§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
in rising, pursuant to Notice, to move—That, in the opinion of this House, ownership of land in the United Kingdom should carry with it the duty of cultivation or utilization, and that in all cases where land capable of cultivation or utilization with profit, and not devoted to some purpose of public utility or enjoyment, is held in a vacant, waste, or uncultivated state, the local authorities ought to have the power to compulsorily acquire such land by payment to the owner of a sum representing the capital agricultural value of such lands, in order that such local authorities may, in their discretion, let the said lands to tenant cultivators, with such conditions as to term of tenancy, rent, reclamation, drainage, utilization and cultivation respectively as shall afford reasonable encouragement, opportunities, facilities, and security for the due utilization, cultivation, and development of the said lands,said, that the array of Amendments which had been put down to the Motion that he now had to submit, induced him 1082 to hope that at least the subject was one in which the House was beginning to take a greater interest, and the unanimity almost of opinion among those who had given Notice of those Amendments that there was a large quantity of uncultivated land in this country also led him to hope that he might secure their assistance against the other Amendment which challenged that proposition. There was an Amendment put down by the hon. Member for Wandsworth (Mr. Kimber) which, if it was not moved that night, might, he supposed, be taken as a speech for that debate, and which declared that the proposition contained in his Motion was one that was not consistent with the liberties of a free people, and that the process of compulsion shadowed forth in it was so repugnant to that hon. Gentleman that he must earnestly protest against it at once. There was a comfort in having opposed to him a devoted follower of the Government like the hon. Member for Wandsworth, because when that hon. Member saw the First Lord of the Treasury going into the Lobby in support of that Motion—as he would be bound to do if he carried out the traditions of his own Government—he hoped that the hon. Member would no longer denounce the principle of compulsion. He should hardly have ventured to take up the ground he did upon this subject if he had not known that the present Prime Minister had twice within the last eight years deliberately made proposals and put them into force for the compulsory taking of uncultivated land. In Cyprus a law was passed to promote the cultivation of land, and the Ordinance was dated the 2nd of April, 1879. Among other things, it enacted that where a landowner had left more than two-thirds of his land which was capable of cultivation in an uncultivated state he should pay a penalty, a tax on the whole of the land, to the Government as a fine for not having cultivated it. That having failed, the Government took more stringent measures, and in an Ordinance dated June 24th, 1885, it was set forth that all cultivable land which had been left uncultivated for 10 years should be confiscated by the Government. In the discussion of this question, he would lay down certain propositions, the first of which was, that the ownership of land should carry with it the duty of 1083 cultivation or utilization in some form. In a crowded country like this no right of property should allow a man to pursue a dog-in-the-manger attitude, and arrest the development of the natural resources of the soil. The authorities should compel the possessor of land to use his land for the general welfare. The action of the Government in Cyprus showed that they had accepted that proposition, at least in part. In the debate on this subject last year the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) said that land carried with it the duty of cultivation, and also the practice, unless there were good reasons to the contrary. Unfortunately, he had learnt that in law the ownership of land did not carry with it the duty, and he should submit that it had not carried with it the practice, of cultivation. In the case of "the Attorney General against Lord Sefton," Mr. Baron Pollock stated that the proprietor of the land had a right to make what a reasonable use of it he pleased, and sometimes even an unreasonable use of it, and that he was not bound so to use it as to make it yield the largest revenue to the Government or to pay taxes as if he did. He challenged the doctrine that a man had the right to prevent the opening up of mines underneath his property. He did not challenge the law; he challenged that it should be the law, and he submitted that, in a crowded country like this, where admittedly hunger and misery existed, no right of property ought to be allowed by which a man might forbid the natural development of the wealth of the country for the benefit of the toilers and workers in it. If the law at present gave a right to an owner of 50,000 acres to say that, although his land would provide employment to hundreds or thousands of people in mines underneath it, he would not permit mines to be worked there, and would compel the people to starve, it should be altered, and the authorities should have the right to step in and compel him to utilize his property, as they compelled the labourer to utilize his labour, for the well-being of society, of which the individual was a part. His next proposition was that there was a large quantity of land in this country in a waste and uncultivated condition, which might and 1084 ought to be cultivated. In speaking of cultivation he did not mean corn-growing. He meant that the land should be utilized for whatever it could be used profitably. It was estimated last year that there were some 12,000,000 acres of land in the United Kingdom and Ireland in an uncultivated state, which land might be cultivated with profit. Taking England, Wales, and Ireland—he proposed to leave Scotland to the hon. Member for the Leith district, who he hoped would second the Resolution, and who could speak with a special knowledge of the country—Mr. Denton, in his evidence before the Royal Commission on Agriculture in 1882, said that the irreclaimable land in England and Wales was 4,722,100 acres in extent, the cultivable land 27,000,000 acres, and the uncultivated land capable of improvement 5,596,000 acres. Within a few miles of London, in the County of Sussex, there were 100,000 acres of waste and uncultivated land. Some thousands of this were in Ashdown Forest. He did not know who was the owner, but The Weekly Bulletin stated that it was the property of the Earl De La Warr, who was lord of Ashdown Forest, and he had satisfied himself by abundant evidence that most of it was good land capable of profitable cultivation. In Ireland, according to high authorities, there were 6,000,000 acres of land lying needlessly unproductive. Professor Baldwin, examined by the Duke of Richmond, said there were 1,500,000 acres that would admit of reclamation and nearly 1,000,000 acres of bog land, while there were three or four times those quantities of semi-waste land that could be cultivated with profit. Why was not all this land reclaimed? Why did we talk of emigrating people while it was left uncultivated? There was plenty of evidence that the land in the greater part of Mayo and the mountain bogs of Tipperary and Kerry had been reclaimed by tenants without any assistance from landlords, who raised the rent upon it as soon as it had been made to produce anything; and with better security the land now unreclaimed could be made equally productive. Similar things had happened in England, particularly in the case of lands controlled by the Duchy of Cornwall. He did not pretend that all kinds of cultivation could be made profitable 1085 in this country; but we imported £3,000,000 worth of eggs annually, and uncultivated lands would at least maintain the poultry that produced eggs in lieu of those imported. In many places agricultural labourers were not permitted to keep fowls, and in some places where they did, the business was made unprofitable by the landlords' foxes. We also imported fruit and dairy produce that we ought to produce at home. It was true there were difficulties in the way, and among them was the favouritism shown by our Railway Companies to imported produce. The Mayor of Manchester gave evidence that produce was brought from France at less rates than were paid for carrying English produce one-third of the distance. It was dearer to take fruit from one part of Lincolnshire to another than to take it from the South of France to a Lincolnshire market. The question was also complicated by the absence of market facilities in this country. He asked the House not to reject his Motion because there were difficulties in the way, and to recognize that he was raising the question, not for the purpose of making an attack upon landowners, but of suggesting the best way of meeting the rising storm which must one day break out from the close juxtaposition, especially in our large towns, of hunger and misery with vast accumulations of wealth. It would be wise to meet that storm by remedial measures. The Socialist cry which was heard everywhere was translatable into the expression of hunger and want. If they met the cry of the belly, there would be little difficulty in meeting the argument of the brain. If he pleaded with the House on this question it was because he was speaking for the class among whom he was born and for whom he was bound to plead. He was convinced that much of the land in the country which now did not pay could be made to pay, and he knew of one striking instance in Northumberland where a landowner having failed to get anything out of 700 acres had handed theirs over to his bailiff, with the result that the land was made profitable. He was asking the House to listen to facts, and his proposition was that the ownership of land involved duties as well as rights, and his desire was to avert in England what in Ireland had already become, and in Scotland was gradually becoming, a fearful war be- 1086 tween one class of society and another. He earnestly hoped, therefore, that he would not be met by a bare non possumus. His plan would do far more for the people in this country than the many plans for the employment of the unemployed which generally ultimately involved an increase of debt and taxation. He had modified his Motion into a form which ho hoped would prove acceptable to the House. It was said that he proposed to confiscate property; he did nothing of the kind, and for all that he proposed to do, he could plead the authority of the present Government.
§ MR. MUNRO-FERGUSON (Leith, &c.) ,
in seconding the Motion, said, he thought the arguments of the hon. Member who just sat down would reassure many of those who were uncertain of his objects in bringing forward this Resolution. The hon. Member had shown a desire to meet all reasonable objections. He voted last year in favour of the Motion with considerable hesitation, but he would do so on this occasion with perfect confidence. It might not be even yet absolutely perfect, but if hon. Members opposite would deal with the matter in a fair spirit, any reasonable Amendment which they might suggest would be accepted, so long as the principle was not impaired. The principle of the Resolution was that some efficient check should be secured against the misuse of land. In Scotland, for instance, there were a few proprietors practically owning the whole of the country. He thought some action of the sort indicated in the Resolution would give the public confidence that those rights of property were not abused, and hon. Gentlemen opposite might accept this as a serviceable prop for the present land system. There was no practical agriculturist who would not admit that land with better management might be turned to much better account than it was at present. The land system of this country was peculiarly open to attack, and in the Allotments Act the Government had themselves assailed that system in much the same way as was proposed in the Motion before the House. After all, what did the Resolution come to? The Allotments Act of last year gave compulsory power to purchase land for allotment and common pasture at market value; but under the Resolution it would be taken at its capital agricultural value. If hon. Mem- 1087 bers would turn to the Crofters' Acts, they would find that, under very strong restrictions, land could be taken from deer forests for the crofters at its agricultural value, and without regard to its sporting value. Under this Resolution, no land could be taken unless the landlord choose to allow it to lie waste. He had come to the conclusion that it was by this method that the land difficulty in the Highlands might be most readily met. He thought, within proper limits, the system of forests was one which might add to the wealth of the country without injuring the population. But there must be two important exceptions drawn to that system. The first was as to lands which were capable of agricultural or pastoral occupation, and the second as to lands which were suitable to the growth of timber. He did not think that in the forests there was a large amount of land which was capable of agricultural occupation; but he did know some very bad cases in which land capable of cultivation had been allowed to go waste, and was now under deer. A much larger proportion of land should be devoted to the growth of timber, and one of the most important recommendations of the Forestry Commission, which met last year, was that large tracts of land in Scotland should be planted. In order to show the reasonable character of the proposals in this Resolution, he would draw a comparison between them and that portion of the Crofters' Act dealing with the "more land" question in the Highlands. The principle embodied in that Act was so essentially Communistic that it had to be restricted in a manner which practically rendered its application nugatory in order to secure that there should remain any private property in land. The Crofters' Act rested partly on an imaginary basis. Its operation was confined to an imaginary Highland area; while without restrictions on compulsory leasing the capital value of land would be destroyed. But, in comparison with this, the Resolution now before the House stood on a firm basis. Various proposals were being made for amending that Act by extending the Highland area and in other ways; but he thought the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton was safer, more comprehensive, and practical. It rested on a firm basis of expediency, and enlarged the scope of those provisions of the Crof- 1088 ters' Act which had been shown to be of very little value as they now stood. He thought some checks on the expropriation of land by Local Authorities would be entirely reasonable, otherwise they might have a case such as might occur in Sutherlandshire, which practically belonged to one man, in which the representative authority might expropriate the owner on his own security, and, probably, against his will, without any safeguards. If it were required, some confirming authority could be very easily obtained. Either in that or some other way the land difficulties would have to be seriously approached. It was no use laughing at this or that scheme and entering a non possums, for until the question was solved it would grow more and more serious. It ought always to be borne in mind that though land might not be able to pay rent to a landlord, still that it might be profitably cultivated under a system of individual occupying ownership. Rent-paying tenants in this country had to compete with rent-free tenants in America; and he was confident, from what he had seen of the results of that competition, that one of the ways in which they could most effectually meet it was to have an occupying ownership at home. He did not quite agree with the Resolution as to the management of land by Local Authorities. He did not think it was likely to be very successful. But that was merely a change of method. He said we should have peasant proprietorship; and it was perfectly easy, through expropriation, for the Local Authorities, or by means of such a scheme as that of the Land Banks of Prussia, to establish peasant proprietorship. Emigration had been presented as a solution of the land question. It must always be of importance to consider whether, with the great opportunities there were abroad, we should accept inferior opportunities at home. But no system of emigration would be successful unless it was conducted so as to avoid any rankling sense of wrong in the minds of those who emigrated. Certainly there might advantageously be a good deal more emigration than at present, and it might be necessary to consider the whole question of State-aided emigration, especially as the Colonies were ceasing to help emigrants. There was the proposition that we should revert to Protection 1089 rather than carry out reforms in the land system. Did any hon. Members believe they could carry out a system of Protection with the present land system without incurring the danger of a revolution? The competition they now experienced was breaking up the present land. system; and he would not admit that it was an unmixed evil. It was argued that land was becoming a luxury for the rich. He could hardly conceive a more pernicious doctrine. At the same time the more land that was owned by men with capital the better. Capital should be attracted to the land in every possible way. He defied anyone to prove that a Resolution in favour of securing some check against waste lands in this country would succeed in diverting one sovereign from the soil of the country. They should deal with these questions impartially and fearlessly, and in a spirit of patriotism which would rather overlook personal interests and pleasures for the common weal, for the maintenance of their social stability, and for their national strength. If we were to remain the centre of a strong Empire there was no better way of securing our strength and stability than by well-considered land reform. He admitted that the agricultural interest was now suffering under many burdens that might be fairly alleviated. Before, however, the agricultural interest could be strong so as to secure its due, the present system, which created disunion and jealousy, instead of union and strength, would have to be reformed. If the present system was broken up and replaced by a system of occupying ownership the agricultural interest would be in a much better position to meet foreign competition. Land was the most important as it was the most permanent source of our well-being, and the object of true statesmanship should be to educate and encourage an educated and thrifty peasant proprietary.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, ownership of land in the United Kingdom should carry with it the duty of cultivation or utilization, and that in all cases where land capable of cultivation or utilization with profit, and not devoted to some purpose of public utility or enjoyment, is held in a vacant, waste, or uncultivated state, the local authorities ought to have the power to compulsorily acquire such land by payment to the owner of a sum repre-
senting the capital agricultural value of such lands, in order that such local authorities may, in their discretion, let the said lands to tenant cultivators, with such conditions as to term of tenancy, rent, reclamation, drainage, utilization, and cultivation respectively as shall afford reasonable encouragement, opportunities, facilities, and security for the due utilization, cultivation, and development of the said lands."—(Mr. Bradlaugh.)
§ MR. SETON-KARR (St. Helen's)
said, he rose for the purpose of moving the Amendment which stood in his name; but, in the first place, he desired to say he sympathized with a great deal that had fallen from the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution. He sympathized with the general principle those hon. Gentlemen had propounded in their Resolution. That general principle he took to be that the land of this Empire should be put to proper and profitable uses. He also agreed with the principle of the proposition the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) started with—namely, that the ownership of the soil should carry with it the duty of utilization or cultivation, where it was profitable so to do; but he submitted that the hon. Gentleman had failed altogether to lay stress upon the fact whether to do so was a profitable transaction or not. That, it seemed to him (Mr. Seton-Karr), was an important part of the question. He listened most carefully to the arguments the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution had used; but he confessed that though the assumptions they made were very large indeed, the hon. Mover seemed to disregard altogether the financial aspect of the question, and based his objection to the present proposal on the one ground that what was not economically sound could not be politically right. On that basis, he proposed to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice. If the hon. Member who moved the Resolution, or the hon. Member who seconded it, could show him that what they proposed would be a profitable transaction—that it would result in pecuniary and economical profit to all parties concerned—he would gladly vote for their proposition. Now, the first general objection he took to the Resolution was that it would compel the landowner to accept the first person who applied as the tenant of his land, regardless of the terms and of the circumstances. The landowner would have 1091 his hand forced. He would not be able to exercise his discretion as to the kind of tenant he would have, because the penalty suggested was that if he allowed his land to remain out of cultivation for a season he was to be liable to have the land compulsorily forfeited. That was a proposition which could not be entertained. It was a violation, to a very great extent, of the rights of property; and if the principle was to be admitted in this instance, it appeared to him it must apply to all kinds of property. The only justification for interfering with the right of a landlord to let his land in such a manner as might appear to him proper was that there was a danger of a monopoly in land. It was true there had been legislation to regulate the charges made by Water Companies and to regulate the rates charged by Railway Companies for the carriage of goods; but neither of these cases applied to the question now before the House. Had any man in his wildest financial dreams ever thought of getting up a "corner" in land? It had been already pointed out that evening that it was impossible for any landowner to do anything of the kind, for the simple reason that foreign competition regulated the price of agricultural produce in this country—dictated the price at which that produce should be sold to the consumer. He was aware there was a class of men outside the House who took a very low view of landlords; but he submitted that hon. Members were entitled to assume that landlords were men in possession of all their faculties. Could any sane man suppose for a moment that landlords, taken as a class, would leave their land uncultivated, if it were possible that that land could be cultivated or let to a tenant at a profit? Although he did not dispute that there were barren acres in the country, he could not admit the accuracy of the figures of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh). Where there was uncultivated waste or vacant land in this country, it was land which hard and bitter experience had taught landowners could not be profitably cultivated. He asked the House, and especially the hon. Member for Northampton and the hon. Member for the Leith Burghs (Mr. Munro-Ferguson), to account for the fact that in many parts of the country 1092 labourers preferred to work for wages rather than cultivate holdings for themselves which, under recent legislation, they could obtain upon easy and reasonable terms. If the cultivation of the soil was to override every other consideration, why did not the hon. Member for Northampton attack the system under which land and agricultural produce was so unfairly taxed? The heavy taxation of land was a much more crying evil than that the land was held by a comparatively few men. As a matter of fact, it was not necessary for him to labour the argument. It was admitted on all hands that, under the present system of local administration, land and agricultural produce were far more heavily taxed than any other property. He believed the Local Government Bill now before the House would deal with the question; but his point was, why had not those who were so jealous about the cultivation of the soil attacked the system under which land was now so unfairly taxed? The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Leith Burghs had alluded to the question of Protection. It seemed to him (Mr. Seton-Karr) that the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution ought to become Protectionists, because, logically, that was the only position they could assume, for the very reason that Protection was the most direct remedy for bringing about the extended cultivation of the land which they complained was waste. He (Mr. Seton-Karr) himself was not a Protectionist—he would never advocate the protection of corn—but if the Mover of the Resolution considered that the cultivation of the soil was to override all economical objections, it seemed to him that the hon. Member ought to go to the most direct remedy he could find. Now, he wished to come to some of the objections to the Motion which were founded strictly on the terms of the Motion itself. He had no desire to misrepresent the hon. Member when he said that the Resolution raised distinctly financial and economical matters. The Resolution proposed that—The Local Authorities ought to have the power to compulsorily acquire such land by payment to the owner of a sum representing the capital agricultural value of such lands.But by the terms of the Motion the land in question had no capital agricultural value, and the price to the landlord 1093 was to be regulated accordingly—that was to say, he was to get nothing for his land. He (Mr. Seton-Karr) submitted that that was a violation of the rights of property. The supporters of the Resolution might call it compulsory purchase if they liked; but it amounted, as far as he could understand the matter, to unqualified robbery. He did not think that was a principle which they, in these days, were inclined to carry out. The same principle might with equal justice be applied to all kinds of property; and if that principle was to be discussed at all, let it be discussed in all its naked deformity, and not as applied to one kind of property alone. But he would assume that the supporters of the Motion mean to allow some market value—that they meant to provide that the Local Authorities should give some market value for the land they acquired at their discretion. Did the hon. Member (Mr. Bradlaugh) include permanent pasture in the land which was described as "vacant and waste?" The hon. Member made no sign of assent.
admitted that there was no explanation on that point in the speech he delivered that night, although there was in the speech he made last year. He explained that he had quoted from the Agricultural Return, and he took the uncultivated land described in that Return for the purposes of debate.
§ MR. SETON-KARR
took it that the land included land laid down for permanent pasture. If it did not include that, he would like to know where the hon. Member got his figures from?
said, the figures in the Agricultural Return showed a much larger quantity of uncultivated land altogether than 12,000,000 acres, which he put as the quantity in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
§ MR. SETON-KARR
said, that, he took it, was land which by no possibility could be cultivated or reclaimed. But to return to his point, the terms of the Motion. The uncultivated lands of this country were used, to a more or less extent, for grazing purposes, and land of this kind, that was now being put to the best possible use, was to be the subject of the experiment of the hon. Member for Northampton. In that case the owner would get some- 1094 thing for his land; but he would not get the full value. Precedents had been quoted for the terms of this Resolution. It had been pointed out that in the case of railways and canals powers had been given for the compulsory acquisition of land. But there was this difference between railways and canals and the cultivation of waste lands—that in the case of railways and canals, and such-like public or quasi-public undertakings, land was always paid for in full, and the valuation was arrived at by full investigations before a properly qualified tribunal. But in this case the hon. Member substituted an arbitrary valuation of his own, and that seemed to him (Mr. Seton-Karr) a very strong financial objection to the hon. Member's proposal. But let him examine the matter a little further. Local Authorities, it seemed to him, would not get such a good bargain as one might suppose. The land would be obtained, perhaps, for a fraction of its value. Then, by the terms of the Resolution, the Local Authorities were to give—Encouragement, opportunities, facilities, and security for the due utilization, cultivation, and development of the said lands.Those words filled him with considerable alarm. What was the plain meaning of those words? The new cultivators would be impecunious; if they had any money of their own they would certainly lose it; but it would not be their own money they were to lose, but the money of the ratepayers. What did that really amount to? It meant that landlords were to have a portion of their land taken from them compulsorily and below its real value, and they were to be rated on the remaining portion, in order to prop up an unprofitable enter-prize. This was not a financial scheme which recommended itself to his limited intelligence, and it was upon the economic ground that he should strongly oppose the proposal of the hon. Member. As he had already said, he agreed with a good deal which had fallen from the hon. Me caber for for Northampton. What were the evils which this proposal was intended to remedy? They formed, as a matter of fact, the great social problems of the present day. They were, overcrowding in certain parts of the United Kingdom, and the want of employment; they were the misery and want which 1095 were caused by the rapid increase in the population, and by the agricultural and industrial depression. The agricultural depression was driving agricultural labourers into the large towns at the rate of 60,000 a-year. They had to deal with a very large and serious difficulty; they had to deal with thousands of starving peasantry and crofters, and thousands of unemployed in the large cities. Was that economically unsound proposal calculated to remedy this state of things? It seemed to him that something far wider and more extensive was required. Compulsory purchase necessarily could do nothing to reduce the density of the population of these Islands; and he submitted that no evidence whatever had been laid before the House to show that the land which was described as "vacant, waste, or uncultivated," could by any possibility be made more profitable under the agency of Local Authorities than it was now under the present system of private ownership. He believed the hon. Member (Mr. Bradlaugh) was entirely sincere in his motive; but he submitted that the hon. Member's energies were misdirected, for he was attacking the owners of the soil, instead of the conditions under which they lived, as Don Quixote attacked the windmill, or a flock of sheep for a host of men. He did not desire to detain the House longer than he could possibly help; but there was one case he desired to refer to. It was the ease of the crofters in the Island of Lewis. They had heard something of them already; but the authority he should like to take, and which he did not believe had been referred to in any of the speeches that evening, was the Report which the Secretary for Scotland laid on the Table of the House in January of this year. It was a Report signed by two gentlemen who held official appointments in the Island of Lewis, and there was no reason to suppose that they were in any way biassed in their political views. They certainly did know that those gentlemen knew what they were talking about, and understood the condition of matters. They pointed out that the population of Lewis had increased since 1850 50 per cent; it was then 17,000, and it was now 25,000. They pointed out that the herring fishing, which arose in that year, and which 1096 then prevented a serious crisis, was now practically destroyed by the altered conditions of the case; and the Report went on to show that the prices of stock in the island had fallen by 50 per cent since 1884. The Report also alluded to the fact that hon. Members representing crofter constituencies were opposed to emigration, or, as ho preferred to call it, colonization, and that they advocated the destruction of deer forests. As regarded the Crofter Members, he had every wish to do them justice for their sincerity of motive; but they were chiefly remarkable in that House for the difference of opinion amongst themselves when any legislation affecting crofters was proposed. The Report then went on to say, in most remarkable words, that if the whole deer forests were divided amongst the crofter population they had no capital to cultivate them, and if the necessary capital was supplied the old difficulties would recur again in a few years in an aggravated form. That seemed. absolutely conclusive against the proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton. They had heard the unbiassed evidence of officials who were acquainted with the facts, and this Report was embodied in a Parliamentary Paper. He submitted that they were bound to accept that evidence as conclusive, and he reminded the House that that evidence was dead against the proposal of compulsory purchase. He could offer the State a much better bargain than compulsory purchase. The hon. Member proposed to deal with the 12,000,000 acres of the worn-out soil of this country, which could only be acquired at a ruinous price, or else by an unquestionable violation of the rights of property, where the density of the population amounted to over 300 per square mile. He (Mr. Seton-Karr) proposed to deal with 1,000,000,000 acres of foreign soil better than our own, in countries where the density of population was under two per square mile, and where the land could be acquired either for nothing, or at a nominal price—he alluded to our vast Colonial Possessions in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and at the Cape. He knew he was treading on dangerous ground. His Colonization Amendment had been ruled out of Order, and, therefore, ho would not detain the House longer. He trusted, however, 1097 that before the Session was out they would have some opportunity of going thoroughly into this question, because he believed that colonization rested upon a thoroughly sound financial basis. He was confident that in a wide application of the principle which was contained in the Motion—namely, a profitable use of the vast uncultivated land of this Empire—the profitable use of the broad acres of our Colonies—they would find the true remedy for the great social problems of the present day. He asked the House to remember that our Ministers were not only the Ministers of the United Kingdom but of the Empire, and that as theirs was the opportunity so theirs also was the responsibility of utilizing the resources at their command. He begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "whilst recogizing the fact that considerable portions of the lands of the United Kingdom, including those in a so-called vacant, waste, or uncultivated state, cannot be profitably cultivated owing to Agricultural and Industrial Depression, and are, therefore, unable to support their increasing populations, this House is of opinion that conferring powers of compulsory purchase on Local Authorities is not an effectual or desirable remedy for this state of things."—(Mr. Seton-Karr.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Nine o'clock.