§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Ritchie.)
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
Mr. Speaker, I think the history of this Bill is a remarkable one, and is deserving the attention of this House. In the course of the present Session a Bill was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for the Rugby Division of Warwickshire (Mr. Cobb), who has taken great interest in this question of allotments. That Bill was before the House, and on the 16th of May the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) announced that the Government intended immediately to introduce a measure dealing with this subject, and that it would be introduced in the House of Lords. Well, a month elapsed, and no such Bill appeared at all in the House of Lords. The House of Lords has a great many merits, and amongst others it has the merit that it is not an overworked Assembly. We frequently hear, as we did the other night, eulogiums passed on the House of Lords for the manner in which it does its Business, and how little it talks and wastes its time. [Ministerial cheers.] Yes; and why is it, then, that the House of Lords did not see the Allotments Bill in the month of May or the month of June? It is true that an independent Member of the other House of Parliament introduced a Bill on the subject of allotments; but that Bill was quietly and civilly got rid of, and on the 16th of June a declaration was made, I must not say by whom, and I must not say where, but it was to the effect that there was another serious difficulty, which had been alluded to, and that was what Local Authority the powers of the Bill should be entrusted to. In that declaration it was said—If you take the Court of Quarter Sessions, or some Central Body not specially concerned in the matter, it is possible it may deal with it in a perfunctory spirit, and that no active result will follow; but, on the other hand, if 139 power be given to a Local Sanitary Body, such as the Board of Guardians, it is taking an optimist view if you think there is not some danger I in the management of local funds, as well as some chance of disturbing the peace of the locality.And furthermore—I confess I should have preferred that we had been able to pass our Local Government Bill before we dealt with this question, for I doubt very much whether, with the present organization of the Committee, you can do much with it in the shape of finding a fit authority to administer the measure."—(3 Hansard,  243–4.)These were the views on the 16th of June of the Prime Minister as regards an Allotments Bill which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons had said should certainly immediately be introduced into the House of Lords. We have the Leader in one House stating that a Bill would be introduced into the other House, and we have the Prime Minister the Leader of the other House saying that it is impossible to deal with the question at all, and that there are two things which must certainly not be done —the powers must not be confided to Boards of Guardians or Quarter Sessions. And now we have got a Bill which confers the powers upon both the Bodies I have mentioned. That is a remarkable circumstance; indeed, so singular a condition of things requires some explanation. On the 2nd of July —that is to say, a fortnight after this declaration was made—a rather remarkable event occurred—namely, the Spalding Election; and on the l6th of July the President of the Local Government Board, in the face of the declaration of the Prime Minister that there should be no allotments until the Local Government Bill had been passed, introduced a Bill which is founded on the two very principles which were so denounced by the Head of the Government. That is the remarkable history with regard to the progress of this Bill in the present Session. However, we have got the Bill before us—[Ministerial clicers]—and I am very glad of it; and I want to tell you what part of the Bill I am glad to see. Now, the Bill may be divided into two portions—there is the principle of the Bill, and there is the machinery of the Bill. As regards the principle of the Bill, I, for one, am entirely in accord with it; I always have been, in accord 140 with it. [Ironical Ministerial dicers.] Oh, yes; have Gentlemen opposite always been in accord with it? Why, it is the great principle of the "three acres and a cow" which we fought out at the Election of 1885. We all remember that campaign. [Cries of "One acre! "] Yes; one acre without the cow. Now, this Bill includes a very important principle to which I venture to call the attention of the House. The principle of the Bill, as I take it, is to be this—that the Local Authority is to have power by compulsion to acquire land for the advantage of the community in letting it out, or otherwise disposing of it to individuals. Now, that is the principle, and that was the principle of the great contest over the "three acres and a cow." Well, on the one side, in favour of the "three acres and a cow," were ranged my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), and last, but not least, my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings), followed at a humble distance by myself and Friends; but the two hon.-Gentlemen I have mentioned had very formidable opponents on that occasion. My noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), who, I regret, is not present to-night, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), were the great opponents of the principle of "three acres and a cow." They used very hard language up and down the country of the two hon. Gentlemen to whom I have referred. This was the great charge of Socialism which was brought against my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham; but, happily, we are all Socialists now. This is the very thing that was determined on that occasion. There was one thing, at all events, which we were never to have. Lord Salisbury, speaking at Newport, said — "Whatever you have, you must not have compulsion." That was the one principle which the Conservative Party and a section of our Friends, the Dissentient Liberals, never would listen to at all. Well, now, after the Election of 1885, occurred also a very important event, and that was the celebrated Amendment to the Address moved by my hon Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. 141 Jesse Collings), a most exemplary and innocent Resolution.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Yes; I supported it most heartily. I know, perhaps, as much of the secrets of it as my hon. Friend; but I shall tell no tales out of school. Now, that Resolution declared that facilities should be afforded to the agricultural labourers and others in the rural districts to obtain allotments of small holdings on equitable terms as to rent and security of tenure. The whole of the Conservative Party was up in arms against that Resolution. [Ministerial cries of "No, no!"] Oh, yes; my right hon. Friend the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) represented the Government on that occasion, and he said there was one thing he would have nothing to do with, and that was that blessed word "compulsion."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I have extracted the words carefully from a report of the right hon. Gentleman's speech; but if he disavows the words, of course I accept his disavowal. Will the right hon. Gentleman, however, deny that he said that this question was one which ought to be left to the country gentlemen of England to deal with, and that they would deal with it more fairly than any Alderman of Birmingham or any member of the Caucus; and that he said, moreover, that this Resolution— this innocent Resolutiou—of my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham was full of those predatory instincts of a class whose Socialistic schemes had found such powerful exponents in these days, and were adequately represented by the Member for Ipswich — my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham was then the Member for Ipswich — and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) said that the Resolution was full of the predatory instincts of a Socialistic class, and he ended by a declaration I am sure he will not disavow. And it was this—that, speaking for himself and the Government, he said, emphatically, "No" to that Amendment. Well, the Government staked its exist- 142 ence upon the rejection of the Amendment, and it fell. The next stage in the history of this very important event is that a few months afterwards my hon. Friend the Member for the Ilkeston Division of Derbyshire (Sir Walter Foster) introduced a Bill which embodied the views of the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jesse Collings). Again, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire came to the front, and said that he would vote against the second reading of the Bill. I, as representing the Government on that occasion, made a counter declaration by saying that we would vote for the Bill. That was on a Wednesday afternoon. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire had an ally whom I see now sitting behind me—the hon. Member for the Harrow Division of Middlesex (Mr. Ambrose), and the two of them talked the Bill out. That is the history of that Bill, and on the occasion of the discussion of the Amendment to the Address moved by my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) delivered his views. He was then representing, as I believe he still does, the true and orthodox section of the Liberal Party; and he said that the subject was too great to be disposed of after one night's debate. Well, but we are going to dispose of it now after a debate commencing at half-past 10 on the night of a day well on in August. I always admired the political philosophy of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said that the principle of the Bill was one which "reaches deep down into society,'' and he said that the principle against which he was contending was that the State should step in and take the place of the individual. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say that—The position is that it is assumed that voluntary effort has now failed, that the community should come to the rescue, and that we should put on the community at large tasks which I doubt whether the local authorities will be able satisfactorily to perform.That was the dangerous principle in the unauthorized programme against which the Chancellor of the Exchequer fought all over the country. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman the Member 143 for West Birmingham (Mr. J Chamber(lain upon the triumph of the unauthorized programme. He said that the right hon. Gentleman had actually succeeded in foisting upon the Liberal Party in the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) the unauthorized programme against which he and the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) had fought at the hustings all over the country. He would have none of it: and he said that they would be traitors to their consciences if they did not dare to speak out in the House of Commons against that Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, is never a traitor to his conscience. If ever there should appear a Bill which assumes that voluntary effort has failed, and that the community should come to the rescue, he will now, as he did then, unless he be a traitor to his conscience, denounce such a measure. I do not know exactly whether the right hon. Gentleman has ever been converted, or what is the process through which he has gone on this question. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) was an exceedingly heavy one, as his speeches always are. Well, now, will the right hon. Gentleman turn round now, and ask, is the Conservative Party prepared to adopt the principle of compulsion? As the true and orthodox exponent of Liberal principles, he said — "I want to know since when has this formed part of the creed of the free and general Liberal Party?" The right hon. Gentleman represents the free and general Liberal Party, and he said that compulsion should form no part of the creed of such a Party. "I ask," he said, "what was the date of the conversion of the Leaders of the Liberal Party?" Now, these were the doctrines of the right hon. Gentleman in the year 1886. Upon no possible grounds would he consent that there should be acquisition by the community of lands for the purpose of letting them out in allotments. That was a principle which was fatal to society; and, above all, compulsion should never form part of the doctrines of the free and general Liberal Party. Well, it is very remarkable that on that occasion he (Mr. Goschen) was supported by my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (The Marquess 144 of Hartington). It is generally supposed that what has been called the split in the Liberal Party arose out of the Irish policy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone); but it did nothing of the kind. The split of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale, and the Gentlemen who followed him—the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), the noble Lord the Member for Tavistock (Viscount Ebrington), the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. Arthur Elliot), the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock), Sir John St. Aubyn, Mr. Seely, the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Wodehouse), and others — broke off from the Liberal Party, not upon the Union at all, but upon the doctrine of land. It was upon this doctrine of land that the first declaration was made. Well, now, I hope we are not going to see a split in the Party opposite; I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not going to split from his new allies as he did from us. If they have adopted this terrible principle of substituting the community for the individual, if they have adopted the dangerous doctrine of compulsion, I hope he is a sincere convert to these doctrines, and that he will adhere to them. It is very satisfactory to us who have maintained for more than two years this doctrine that it should now receive universal acceptance. Oh, there will be other questions which you have declared you will be traitors to your consciences if you do not denounce — there are other questions which you will give way upon. [Cries of "Two years!"] Yes, for two years. Why, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been converted in 24 hours upon the question of revision of rent. I want to know whether this doctrine of compulsion and this doctrine of substituting the community for the individual have been accepted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and what are the arguments which induced him to accept now what he denounced in 1886? However, as far as the Bill is concerned, I am very glad all these alarms about Socialism and about jobs and dangers to the ratepayers, and all these terrible fears about compulsion are gone, and that we are 145 all agreed. The principles of this Bill are those so long contended for, and so honourably contended for, by the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings), and which, as I say, have obtained our support.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I beg my hon. Friend's pardon, that is not so. I have pointed out that I not only supported the Resolution of my hon. Friend, but that I supported the Bill drawn upon the lines of his Resolution, and introduced into the House by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Ilkeston Division of Derbyshire (Sir Walter Foster). I do not know whether my hon. Friend was here to support the Bill or not, but all I can say is that that Bill which was introduced under the authority of the Allotments Committee of Birmingham, was one for which I spoke, and for which I was prepared to vote within a few months after the adoption by the House of the Resolution of my hon. Friend. Well, then it is very satisfactory that these terrible socialistic doctrines are gaining ground. It is a great thing to find the Chancellor of the Exchequer, sitting where he is, recommending the unauthorized programme to the Conservative Party, and the Conservative Party taking to it as if it were their mother's milk. I may add my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) upon the illustrious convert he has made upon this occasion. I now come to an important matter—namely, the machinery of the Bill. I am sorry to see that, agreeing entirely, as I do, with the principle of the Bill, that is with the substitution of the community for the individual, and agreeing also with the compulsion without which the Bill, in my opinion, would be absolutely useless, the machinery of the Bill is very imperfect. This Bill was introduced under the circumstances I have stated by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie), who appeared to me to be at great pains to explain how very unnecessary the Bill was because of the enormous number of allotments already existing in the country.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENTBOARD(Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon, that is not a proper interpretation of my speech.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
That was the impression produced on my mind. The greater part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was occupied in showing what a great number of allotments there were all over the country, conveying the impression that there was very little necessity for anything more to be done, and that really this Bill was not very necessary but that he thought he would introduce it. That was the impression his speech made on my mind. He certainly expressed the hope that there would not be occasion to use it, and the whole speech seemed to be inspired with the spirit that we should do as little as possible, and that he would rather not have done anything at all. Well, there are three requisites in a Bill of this kind; first of all that you will have workable compulsory powers. Now, are the compulsory powers here workable? You have, in the first place, the Boards of Guardians, which Lord Salisbury says will disturb the peace of localities. I do not know why, but I think they are not generally regarded as very truly representative bodies, at all events, for such purposes as the Bill contemplates. When we recollect the principles upon which Boards of Guardians are elected it is quite obvious that these terrible Socialistic principles are not likely to find great favour with them. Then the next proceeding is that if the Local Authorities find the proprietors of the land unreasonable they are to appeal to the Court of Quarter Sessions, and the Court of Quarter Sessions is to exercise this power of compulsion. It is almost difficult to treat a proposal of that kind as a serious proposal. Does anyone imagine that such an authority as that is likely to exercise the principles of compulsion at all? I will say nothing more than what Lord Salisbury has said of them—namely, "That the Court of Quarter Sessions is an authority who would be likely to deal with it in a perfunctory spirit, and that no real results would follow." Such are the words of the head of the Government which pro- 147 duces this Bill. Then, having gone through the Board of Guardians and the Court of Quarter Sessions, it is to go to the Local Government Board, who are to introduce a Bill to carry it out. Can anyone go through the farce of believing that such a measure as this is meant to be worked at all? Perhaps, the fact may allay some of the terrible fears as to the Socialistic principle of the community taking the place of the individual, or as to compulsion that though the principle is admitted the machinery as constructed throughout the Bill will not work. Well, there is a second thing which is necessary—namely, that there shall be provision against extortionate prices. I consider that no measure of this kind will really be of any value unless you have a provision in it that the authorities shall be able to acquire land at a reasonable price; that there shall be no method of swelling prices with which we are familiar under compulsory clauses. Then, there is another thing of very great importance—namely, the prices at which these lands are to be let. It is said there are a large number of allotments already existing in the country. Have the right hon. Gentlemen whose names are on the back of the Bill ever inquired at what prices these allotments are let, or what relation the rents bear to the ordinary agricultural rent? There are hon. Gentlemen sitting behind me who are much more intimately acquainted with this matter than I am, and who will, no doubt, inform the House on the subject, but my information is that in a great number of these cases the rents are double, and very often a great deal more than treble those of agricultural rents. What is the use, therefore, of quoting allotments held on such terms as any mitigation of the necessity for a Bill of this description? Then, again, there is a question as to the extent of the letting. Since the 16th of June the Government seem to have had their attention turned to this point, and they have resolved upon an acre. Now, if the letting is confined to an acre, that will entirely exclude pasture letting, and I am quite sure that is not the wish of my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordosley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings). As a result of my observations I do not distinguish the least in the world between 148 a man having a small grass field in which he can keep a cow or a small plot on which he can grow vegetables. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, I happen to live in a district which is surrounded by people who have these small holdings, and who hold them with great advantage. I am extremely sorry that there should be a measure passed which should not afford facilities for lettings of this kind if the nature of the country is such as lends itself to such lettings. Of course I know districts where it is not possible, but on the other hand there are many districts where it is possible the best farm letting you could have would be a pasture field of two or three acres. I think it would be well to leave the extent of the letting to the Local Authorities, who undoubtedly would be the best judges, within reasonable limits, of what should be the size of the holdings. I do not see why it is necessary to restrict the size of the lettings to one acre. These are the observations I have to make upon the machinery of the Bill. I think the machinery of the Bill is totally defective in the multiplication of authorities to which you have entrusted it. I think that is a very grave defect in the Bill. I think that the Bill is also very defective, inasmuch as there is no provision made that land should be acquired at a reasonable rate. That is the second defect of the Bill. I also think, though I am very willing to accept one acre in the Bill, that the letting ought not to be restricted to one acre. I think that if you had a competent Local Authority you might very fairly leave the matter to them with a confidence that they would only let such land as could be used for the advantage of the people to whom it was let. Then what are we to do with this Bill which I think is sound in its principle, though defective in its machinery. I think it is quite clear we ought to vote for the second reading, if only to secure the advantage of the support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen). I think it is well the Session should not close without an opportunity being afforded the right hon. Gentleman of showing that without being a traitor to his conscience he is able to approve the principle of this Bill. He is no longer alarmed at the community assuming these duties. He is no longer terrified at the principle of compulsion, 149 and you ought never to make the process of conversion too hard and difficult. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is such a promising convert, he has already given up so many sacred principles from which he declared he never could depart, and we will encourage him in that course by reading tins Bill of his Government a second time. But, to say I believe this Bill really will work, that it will ever produce the results at which it is aimed would be to say that which I do not think. I am perfectly certain that so long as you keep this Bill with such machinery as that you have put into it it will never move at all. I do not know whether it is possible at this time of the Session, or whether it is possible at all to amend this Bill so as to give it real life and vitality; but, agreeing, as I do, cordially with the principles of the Bill, I shall take the course on this Bill which I have on all Bills ever produced on this subject— namely, support the second reading of the measure.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), in his concluding words, said he is going to vote for this Bill; but the principal part of his speech has not borne upon the question of allotments at all, but upon the consistency of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I think that the right hon. Gentleman, in attempting to convict others of inconsistency, is a sight for gods and men. If the right hon. Gentleman would publish a book entitled "Harcourt on Consistency," it could only be excelled in the extent of sale, and the amount of interest it would create by another book, if it could be written, entitled "Consistency on Harcourt." What is the difference between the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite? The difference is simply this—that the right hon. Gentleman gave pledges and broke them, and hon. Members opposite gave pledges and endeavoured to keep them. I wonder the right hon. Gentleman was not ashamed to refer to the General Election of 1885. He said that this subject was the great principle involved in the General Election of 1885. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: No, no; and Ministerial cries of "Yes, yes! "] I agree with him.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
That makes my argument stronger. The battle in 1885 was fought upon this question, and it was a great battle, won by the votes of the men whom this question affects. In their innocence they gave their votes to the Party of which the right hon. Gentleman was a responsible Member, on the distinct faith that this question was to be dealt with; but as soon as the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues came into power on the vote of 1885 they threw aside all these considerations, and nothing has ever been done by them. I am sorry, both for the tone of the debates in this House, and for the right hon. Gentleman's political reputation, that there should be such a repitition of the Hudibrastic speeches with which the right hon. Gentleman favours us. I wish that all questions brought before the House were treated more seriously and on their merits, and not from the point of view of that Bench or this. We know that both astronomers and landscape painters tell us that position is everything in regard to the subject; and the position of the seat occupied in this House by Members is everything, it seems to me, to be the view to be taken. Then, again, the right hon. Gentleman alluded to my Resolution in June, 1886. It is quite true that there was another pledge—the strongest pledge, it seems to me, that politicians can give—that this question should be dealt with; but as soon as the question had served as a hobby-horse on which right hon. Gentlemen could ride into power it was kicked away, and nothing more was heard about it. I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues would have kept their proceedings of 1886 as much as possible in the dark. As soon as the subject of the Resolution in favour of allotments had served its object it was cast aside, and the then Prime Minister went out of his way to speak of me as a man whose views he never sympathized with. I think there is something due to consistency—that if right hon. Gentlemen ride into power on a particular question they should not immediately kick away the ladder on which they have got into power. I am told that they never meant anything by 151 that Resolution—that they meant Ireland, or something else. I have always refused to believe, that I cannot conceive, any lower depth of degradation in politics than for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to accept a Resolution which places them in power, and, at the same time, in their inmost thoughts having no intention whatever of giving effect to it. Therefore, I refuse to believe that of the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues. The difference between the right hon. Gentleman and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are trying to pass this measure is, that the latter may have changed their opinions, but the former have broken their pledges. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby said the right hon. Member for Sleaford (Mr. Chaplin) gave an emphatic "No" to this question; but the right hon. Gentleman himself did worse. He gave an emphatic "Yes" to the Resolution before he got into power, and reserved an emphatic "No" when he was in power. Now, Sir, this appears to me to be the thread going through the speech we have just listened to — that the right hon. Gentleman, and others with him, are very much vexed to think that a Conservative Government is dealing with this question. The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to make a point out of the fact that he had supported a Bill on this subject— the second reading of the Bill. He did support the Bill which was introduced last Session, and he seemed to take great credit for it; but to what did that amount? To very little, seeing that while in power, and having the opportunity of doing something, the right hon. Gentleman gave no support to that policy, and it was not until he was out of power that he had endeavoured to advance the interests of the labourors who desire to have allotments.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
Yes; that makes it still worse; because the right hon. Gentleman, while declining to do what, as a Member of the Government, he could de—namely, introduce a measure on behalf of the Government, satisfied his conscience by voting for a private Member's Bill on a Wednesday afternoon. If the right hon. Gentleman can find any justification in that 152 very well; but, at any rate, we are not to be blinded by any such form of reading as that. Besides this, what did the Government say on a recent occasion? Why, that they opposed private legislation, because they were going to bring in a Bill of their own. That, surely, is reason enough for any Government to oppose a Bill, or to refuse to support a private Member's Bill if they pledged themselves to bring on a measure of their own, provided they mean to redeem their pledges which, in the present case, Her Majesty's Government have given sufficient indication that they mean to do. Coming to the measure, to me it is a great source of satisfaction, and I believe it is a source of great satisfaction to others who have this question at heart, to find the House seriously engaged on the question of allotments to labourers. For many years past this question has been before us with very little result. I do not think upon this question that either side of the House can reproach the other to any great extent. From the years 1881 to 1885 the question was talked out, counted out, kicked out without any impartiality all round; and it has only been within the past two or three years that it has been taken up and brought within the region of practical politics. There has been one difficulty in the way of making progress with it, and that has been the question of compulsion. That difficulty was introduced by both sides of the House. It was introduced by members of the schools of political economy, no matter on which side of the House they sat; therefore there is no room for any section of the House to cast reflection upon the other for the non-carrying out of this policy. I congratulate the Government, and I think the country will recognize their efforts in regard to two particular points of difficulty— namely, that which was always a difficulty, the question of the compulsory acquisition of the land and the question of the Local Authority for administrative purposes. I think that if we should go to a General Election again I and others who spoke so strongly at previous elections would be ashamed to say anything more about allotments, seeing that since 1885 nothing has been done, and nothing has been attempted to be done, until now; and now I come to the difficulty to which the right hon. Gentleman referred 153 as to local government and so on. Every Allotments Bill, or, indeed, any Bill affecting the rural classes, must suffer from the want of that which does not. exist—namely, the want of a good County Authority; therefore;, no Government is to be blamed on that head; but let us admit that the Government has chosen the best authority that exists in the towns. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, take the urban districts. I suppose there is nothing; better there in the way of Local Authority than the Town Council. I do not hear any contradiction to that. Mind you, that is a new idea. I was not intended or brought prominently forward at first that Town Councils in large boroughs should have the advantage of allotments; but the Government has placed that in the front; it has put the matter into the hands of the Town Councils, who, I believe, will use this Bill very largely: and they have also put into the Bill, that as soon as we get those "rural municipalities" — which, we think, according to the pledges given by all sides of the House, cannot be more than another 12 months ahead— those shall be the authority in rural districts. What could they have done move? Those two principles being conceded all other difficulties in connection with this Bill are minor ones. The two principles of compulsory purchase of land, and the Local Authority, so far as administration goes, being put upon one side, all the rest is plain sailing. Of course, we want to amend the methods and the manner by which the principles of the Bill are carried out. We think they are capable of great improvement, and I trust the Government, having admitted the principle, will, though they might rather disappoint other people, accept this Amendment in a generous spirit so as to make the Bill thoroughly effective. The Amendment will affect three things besides minor points. They will provide for setting the Act in motion, so that it may not become a dead letter in rural municipalities—I have no fear of its becoming a dead letter in the urban districts. They will provide for the methods of purchase, and the complement of one acre of arable land which is the three acres of pasture land. Those are the three principal things, and, above all, I hope the Government will determine to pass the Bill this Session. I know the Government will 154 pass it if they can; but I trust they will do so, no matter what obstacles or what delays may rise up before them—I trust that, they will pass an Allotments Bill this Session. Time, no doubt, is important, and I have no wish to detain the House. I should not have detained the House so long as I have were it not for those remarkable speeches —remarkable though usual, but never ceasing to be remarkable—from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. I would give anything if I had the twentieth part or even the hundredth part, of the swagger, and that particular element which I leave the House to describe, with which the right hon. Gentleman is so richly endowed. I need not detain the House with anything about the present supply of allotments. All I have to say is that if a district is well supplied the Bill will not be wanted, but that if it is not supplied then the Bill will become operative. If there are so many allotments already existing as some hon. Gentlemen say there are, what does that fact prove? It weakens the contention of those who say that labourers do not care for allotments. Then, bear in mind that this question is now for the first time receiving legislative encouragement. There has been no security for allotments up to now. They have been subject to the high rents of the last year or two, and all sorts of difficulty, and yet, in spite of everything, enormous numbers of allotments exist, therefore proving the pressing character of the demand; besides this, the measure will create a demand to a large extent, for it is a mistake to suppose that it is only the labourers who want allotments. It will be a. great blessing for the urban population, both from an economic point of view and from a Tory point of view. We cannot over-estimate the extent to which in a certain number of our manufacturing towns the workmen, who perhaps have only three or four days work a week in bad times, fill up their time in an economical and even profitable manner on their allotments, and will not only fill up their time and make some profit, but secure a solid addition to their dinner tables. The more we go on this principle the more those allotments are taken up in the country, provided only that the laud will be cultivated, the more we should rejoice. And one other thing I do hope 155 from this Bill is that the supply of milk, the want of which in cur rural districts is creating such havoc on the physical condition of the poorer classes, will be increased. There is this danger about it, that the poorer classes in the rural districts have so long been deprived of milk, have so long been accustomed to bring their children up without milk, that they do not any longer realize the danger and the difficulty and proper provision which the want of milk constitutes. I have no doubt that if this Bill is passed it will not be long before that in every village you will find good ample supply of milk, either by a man keeping a cow himself, or by people being able to buy the milk, as they used to be able to buy it in my younger days, at almost a nominal price. I will not keep the House any longer, I am sorry I have kept it so long; but I wished personally to express my gratitude to the Government for having brought on this practical measure. I believe that the agricultural labourers when they have seen through all the blarney which has been talked to them will believe that after all "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush;" and that that which their self-constituted friends proposed in 1885 and 1886, and did not do, they maybe grateful for to Her Majesty's Government. They will remember that the one Party talked so long about this subject, and did nothing with regard to it when they had the opportunity, and that from the other Party they have really got a substantial boon. All this will come out by argument, I do not fear about it, and therefore I trust that the Government, though the Session is late, will persevere and pass the Bill. I must say they are entitled to the thanks of all the friends of the agricultural labourer, and notwithstanding the pressure which has been put upon them from different sides of the House, they have passed Bills of great importance, Bills in which Members are greatly interested, yet they have withstood every importunity, and have dropped other Bills of enormous importance, and have taken up this, I hope with a determination of carrying it through Parliament. I trust we shall pass the second reading, and that the Bill will go through Committee with the improvements which I have indicated. The rural population will then enjoy a great blessing, they will enjoy almost 156 the first piece of legislation of a substantial character which has been done for them, and when the advantages of which they have hitherto had no experience will enable them to appreciate.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) made such frequent allusion to myself in the course of his opening remarks, that I trust the House will allow me to intervene for a few moments on this debate. I will not waste the time of this House by dwelling on what seemed to me very factious criticism on the part of the right hon. Gentleman on the House of Lords, and the consistency of Gentlemen who sit upon this side of the House—criticism which, coming from the right hon. Gentleman seems to fall exceedingly flat on his audience, and which, I think, has been sufficiently answered by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings). The right hon. Member for Derby criticized the Amendments of the Bill, but he tells us that he agrees entirely with its principle. What is the main principle of the Bill according to him? According to the right hon. Gentleman, the main principle is that land shall be acquired for allotments by compulsion. I take exception altogether to that statement. The principle of this Bill, as I understand it, is to facilitate the provision of allotments for enabling people in this country, if possible, by voluntary agreement, but by compulsion if agreement cannot be entered into. Upon an exceedingly incorrect statement, the right hon. Gentleman charged Lord Salisbury with, inconsistency, and said that, in the celebrated Newport speech, Lord Salisbury declared that he would not, under any circumstances, sanction any compulsion on this subject. That was the second inaccuracy on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. Lord Salisbury, certainly had referred to compulsion at Newport, but it was solely in reference to glebe lands. He declared that he could not sanction the principle of the compulsory purchase of glebe land from the clergy, but so far as regards the general question of the compulsory purchase of allotments he said not one word. Then the right hon. Gentleman declared that when the hon. Member who has just sat down moved 157 his Resolution in this House, the whole of the Party were up in arms, and that I myself had met it with an emphatic "No." The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that that was his third inaccuracy, for I recollect correcting him on this very subject on a former occasion. I told him then what I should have thought it would have been unnecessary for me to rise now and say, that what I offered an emphatic "No" to was a Motion of direct censure on the Government of the day, and that the whole of the speech I made was so strongly in favour of a large extension of the principle of allotments as any speech any hon. Member of the House could possibly have made. Then the right hon. Gentleman said there should be no "blessed word of compulsion," so far as I was concerned in any measure of this kind, and he gave the fourth inaccurate statement in regard to something he supposed I had said in the course of the debate to which I have alluded. I recollect very well making the allusion to the right hon. Member opposite to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, and saying that in dealing with this matter nothing but the "blessed word compulsion" would satisfy them. I never said, for a single moment, that I was not willing to agree to compulsion upon this question. As to what has been said by many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House with regard to the question of allotments, we are all liable to err. Subsequent experience and knowledge of the times than Gentlemen on this side previously hold upon the question—especially after the speech just delivered—have convinced us that the instincts of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham are by no means so predatory as we thought, and we see no reason whatever why hon. Gentlemen on this side should not heartily join with him in the endeavour to pass this Bill. Then, Sir, there was a fifth incorrect charge made by the right hon. Gentleman against me. The right hon. Gentleman declared that I opposed a precisely similar proposal when it was raised in the last Parliament. That is true. I did oppose the Bill introduced in the last Parliament, but what was the character of that Bill? Was it a Bill to facilitate the provision of allotments, and of allotments alone? No- 158 thing of the kind. It was a Bill to facilitate the provision of small holdings going up to 40 acres a-piece, the whole burden of the provision of which was to have been thrown on the rates. In consequence of its character, I opposed that Bill, and if it were now brought forward I should oppose it again to-night. Then the right hon. Gentleman charged the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) with having opposed the unauthorized programme of 1885, and of being perfectly willing to accept it to-day. But what similarity is there I should like to know between the unauthorized programme of that day and the modest proposal before the House now. Why, Sir, it is absurd to suppose that there is any similarity. When the right hon. Gentleman makes an unfounded statement of this kind, and when he charges us who sit on this side of the House with inconsistency, it surely would be wise of him to remember what his own record is on that point. He has heard a good deal on that subject already from the hon. Gentleman who sits near me, and I desire to take this opportunity of stating that if there is one man in this House more thoroughly consistent than another, and who has always been so from the first, it is the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham. I recollect perfectly well the first occasion on which he raised this question—on the 20th of July, 1883. What was the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby and his Colleagues who were in power at that time, with regard to the action of the hon. Member? There was not one amongst them who had a single word to say in support of the proposition of the hon. Member, and so entirely did they leave him in the cold that, although they were the Government in power at that time, and were in a position to influence the Business of this House, they allowed the House to be counted out. If I may be permitted to refer for a few moments to the Bill before the House, I would say that I am heartily glad to see that amongst the very first measures apart from Irish legislation which the Government have found themselves able to deal with is this Bill on the subject of allotments. It is a measure undoubtedly of vast interest and of the greatest importance to an enormous number of our population, 159 and so far as the working classes of our rural districts are concerned, I know of nothing in the way of legislation that is more likely to confer a real and substantial boon upon them than an Act providing them with facilities for obtaining decent sized allotments of land at a fair and reasonable rent and within a convenient distance of their homes. That I take it to be the object of the Bill now before us; that I take to be the object that my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) has in view; and that being so, I can only say that I, for one, subject to Amendments which I think it will be desirable to make in Committee, one or two of which I shall regard as being of considerable importance, am anxious to give it every support in my power. Now, having said that, I hope I may be allowed to offer one or two criticisms upon the measure as it stands. Now, it seems to me that the first thing we have to do and the first thing we have to consider in regard to a Bill of this kind is what is the best and the most satisfactory way of obtaining the object which you have in view. I am quite clear upon one point, that far and away the best means of providing the different classes whom we wish to provide with allotments at the present moment is to induce the landowners or the landlords in a particular locality to provide them themselves. I do not notice any provision in the Bill calling upon the Local Authorities with this object in the first instance. What the Bill provides is this, that the Local Authorities where there is a demand for allotments shall acquire land, if possible, by agreement, and, failing that, then powers are given them to acquire it by compulsion. Well, Sir, I am willing, and always have been quite willing from the first, to accept the principle of compulsion, and I have not the smallest objection to the Local Authorities acquiring land either by agreement or compulsion, if it is absolutely necessary in order to attain the object you have in view. What I have always contended is that these measures should be resorted to only as a last resource. It is far better, in my opinion -—and I do not think there can be a question about this—it is far better, both on the ground of expense and from every other possible point of view, to avoid collision with the landowner or landlord 160 as long as you possibly can. As to the machinery of the Bill, the House will observe that the whole of the initiation of proceedings in connection with this measure is placed in the hands of the Sanitary Authority. Well, the Sanitary Authority is, of course, of two kinds. You have the Urban Sanitary Authority and you have the Rural Sanitary Authority. I do not wish to say much about the Urban Sanitary Authority; I am not at all sure that they are not the best body to deal with a question of this kind; but I doubt if this measure is likely to have a very large effect in towns, especially in large towns. It seems to me unlikely, from the nature of the question. I do not think it is likely to have a large effect, and even if it were largely availed of under its provisions, the Urban Sanitary Authority would have to go to the County Authorities before they could bring the compulsory powers into play. But as regards the Rural Sanitary Authority, my objections to the Bill in its present form are more serious. The Rural Sanitary Authority is, of course, the Guardians. The Guardians consist of certain magistrates who are resident in the district and who, as a general rule, I think form part of the Boards, and in addition to these magistrates the Boards consist of farmers. I confess to some apprehension that the Rural Sanitary Authority, as the motive power and as the body having the initiative in this matter, will prove to some extent a snare and a delusion. Why, in the first place, everyone knows perfectly well that the Guardians, as a rule, would be quite as much afraid to do anything to increase the burden on the rates as I was myself last night, and with very much more reason. They well know that under this Bill allotments ought to be self-supporting, and I cannot help entertaining a very grave doubt that the Guardians will be desirous of avoiding everything that has a tendency to impose risk of a fresh increase on the rates, especially at a time like the present. And not only that, but the people who employ the labour of the persons who desire the allotments are not likely to be particularly anxious to afford those persons more facile modes of employment than they have at the present moment. I would like to see this matter gone into very carefully, as I am anxious that this should be made a really effective 161 measure. I must say that I should like to see the initiative to a much greater extent placed in the hands of the people who will want these allotments for themselves. I should like to see a certain number of the ratepayers and electors of the district hold a meeting and say to the Sanitary Authority—"We want allotments, and it is your business to move in providing them; "and then, if the Sanitary Authority failed to act upon this requisition, I would give the ratepayers power to appeal to the County Authority. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby just now said— "An appeal to the Quarter Sessions! Why, they are the very last people in the world to facilitate the provision of allotments." I should like to know on what ground he said such a thing as that. Who are the Quarter Sessions? Why, they are nearly all of them country gentlemen, and it is not denied, and it will not be denied by a single Member of this House, that the great majority of these gentlemen have already provided the allotments required by the rural population. If hon. Members will look at the most recent Returns on this subject they will find that though there may be still a large unsatisfied demand in this matter, yet that a great deal has been done already; and it is only reasonable to suppose that the gentlemen constituting the Quarter Sessions will not, when appealed to, hesitate to compel the minority of landlords to do what they have done themselves. And now I would say one word on the subject of the limit of one acre. Some people think that one acre is too small an amount of land to give in the shape of an allotment, whilst others think that it is too large an amount. Now, I sympathize very much with the view of the hon. Gentleman opposite who is anxious to afford facilities to the rural population for providing themselves with milk. Undoubtedly it would be of the greatest possible benefit to afford these facilities; but I honestly confess that, having given some thought to this question, I do not see my way at present to providing by compulsion three acres of pasturage for every cottager. I do not see where it is to be obtained, especially in agricultural districts, where grass land is very scarce. With every sympathy for the view of the hon. Gentleman, it would be dishonest on my 162 part if I did not say that I do not see my way to carrying out the plan which he seems to think so desirable I would have limited the allotments under the Bill to half an acre instead of an acre if I could have my own way. I have here a great authority on the matter — the evidence given by Mr. Arch, who was lately a Member of this House, before the Agricultural Commission in 1881. It is quite true that Mr. Arch had strongly contended that if a man was able to do it, and if he had been successful in one allotment, there was no reason why he should not have more, yet on the general ground of what was most desirable to obtain Mr. Arch made this statement; I myself asked him the question; I said with regard to those who must remain in their present position—speaking of the agricultural labourers—I want to know what size of allotment is sufficient in your practical experience to give them a comfortable home and a good garden?His reply was—If I were going to apportion the land out, I should give a quarter of an acre first, and if a man cultivated that properly and made the best of it, I would increase it to half an acre, and if he did not do that he should not have it.That is the opinion of Mr. Arch, a representative of the labourers, who knows as much on this subject, I suppose, as any Member of the House of Commons, and I am bound to say that, from any experience I have acquired on this subject, my views upon the matter would be identical. I would call attention to Clause C, which provides that no building whatever shall be erected on a holding. Now, I think that it would be a mistake to pass such a provision. While it might be right to provide that no building shall be erected to be used as a dwelling house or a workshop, supposing a holding is half-a-mile away from a building, surely it would be hard to prevent the labourer from erecting a tool house to hold his spade and other implements without compelling him to carry them to and fro. Then there is nothing that the agricultural labourer looks more forward to and there is nothing that more shows that he is in a prosperous condition than being able to keep a pig, and I think it is very desirable that the measure should permit him to build a pigstye on his allotment. I would ask for information only with regard to one clause more, and that is as to the last line 163 of the Bill, which says that the land is to include the right of way or easement. I do not quite understand, that provision, but probably when we get into Committee on the Bill the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will explain what it means. I would now only re-echo the words of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham—namely, that the Government will use every endeavour to pass the Bill this Session.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)
When the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) introduced this measure on the 18th July, I had not the pleasure of hearing his speech, but I read it, and I saw that he said this—The Allotment Question has made great progress during the past few years ‥‥ Nearly one-half of the whole number of agricultural labourers in England and Wales have been provided with allotments."—(3 Hansard,  1303–4.)The figures he gave to prove this are as follows:—In the first place, he estimated the number of labourers at 800,000, and said that of these the number holding: under one-eighth of an acre was 131,207; the number holding from one-eighth to a quarter of an acre was 103,915; and the number holding from one acre to four acres was 35,036; and his conclusion was "so that if we deduct the cottage gardens, nearly one-half are provided with allotments." Now, Sir, the answer to this is first of all that allotments under one-eighth of an acre are a parody altogether on the word allotment. As has already been pointed out by the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) you have not alone got to consider the 800,000 agricultural labourers, but you have to consider the large urban population which wants allotments every bit as much. The existing 386,513 allotments are probably not more than two-thirds, and possibly not more than one-half occupied by agricultural labourers, and this applies even more to the occupiers of cottage gardens of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. But the right hon. Gentleman said nothing about the prices and conditions upon which the voluntary system meets the wants of our large population. I have taken some pains to inquire into this subject, and I 164 only wish that every other Member of the House had done the same—I dare say a great many have done so. I have taken pains to find out, so far as my own constituency is concerned, how many allotments exist there, and what are the conditions under which they are held. I had the honour of addressing the House on this subject during the last Parliament, and I then gave a few figures bearing upon this question. Since then I have collected a great many more. I have Returns from 100 parishes, which I should be very happy to show to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and I find from these that only in 10 per cent of the cases is the price charged for the allotment land the same as the agricultural rent—Imean adding to it the 10 per cent which ought, of course, to be added for local taxation—10 or even 15 per cent. I think it is only fair, as I have already mentioned the names of those noblemen who charge for the allotments they let four or five times the amount of the agricultural rent, to say that in the reference I am now making I have in my mind, as the estates upon which agricultural rents only are charged, those of the Earl of Harrowby and Lord Gainsborough. According to these Returns, on 75 per cent of the holdings the rent charged is more than double the agricultural rent, and in the case of the others the rent goes up to five, six, or even 10 times the agricultural rent. I have a letter here from a labourer. I think I had better not mention names, though the communication is open to any hon. Member who may wish to see it. The writer says—I return you the forms filled in as well as I can gather information, but there is a large quantity of land within the village that is let as garden which was originally let as allotments, but which the tenants have planted with fruit trees, and are now charged from £8 to £10 per acre.The price of agricultural land there is from 25s. to 28s. per acre. Another letter which I have received discloses a state of things which prevails in connection with a great many of these allotments. The writer says —I have answered the questions as near as I am able to do. There are about as many people here as have no allotments at all, as have got allotments, and you will see that there is a great deal of difference in what the farmers and what the poor pay. We get served bad by our 165 landlady. We must not offend in the least or it's out you go! as there is always someone ready to take what is given up. We used to pay more than we do now. The people begin to think now there is some chance of having some land, and they say they know now who their real friends are."We must not offend in the least or it's 'Out you go' "—such are the terms on which many allotments are held; the price is often cruel and unfair and the conditions are those which accompany serfdom, and not those proper to dealings between free men. What we contend for is not the voluntary allotment given by a kind landowner, or by a landowner for political reasons; but what we contend for is the right of every labourer to occupy on fair terms as much of his native soil as he can fairly cultivate by spade culture. We look upon this as a right and as no favour at all. The great fallacy that underlies the argument of the President of the Local Government Board is that as regards price and conditions, he does not make allowance for the fact that voluntary allotments do not at all comply with what we conceive to be absolutely necessary. But I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we have made an enormous advance in this question of late. It was only in the summer of 1885 that many of us fought our elections on this question of the right of the labourers to allotments, and received for our pains a good deal of what I considered at the time to be unmerited abuse. We were denounced as plunderers and Socialists for preaching as our gospel the right of the labourer to enjoy "a piece of his native land for spade culture at a fair rent." I will not allude to anything that was said by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tewkesbury Division of Gloucester (Sir John Dorington), who was my opponent at that time. I prefer to take as a sample of the attacks made upon us what was said by two hon. Gentlemen who were then, but who are not now, Members of this House. I am not going to trouble the House with long quotations; but I would mention that while spending a little holiday in Yorkshire I had the pleasure of hearing these words by the Hon. Guy Dawnay—He was going to deal with these doctrines, the immorality of which was only equalled by their absurdity and impracticability.…Mr. Jesse Collings's idea of depriving the owners of land of their property—what he called the 166 allotment system—was the very worst system that could possibly he conceived for the labouring classes of the country.These words were used at Marska, in the Cleveland Division of the North Riding. Mr. James Lowther, on the same occasion, said—They must all have listened with great pleasure to the masterly speech of their Member, Mr. Dawnay, who had shown that he had a complete grasp of this political problem of the land, and who had completely exposed the crude fallacies and untenable balderdash propounded by Mr. Jesse Collings.Hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House now find very much better language to use towards my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, and he gives them back very suave speeches. The language he uses now is rather different from that employed by him with regard to Tory landlords at the time of which I am speaking. But I leave him to settle that matter with them—I will not interfere with the harmony of the evening. A great and a happy change has come over the minds of a great many Members, and I am not one of those who desire to throw charges of inconsistency at random about the House. With regard to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), who I am sorry to see is not in his place. I did not like to rise to interrupt him when he contradicted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt); but I have some extracts from the speeches which, were delivered in this House by the right hon. Gentleman, and I should like to be permitted to trouble the House with a few words from these, because we have heard a very flat contradiction from the right hon. Gentleman. According to Hansard of the 26th January, 1886, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin), in the speeeh of "emphatic No!" which he delivered in the memorable debate on the question of the "three acres and a cow," said he was in favour of Lord Salisbury's glebe scheme, but he ridiculed compulsion. He said—Nothing would satisfy them but that word which is of so much blessing and comfort to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham — that blessed word 'compulsion.' "—(3 Hansard,  452.)He went on to speak of the proposal of 167 Lord Salisbury at Newport as his alternative—If that be done you will find—and this is my answer to the statement of the hon. Member for Ipswich—‥‥ in a great number of the parishes of England land thrown upon the market of just about the right amount, and probably just about the right description, and situated in places such as are requisite and most suited for the agricultural labourers of the country." — (Ibid. 455.)The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Western Division of Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), who was—I believe I am right in saying—the Leader of the House at the time, spoke in ridicule of—An attempt to redeem all those wild and astounding promises which were made at the General Election to the deluded agricultural labourer." — (Ibid. 517.)Was that right hon. Gentleman a convert to compulsory allotments on the 26th January, 1886? He is reported to have said in The Times' Reports, p. 112—Although there are points connected with that important question of compulsion to which I could not hold out for a moment that Her Majesty's Government would be able to give their adhesion.As allusion has been made to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) in the same debate, I will not give the extract; but it is amusing now to recollect the way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) spoke in reply. He said—My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen) has promised to vote for them—my right hon. Friend is going to exchange sides; but I do not think he will gain much by the change."—(Ibid. 515.)Well, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), on the 31st March, 1886, according to Vol. 2 of The Times, p. 49, made a speech in opposition to an Allotments Bill. He said—Compulsion should be the last resort in its operation, and his complaint as regarded this Bill was that compulsion was the first thing of all others put in the foreground from beginning to end.And again he said later on in his speech—What I said was that I did not desire compulsion, but I was not afraid of it.That is a great advance on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincolnshire. On the 26th January, 168 1886, he ridiculed compulsion; on the 31st March he had got so far that he was "not afraid of it;" and a little later he fathered a Bill which contained a compulsory clause. In a debate upon another measure he spoke of "fine old full-flavoured Tory Resolutions." This right hon. Gentleman who has told us the deep interest he feels in the welfare of the agricultural labourer showed how much he loves them by saying on the second reading of the Technical Instruction Bill that the most effectual reform in educational matters that he knew of, so far as the agricultural interest was concerned, would be that the sons of agricultural labourers, the boys who formerly used to work in our fields, should he allowed to go into the fields at a considerably earlier age than they did now. I do not wonder that an hon. Member on the other side—I think it was the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Elliott Lees)—spoke afterwards of that speech and of another speech or two of the same character delivered on that side of the House as speeches of dead Tory fossils. I hope the Government will not listen quite so much to the advice of right hon. and hon. Members on the other side, who are described by the hon. Member for Oldham in that way, because there are hon. Gentlemen on their side of the House who represent large popular constituencies who know the need for these allotments, who know the hearty desire of the people to have them, and who are not willing to be fettered by the old-fashioned prejudices of the squirearchy. I do not propose at this time of night to go into the details of the Bill. I am going to vote for the second reading for the sake of its principle of compulsory powers, because I thoroughly agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that without compulsion no Allotments Bill will be worth the paper it is written on. I think I have shown that at all events, so far as my own experience goes in my own constituency, the voluntary system has utterly failed. Whoever is charged with the working of the allotment system should have power to take over the existing voluntary allotments, or to see that the rents charged under that system are fair rents. The second great blot, and the greatest blot of all to my mind, in this Bill is its machinery—the bodies to whom the administration of the measure is en- 169 trusted. I protest against the proposal to entrust these powers to the Boards of Guardians. "Who are the Boards of Guardians" in the rural districts? Why, they are the farmers of the districts. They are the very men whom Bishop Ellicott advised a few years ago to put Joseph Arch into the pond if he came to their neighbourhood preaching his doctrines. I protest against the Guardians being entrusted with these powers. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board says he dismisses the County Authority because it is not representative. Well, but are the Guardians representative of the poor? If you want to make them so, you must do three things. You must make the elections by ballot, and not by voting papers. You must abolish the property qualification, and you must adopt the principle of one man one vote, in place of the cumulative system. Lord Salisbury, speaking on the 16th June on Lord Dunraven's Bill, objected, as the House has heard already, both to Quarter Sessions and to the Guardians—to the former because he said they would exercise their powers in a "perfunctory spirit," and to the Guardians because they would net in such a way that there would be "danger to the peace of the locality." It is not often that I agree with Lord Salisbury, but I do agree with him in that. If you are going to give allotments with one hand and take them away with the other by handing over to the Guardians the administration of the Bill, I think the effect of the measure will be that which Lord Salisbury has described. As well might you hand over the administration of the Bill introduced by an hon. Friend of mine to provide sites for the building of chapels for Nonconformists to the Bench of Bishops. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite why, when they take up questions of this kind, do they make their proposals such shams? They passed an Agricultural Holdings Bill for the farmers. They put a clause in it at the end making it permissive, and rendered it worthless. The same with your Technical Instruction Bill. You admit the want of technical instruction, and you make a half-hearted attempt to satisfy it. You make your Bill, so far as the large mass of the population is concerned, entirely worthless; you render its benefits available only to a few. 170 And now, in the present Bill, you say you want to give the agricultural labourers allotments, and yet you hand over the administration of the Bill to men whom you not only know have no sympathy with the agricultural labourers, but are diametrically opposed to their interests. [Cries of "No, no!"] The Guardians, in 49 cases out of 50, are Tory farmers, and to the tender mercies of these men, forsooth—these elected Guardians, reinforced, whenever a question of property comes up, by all the ex officio Guardians, all the owners of the very property you are to take—you entrust the administration of the law! I submit that if this Bill passes in its present form, and with its present machinery, it will be nothing more nor less than a sham, and will not be worth the paper on which it is written. I appeal to Conservative Members on the other side who do not represent large landed interests— I appeal to Conservative Members on the other side, whom I thoroughly believe to be anxious to promote the interests of the working classes as much as we ourselves—I appeal to them not to let the "dead fossils" of their Party influence the shape which this measure will ultimately bear. I appeal to them to bring their influence to bear upon the Government, and to make this Bill, while they have it in hand, a reality and a blessing to the agricultural poor.
§ MR. HULSE (Salisbury)
I venture to ask the House to permit me to address a few words in support of the principle of this measure, because, though I am a Member for an urban population, I have passed most of my life in the country, and on an estate and in a district where the practice of granting allotments has existed for many years. I am sure that no one who has witnessed what I have done — the eagerness with which members of my constituency have availed themselves of agricultural holdings secured to them by the good offices of the Mayor of the borough which I represent—will doubt that the working classes, both in town and country, welcome the opportunity of securing for their personal cultivation a piece of land to which they may devote their labour and their skill. On the estate to which I have referred allotments are no new boon. They are not baits thrown out to catch 171 the votes of the newly enfranchised. On the contrary, the labourers on that estate have for the last 40 years been able to secure 40 lugs of land, or a quarter of an acre. In. my experience I have never found in urban or rural districts that the granting of allotments has in any way rendered the services of those who have devoted their labour to the soil less valuable to the employers. Nor have I found that they have deserted their work. On the contrary, I have found that in nine cases out of 10 it has produced beneficial social effect. So much for the value of the allotments, both to the employers and the employed. I will now ask the House move especially, if I might do so, to accede to the principle of the Bill that where allotments cannot be otherwise secured the authority of the law maybe evoked to compel landowners to grant them. Compulsion and coercion are terms that we have heard used in this House and throughout the country on many occasions lately. They have been used by various speakers to justify varying ideas; but the allotment system is, I think, a necessity, and one which is felt in very many districts. It is a boon which the quiet, industrious, and law-abiding labourers of England most richly deserve. The importance of this debate cannot be exaggerated, and I hope Her Majesty's Government will not allow anything to prevent this Bill becoming law this Session. I do hope they will see that this first installment of legislation for the agricultural community of this country is carried, because I think the wants and the wishes of that community are quite as much entitled to consideration as those of any other class. By carrying this measure during the present Session a grievance will be abolished; and it appears to me, Sir, that the abolition of grievances is peculiarly the duty and mission of the Party who now occupy these Benches. Two years have elapsed since that memorable night when a former Conservative Administration was defeated, because there was no mention of this very measure in the programme of the Session. I think it will be a triumph that this Party is now to be entrusted with this measure, and with the personal settlement of this once vexed question. The delay in bringing the matter forward was not of our 172 seeking. I do not think Her Majesty's Ministers can be blamed for not bringing this matter forward earlier in the Session. The state of Ireland, and the time demanded by Irish Representatives, prevented this and many other measures of social and domestic reform receiving the attention of the House; but I can assure the Government, and I hope I shall not be considered presumptuous in doing so, that they will receive the cordial and enthusiastic support of hon. Members representing not only rural, but urban constituencies as well, if they will use their influence for the passing of this Bill during the present Session, and I look forward with confidence and interest to yet other measures for relieving the agricultural and the farming classes from the result of that depression, and from those incidents of taxation from which they are alike suffering. Some reference has been made—I think it was by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt)—to one of the details of the Bill which can scarcely commend itself to the favourable notice of the municipal boroughs of England, for they will naturally prefer that their own Corporation, whom they elect and control, should have the power of setting this Bill in motion, and of determining all questions as to ways and means. In my own constituency, to which I have already referred, the working classes, through the intervention and the efforts of the Mayor, have secured very valuable plots of land for allotments. But, on the other hand, I fully admit that there should be a multiplication of authorities with powers of purchase. I hope the Members of Her Majesty's Government, when formulating their scheme for county government, may be enabled to secure the due representation on the County Boards of the various Municipal Corporations in the county area. It may seem strange that upon this occasion—the first upon which. I have addressed the House—I should have ventured to intrude myself upon the notice of the House on a subject in which my constituents are but slightly interested, yet I thought the House would accord me their indulgence while I made these few remarks, because I know from personal observation the very great benefits of the allotments system in town and country, and because I feel that any measure which directly or in- 173 directly gives the working classes, whether ill town or country, increased interest in the land must be beneficial as tending to point out to them by personal experience how great are the dangers and how heavy are the responsibilities to those who seek to cultivate the land for profit and support. Such a measure as this will also, I think, prove to the labourer that the price of produce must have some influence and some weight in regulating and fixing the wages paid to him and his class; and it will, I hope, open his eyes to the great danger of foreign competition, and also to the wisdom and necessity of encouraging and increasing, as far as possible, the home supply of food. I hope hon. Members will forgive me for venturing to take up their time; and, in conclusion, I repeat my appeal to Her Majesty's Government to leave no stone unturned, to use their best endeavours to secure, during the present Session, the addition of this very valuable and most useful, and most essential measure to the Statute Book.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I can assure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Hulse) that Her Majesty's Government will most certainly use their very best endeavours in order to pass this Bill. I trust we may rely upon the assistance of both sides of the House to accomplish that result, and, in passing, I hope I may be allowed to congratulate the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hulse) both on the temper, and the form, and the substance of the speech which he has just delivered. The Government will not only do their best to press forward this Bill, but to give effect to it. The hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. Winterbotham) spoke of this Bill as a sham. I prefer to take in this matter the opinion of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings), who is, I think, a greater authority even than my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester upon a Bill of this kind, and in the judgment of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham this is a Bill which well deserves the support of the House. Now, I shall leave the criticism upon the various suggestions which have been made with regard to the details of this Bill to my right hon. Friend the President of the 174 Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) who is in charge of the measure, but I trust the House will give me its indulgence for a few moments, if I intervene in this debate, to reply to the challenge made to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). I think I almost owe it to the House to reply to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I have a kind of feeling that he rather likes personal questions, as he forces them on, on every occasion he can, and I had n profound conviction which has not been falsified by the event that when he was so pressing to have the Bill brought on at an earlier hour it was because he had got a great speech ready in which he was going, not to discuss the advantages which would result to the agricultural labourer from this Bill, but in which he would be able to pose, after his manner, as the Representative of consistency in this House, while charging other Gentlemen with every inconsistency. I am afraid I am bound to waste a minute or two of the time of the House in replying to the right hon. Gentleman, and I only trust his example will not be followed by any other hon. Members. The hon. Member for Cirencester spent a very large portion of the time which he took up with his speech in an account of personal considerations, and apologized when he came to the details of the Bill. After consuming a considerable time with personal questions, he said —''Well, I think I ought to say a few words upon the details of the Bill." It appears to me it would be better to discuss the Bill itself than to discuss the previous declarations of other Members of the House. I am prepared to meet the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. He takes a deep interest in the natural history of my alleged conversion, and so he is anxious to know what can have induced me to be converted upon the principle of compulsion which is introduced into the Bill. He asks whether I have been converted upon 24 hours' notice. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that if a man has held principles for two years, he has held them for a very long time. According to the standard of the right hon. Gentleman, if men adhere to views for two years together they may be considered consistent politicians.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
This question was started in 1883. In 1883 this question was brought before the House, and the right hon. Gentleman, who was then in Office, allowed the House to be counted out. In 1885, during the Election, he was a convert to the system, and a warm and enthusiastic convert; but when he came into Office again, as has been pointed out by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, the question was dropped. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: No, no!] Now, I will be perfectly frank with the House on this subject. In the speech to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded I stated my objection to the principle of compulsion. I stated that I thought it was far better that individuals should continue to perform their duties than that they should be compelled by the State to perform their duties. I hold that opinion still. If in this Bill there is the principle of compulsion, and if I have assented to it as a Member of Her Majesty's Government, I bare assented to it because it is impossible any single Member of the Government can carry out his own views upon every possible question, and not because I have been converted with regard to the principle. I am not one of those who can use such a canting phrase as to say they have found salvation. I do not wish to minimize the views which I hold, but right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and all hon. Members of the House, must know that it is perfectly impossible that every individual can carry his views in every possible respect. I bow to the decision of the House in general, to the views of hon. Members who sit upon this side of the House, and who are in favour of the principle of compulsion, and I believe they will prefer that I should boldly stand here and say I retain my individual opinion in regard to the principle of compulsion, rather than that I should profess to be converted under the exigencies of the situation. It appears to me that is a more honest and fair way of dealing with the House than to profess sudden conversion. At the same time, I have never been otherwise than favourable to allotments in themselves, though I may differ from some hon. Members as to the best 176 method of multiplying them. Now, what happened when the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham introduced his measure relating to small holdings and allotments? In the speech which I made on that occasion, I expressed the opinion which I hold to this day, and which I am glad to see embodied in the Bill before the House— namely, that the promotion of the system of allotments is of the greatest possible interest to the agricultural labourer, and to the agricultural interest generally. I declared my adhesion to the principle of allotments, and I said I believed, as I believe now, that all the evidence was in favour of the extension of that system. One of the very reasons I gave against compulsion was that the process of giving allotments was going forward at a great pace. The voluntary system was at work, and was working, I do not say with sufficient rapidity, yet with considerable rapidity. I trust that the time may not be far distant when every labourer will have an allotment, though I think that the principle laid down by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester is somewhat dangerous. The hon. Gentleman says it is not a question of expediency that every labourer should have an allotment, but it is a question of right. Now, considering how agricultural labourers may multiply, I should like to know how right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who cheered the sentiment that every labourer has a right to an allotment, are afterwards, with the limited land at their disposal, going to carry out the principle they advocate? It is the desire of the House—it is the desire of both Parties in the House—that every agricultural labourer should, if possible, have an allotment, and this Bill is honestly intended to carry out that object. I have frankly told the House I am not in favour of the principle of compulsion; but, having accepted it in this Bill, I, as well as every other Member of the Government, am anxious that this Bill should not be a sham, but should be a reality, and that every agricultural labourer who looks forward with hope to the legislation which we are now passing may not be disappointed in his hope. The Government will be prepared to accept every suggestion or modification which, in their judgment, will give increased facilities and increased efficiency to the 177 Bill, which they propose with a great and deep desire that it may be effectual in meeting the desire of the agricultural classes for allotments.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
Mr. Speaker, we are sorry on this side of the House that we have not had a more definite and explicit statement of conversion from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He states be is still opposed to the principle of compulsion. I should like to know how many of his Colleagues are opposed to it? He accepts this Bill as a matter of expediency, and not of principle, and he dismisses the right of agricultural labourers to allotment of land on the ground that they may multiply.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER
The right hon. Gentleman admits the expediency, and denies the right because they may multiply.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I am sure the hon. Gentleman has no wish to misrepresent me. I pointed out that if you once admit the right of an agricultural labourer to a certain amount of land, in the future, as they multiply, you may find it is absolutely impossible to meet the demand you admit.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER
As to the agricultural labouring classes multiplying, it is well known that during the last 20 years they have rapidly decreased, and decreased to the extent, as I stated in a previous debate, of 30,000 a-year. I therefore think the contingency the right hon. Gentleman seeks to put before the House is not a contingency we need entertain. Now, I am very anxious that this Bill should not be a sham. I regret that in its present form it is likely to end in a sham. I shall vote for the second reading, not because I think the Bill is worthy of the Government which has introduced it, or worthy of the support given to it by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings), but because I hope in Committee the Bill may be so amended that it may end in a reality. There are three or four points in connection with this Bill to which attention ought to be directed. First of all, I regard the Bill as extremely unsatisfactory on account of the nature 178 and the size of the allotments it is proposed to give to the agricultural labourers. It has been contended by many people who have devoted a good deal of time to this matter that one acre of arable land or three acres of pasture land are the complements of each other, and that no Allotments Bill will be satisfactory which does not provide for three acres of pasture land. My hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham spoke very properly and wisely of the necessity of providing milk for the children of the agricultural labourer. Milk is one of the prime essentials to the health and growth of a peasantry; but at the present time the English peasantry are deprived of it. Where in this Bill does my hon. Friend find a provision for giving the agricultural labourer milk? One acre of arable land will not do it, and three acres of pasture land, which would give it to him, are not in the Bill. Then as to the size of the allotments. I desire to call hon. Members' attention to the fact that the Bill says the maximum allotment is to be an acre; and the Government do not contemplate—if I may judge from the words used by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) in introducing the Bill—that labourers shall get anything like that extent of land to cultivate. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board pointed out that of the 386,000 allotments existing in the country 250,000 are under a quarter of an acre; and he said—"Probably the size of the great bulk of allotments under this Bill will not be greater than this quantity." Why, a quarter of an acre of land is not sufficient to alter the social and material condition of the agricultural labourer. We want them to have something that will aid them in increasing their scanty means and give them more comfort and food; therefore, any Bill which does not provide for a greater allotment than one acre, and which contemplates, in the opinion of those who introduced it, a quarter of an acre, is not a satisfactory conclusion to the great controversy which has been going on for so long a time. Then with reference to the Compulsory Clauses of this Bill. I cannot discuss them at any length. That is rather work for the Committee stage; but I may say that the Compulsory Clauses are cumbrous, 179 and absolutely unworkable. By the time the agricultural labourer has grown old the necessary scheme will be passed through this House for giving him the allotment he applies for, at any rate, a very considerable time will elapse before the agricultural labourer applying for an allotment under this Bill will be able, in view of these unworkable clauses, to obtain one. Now, land will be purchased under this Bill, not, as was contemplated by my hon. Friend (Mr. Jesse Collings) in his Bill, at a price as between a willing vendor and a purchaser in the open market, but by some scheme of agreement or arbitration, which will add considerably to the purchase money, and thus necessitate an increase of the rent required from the labourer. I do not want to discuss this Bill at any length; but as I was in charge of the Bill in the last Parliament —the Bill of my hon. Friend—I may here distinctly repudiate on behalf of the Allotments Association and the gentlemen with whom I act in this matter, and acted then, any charge as to unfairness or breach of faith on the part of the then Government. We received most valuable assistance from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt). He spoke in favour of our Bill, and he promised us the support of the Government to get it carried, and we should have carried the second reading on that day, -when my hon. Friend (Mr. Jesse Collings) was, unhappily, absent from the House, from causes to which I will not refer, but for the action of certain Gentlemen who now sit upon the Ministerial Benches. This, Sir, is known not only to the House, but throughout the country; it is well known that the then Government were perfectly willing to support the Bill, based as it was upon the lines and embracing the principles of the Amendment of my hon. Friend to the Address in the last Parliament. I hope this Bill will be carried; and let me say that we have seen some notable examples of progress in this matter. We have seen the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) go through three stages of conversion. I have watched him advance with considerable interest. He was cool on the first occasion that my hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham 180 moved his Amendment to the Address; he got a little warmer afterwards when discussing the second reading of the Bill I introduced, but now he has become quite warm in favour of allotments. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I actually moved the rejection of the hon. Gentleman's Bill. I do not know whether he calls that getting a little warmer in its favour.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER
I did not refer to the right hon. Gentleman's action in moving rejection of the Bill of which I had charge. The warmth to which I referred was his warmth in reference to doing something for the agricultural labourer in the shape of allotments, and I congratulate him on having a much higher opinion of Mr. Joseph Arch, now that gentleman is out of the House, than he had when he was in the House. Mr. Joseph Arch described the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman introduced as not worth the paper it was written on. I have no doubt if he were here he would be able to take care of himself; but, in his absence, I venture to call that fact to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. We wish for reform, and, looking at the matter from the point of view of the agricultural labourer, for whom we are more or leas able to speak, we congratulate the Government on their conversion to the principle of compulsion. I wish they had been converted more generously, and had accepted the principle more largely. I can, however, understand why they do not accept the principle more generously. It was only in the last debate upon this question of allotments that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board—the Member for Devizes (Mr. Long)—distinctty affirmed that in nine cases out of 10 where labourers wanted allotments, and where the land was suitable, they could get them at a fair rent. I can quite understand Gentlemen who utter and believe such a sentiment when it suits them are not very anxious to make the Compulsory Clauses of this Bill as wide and generous as they might be.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
We have witnessed to-night a very extraordinary performance on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. 181 Goschen). He rose, professedly agreeing with this Bill, and expressing his determination, so far as it was possible for; him, to see that the Bill was passed this; Session. But, before he sat down, he made it perfectly clear he was opposed to the only part of the Bill which is of the least possible value to the labourers, and that is that part of the Bill which affirms the principle that compulsion j shall be applied if necessary to provide the labourers with allotments. It is a most extraordinary position which the right hon. Gentleman occupies upon this question. He strongly opposed compulsion, when he thought there was no question of the expulsion from Office of the Tory Government; but when it is necessary to support compulsion in order to retain the Tory Government in Office he supports it. A more extra-ordinary confession of weakness and want of consistency has seldom been witnessed in the House. Then, as to the complaint of the late Government in respect to this allotments question, the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Coliings) can scarcely remember the facts of the case when he brings this serious charge against his late Colleagues. The Government of the day did all they could to support the Bill, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby made a strong speech in support of it. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laugh, but surely we have our recollection, and the opportunity of refreshing our memory of what occurred. I remember distinctly that the right hon. Gentleman did make an earnest speech in support of the second reading of the Bill, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who rose as champions of the cause to-day are those who on that occasion defeated the Bill by talking it out on a Wednesday afternoon. I confess 1 was rather surprised at the enthusiasm of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham in support of the Bill. True, its aim and proposal is to provide allotments for labourers, but I remember that the great point of my hon. Friend in this class of legislation was not so much allotments as small holdings. He, times out of number, declared that legislation of this kind would altogether fail unless it provided for small holdings of from 20 to 60 acres in extent.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but indeed I never said anything of the kind, or anything like it. I have always said that allotments are quite distinct from small holdings.
§ MR. BROADHURST
I shall avoid, if possible, drifting into that very painful position we were in the other night with reference to the truth of statements made by one or the other Member of the House, but I am sure my hon. Friend will scarcely maintain his denial if I remind him of many conversations we had on the subject before the Bill saw daylight in this House. He supports the main proposals of the Bill to-night, amid the unanimous cheers of that side of the House, which I could not help contrasting with the noises and interruptions from that side which accompanied his speeches a few years back——
I cannot congratulate my hon. Friend on the changed relations between him and the Party opposite. His mind to-night was running on the lines of his original proposal. In sentence after sentence he spoke of the importance of milk as if this Bill were going to supply milk to the agricultural labourers. Sir, there is no provision to provide the proverbial pigeon's milk to those who were once his friends in the agricultural districts. He was rebuked somewhat by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), and warned that relying on his deep and earnest friendship he must not presume to return to his doctrine of three acres and a cow, or he would again find the right hon. Gentleman his foe. That was the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, if it had any meaning in it. What is the value of the Bill except the one principle it proposes to establish of compulsory acquisition of land? The right hon. Gentleman defended the provision of Quarter Sessions as a very proper institution as a Court of Appeal in matters of this kind, because country gentlemen are friends of allotments. But if country gentlemen are the advocates and friends of allotments, whence the necessity for this Bill? Why have they not provided these allotments?
§ MR. BROADHURST
Oh! the majority of them. Well, I very much doubt it, and take the liberty of differing with him as to a body of gentlemen with whom, of course, he is much better acquainted than I am. But there is greater proof regarding their general relations to the labourers of the country in the possession of hon. Members of the House other than the right hon. Gentleman. Do labourers approve of Quarter Sessions as the appeal on the Allotments Question? Will you go to your constituents and assert there in the face of a meeting of agricultural labourers that Quarter Sessions is the institution of all others that to which the friends of the agricultural labourers would surrender them, they having been through all time their advocates and defenders? For all I know, the gentlemen who constitute Quarter Sessions may have undergone a conversion as sudden as that of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He undergoes a conversion in the course of a few hours, and of course we cannot say but Quarter Sessions are equally susceptible to similar influences. If it be so, I am glad to find it so, for better late than never. I should like to know what the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill thinks of a provision that, as I read it, would load to this extraordinary result. Town Councils would, under certain conditions, have to go to Quarter Sessions to ask permission of Quarter Sessions to put the machinery of the Bill in force. Will the hon. Member for the Bordesloy Division go to Birmingham and tell the Town Council of that town that it is their duty to acknowledge the superiority of Quarter Sessions; that they must bow to their footstool? Will he undertake to make such a recommendation to the Town Council? We know the opinion of Quarter Sessions respecting members of Town Councils. I was reading only a few minutes back the references of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford to the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, whom he called a Birmingham Alderman presuming to understand about allotments and agricultural affairs. What a lovely change of atmosphere in the relationship of the parties to-night! Now the Bir- 184 mingham Alderman is a wise statesman, the apostle of truth and reason, and, having abandoned all his Socialistic proposals and dangerous intentions, is admitted a repentant sinner into the camp of Quarter Sessions. I hope my hon. Friend may not live to regret the day when he was received into this distinguished company with such general acclamation. But I will not detain the House at greater length. [Cries of "Time!"] This is quite a new practice, so far as I understand, that Bills of this importance are to pass through their second reading under constant and irritating calls of "Time" from hon. Gentlemen opposite. When they have had a longer experience of the House, they will learn, perhaps, that debates on the second reading are not always loss of time, but facilitate the future progress of the Bill through Committee, and on a measure of this importance we claim to express our opinion, and to tell the House and the country our reasons for objecting to some of its contents, our reason for asserting that the Bill is, to a great extent, a sham, and only admits the bare skeleton of the principle on which it should be founded. I am afraid I might be out of Order if I were to say it is merely the building of a platform for speeches during the Recess to agricultural constituencies. We fear, and we have reason for believing, that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to press this measure forward through Committee, and make it law this Session. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Well, I do not take the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as an authority; he no more likes the principle of the Bill now than he did 18 months ago; but he accepts the Bill as an alternative to leaving Office. I value very little the friendship towards the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer under such circumstances. I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman, who is responsible, whether there is a 6erious intention of pressing the Bill forward, or whether we are only having a debate to-night for the purpose of "marking time," and to give the Government the opportunity of claiming in future elections the credit of good intentions, and to talk of the wonderful things they had intended to do if they had had the opportunity, and the Oppo- 185 sition had allowed the Bill to pass without debate or criticism though its second reading? There is only one section of j the Bill to which I will now refer, and it is a matter in which hon. Members who know anything of it will agree with my objection. I refer to Subsection 5 of Clause 6. That section prohibits the tenant of an allotment from erecting any building whatever. If that is to be the case, then the Bill will be a great sham — indeed, a perfect delusion, and absolutely useless. It could only have been proposed by people in utter ignorance of the whole question, and the interest of the tenant of the holding. You render it utterly impracticable and useless to the labourers who are to obtain allotments under this Bill. No allotment of three-quarters of an acre, half an acre, or a quarter of an aero situated half, or even a quarter of a mile, from the cottage of the cultivator will be of use if it is to be held without the right of erecting a shed of any kind, not to speak of a pigstye or shelter for a donkey or pony. How is the cultivator to carry backwards and forwards all the implements necessary for the successful cultivation of his small holding? Where can he store his seeds, and many other things required in his daily work? Where can he retire in stress of weather? What encouragement is given him to spend time on his holding if, when, he gets there, he has not an inch of cover for himself and the implements he may require for cultivation? I hope this clause will be amended. I shall place Amendments on the Paper, having the object in view of permitting, under certain conditions, the erection of some kind of building or sheds for the purposes I have indicated upon holdings of this description. We know that the allotment system is most successful when the land adjoins the cottage in which the cultivator lives. This is well known to anyone with experience of allotment or garden cultivation, and if a man is not allowed to erect even a store shed, then the thing is altogether absurd, and a sham. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept an Amendment in that direction. If he does, so far as I am concerned, although the Bill requires amendment in other directions, still I shall vote for the second reading tonight, in so far that it asserts a just and important principle, and I sincerely 186 hope there will be no Division against this stage.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst) has asked me very pointedly whether the Government have an intention to pass the Bill through all its stages this Session? I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in the House when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was speaking?
§ MR. RITCHIE
Then he must have heard my right hon. Friend say most distinctly that the Government intended to use all their influence to pass the Bill this Session. But the hon. Gentleman does not believe the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he opposed a Bill—
§ MR. BROADHURST
I should be sorry to be open to the charge of having expressed any want of belief in what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said. What I said was that I should require an assurance from some other authority, seeing that the right hon. Gentleman was opposed to the main principle of the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
The hon. Gentleman puts a very pointed question to me, which has been previously answered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. To that answer he makes reply that the right hon. Gentleman is opposed to the Bill. If that does not imply that he places no reliance upon what the right hon. Gentleman said I do not know what language means. The hon. Gentleman need have no apprehension. The Government have introduced this Bill with the full intention of pushing it forward into law, and they will welcome the assistance of the hon. Gentleman, or any other assistance that will conduce to that end. The Government are grateful for the promises of support from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. I must say some of the promises of support were rather of a halting nature, mixed up with a great deal of criticism, and mainly criticism not of the Bill, but of what hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are pleased to call the inconsistencies of Members of the Government who promote the Bill. [Cries 187 of "No, no!"] Well, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) and the hon. Member for the Cirencester Division of Gloucester (Mr. Winterbotham) were,above all others, loud with charges against Members of the Government for inconsistency.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM
The only Member with whom I concerned myself was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), and he is not a Member of the Government.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I think the hon. Gentleman had something to say of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his change of opinion.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I am bound to say that of all hon. Members of the House the charge of inconsistency comes with the least grace from the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen I have mentioned. Certainly, if a knowledge of the art qualifies Gentlemen to criticize action of this kind I must acknowledge the claim of those I refer to. I fancy the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester as well as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby might have a few not very pleasant things said of them as to their want of consistency in many matters. Well, the great brunt of the attack of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby was upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My right hon. Friend can defend himself much better than I can; but I say this of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which he could not say for himself, that there is no man in the House or the country less open to the charge of inconsistency. No man has made greater sacrifices for the sake of consistency than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am not going to waste the time of the House in referring to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, three parts of which was a wrangling on consistency and demonstrated his want of it; I will take advantage of the few minutes wherein I can trespass on the attention of the House at this late hour by dealing with a few of the criticisms addressed to the Bill itself. The right hon. Gentleman 188 the Member for Derby attacked the noble Lord at the head of the Government (the Marquess of Salisbury) for saying something which he did not say. He attacks my noble Friend for having, as he said, said in a speech in the House of Lords that the Government had no intention of proceeding with a Bill of this kind until the new Local Authority had been set up. Now, my noble Friend never said anything of the kind. He undoubtedly did say—I understood him to say, and it is what we all say—that it would be far better to set up the new authority before introducing this Bill. He criticized certain of the authorities who might have charge of the carrying out of the Bill, and he went on to say— "It would be much better if we could set up the new Local Authority." Well, I believe we most of us would agree in that; but my noble Friend never said a word to induce the House to believe that there was no intention of introducing this Bill. He said—"I am not going to say what the Bill of the Government will be;" and he pointed out distinctly that the Government intended to introduce a Bill on the subject, and have not Members of the Government in this House repeatedly said again and again that the Government did intend to introduce the Bill? It has been our intention from the commencement of the Session, and we have never departed one hair's breadth from that determination.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Perhaps I may be allowed to say that what Lord Salisbury said at the end of his speech was—I confess I should have preferred that we had been able to pass our Local Government Bill before we dealt with this question; for I doubt very much whether, with the present organization of the counties, we can do much with it, in the shape of finding a fit authority to administer the measure."—(3 Hansard,  244.)I cannot find in Lord Salisbury's speech at that time—16th June—any indication whatever of an intention to introduce this Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Not a word the right hon. Gentleman has quoted is inconsistent with what I have said. Distinctly my noble Friend, and all of us, thought and said it would be better to deal with local government before introducing a Bill on allotments. In the first part of that speech my noble Friend 189 speaks distinctly about a Bill the Government had; and at that time there was a Bill the Government intended to introduce.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Because we thought, on consideration, that it was better that this House should deal with it first. Bills were being constantly passed through the House of Lords, while in the House of Commons they were blocked. We thought that a Bill introduced in the House of Commons had a better chance of passing this Session than if it were introduced in the House of Lords. That is the sole reason why we thought it better to introduce the Bill in the House of Commons. It is now before the House, and has been freely criticized. In the first place, the machinery for the Bill has been very much questioned — the authority for putting the Bill into force. The hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. Winterbotham) was hard upon us for adopting the authority of the Board of Guardians. I will not repeat what he said, but he expressed his entire and utter want of confidence in the Boards of Guardians as the machinery for putting the Bill into operation. But he did not tell us what machinery he proposes.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Well, I should have thought of all the authorities possible to set up the least efficient authority would be the Vestry. What has been done in recent legislation in reference to Vestries? Has it not been the policy of recent years to take away from Vestries the power they have in dealing with such things as water and sewage and other matters, giving the power to larger authorities, Boards of Guardians in rural districts, Local Boards in urban districts? The whole policy has been to limit, not to extend, the area of the Vestry authority. And let me tell the House the constitution of the Vestry has that fault which the hon. Member found with the Board of Guardians—their election is not by one vote one man, but by plural votes, the same as the Guardians; and a body more likely to be interested, more open to the influence of the landowner, and adverse to the interest of the labourers, it is impossible to conceive. Since when 190 has the hon. Member for Cirencester changed his mind on this point? I have here the Bill of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, and I think I shall find on the back of it the name of the hon. Gentleman. Yes; I do. And what is the authority set up in this Bill of the hon. Member for Bordesley? The Board of Guardians! Sir, the hon. Gentleman actually put his name on the back of a Bill which in his view was a sham!
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman; but may I point out that when I put my name on the back of the Bill, and when I spoke in support of the second reading, I was careful to say that I supported it on account of its principle of compulsion, but that I differed from it in regard to detail and machinery.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Yes; but what the hon. Member said to-night was that the setting up of the Board of Guardians into an authority converted the Bill into a "sham," so that the hon. Member is, at least, convicted of this inconsistency— that he gave the great authority of his name to a Bill which, in his opinion, set up machinery which would render it a sham. Now, what are these Boards of Guardians? They are the authorities who transact the whole business of local government in rural districts. They have complete control over all matters of local concern within the rural districts; and yet you would say that for a purpose of this kind—a minor purpose of this kind—you have no confidence in the body to whom you entrust all the machinery for governing your rural districts. It may be true that there ought to be some reform in our Local Bodies there and elsewhere. I do not say that the Boards of Guardians are incapable of reform. Perhaps when I have the honour of bringing forward the Local Government Bill, hon. Members will see that I think the Boards of Guardians are capable of some reform; but I should be sorry to say that, constituted as they are, they are not entitled to our confidence, and are not entirely capable of carrying out the powers which we propose to confer upon them by this Bill to the entire satisfaction of the rural communities. But the Boards of Guardians are not the only authority who have to carry out this Bill. There are the Town Councils and the Urban Boards in each dis- 191 trict. An hon. Member—I forget who it was, but I rather think that it was the hon. Gentleman himself—criticized the figures which I gave in connection with these allotments when I introduced the Bill. Well, he has in no way attempted to disprove the figures which I then gave; they were correct; but the hon. Member said that I only took into account the number of the agricultural labourers. I beg the hon. Member's pardon; I distinctly said that, in my opinion, it was a mistake to suppose that it was only the agricultural labourers who were interested in this matter, and that, in my opinion, the artizans in our towns were as greatly interested in it as the agricultural labourers in our rural districts. I said I looked with the utmost confidence to the great things that were to be done by a measure of this kind to our urban population. I believe it may have an effect upon them as great, if not greater, than upon the agricultural population. I look with great hope on the effect it may have in raising the character of our labouring urban population. Then objection is taken to what is called its "cumbrous machinery for compulsion." But, with the exception which I am about to state, the machinery is precisely the same that was adopted in the Bill of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, which was backed by the hon. Gentleman himself—that is to say, that where compulsory powers are required in the Bill, the Local Authorities had to apply to the Local Government Board for a Provisional Order, which had to be confirmed by Parliament. Well, now, we have not proposed in this Bill that the application for a Provisional Order should be made to the Local Government Board, for reasons which I stated in introducing the Bill. We believe that in proposing to set up a great County Authority throughout England it was desired that there should be a considerable amount of decentralization and extension of local self-government. I thought that in taking away, as it were, the power which the Local Government Board alone possesses at present, and issuing Provisional Orders and putting them into the hands of an elected assembly in the county, we were giving a large and valuable extension of the powers of local self-government. It is quite true that during the time which 192 will intervene between now and the setting up of this authority we say that the Quarter Sessions should be the authority which should issue this Provisional Order. An authority cannot issue a Provisional Order to itself; it must make an application to some other authority for the issue of a Provisional Order. Well, we say that when the County Authority is elected the question should be left to them, and they should issue the Provisional Orders. Objection is taken to the Quarter Sessions, and upon this point I may say at once that, so far as the Government are concerned, they attach no particular value to that provision, and if it is agreeable to the House, and the House would desire it, the Government are perfectly ready to strike out the Quarter Sessions, and to make the application an application to the Local Government Board until the setting up of the County Authority. It is a part of what I consider the valuable principle of this Bill that when the County Authority is set up, then it should be to that authority that the application should be made. An hon. Friend behind me wished to know whether or not boroughs will be represented on the County Authorities? Of course, boroughs will be represented. It would be impossible to conceive a County Authority on which boroughs would not be represented. I cannot conceive that there would be any loss of dignity in a Local Authority going to a superior authority to complete an operation under this Bill. So far as the interposition of Parliament is concerned, I may inform the House that out of the 110 Bills presented to Parliament for the confirmation of Provisional Orders during the past five years by the Local Government Board in regard to the purchase of land, 108 have passed unopposed, and the House will therefore see that the machinery we set up for the compulsory purchase of land, which is the machinery in existence for the purchase of land of every kind, is an easy and expeditious machinery. As I have said, I have no doubt that the objection which is held in some quarters, especially in boroughs, to conferring these powers on Quarter Sessions is a justifiable one; therefore, we are prepared to do as I say. A good deal has been said about the question of the price at which the allotments that 193 I spoke of when I introduced the Bill are let at present. The hon. Member for the Cirencester Division of Gloucester said that the price paid for allotments is often unreasonable, and that our Bill provides no means whatever of getting rid of that difficulty. Surely the hon. Gentleman cannot have read the Bill carefully, or he would have seen that one of its principles is that the allotments shall be let at the ordinary agricultural price of the land. In the very first page of the Bill, while we base the whole fabric of the measure upon voluntary agreement, so far as possible, we distinctly say that the Local Authority have got to satisfy themselves that such holdings can be obtained at a reasonable rent by voluntary agreement. So that all that allotment holders would have to do if the land was let to them at an unreasonable rent, would be to give up the allotments they at present hold, and see that the Local Authority finds them other allotments at a reasonable price. One of the principles upon which the Bill is founded is that no labourer, after the passing of the Bill, shall be called upon to pay more than a fair rent for agricultural land. Now, something has been said about the size of the allotments. I have been found great fault with, because in introducing the Bill I said that I believed a large number of these allotments would not exceed a quarter of an acre. I may be right or wrong, but I cannot see the foundation for any complaint which the hon. Gentleman who made it could possibly have, when we distinctly provide in this Bill that Local Authorities may give allotments up to the size of an acre. I have not heard any hon. Gentleman on either side of the House contend that, so far as arable land is concerned, one acre is not fully ample and sufficient. I know that there are certain cases in which an acre ought to be given, and I should be sorry in giving such large powers as we give the Local Authorities under this Bill to tie their hands and say—"Under no circumstances shall you give an acre of land in an allotment." We may hope that Local Authorities will be reasonable and will not give an undue quantity of land to a person who may not be able to cultivate it. We thought it best to draw a wide limit in the matter. Now, as to the question of three acres—I was 194 going to say "three acres and a cow." I very much sympathize with the arguments used as to extending the Bill so as to provide some tenants who may wish for it with three acres of pasture land; but I am bound to say that that is a matter which will be much better dealt with by voluntary agreement than by any compulsory arrangement as to purchase. I cannot think that in pasture counties there -will be any difficulty in the Local Authority acting between the land owners of the persons desiring to have allotments of that kind when they are required; but hon. Members will see that the application of a principle of this kind must have a very limited scope. A man may take a piece of arable land with his family, and without any capital at all may proceed to cultivate it, and benefit himself very considerably. But it is a very different matter when you come to grass land. You must have your cow. It would be necessary in providing the three acres for a labourer to keep a cow, that that man should be able to scrape up enough money, not only to buy a cow, but in the event of the cow dying to protect himself against a position of something like absolute ruin.
§ An hon. MEMBER: They have insurance clubs.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Then we will say nothing further on that point except this, that the labourer who desires to have a grass holding will be obliged to have capital before he can invest it in the purchase of a cow, and that therefore the number who would avail themselves of such a provision would be extremely limited. I cannot conceive how in pasture counties there would be any difficulty in a labourer who has capital not being able to provide himself with sufficient pasture land to keep a cow, and I may say with reference to any Amendment on that head or any other Amendment which any hon. Member may bring forward, we shall give them every consideration. Several questions have been put to me with reference to Clause 6, which prohibits building on the allotments. I frankly acknowledge that the building I had in my mind was a building in which the allotment holder might live, and it does not occur to me that there ought to be any difficulty whatever in 195 allowing such modest; buildings as have been suggested by hon. Members to be raised on the allotments. We are anxiously desirous that this Bill should be a complete Bill. We are anxiously desirous that nothing should be wanting in this Bill to make those allotments a blessing to those who are fortunate enough to obtain them, and I can assure hon. Members who have spoken about buildings that I do not believe myself that there will be any difference between us when we come to discuss this matter. Well, Sir, I do not think I have anything more to say. I do not know whether I have missed any point. The discussion has been rather discursive and the greater part of it has been taken up with diatribes and incriminations. I hope I have taken up the most important points, and that I have so far explained the course of the Government as to get the House to see that we are extremely desirous of considering very carefully and as favourably as we can any Amendments which will not strike at the principle of the Bill. We rely confidently on the assistance of the House in passing the Bill into law during this Session. I hope hon. Members will confine the Amendments they intend to propose in Committee within reasonable limits, because it must be perfectly obvious to hon. Members that however desirous the Government may be of passing the Bill at this period of the Session a great deal must depend upon the action of the House itself. We believe from the disposition the House seems to be in at this moment that there ought to be no difficulty in passing the Bill this Session. Once more I assure hon. Members that it is the earnest desire of the Government to pass the Bill, and that in their opinion there is no measure before the House at the present time which is of greater importance and which is more desirable to pass quickly so that its provisions may come into operation with as little delay as possible.
§ MR. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
I wish to say with regard to this measure that I do not believe it will do any good whatever seeing that it comes from the other side of the House. I do not believe indeed that any Bill framed by the occupants of either of the Front Benches would do the slightest good even if it extended every allotment to three acres, and asso- 196 ciated with it a cow or even a crocodile. My reason for saying that is that such a measure as this is only tinkering with, a system which is both doomed and damned. I, however, congratulate both sides of the House upon having to-night taken the first step in that reforming path which must inevitably lead to the nationalization of the land.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)
I do not wish to intervene between the House and a Division for any length of time; but I should like to make a few remarks to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) in the hope that he may consider the suggestions I throw out between now and the Committee stage of the Bill. I would join with other Members in pressing upon him the desirability of reconsidering the proposal with regard to Boards of Guardians, for I fear that the Local Authority will sometimes find themselves placed in an awkward position. We are glad to hear what he has said with regard to buildings on allotments; but I wish to point out to him that the principle of this Bill, of which I personally approve, is that the rents of these allotments should not be charity rents, but should be such as will recoup the legitimate expenses of the working of this Act. But the far too complicated machinery of the measure, in my opinion, lays a terrible trap for the Boards of Guardians. Suppose the application of the measure is opposed, all the expenses of defending the course the Guardians wish to adopt will fall upon the rates. [Cries of "No, no!"] Yes; but under this Bill they will. I am, at any rate, glad to hear that point contested. Notwithstanding the denial of the hon. Members, I believe that such expenses will fall upon the rates, and, if they do, how can you arrange with any labourer for the payment of a rent fixed so as to cover the expenses of defending a private Bill? I am glad to hear that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to provide that the rent of these allotments shall be the fair agricultural rent, but I hope they will express it in the Bill—that after taking into account the expenses of the working of this Act the rent fixed shall be as far as possible the same as that paid by neighbouring farmers for neighbouring land. In the 7th section there is a valu- 197 able provision dealing with unexhausted improvements, but there is no direction as to how these unexhausted improvements are to be valued, or upon what scale compensation is to be given; and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to direct attention to that point so that there may be a clear expression upon it in the Act. I think I may fairly congratulate hon. Members on this side of the House with whom I am divided on the great question of the day on the action they have taken in this matter. I was rather alarmed lest they had changed their minds since they had voted 18 months ago on the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings). It is true that this measure meets with the approval of the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) and that right hon. Gentleman is a very great man. But there is a greater than he, and that greater than he has spoken upon this subject since hon. Members supported that Resolution. That greater than he on one occasion alluded to "a certain Mr. Jesse Collings with certain doctrines about land which I, for my part, have never adopted." Well, if the Leader of my hon. Friends sitting around me has repudiated the doctrine adopted by him a few months previously it is only natural that we should feel some alarm lest his faithful followers had followed his example. Therefore, I may, I think, congratulate the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham that he has not lost those supporters whom he might perhaps have expected to lose.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Staveley Hill.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I trust that this Motion will not be pressed, having regard to the late period of the Session, and to the fact the Bill is almost unanimously accepted in principle by the House. It is most important that we should get into the next stage of the Bill, so as to allow every hon. Gentleman who desires 198 to say anything upon the clauses ample opportunity of doing so. I earnestly hope that the House will consent to the Bill being read a second time to-night.
§ MR. COBB (Warwick, S.E., Rugby)
A great many people take deep interest in this subject, and necessarily, because it is a subject of very great importance. I know there are a great many hon. Members on the other side who take the same interest in the question that we do, and who are desirous of speaking upon it, but have been unable to do so. Whose fault is that? It is absolutely the fault of the Government. [Cries of "No, no !"] Well, they were appealed to night after night try the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), and by other right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Bench beside him, to give full opportunity for a discussion; and they always declared that the state of Public Business would not allow them to make any arrangement with regard to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, in order to meet the exigencies of the Tory Party, wishes us to take a number of Bills without any discussion whatever. We are not prepared to assent to that. I have risen two or three times; and it is not my fault if I have not been called upon. No doubt it is perfectly right that I have not been called upon, and I have no complaint to make; but I do desire to have an opportunity of speaking. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether, on the Motion to go into Committee on the Bill, we shall have an opportunity of speaking on the main question, and not merely upon the details.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I should have been glad to afford every possible facility in my power; but it seems to me that the main principle of the Bill has been accepted by the House, and the question for hon. Members is now simply one of clauses. I have not heard a single objection to the principle of the Bill. I have heard objection made to the clauses, and I can only say that, as the House desires, as I understand it, that the Bill should be passed, I earnestly hope hon. Members will allow the present stage to be taken. If hon. Members desire to speak upon the Bill on the Motion for going into Committee, I shall make no objection.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kingswinford (Mr. Staveley Hill) will withdraw his Motion. Everyone, I think, must be anxious to see this Bill passed into law; but I certainly must say that I think the right lion Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury might have put the Bill down at an earlier hour—even as the first order—that being the position which I should have thought its importance deserved. I should have thought, in discussing a Bill of this kind, we ought to have had some power of discussing it as a whole. On both sides of the House there are Gentlemen who desire to make further observations on the Bill. It is too late, of course, to do that to-night; but if the right hon. Gentleman will bring on the Motion for going into Committee on the Bill at a moderately early hour on the next occasion, that, perhaps, will afford a sufficient opportunity to hon. Members to express their opinions.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
I am always glad to accede to anything that falls from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I, for one, take, perhaps, as great an interest in the subject of this Bill as any hon. Member in the House; and I wish for an opportunity of expressing a view with regard to proposals which I consider illusory and unjust. I withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I do not think this debate should close without a few words in further justification of the course the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst) has taken in challenging the Government to say definitely whether they intend to proceed with the Bill. The history of this measure during the Session is before this House and before the country, and it gives us fair reason for challenging the sincerity of the action of the Government on the matter. [Cries of "Divide!"] I insist, Sir, upon making my statement. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) quoted words used by Lord Salisbury in "another place," and I wish he had continued the quotation, because the words of the noble Lord absolutely support the con- 200 tention of the hon. Member for West Nottingham that the Government, at the time Lord Dunraven's Bill was before the House of Lords, did not intend to proceed with the question of allotments during the present Session. The words in the speech of Lord Salisbury, which followed the words quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, were these—One of the reasons why he was unwilling to introduce this subject as a separate question without waiting until the proposals of the Government with respect to Local Government were before Parliament, and in a fair way to acceptance, was that one of the most difficult problems connected with this question was the selection of an administrative authority.I should like to ask the House whether these words, as given in The Times reports—which I have assumed to be correct, as we know that The Times reports are also the reports for Hansard —mean any more or less than this, that Lord Salisbury did not contemplate going on with this question until he had introduced, and practically carried, the Local Government Bill. I think that fact, and the fact that the Government changed its mind as soon as my hon. Friend the Member for the Spalding Division was returned, was significant. The late Government, in the person of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, has been charged with inconsistency, and with a wish not to really deal honestly with the allotments question. They were most needlessly charged with having got into power on the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings), and then with evading this question. But I would call the attention of the House and the country to this fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) invited the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham to take Office in his Government expressly to carry out that very policy, and therefore it is not the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian and his Colleagues had no intention of dealing with the question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and his Friend deserted him and turned him, out of power before he 201 was able to carry out that policy. Sir, as I said, I heartily support the principle of this Bill. I welcome—and I welcome as a member of the committee of Liberal County Members who have carefully considered this Bill—the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that he will favourably consider the Amendments we are about to lay upon the Table, and the Amendments that may come from the other side of the House. I hope that assurance will be carried out literally and fully, because I can assure him we agree largely with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for the Cirencester Division of Gloucester (Mr. Winterbotham) that we consider the Bill in its present form—if not a mere sham—is a skeleton that requires to have flesh and blood added to it to make it work, and we shall insist upon the Amendments we consider right; but I assure him we shall not persist in carrying the debates upon them to any undue length..
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.