to the distance of a mile, to take allotments from anybody who has land. Now, the "authority" is to be a Local Authority, appointed under the Public Health Act. What is the authority in Scotland at present? It is the Parochial Boards in Scotland who were originally constituted solely to look after the paupers in their particular district. [An hon. MEMBER: The Town Councils.] We are speaking of agricultural districts. It is for agricultural neighbourhoods that the allotments referred to in this Bill are primarily to be 1353 provided. I am not certain, even if we came to the large burghs, that I should care to have the Town Council going, say, a mile out of the boundaries of the City of Edinburgh to provide allotments to all and sundry. But it is agricultural labourers that are being attended to by this Bill, and you propose to give these extraordinary powers to grant such allotments to Parochial Boards. This, in itself, is sufficient to show how crude and unsatisfactory the proposals of this Bill are. We thank the hon. Member for Forfarshire for carefully studied information—which he always gives us—but I think he will see that it is quite impossible that this Bill can be passed in its present shape—and I do not think the hon. Member could have hoped it would do so. It is certainly quite impossible that the Government can agree to it.
§ It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.