HC Deb 25 February 1890 vol 341 cc1209-31

5.£700, Supplementary, for the Foreign Office.

(7.56.) MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)

A study of the Estimates and Appropriation Accounts for the last 10 years has convinced me that the growth of the telegraph expenses in all the Departments has been rapid and uncontrolled. The increase of gross expenditure has been very great—in fact, it has in eight years doubled; and it is remarkable that year by year the Estimates have been largely exceeded, almost without exception, in every Department. The importance of the subject justifies me in asking that an inquiry into the whole subject of telegraph expense in all Government Departments should be granted without delay. The total expenditure on telegrams by the Foreign and Colonial Offices, by the Diplomatic and Consular Services, and by the Navy during the 10 years 1876–77 to 1886–7 was £409,459, but the original Estimates for those Services only amounted to £239,400. We are now asked to vote £7,600 for extra expenses incurred in telegrams for these Departments, in addition to the sum of £13,400 originally voted. These sums are paid to a Telegraph Company for sending messages over lines to South Africa which we now subsidise to the extent of £35,000 a year. I allude to the company controlled by that monopolist, Sir John Pender, which in addition gets a subsidy of £19,000 a year for a cable down the West Coast of Africa. This is not the time for raising the graver question whether the Government ought not, as a matter of State policy, and with a view to afford the public a cheap telegraph service throughout the Empire, to become possessed, by purchase or construction, of a complete Imperial telegraphic net. But, in any ease, I think I am justified in asking that a Committee be appointed to inquire into this large expenditure and the continual abnormal growth in Government telegraph expenses.

Vote agreed to.

6. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £2,166, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1890, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Agriculture.


I should like to say a word on this Vote. In the first place, I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chaplin) on the high place he now occupies; and I think that we who speak on behalf of the agricultural interest will be sure on all occasions to receive the greatest courtesy and consideration at his hands. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend what are the additional salaries, amounting to £500, for collecting agricultural statistics? We are anxious to have every information that can be given to us on that subject. I presume there is to be a large extension of the Returns we have previously had. We have always felt that the Agricultural Returns should be as accurate as possible, and I am sure that such is the intention of my light lion. Friend. I presume that the expenditure with regard to the Land Commission will now be merged in that of the Department of Agriculture; but I hope that the money already voted for the Land Commission will be spent under that head, and that at the end of the financial year the operation of the Commission will be carried out by the Agricultural Department.

(8.2.) MR. COBB (Warwick, S.E., Rugby)

I desire to move the reduction of the salary of the President of the Board of Agriculture by the sum of £100. In doing so, I must say I very heartily join with the hon. Baronet opposite in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on the position to which he his attained; and I am sure that whenever Ave want any question attended to we shall be met by the right hon. Gentleman with the greatest courtesy. He knows I should be the last person to deprive him of his salary, which I am quite sure will be well earned. My only object in moving the reduction is to give him an opportunity of affording us some further information than he can do in answer to questions addressed to him across the Table of the House. There are a great many important matters on which we should like to have a statement. The right hon. Gentleman has been looked upon in this country as the champion of the tenant farmers. He has urged upon them the desirability of a great number of remedies for alleviating the great distress which agriculture has undoubtedly been afflicted with in the last few years. It is not so long ago that the right hon. Gentleman thought a return to Protection would be desirable for the purpose of alleviating the distress. It was, I think, called Fair Trade. After that he dropped Protection like a red-hot coal and took up another subject, which is called bimetallism. It would be satisfactory to us on this side of the House if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us plainly that he has altogether abandoned those two visionary remedies. Earlier in the Session I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether Her Majesty's Government intended to carry out the recommendations contained in the Report of the Departmental Committee on Agriculture and Dairy Schools, and especially as to the Central Normal School at Rugby. The right hon. Gentleman replied that, undoubtedly, the Government did propose to promote technical education in agriculture and dairy farming, and he pointed out that at present only £5,000 was given to the new Department of Agriculture to assist him in the matter. I hardly think that £5,000 is sufficient for what is wanted, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will use the great influence which we know he possesses as a Member of the Cabinet to obtain a large increase of that sum. The results of helping agricultural schools which have shown a, disposition to help themselves have been very satisfactory, and we on this side of the House are decidedly in accord with him when he says he prefers rather to help those schools which are helping themselves than to provide new schools to be maintained by the State; but in saying this, I wish still to urge the importance of establishing the Central Normal School at or near near Rugby. I also, by means of a question, called the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the subjects that have been discussed by farmers and fox-hunters as to the mode in which fox-hunting can be carried on in this country, so as not only to keep up the great reputation of that sport, but also to be more beneficial to farmers than it is at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman treated the question as somewhat of a joke, and said he presumed it was put to him as an ex-master of foxhounds, and not as the Minister of Agriculture. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it was not so; and if he reflects for a moment he will see that in the position in which he is now placed it would be desirable for him, as far as possible, to cast aside all recollections of the distinguished position he occupied as a master of fox-hounds, and to remember that he is now the head of an important Department of the State. When sport is mentioned in this House hon. Members opposite seem to think they have a monopoly of it. But I can assure them that there are Gentlemen on the Opposition side who can ride as straight, shoot as straight, and present as straight a bat to the bowler as hon. Gentlemen on the other side. There are some points on which the right hon. Gentleman might do something for the tenant farmers. In the first place, it might be desirable that there should be an enforced subscription to the hunt.


Order, order! The hon. Member is going beyond the scope of the Vote. The right hon. Gentleman has duties imposed upon him by Parliament, and the hon. Member should address himself to them.


I was coming to that. The second section of the Act distinctly states that the Board of Agriculture may? do anything which may be useful for promoting agriculture. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he sees his way to promoting agriculture by enabling farmers to have a better opportunity for selling the horses they breed, and the forage which their fields produce, so that it should not be necessary for purchasers always to go to middlemen. The stock and crops of the farmers are now, owing to want of arrangement rather than to bad arrangement, not properly protected. I am not a huntingman; but everyone knows that the farmers' crops, stock and fences are liable to reckless and wanton damage, which, it is thought, might be prevented if proper arrangements were made by the appointment of field-stewards. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the damage to crops might be more effectually dealt with by the masters of hounds themselves. If so, why have they not dealt with it in past years so successful as to put an end to complaints which are now continually made? Then, he said, he thought all these questions might be left to the good sense and good feeling of all concerned. Of course, there is nothing better to leave them to than good sense and good feeling; but, again. I would say it has been left to their good sense and good feeling for a great number of years; but that has not prevented the farmers demanding that their voices should be heard through the medium of Agricultural Committees appointed to meet the Hunt Committees. There are many other subjects to which I could allude, affecting the agriculturalists, whom we all desire to help—such, for instance, as the muzzling orders in Kent and Essex, and still more the numerous amendments which are so urgently required in the Agricultural Holdings Act; but I leave these to be dealt with by my hon. Friends sitting near me.

Motion made, and Question proposed "That Item A, £1,266, Salaries, be reduced by £100, part of the Salary of the President,"—(Mr. Cobb.)

(8.21.) COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)

There is one thing with which the Committee will agree in the hon. Member who has just sat down, and that is that he is not a hunting man, because his arguments with regard to fox-hunting were impracticable. Whilst I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his promotion, I wish also to express my own intense grief, astonishment, and amazement when I find that his beneficent sway is not to extend to our side of the Channel. I think it a most disastrous thing that this should be the case; because the agricultural interests of the country are very intimately connected, and it is desirable that they should be placed under the superintendence of one head. I wish to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the Irish cross-Channel traffic. The animals from Ireland are treated in such a barbarous way whilst coming across the Channel that their value is much deteriorated. Cattle are brought from America in a much better and more humane manner, although the voyage is much longer and more stormy, and I do not see why a similar system should not be adopted with regard to Irish cattle. Some of the Railway and Steam-Packet Companies agree to take cattle at a lower rate at what is called "owners' risk," and these cattle are treated in an especially brutal matter. To my mind, the "owners' risk" system ought to be abolished. Another point which ought to occupy the attention of the Board of Agriculture, and in dealing with which I am sure my right hon. Friend will assist the Irish Government, is the extermination, by very firm and determined means, of the disease of pleuro-pneumonia. We are perpetually being accused, I think for the most part very unjustly, of sending over pleuro-pneumonia. At any rate, a great loss is occasioned to the Irish farmers by these continual alarms; and I am certain that nothing is wanted but a firm application of the Slaughter Order wherever pleuro-pneumonia is proved to exist; and I think it would much improve the chance of success if the cost of communication were paid out of Imperial rather than out of local funds. I am bound to say that the composition of the Irish Privy Council, which is supposed to deal with this subject in Ireland, is not such as to give confidence to Irish agriculturalists. It is composed largely of lawyers, some of whom might have some difficulty in deciding at which end of a cow to look for its head and at which to look for its tail. I hope the right lion. Gentleman's beneficent sway will soon be extended to agriculture in Ireland. (8.25.)

(9.0.) MR. CHANGING (Northampton, E.)

My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby,at the opening of his remarks, expressed a feeling, which I am sure is general on this side of the House as well as on the other, that the Motion which stands in his name was not framed in an unfriendly spirit, but was simply intended to enable us to draw the attention of the Minister of Agriculture to one or two points of importance. I should like, in the first place, to express my own satisfaction on the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman. I happen to know that some of my Radical supporters, who are farmers, think that lie is the right man in the right place, and I am sure there is a general feeling of approval of the appointment made by Her Majesty. The fact that his appointment is approved by farmers of both sides in politics I hope may induce the right hon. Gentleman to signalise his tenure of office by an advanced and a generous treatment of agricultural matters. As this Vote refers to the question of agricultural statistics and the Veterinary Department, in addition to the salary of the right lion. Gentleman, I do not think that I shall be out of order in referring briefly to those two questions. I have taken a great deal of interest, as other Members have, in what has been made known of the practice of other Boards of Agriculture in other countries; and I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not hesitate to pull on the purse-strings of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order to make the Statistical Department of the Board of Agriculture an honour to the country, a help to the farmers, small as well as large, and a real means of furthering the great interests of agriculture. Then, as to the Veterinary Department. I wish, to take this opportunity of recording my satisfaction—a satisfaction which I think is generally felt—with the firm administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts by the right hon. Gentleman. The information which is now in the hands of private Members is not so exhaustive as we could wish with regard to the prevalence of disease in France and Germany; but I venture to say that hon. Members, irrespective of Party, will gladly support any policy which will protect the farmers of the country from the ravages of these dreadful diseases. Now, I will turn to the questions which particularly prompted me to take part in this debate. It seems to me, Mr. Courtney, that we are rapidly arriving at a new stage with regard to the whole policy of the Legislature respecting compensation for agricultural improvements. I know I might be out of order if I entered into the question of the state of the existing laws, which is a question rather of legislative reforms than of the administration of the Department of Agriculture; and so, as I do not wish to put myself out of order, I will not go beyond the scope of what I wish to bring before the attention of the Committee. Now, in carrying into practice the principles laid down in the Agricultural Holdings Act, there is a very important power placed in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman by the Act of last Session, and I hope it will be used for the benefit of agriculture. The Committee will know that the Act of last year transferred to the new Ministry of Agriculture the powers of the Land Commission. One of these powers was the drawing up of lists of competent valuers in counties. Sir James Caird, who occupies so distinguished a position on the Board of Agriculture, and who is, perhaps, the very best man who could have been placed in the position, expressed his opinions five or six years ago on the question of the appointment of valuers. All of us interested in agriculture, and especially in the great principle which we thought had been successfully asserted by the Agricultural Holdings Act, namely, the principle that the tenants should have a real right of compensation for the value added to the land by their improvements, have had our attention drawn to a very remarkable speech delivered before the Chamber of Agriculture of Norfolk by a former well-known Member of this House, Mr. Clare Sewell Read. Any one who read that speech must feel that if the facts are verified by inquiry a very serious state of affairs prevails. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will grant an inquiry, by a Select Committee of the House of Commons, into the working of the Valuation Clauses of the Act, and especially with regard to possible future action by the Board of Agriculture in reference to the appointment of valuers, as well as with a view to instituting a more satisfactory mode of carrying out agricultural valuation? I think I am justified in drawing attention to the important references to this mode made by Mr. C. S. Read. I am not dealing with legislative changes; I am merely going to attack the administration of the Act; and the point I wish to dwell upon is this—that in the county of Norfolk the lawyers and valuers and land agents have successfully boycotted the Agricultural Holdings Act; they have paralysed its administration, and have made it null and void, and of no use to the tenants. Mr. Read does not find fault with the Act itself; he does not challenge the wisdom of many of its provisions; but he does find fault with the spirit in which is carried out, and the way in which the valuers do, in practice, defeat and paralyse the objects of the Act. He gives many striking illustrations of this. For instance, in cases in which the tenant has a right under his lease to sell the hay off his land, when the lease expires and he is going out and he puts in his claim for unexhausted improvements, he is at once met with a counter claim—on a most extravagant basis—for the manurial value of the hay so sold. Mr. Read gives his own experience in this particular. He had the right on one of his farms to sell off the hay, the manurial value of which, according to the ordinary custom of valuation, was £18. But he had a counter claim sent in for £45; and when he drew the attention of the valuers to the act that he had spent no less than £300 in artificial and other manures during the preceding two or three years they would allow him nothing for that, but insisted on enforcing the counter claim of £45. Mr. Read also described in his speech how he had spent as much as £1,000 on one farm, and when he put in a claim for £57 it was at once met by a counter claim for £30, afterwards raised to £90. He pointed out that he had converted a, wilderness into fruitful fields, and did not expect gratitude, although lie did expect even-handed justice; but he could not get a, penny of compensation, and was actually a considerable loser on the whole of these transactions through the present system of valuation. An Act which was intended to benefit tenant farmers has been turned into an engine of oppression. Under these circumstances, I think a strong case is made out for an inquiry into the present system of valuation—an inquiry which I trust may lead to the establishment by the Board of Agriculture of something like the system which has been carried out by the Local Government Board with regard to the valuation of property under the Artisans Dwellings Act, namely, the appointment of an official arbitrator or valuer to act for a moderate scale and office fees, and to examine into the whole matter, and decide, in an impartial spirit, the questions in; dispute between tenant and landlord. By adopting this course we should get rid of those professional middlemen who have really lived on the vitals of agriculture too long, and have wrung such immense bills of costs out of landlords and tenants, while instituting a system which generally defrauds the tenants, and often defrauds the landlords of part of their just claims. Before I pass from this subject I wish to emphasise the question I put to the right hon. Gentleman; i.e., whether he can see his way to consent to the appointment of a Select Committee, or to some other form of inquiry, into the working of the Agricultural Holdings Act in the matter of valuation, and with a view to instituting a better system from which will be absent the evils complained of by Mr. C. S. Read. Now I come to another matter. Those acquainted with the Agricultural Question must have had their attention drawn by several recent cases in the North of England to the state of the law with re- gard to mortgaged farms; and I should like to ask the right lion. Gentleman, as the guardian of agrieultural interests, whether lie will not take these cases into his careful consideration and hold an inquiry, with a view to legislating this Session upon the subject? I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman and the House are familial with the case which recently occurred in Yorkshire (near Doncaster), in which an unfortunate tenant took over a farm and paid £1,500 for the tenant right. He was deceived, whether by the landlord or the agent "I do not know, and was told that the farm was not mortgaged, whereas it was. When he decided to leave the farm he gave the proper notice, and obtained an award of £1,000 for his out-going tenant right. But the mortgagees subsequently foreclosed, and actually sold the stock and standing crops off the farm which they cleared, as they had power to do, under the existing law, and the tenant had not a claim for even a farthing against the mortgagees, who had become, in fact, the owners of the farm. That constitutes an obvious state of injustice in the law which I believe—


Order, order!


This is, perhaps, a matter for legislation, and I am not, therefore, justified in further alluding to it; but having drawn to it the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, T hope he will not let it escape his notice. I will only say, in conclusion, and with regard to the main object with which T spoke, that it is of the utmost importance to the effective carrying out of the principle of the Agricultural Holdings Act the principle of recognising that tenants who have added to the value of the soil should reap the benefit of what they have done to improve the land—that he should endeavour to secure an improved system of valuation under the Act.

(9.20.) MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)

I am somewhat surprised to find we have become engaged in an agricultural debate on this Vote. I am sorry we should thus be taking up the time of the House, for I think it is not fair to force our grievances on the House on this occasion, although the temptation to do so is very great. We have had almost every subject connected with agriculture touched upon; but as I think more convenient opportunity will be found during the Session for discussing these topics, I prefer to-night to confine my remarks to doing what other speakers have done, and that is to congratulate the Government on having formed this. Board of Agriculture, and particularly on having put at the head of it a gentleman whoso appointment meets with universal approval. The appointment also of Major Craigie to the Statistical Department is, I am sure, equally popular. It is of the utmost importance that agricultural statistics should be thoroughly looked after, and that they should be in the hands of a competent Director. The importance of this has been exemplied recently in connection with the collection of the market prices of corn, and I hope that the supervision of that collection will be one of the duties entrusted to Major Craigie. A year or two ago a Committee sat upstairs for the purpose of finding-out whether the Returns were efficiently made; and we found, after examining gentlemen whose duty it had been to make the Returns, that the work was not effectively carried out. The Returns made since last harvest have been very misleading, especially in the matter of the comparisons of quantities of corn sold on the market this year and last. According to the Returns, for instance, the sales of barley since last harvest have been largely in increase of the quantity in the preceding 12 months, although, as practical farmers, we know that the last crop of barley was very deficient. Therefore the statistics are very misleading. The hon. Member for Rugby has suggested that the Ministry of Agriculture should take fox-hunting under its charge; but I think we had bettor by far get it to deal with questions of much greater importance. Surely hunters and farmers can arrange between themselves any little disputes that may arise. With regard to the question of tenants' compensation, no doubt the Minister will pay attention to the matter; while as to the case of mortgaged farms, if it can be shown that tenants' property has been sacrificed through defects in the existing law, it may be hoped that legislation dealing with it will soon be introduced. The hon. and gallant Member for North Down has asked the right hon. Gentleman to take steps in the direction of securing that cattle brought over to this country from Ireland shall be protected as far as possible from injury. This is a question of the greatest importance. As we in England find corn production no longer profitable—and the growing of wheat at £5 per acre is impossible—we are obliged to change our business, and the only change we can make is to convert arable into pasture land—and in many cases it will be very poor grass we shall get from these pastures. Consequently, we have to depend more and more on stock raising; and it is therefore very important that the British farmers should be able to get store stock from Ireland and other districts in which it is bred placed on his farm in the best possible condition. I do not think this is think time to trot out all our various ideas; so, in conclusion, I will only say I hope that the work of the new Ministry will continue in the same favourable way as it has commenced.

(9.29.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I also wish to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on what I think is a well-deserved honour, and I assure him that I wish him success in carrying out the duties that will devolve on him in his new office. But I have something else to say. Doubtless the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture remembers that in the Daily Newsof February 4th there appeared a precisof a letter addressed to the editor by an Essex gentleman, in which that gentleman described the hunting that went on in his district, and spoke of there being some 220 or 300 skilled riders.


Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is travelling quite beyond the question raised by the Amendment.


I bow, Sir, to your ruling, and would merely express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do something for the amelioration of the farmers. I might refer him to a letter from Mr. George Baylis in regard to the difficulties with which certain farmers on the borders of Berks have to contend in reference to the payment of tithes. It appears that many of them are unable to pay the 10s. and 11s. per acre, which includes both rent and tithes. That, I think, is a point deserving consideration. There must be some reason why farmers holding very fair land should not be able to pay so small a sum. Of course, he has been told that the burdens imposed on the farmers by the present fiscal system were more than they can bear.


Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is again entering upon matter which is irrelevant to the subject before the Committee.


I again bow, Sir, to your ruling; but I presume I am in order in asking the Minister of Agriculture to consider in what way he may best improve the position of the cultivators of the land; and in regard to that question I would point out that there is a matter of great importance deserving his careful attention. I allude to the growth of fruit. In the United States of America there is a Department of the Government which distributes statistics relative, amongst other things, to the cultivation of fruit. Last May several cargoes of apples were brought here from the Colony of Tasmania, and they were sold at as much as from 12s. to 20s. a bushel, which is a very good price. It is also stated that a few years ago as large a quantity as one million and a half of barrels of apples were imported from America, while in a more recent year the importation of that fruit from America reached 800,000 barrels. That is an enormous quantity to import into this Kingdom from one country, and I think inquiry should be made into the matter; because if, as is said, we can grow as good or better fruit as can be brought from abroad, our growers must be placed at a considerable disadvantage by the competition thus going on. I am told that near the Land's End there is a small fruit farm which pays a good percentage to the owner; but that is due to the fact that he is the owner of the land on which the fruit is grown. Again, I think the Minister of Agriculture would do well to pay some attention to the ominous words of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. C. Gray), when he said that the only alternative for the decreased production of corn was the increased production of meat. Surely other alternatives ought to be possible, and would be so, if our farmers took a more intelligent view of their position. That is an important matter, and well worthy of serious attenon. In conclusion, I would merely express my sympathetic hope that the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman, who, from his previous association with agriculture, is exceedingly well qualified for the position he holds, will lead to a more intelligent appreciation of the difficulties which beset the British farmer, and to the consideration of measures whereby his present position may be materially improved.


As this is the first occasion on which it has ever been my fortune to defend the Estimates of a Government Department, I hope I may be allowed to refer to the kind expressions which, have, without one single exception, been used by hon. Members, no matter in what part of the House they sit, with regard to the appointment which I have the honour to hold. I beg to express my thanks and gratitude to those hon. Members who have spoken so kindly in reference to myself. If the ruling of the Chairman will permit, I should desire to say something in reply to the hon. Member who has just sat down. It is true that the conditions of agriculture have very considerably changed during the last few years. I am as sensible of that change as any Member of this Committee; and although I do not, perhaps, attach quite so much importance to the cultivation of fruit as the hon. Gentleman appears to do. It has engaged my attention, and undoubtedly all those matters are entitled to, and are, in fact, at the present time engaging, the careful consideration of the Board of Agriculture. Fruit cultivation is a matter which we are now considering in connection with the question of agricultural education; but let me give one word of caution on this subject. It must be remembered that the cultivation of fruit depends perhaps more upon climate than upon anything else, and there we stand unquestionably, with the exception of some favoured districts, at a disadvantage as compared with many other countries of the world. The hon. Member said he could not understand why certain land in Berkshire could not afford to pay 10s. an acre for tithe and rent combined, and asked what was the reason. The answer is perfectly simple. The value of land depends upon two things—the quality of the soil and the prices of produce. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that land, unfortunately, is in some cases too bad at the present prices of produce to pay any rent at all. That that is not at all an unknown state of things in this country I know from my experience in connection with a farm, which I consider a fairly good farm, and which used in former times to bring me in a good revenue. It was my misfortune to have to let that farm for no rent at all, rather than have it on my own hands. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sussex asks me to explain that item in the Supplementary Estimate which consists of £500 for collection of additional produce Returns beyond those provided under another sub-head of the same Vote. There is a Return given of the estimated total produce of barley and oats in bushels. It was thought desirable to supplement this Return during the present year by further information of the average weight of the bushel, which varies considerably in different seasons. The collection and tabulation of this Return added to the cost—and it is to cover this that the Supplementary Vote is required. The subject of statistics is under consideration, and, indeed, revision, by the Department, and we hope to make some improvement. My hon. and gallant Friend behind me asked whether the Land Commission was in future to be under the control of the Board of Agriculture. As a matter of fact, the Land Commission at the present moment, by an Act that was passed last Session, is merged altogether in the Board of Agriculture, and as my hon. and gallant Friend perhaps has noticed, at the foot of the Returns is a note to this effect, which I hope will be satisfactory to him that the additional charges under the Supplementary Estimates will be more than covered by the savings upon the Vote of the Land Commission, which savings amount, notwithstanding the present Supplementary Estimate, to £2,290. I come to the question put to me by the hon. Member for Rugby as to agricultural education. The hon. Gentleman repeated his inquiries, to which I gave him an answer some, days ago, with regard to the establishment of a central normal school at Rugby, or in that neighbourhood. That is a matter which the Board of Agriculture have under consideration. I do not know that I can do more on this occasion than repeat practically the answer which I gave to him the other day. The whole' subject of agricultural I education at the present moment is engaging our careful consideration, for it will be some satisfaction to the hon. Member to learn that the subject is included in that branch of the Department which is at present presided over by Major Craigie. I was only fortunate enough to obtain the services of Major Craigie for the Department a few weeks ago; and it has been impossible, because of the great quantity of other work which has fallen to the Department, to frame a complete scheme of agricultural education at present. I hope, however, that it will be possible to do so before any very considerable period has elapsed. And I can assure the hon. Member for North amptonshire, who urged upon me to pull hard at the purse strings of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that I shall never be backward in that respect when the interests of agriculture appear to justly demand it; but which of us can pull the harder at the strings only the future can determine. But I am bound to say for my right hon. Friend that I have no cause of complaint of any kind of the way in which he has met me up till now. The hon. Member for the County Down drew my attention to the question of the traffic in animals across the Channel between this country and Ireland. He was kind enough to express his regret that the duties of the Board of Agriculture do not also include the agricultural interests of Ireland. I cannot say that I altogether share in the regret of my hon. Friend, although I thank him for the complimentary and kindly allusions he made to myself. But I may be able to give him some satisfaction by stating that up to the present time the Board of Agriculture and the Irish Government have always been able to work in perfect harmony—a harmony which I trust will continue as long a:-my right hon. Friend and myself continue to occupy the offices which we dc at present. Undoubtedly it is of great importance that there should be complete and harmonious working between the two Governments; because the question to which he called my attention, that of pleuro pneumonia and the effective control of that disease, is undoubtedly of the very first importance, and is a matter which even at the present moment is more than under consideration, for it is one with regard to which I have already prepared a Bill, which I hope to introduce into this House at no distant time, but with regard to which also it is impossible for me on this occasion to give any further information. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire, while expressing satisfaction, which I was exceedingly glad to note, with the policy which I thought fit at the Board of Agriculture to pursue with regard to the importation of foreign animals into this country, and the duty and necessity which fell upon this Board to take reasonable measures to prevent that importation being accompanied by the introduction of foreign disease—the hon. Member, in addition to that question, laid great stress upon the alleged deficiencies of the Agricultural Holdings Act. He called my attention in particular to statements that have been made in relation to that subject.


The right hon. Gentleman will pardon my interrupting him for a moment. I did not draw attention to the defects of the Agricultural Holdings Act, but to the way in which the present system of valuation is carried out by the valuers, so as to defeat the purposes of the Act.


Quite so; but these valuers are appointed under the Act, and I concluded that the hon. Member's observations reflected upon the Agricultural Holdings Act itself. With regard to the appointment of valuers, that is a question to which, undoubtedly, after the observations of the hon. Member, it will be necessary for the Board of Agriculture to devote the most careful attention. He asked me whether I was willing to agree to the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire, I understood him, into this question. I am of opinion, and I always have been, that, probably, in all these matters there is a good deal too much of red tape already; and as far as I am concerned, I entertain the view today which I have always entertained, I that arrangements of this kind are much better managed by private agreements between the landlord on the one hand and the tenant on the other than they could be by any legislation in the world. This is the first occasion, I confess, that my attention has been called to the necessity of appointing a Select Committee to inquire into this question. I have not bad an opportunity of seeing and of considering, with the necessary care, any sufficiently full and accurate report of the statements that were made by Mr. Clare Read some little time ago, and I am somewhat sorry that I have been disappointed of having an interview which I partly expected with Mr. Read, who is an old and valued friend of mine, upon this subject. But I am perfectly willing to admit that it is a matter which deserves careful and thorough consideration, as I attach very considerable importance to anything which falls from Mr. Clare Read on agricultural questions. I am bound to say this also: that, so far as I am acquainted with what did fall from him on the occasion referred to, it seems to me that the difficulties of which Mr. Clare Read complained and the injustice which I understand he alleged is suffered, were owing rather to some old agreements entered into many years ago than to any defects in the law at the present time. My own view of this question, generally speaking, I confess is that in these days, and more especially during the last few years, the tenant farmers, as a rule, have been placed in so advantageous a position, for this purpose at least, that they have been able on all occasions to make almost any agreement that they pleased. Certainly it has been my own experience during the last few years, and I expect that it will have been the general experience of the landlords throughout the country, that where a farm has been in the market for which a tenant has been required the rent has practically been fixed by the tenant and not by the landlord. And if a tenant can fix the amount of his rent, which is by far and away the most important part of his agreement, there is no reason in the world why he cannot fix the other terms in that agreement as well. At the same time, I can promise the hon. Member this: that with regard to the question of valuers which he has raised, it shall receive my most careful consideration; and although I cannot pledge myself to the appointment of a Select Committee, this being the first occasion on which the proposal has been brought to my notice, I can promise him that the whole question which he has raised shall receive the careful attention of the Board of Agriculture. The hon. Member raised another question which is perhaps of even greater importance. He called my attention to the case which occurred in Yorkshire, in the neighbourhood of Doncaster, some two years ago, in which, I believe, it was the fact that the tenant of a farm which had been mortgaged left it for some reason or another, when the mortgagee stepped in and seized the estate. The estate was not sufficient to pay the debts of the landlord, and the general result was that the tenant was turned out of the farm without receiving any compensation whatever, either under the Agricultural Holdings Act or under his agreement with his landlord. The result to him was this: that he had no one from whom to recover compensation except his landlord, who was a bankrupt. I acknowledge that this is also a question of importance and is deserving of great consideration. I remember that I examined into this question when it was first brought under my notice; but I came to no conclusion sufficiently definite to induce me to take action upon it. I have not considered it since I was appointed to this office, and therefore I do not wish to pledge myself to anything-definite upon the subject at the present moment. I admit the importance of the matter, and it is a question upon which, before I commit myself to any particular policy with regard to it, I naturally desire to consult the Legal Authorities. It is, however, a question which the hon. Member has not only a right, but is fully justified, in my opinion, in bringing to the notice of the Government, and it is one which I shall be careful to consider. Then I come to the question raised by the hon. Member for Essex, who sits behind me. He referred to the present condition of the Corn Returns. He is not satisfied with them, and he thinks that a very great improvement might be effected in connection with the corn trade. He thinks that the present system in connection with the corn trade is susceptible of great improvement. That system which is in operation is at present carried on by the Board of Trade, and not by the Board of Agriculture, and naturally, although I am glad to be able to agree with him, I do not wish to pass criticism of a hostile character upon the work of a Department other than my own. There is one more question which I approach with some trepidation after your ruling to-night, Mr. Chairman—I mean that which was brought under our notice by the hon. Member for Rugby, who spoke at some length upon it. He put to me a whole list of questions with regard to the future of fox hunting in this country. I was impressed with one suggestion which bears on the interest of agriculture. The hon. Member suggested that it would be most desirable if, in future, horses and forage could be bought directly of tenant farmers instead of from middlemen and dealers, who prevent the profits from going' into the pockets of those whom we desire to have them. I warmly endorse the suggestion. I think it would be the most desirable thing in the world; but it is not a question in which the Board of Agriculture ought to interfere. The hon. Member next dwelt 011 the damage to fences and crops, and insinuated—


Order, order!


To tell the truth I am very glad, Sir, to be relieved from the duty of replying at greater length to the observations of the hon. Gentleman, which are scarcely, I think, with in the province of the Department. I hope now that the Supplementary Estimates of the Board of Agriculture will be allowed to pass. I assure hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House that the various suggestions which have been made to me will receive the most careful attention of the new Department of which I am President.

Question put, and negatived.

Original Question again proposed.


I wish, Sir, now to bring back the discussion to its financial aspect, and I have no doubt I shall have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman at the* head of the Board of Agriculture to the matter on which I am about to speak. I intend to move the reduction of the Vote by the whole of the salary of the right hon. Gentleman, and I think I shall be able to show him that my proposal is reasonable and legitimate. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is nothing per- sonal in this Amendment, nor do I take this action because the right hon. Gentleman happens to be at this time President of the Board. I have no doubt that he will make just as good a Minister of Agriculture as any other gentleman on that side of the House. But there was a distinct pledge given by the Government, after a good many discussions, as to the appointment of a Minister of Agriculture. Formerly, the duties of this Minister were performed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, whose office was a purely honorary one. I remember once meeting the late Mr. John Bright during the vacation. I asked him something about his office, and he replied, "Oh, I have not even seen my private secretary for the last four months; there is really nothing to do." It was admitted that there was nothing to do in the office, and the duties now fulfilled by the right hon. Gentleman were added to those of the Chancellor of the Duchy. It was fully understood that when a Minister of Agriculture was appointed, the salary of the Chancellor of the Duchy would be transferred to the office now held by the right hon. Gentleman. But we have still a Chancellor of the Duchy—a very estimable nobleman—and we cannot attack his salary, as it is not in the Estimates. It comes out of the revenues of the Duchy. We are therefore obliged to attack the salary of the right hon. Gentleman himself. I do not expect that right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite are so patriotic as to say they do not want salaries, and I would therefore say to the President of the Board of Agriculture, "Go to the Duke of Rutland. Get your salary from him—get his salary." There was a pledge given to the House that the salary of the Chancellor of the Duchy should be given to the new Minister for Agriculture, and it has not been carried out. I need not refer to the day when that pledge was given, as it must be in the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman. "Coming events cast their shadows before," and the right lion. Gentleman took a much greater interest in the discussion in the course of which the pledge was given than some of us on this side did. I would urge that the pledge which was given ought to be carried out; and, as a protest against its non-fulfilment, I move the reduction of the Vote by £1,120.

(10.10.) Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, £1,266, Salaries, be reduced by £1,120, part of the Salary of the President.—(Mr. Labouchere.)

The Committee divided:—Ayes 58; Noes 118.—(Div. List, No. 13.)

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