§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 4th April.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1.
§ *(3.2.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
I move, in page 1, line 7, to leave out from "If," to "this Act," in line 10. The words which I propose to leave out are these:—If the council of any county are of opinion that there is such a demand for small holdings for the labouring population in their county as justifies them in putting in operation this part of this Act.This Amendment must be taken in connection with a subsequent Amendment which I propose to move—in line 702 10, after the word "council," to insert "of any county." If, therefore, the Amendment is carried, the clause will run: "The council of any county may," &c. These words as they now stand either have no meaning and are mere surplusage, or they have a meaning. If they have a meaning, I venture to think that there will be a certain ambiguity as to what that meaning is, because how can a Council form any opinion? The words obviously refer to the 1st sub-section of Clause 4, in which it is stated thatAny county council may, and every county council not being a council of a county borough shall appoint a committee to consider,&c. As the words stand now it is possible for any County Council to state beforehand whether it will, or whether it will not, adopt the Act. That is the meaning of which these words would be susceptible, and it is in order to avoid any ambiguity of that kind that I propose to leave them out.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 7, to leave out from the word "If," to the words "this Act," in line 10.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ (3.4.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
I have listened with attention to the arguments of the hon. Gentleman, but I fail to see that there is any objection to affirming in Clause 1 the principle on which the Bill is founded, although that general principle finds expression in Clause 4. I presume the House will agree with me that the Act should only be put in force where it is required, and I see no reason why that principle should not be affirmed in Clause 1.
§ *(3.5.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON
There are two ways in which the County Council may affirm its opinion, but there is no necessity for the County Council, previous to any demand for land taking place, affirming the opinion whether it should put the Act in force in any particular county. It would be time enough for the County Council to affirm the opinion when an actual specific demand for particular land is sent up to it.
§ (3.6.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
There is a clear contradiction between these Clauses 1 and 4; and although the First Lord of the Treasury wishes them to be left unchanged, I think if he endeavoured to reconcile them he would find it beyond his powers. Clause 4 contemplates that County Councils shall, in the first instance, whether they like it or not, appoint a committee, and that committee is to institute an inquiry, upon which, apparently, the object of Clause 1 will be carried out. I desire to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the extraordinary phraseology of this clause, and ask him what it means. I have no doubt he has seen the speech of the Lord Chancellor in Birmingham on Saturday night, in which, in very severe terms, his Lordship commented on the phraseology of the Bills sent up by this House, and suggested that it is the lay Members of this House who are responsible for the extraordinary language which some of those Bills contain. I will not presume that this language has proceeded from a lay mind, but I think we may fairly ask the right hon. Gentleman to put a meaning upon that clause: "If the council of any county are of opinion." I do not know how a Council can be of opinion. I know how an individual can be of opinion, and I know how a Council can resolve, but I always thought that the way in which a body, whether House of Commons or Board or Council, expresses its judgment is by resolution. I can understand if we are told that they are to resolve. Then we find that the demand is to be made by the labouring population, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to define labouring population. We know that he is a large landowner in Lincolnshire, and that no man works harder than he does in his capacity of President of the Board of Agriculture, and in that sense of the word he labours. I suppose, however, that the meaning is to exclude from this Act those persons who do not earn their living in the form of weekly wages. But the judicial mind and the legislative mind are in perpetual conflict; and a great deal of litigation is brought about by people seeking to give to Acts 704 a meaning which Parliament never intended, and endeavouring to make Acts do what Parliament never contemplated. I would ask, does this Bill include the fishermen of Lincolnshire, the cotton spinners of Lancashire, and the miners of Staffordshire, or is it confined to the agricultural population? A part of this clause appears to me to be mere surplusage, and if it means agricultural labourer why should it not say so? I do not see how men, such as blacksmiths, village carpenters, or the classes mentioned last night, are to have a community of interest with the labouring agricultural population who are earning weekly wages; and, therefore, I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that Clause 1 and Clause 4 are in absolute conflict, and that they must have been inserted in the Bill upon two different sets of instructions, one contemplating one state of things and the other another state of things. And I submit to him that the vagueness and incertitude about the meaning of the words put into this clause will tend, amongst other things introduced into the Bill, to nullify the measure altogether.
§ *(3.11) THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. CHAPLIN, Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of a judicial mind in connection with the language of this clause. It appears to me to be perfectly clear to almost any layman in the world. The right hon. Gentleman has taken exception to the clause as it is drafted, and said he had never heard of such a phrase as "in the opinion of the Council," and did not know how a County Council could express an opinion. I ask him, then, "How can this House be of opinion?" And yet it is one of the commonest forms of expression employed in Motions in this House. It is used week after week and day after day. "That this House is of opinion" is one of our commonest forms of expression. That is a sufficient answer, I think, to the objection of the right hon. Gentleman. Then he talks about the labouring population and asks are they to include such men as blacksmiths, village carpenters, and the classes mentioned last night, or does it only include persons who are agricultural labourers alone? Certainly 705 it is intended to include a far wider circle than that. According to our reading of this clause it includes all the classes to whom he has referred; and let me remind the right hon. Gentleman that in every agricultural district and village, during the period of harvest at all events, all the mechanics, blacksmiths, and village tradesmen, are engaged in agricultural work. Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows enough of the country to be aware of that fact. Harvest-time is the busiest time in the year, and during that time the whole agricultural population are engaged very often; but let it not be understood that the application of this clause is to be limited to that class. The words in the clause which cause such dissatisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman have been taken out of the Allotments Act. In that Act it was provided that the labouring population should be provided with allotments, and I never heard a whisper of complaint against it upon that ground. It appears to me, therefore, that the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman is hypercritical altogether. With regard to Clause 4, I think I can convict the right hon. Gentleman of inaccuracy. Under that clause it is the duty of the County Council to appoint a Committee to consider whether the circumstances of the county justify the Council in putting into operation this part of the Act; and when a petition is presented to them it becomes the duty of the County Council to make inquiry into the whole of the circumstances with the view of putting the Act into operation. As regards the Amendment which the hon. Member has moved, it seems to me to be open to this objection, that if these words were omitted, then the position would be this: that even if there were going to be no demand whatever for the provision of small holdings, so far as the labouring population were concerned, the County Councils would have to proceed notwithstanding. It appears to me that the language used in the Bill is the ordinary language of Acts of Parliament, so far as I am acquainted with them, and is in accordance with the precedent of the Allotments Act. I am bound to say that the Amendment is 706 altogether unnecessary, and that the observations of the right hon. Gentleman are not altogether well-founded.
§ (3.16.) MR. SEALE-HAYNE (Devon, Ashburton)
I think, in the case of the Allotments Bill, the Minister who had charge of the Bill expressed the opinion that the words "labouring population" did not include anything but agricultural labourers. If I remember rightly that was the explanation he gave when we endeavoured to introduce other words.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE, Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
As I suppose I am the Minister referred to by the hon. Member, I feel bound to state that no such opinion was expressed by me. It always seemed to me that the "labouring population" would include artizans belonging to the towns.
§ MR. SEALE-HAYNE
At that time I recollect distinctly it was stated that the words "labouring population" would not include such men as the village blacksmith and the village carpenter.
§ *(3.17.) SIR W. FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
The Allotments Act of 1887 in some of its clauses was worded in the same way as this Bill in saying that the Local Authority is of opinion, but there the important words are added "after inquiry." In this case the right hon. Gentleman contemplates, I apprehend, that the County Council is to come to an opinion without any previous inquiry, and in that respect I think this Bill is inferior in its wording to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman's colleague sitting on the same Bench. The County Council may have an academic discussion on these points as to the general desirability of small holdings in particular parts of the country; and later on, after inquiry, they may find that their opinion is wrong. It would be more logical and more conducive to the effective operation of the Act, if the right hon. Gentlemen allowed their opinion to be formed after a public inquiry of some kind has been made.
§ (3.19.) MR. E. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)
I cannot agree with the complaints that have been made with regard to the words used in this clause. 707 It seems to me that the language is perfectly clear. There is a subsequent Amendment dealing with the insertion in the clause of the words "labouring population." It seems to me that when we are dealing with land up to 50 acres that really not only the labouring population strictly so called should be included, but it would be desirable to include also tenants or freeholders.
(3.20.) MR. H. T. KNATCHBULL HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
This Bill is intended to benefit not only the agricultural labourers but some others who combine other occupations with that of agricultural labour, and it would be a great pity if by any possible ambiguity they should be excluded.
Order, order! There is a subsequent Amendment dealing with the question of the exclusion of the words "for the labouring population," and the hon. Member is not in order in discussing the matter now.
§ *(3.21.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON
First of all a Committee is to be appointed before the Act can be put in force; and, secondly, there is a Committee proposed in Sub-section 2, Clause 4, which contains some safeguards which in my opinion are altogether sufficient and adequate without previous inquiry. Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor any other hon. Member has suggested that these words are necessary, and, therefore, considering that there is no necessity for their insertion, I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman should not consent to their omission.
§ *(3.21.) MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)
I rise, in the words of the Minister of Agriculture, to try to pour oil on the troubled waters. I consider that the benefit of this clause should be open to all, and, therefore, I am against leaving out these words. I am also in favour of taking out the words "labouring population," because the great good of this Bill—if it is to be of any good—will be to small farmers, who might not come quite under the definition "labouring population." I would venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should insert the words "after inquiry" after Coun- 708 cil, which would be following the precedent of the Allotments Act, and that he should take out the word "may" and put in "shall."
§ (3.23.) MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether my interpretation of the Bill is correct. I wish to know whether Clause 1 contemplates the case that the County Council may take the initiative in putting the Act into operation; and, if so, whether Clause 4 is not somewhat contradictory in its terms?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ (3.24.) MR. OLDROYD (Dewsbury)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, after "county," to insert "or of any borough." I wish first of all to assure the right hon. Gentleman that this Amendment is not inspired by any avowed or by any concealed opposition to the Bill of which he is in charge, nor is there any intention in any way to thwart or cripple the operation of the Bill. But what I simply desire is this: that the Town Council of a non-county borough shall have the same power in the administration of this Bill as under its present framing is accorded to the county borough and County Council. This is a simple modification of the proposed administration of the Bill, and one which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to accept. During the discussion on the Instruction to the Committee last night there seemed to be a consensus of opinion that the County Councils were on the whole too massive and too distant a Body to consider with detailed accuracy all the questions that might arise in the consideration of the operation of this Act; and I think the right hon. Gentleman himself from his reply in that Debate did not say that the Parish Councils or District Councils would be less calculated faithfully to discharge their duties under this Act than the County Councils. But his objection to the Instruction was this—that the Parish Councils or District Councils were not in existence, and that the creation of such an authority to deal with this Bill might be fatal to the measure itself. But in the case of the Amendment 709 which I propose that argument does not apply, because we have in the Councils of the non-county boroughs already an authority established which, in the general opinion of this House, it is agreed is an authority which may safely be trusted with the carrying out of this Act. I think it will not be disputed that the duties which are imposed on these Bodies already are far more weighty and more responsible than the duties which will be entailed by the administration of this Bill. I would submit that the capacity of Town Councils for carrying out the work in their boroughs is recognised by Parliament, and additional duties are constantly being put upon them in recent years. Public libraries have been authorised to be constituted and managed by Town Councils; and even in this Parliament, under the Technical Instruction Act, additional powers were given as to rating for that purpose, and so on. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will remember, in the case of the Allotments Act, the Town Councils were constituted the sole authority for the administration of that Act in their own districts. The right hon. Gentleman need have no fear as to the general willingness of Corporations to undertake and discharge this important duty. Some two years ago, in a discussion on the Allotments Act, it was pointed out to the House that in the matter of the provision of allotments the Town Councils or the boroughs had faithfully discharged their duties, and had shown no reluctance whatever to carry out the Allotments Act in their districts. It would be very hard indeed if those boroughs, more especially such as are of an agricultural character which have already provided free libraries and made ample provision for allotments, should be told by Parliament, "Notwithstanding the fact that you have administered the Act well and faithfully, we have no confidence in you. We distrust you, and would not leave to you the responsibility of carrying out this Act." I contend that the Town Council is the only proper authority for dealing with this Bill. It cannot be gainsaid that 710 Town Councils have a better local knowledge than any other authority for the purpose of this Bill; they know what boroughs are adapted for the purposes of these small holdings; they know the needs of the people, and what is most important; they have a knowledge of the individuals concerned. The persons who are authorised to administer this Act should have personal knowledge of the applicants, and should confer the advantages of small holdings only upon those who by their thrift and industry are well-known in their districts as being worthy to receive them. It may be argued that the rateable value of these boroughs would be very small, and that the limit which the right hon. Gentleman has fixed as the amount of purchase-money for these small holdings might militate against the extensive operation of the Act; but the right hon. Gentleman himself says that this measure is simply an experimental one; and if it be found that in the smaller boroughs the limit is too small, that amount can be extended by the County Councils themselves. Speaking to-day on behalf of these smaller boroughs, I may say that a very strong feeling exists in them, not against the Bill itself, but against the interference of County Councils in the administration of the affairs of boroughs which could be equally well carried on, if not better, within their own limits. This objection to the Bill is, I consider, a reasonable one; and it would be unworthy of those who have so long enjoyed such privileges if they were to silently acquiesce in the proposals of the Bill, which would have the effect of introducing an alien authority. I do not wish to magnify the friction which, more or less, exists between the smaller boroughs and the rural parts of the county, but we should not shut our eyes to the fact that this interference may possibly culminate in a very considerable amount of friction. The right hon. Gentleman seems, by the provisions of the Bill itself, to contemplate that a possible loss may arise out of it, and he has accordingly introduced certain restrictions to which I have already referred. Let me deal with two alternatives that may ensue after the passing of this Bill. Firstly 711 there may possibly be a great rush for these small holdings; and if that be the case, I should like to know what would be the feeling in those boroughs of an urban character, which would be brought under the penalty of subscribing to the deficiency that may arise? In the other case the rural boroughs might complain that this loss had arisen in consequence of the laxness of the County Councils in administering the Act, and contend fairly that they would themselves have been able to provide against such a deficiency occurring. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that there will be ample opportunity for the administration of the Act in the smaller boroughs, and it would be only equitable and fair that those boroughs should have the administration of it left in their hands. There seems to be an idea that the County Councils might possibly be able to administer the Act more carefully, because, under Clause 4, they are instructed to proceed by Committee, and that on petition inquiry is to be held. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that in the case of these smaller boroughs there would be no need of proceeding in this dilatory method, because the members of the Council would not only know how far the district is affected, but would be able to select those men who are best fitted to carry out the Act. I trust, therefore, that, in the interests of Local Government and in support of the franchise rights which boroughs now enjoy, all the friends of sound Local Government will support the Amendment I have now the honour of moving. In the interests of the Bill itself, I think my Amendment might be fairly agreed to, because there would then be a larger number of authorities empowered to administer the Act, which would be some guarantee for its success. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to accept it, proposed as it is in no unfriendly or Party spirit, and that he will thus prevent another blow being struck at those Local Authorities whose interests ought not to be jeopardised by their being forbidden to carry out this Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 7, after the word "county," to insert the words "or of any borough."—(Mr. Oldroyd)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ *(3.45.) SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
I think it is desirable to say what I have to say upon the subject now rather than to do it hereafter upon similar Amendments which stand on the Paper in my own name. The view which the hon. Member has just put before the House is that which is entertained very strongly by the Municipal Corporations' Association of the United Kingdom, which represents the whole of the boroughs, both county and borough. So strong and general is the feeling in favour of the Amendment in this non-political Association that, when the subject was discussed, a resolution was passed unanimously asking that they should be all put on the same footing under the Bill. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will accept this as a fact—that the Amendment is not put before the House in any hostile spirit. Speaking on behalf of the boroughs, I believe that the feeling in them is one of great satisfaction, both with regard to the Bill itself and the manner in which it has been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman. But the present question is really a most important one; it affects the integrity of the borough life of this country. I do not forget what has been said in this House, and at no distant day the general question may have to be again discussed. For the present, however, I content myself with saying that the feeling which still exists on the subject was strongly and well expressed in the discussion on the Allotments Bill, and experience has added to the conviction that the existing system is not advantageous in the interests of either one class of boroughs or of the other. The President of the Local Government Board on the occasion of the Allotments Bill recognised the right of boroughs to autonomy in dealing with such matters; he recognised their knowledge, their experience, and their interest in manag- 713 ing their own affairs, and the result has been that that Act is now working well and is giving satisfaction both in boroughs and counties. There are many points connected with small holdings which can best be considered locally, such as the situation and quality of the land, its adaptability for small holdings, the efficiency of the men who are going to cultivate it, and the methods of cultivation. These and various other matters must be considered, whilst it must also be borne in mind that it is certainly not desirable to stereotype too much any particular method of agriculture over the whole area of a county, especially those of very large area I hope that in connection with these small holdings means will be found of quickening experiments on a small scale in agriculture, and therefore the local aspect of the methods of cultivation must not be lost sight of. Now, Sir, the old chartered boroughs which have done so much good work in the past desire to apply this measure for themselves. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture said recently that the only popularly Elective Bodies at present are the County Councils. Sir, I can hardly agree with that. The County Councils, well as they have done much of their work, are affairs of yesterday compared with many of the chartered boroughs, which have existed for centuries; and if the right hon. Gentleman supposes that the old boroughs will contentedly accept delegated powers to carry out matters confided to them by the County Councils he is very greatly mistaken. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the County Councils alone possess the necessary borrowing powers, but these words are ambiguous, and they appear to me to be somewhat misapplied. The borrowing powers of the boroughs are ample to meet the case. It is quite true that there is in the Bill a limitation of the amount chargeable on the borough rates to one penny in the pound, and I grant that in the case of some of the smaller boroughs there might be a difficulty in raising the requisite funds. Similar difficulty would, however, certainly not be experienced by those boroughs 714 whose population fell short by a few thousands of that of the county boroughs. The penny limitation will, I venture to say, be found disadvantageous to the working of the Act, and might well be increased for furthering that truly conservative work, the rooting to the soil of the men who till the soil. But, Sir, if there is to be a centralised authority there must be some check on the want of information and knowledge possessed by that body. On the other hand, if the services of men of long experience and local knowledge are obtained there will be no need of the penny limitation, which is one of the leading features of this Bill. If you decentralise and give to the old experienced boroughs a power of management over their own affairs there will be no need of this limitation. This provision, again, will operate most unfairly. A borough may or may not desire to have small holdings. If it does desire to have small holdings the Act will be carried out; and if it does not desire to have small holdings, why should it be taxed for the purposes of others at a distanee? We all know of boroughs with corporate land which is let out for small holdings, land which has been managed for centuries by these boroughs, not always well, but now much better than before. A borough in such a position does not desire to exercise those powers. I take one borough in which the success of small holdings is one of the most notable and commendable features of the history of Local Government—I mean the borough of Nottingham, which has 180 acres of land that the Corporation years ago let out in allotments, thus initiating the system of small holdings. These people supply the best produce in the Midlands, and the holdings give occupation and pleasure to a large number of persons. Now, Sir, if a town possesses land and has power to do this work without expense, is it right to impose taxation upon it for the benefit of another locality in which it has not the slightest interest? The main point I want to impress upon the Committee is this—do not let us make the Local Government Act into a 715 centralising measure. That is at variance with its principle, which must be maintained; we must not make the Act a means of centralisation, but of localisation; and to that end the Amendment will be conducive.
§ (4.0.) MR. STORY-MASKELYNE (Wilts, Cricklade)
This subject of the boroughs and their relation to this Bill is a very important one, and I should like to see the principle carried further than is proposed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury. All the arguments which have been used are applicable to the urban districts and to the smaller towns. There are a large number of towns with from 10,000 to 15,000 inhabitants to whom this Bill will come home more closely, as regards their immediate interests, than to the large boroughs whose case we have been discussing. It is for the rural boroughs that I plead, and if the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture concedes anything in this direction he will open his arms to and include those boroughs. They are showing a deep interest in the Bill, and are anxious to share in its advantages. For example, in Swindon, which is in my constituency and which is one of the most thriving towns in England, the people are looking forward to this Bill in the hope that the Town Council may be able to deal with land in the same way as the County Council will be empowered to do. It is quite true that if you abstract from the rating area of the county those important places you have a smaller rating area. But after all a penny is not a very large tax on the county, and if you doubled that penny you would not make up the loss by abstracting the boroughs from the rating area. I do feel strongly the argument in favour of decentralisation, and if you do not make the area too small, decentralisation will be found to be the key to the working of these principles which are coming on the tapis, and with which we are now beginning to deal. We must not be jealous of the Local Authorities which are every day growing in power and in importance. They are centres of education, units of intelligence around which the county is crystallised; and I hope the right hon. 716 Gentleman will show his sympathy with that decentralising idea and will recognise in some form the appeals made to him from various quarters of the House in no Party spirit on behalf of those boroughs, and in the interests of the legislation we are seeking to pass.
§ * THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. CHAPLIN, Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
I quite recognise the desire of those representing the boroughs that they should be included in this Bill, and I can assure hon. Gentlemen that it is not because of any feeling of jealousy or unfriendliness towards those particular localities or Borough Authorities that they have not been included. I accept very gratefully the welcome assurances of my hon. Friend that this Amendment is not dictated by any feeling of hostility to the Bill but rather with a view to promote and strengthen it. At the same time my first duty on this occasion is to guard against any addition being made to the Bill which would in my opinion be likely to retard rather than advance its operation; and I will state to the Committee some of the reasons why, in my humble judgment, the Amendment should be rejected. In the first place, it appears to me that in an enormous number of cases if the boroughs were to be the authori empowered to acquire the land, present rate of a penny in the pound would be altogether insufficient, and the holdings would be so small as to be absolutely useless. I have only to run over the non-county boroughs, and I find borough after borough with an assessable rental of £9,000, £4,000, £3,000 and so on. The borrowing powers of these boroughs would be absolutely useless for the purpose of securing small holdings. They might borrow from £400 to £1,000, but it must be obvious to the Committee that under the present limited rate that we propose these sums would be wholly and totally inadequate for the purposes of this measure. If that is so, the Committee must recollect that while the boroughs would do no good to themselves they would detract from the powers of the County Council to make provision for small 717 holdings. Surely these are considerations requiring the serious attention of the Committee, and they are sufficient to exonerate me from any charge or even from any suspicion of having unduly or unfairly overlooked the interests of the boroughs, and of having been guided by any considerations other than those which are the genuine interests of the measure. It is certainly not because we cannot trust them. I am as sensible as anybody can be of the admirable way in which the work is performed by these Corporations. Then the hon. Member who proposed this Amendment laid great stress upon the greater knowledge of local circumstances which would necessarily be possessed by the boroughs. That is quite true; they have greater local knowledge than the County Councils. But the County Councils are expressly empowered, and indeed compelled under the clauses of the Bill, to make a local inquiry, and there can be no difficulty whatever in the County Council acquiring sufficiently accurate local knowledge to enable them at all events to acquire land in the most satisfactory manner. Now I hope the hon. Gentleman who proposed the Amendment, and my hon. Friend below the Gangway who asks us to make this concession, will observe that it has been practically admitted that if this concession is made and the Amendment added to the Bill it would necessarily involve an addition to the present rate of 1d. per £1. That is a step to which I could not consent, and upon which I am obliged to take my stand, because the amount of money is as much as we would be justified in raising in the first instance. As the Bill stands some ten or eleven millions of money may be borrowed; and surely that is a sum which is as large as we are justified in throwing upon the rates for the purpose of what is avowedly and admittedly an experiment. The hon. Member says it would inflict a blow upon the boroughs. But I would do nothing to inflict a blow upon the boroughs; nothing could be further from my intention than that, and I repudiate very strongly such an interpretation of the Bill and say it would have 718 no effect whatever of that kind. The hon. Member below the Gangway talked of the difficulty in agricultural districts of applying local restrictions, all of which would be much better done by the authorities on the spot, and he also referred to the case of those boroughs which have lands which are managed by them already. My hon. Friend forgets that for all purposes, except the actual acquisition of land, there are provisions in the Bill already delegating such management to the Local Authorities. I should be quite prepared, after we are done with the consideration of that part of the question, to consider the extension of those powers of delegation; but in every other single respect, except the acquisition of land, I am bound to say I still adhere to the opinion that the powers of the boroughs are adequate and sufficient. The hon. Member pointed out that it might operate unfairly upon some particular boroughs, and asked, Why should a borough that does not want to buy small holdings of its own be compelled to undergo taxation for other localities which do desire to do so? But the argument goes a step further; it affects the whole Bill, and, if it were carried out to its logical conclusion, we should be able to do nothing whatever in this matter, because the further question to be asked is, Why should any individual be rated for the purposes of this Bill who has not got a small holding himself merely because other people have got small holdings? That is an argument which goes to the very root of the whole matter. For the reasons I have stated to the Committee, I think they will see that we have, in adopting the course we have taken, acted not without good reason. We have done it because we believe the Bill is far more likely to have a good effect, drawn as it is at present, than if we accepted the Amendment of the hon. Member. He talks about matters to which, perhaps, he may not have given so much attention as we have done, and I hope the Committee will support the Government in their Resolution.
§ (4.15.) MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
I regret the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board 719 of Trade is not here to appeal to on this matter. I should be very reluctant to support any Amendment which would be calculated to retard the progress of this Bill, and I believe the acceptance of this Amendment would most distinctly promote the purposes which this Bill has in view. And this is no sentimental difficulty on the part of the towns. Even if it were a matter of strong sentiment, I think there is very much to be said for it. We should do all we can to promote a feeling of honest pride and interest in the self-government of the smaller communities of our country. This is a matter by which, if this Bill is passed into law, 260 self-Governing Bodies in England will be made liable to additional burdens under the County Authorities. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture says, "Why is this to be distinguished from making one individual liable for the burdens entailed on others?" Surely everybody will agree that there is a very wide distinction in this matter. We are continually told that we of the towns are very lavish in our expenditure and that our rates seem to be of very considerable amount. No doubt it is perfectly true that the rates of boroughs are large, and we are all of course compelled, by sanitary measures, by educational measures, and in other ways, to call largely upon our ratepayers. But is it quite a just answer to say that ratepayers who are at present subject to rates of something like 6s. in the £1 are to be made liable to a further burden of 1d. in the £1 in order to provide small holdings in agricultural districts which are rated at 1s., 2s., or 2s. 6d. in the £1, those districts being perhaps 30, 40, 50, or 60 miles away from the town? You are by this Bill inviting the County Authority to come into the municipal area to purchase land, to sell land, to build houses, and to lay down conditions for the building of those houses, and all that without necessarily implying any negotiations whatsoever, or any communication whatsoever with the Governing Body of that municipal area. I venture very respectfully to put to the Committee the considera- 720 tion that that position of things cannot possibly promote the easy and smooth working of this measure. Further than that, will the Committee consider how very many of our boroughs have very large districts of land within their municipal area? And I may confidently suggest that we are much more likely to give effect to the provisions of this Bill if power is entrusted to the boroughs than if it is handed over to the County Councils 40 or 50 miles away. I regret that the noble Lord who represents Colchester (Lord Brooke) is not present in the House, for he could have given us some information on this matter. But in the absence of the noble Lord, I would simply say that I have a letter from the Chief Magistrate of Colchester pointing out that they have 11,000 acres within their municipal area, and no less than 64 agricultural villages in the Municipality. I believe no gentleman who knows the facts will at all suggest that the Corporation of Colchester have in any way whatsoever been lacking in the attention which they ought to have given to the well-being of these agricultural villages, but that, on the contrary, they have done very much for the well-being of the people. Why should this House by this Bill say the Corporation of Colchester, with a rateable value of £150,000, is to be put to one side and told that the County Council is to see to the extent of the small holdings within their municipal area? That is a very strong attack upon the self-government which such boroughs prize so highly, and which has answered its purpose so well. But there are other towns which have larger areas even than Colchester. Why should not these boroughs be able to put this Bill in force within their own areas for the benefit of their own people, and why should it be needful that some County electors within their borough should have to forward a petition to the County Council, asking them to send a roving Commission to ascertain the wants of the population under their own self-government, which has been working satisfactorily generation after generation? Take the case of the borough of Scarborough, which I have 721 the honour to represent. If it is thought desirable for our town to endeavour to increase its estate, to add small holdings to the allotments which we have already, or to make experiments for the disposal of our sewage or refuse, why should we, a borough with a rateable sum of £180,000 and 33,000 of a population, have to send an humble request to the County Council of the North Riding, 50 miles away, asking them if they will be so good as to come and look into the circumstances of our borough? I venture to think it is most undesirable that we should have to do so. I do trust that the Government will consider this matter further. We do not wish to raise the general question, but I would earnestly appeal to this Committee to do nothing to impede the working of this Bill in the areas of towns, but to enable us to work together for the object which I believe this Committee has in view.
§ *(4.23.) SIR. W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, North-West)
I can only say, if my right hon. Friend in charge of the Bill had allowed this question to pass, and said he would accept this Amendment, difficulties would have immediately arisen with regard to the various people who would have been left out in the cold if you had admitted the boroughs. My experience of boroughs is that they conduct their business exceedingly well, and in a manner that does them unqualified credit; but there are certain things which we are bound to do, although we may regret them. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has put forward a strong case with regard to Scarborough with its £180,000 of rateable value. But before that he passed rather a slighting remark upon we poor unfortunate agricultural people, who have to pay 3s. or 4s., or even more, in the £1, when we are not making one single farthing out of the land we hold. I am stating the absolute truth. If people would look into these balances and accounts and make a fair statement of what is the amount that is made upon the present prices of agricultural produce, I venture to say they would be astounded at the present position in which many are placed. 722 The local rates we are called upon to pay are enormous, and the difficulty we have in finding the money to meet them is exceedingly great. I objected most strongly when my right hon. Friend placed 1d. upon real property. I think that those who have personal property might be called upon to pay their full share with regard to this rate. We only show our heartiness in the cause which we desire to support, but we say this should be taken out of the Consolidated Fund and not put upon the rates. If you are to look at the boroughs, and those whose rateable values are excessively small—and they are very numerous—you should also look at some of those towns which are managed by other Local Bodies, and see how much higher their rateable values and how much larger their populations are. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon pointed out, you would never have them satisfied until they were taken out of that category and placed in the same position as county boroughs are placed in by the Bill, and as it is now sought by this Amendment to place all other boroughs in. There is another question. It has been said they have no representation. I would like to point out that the larger the town the greater the representation it has upon the County Council. And I will venture to say in any County Council the voices of the towns will be heard, as they have been heard during the last three years, more strongly than the voices of the county, and they will point out what it is they require, and those requirements will have the careful consideration of those who deal with the questions which are brought forward. I would only say, further, that I am delighted to find that my hon. Friend stands firm to his guns, because I am quite certain the most mischievous thing that could have been done would have been to give encouragement to this Motion. I venture to think that those boroughs which are below the mark must wait till they are above the mark; and when they are above the mark and become counties, they will receive the benefit of all those things which have been pointed out. If my right hon. 723 Friend should think it necessary to extend the delegation of powers to rural Local Authorities, I hope he will be careful, especially with regard to rating, as to how any power is delegated to any small authority.
§ (4.30.) MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)
The position of the non-municipal boroughs is that they are kept within the purview of the County Council so that they may contribute to the rate. As the rate is limited there will not be sufficient money to provide for the wants of all places, and if there be a conflict between a rural borough, five or six miles in the country, and a thriving, prosperous town as to which shall have holdings provided, does anyone suppose the rural borough will have any chance at all? Practically, boroughs kept in the county for this purpose will have none of the benefit, but will have to pay their full share of the burden. The right hon. Gentleman says that for the purpose of this Bill we must tax many people for the benefit which only one will receive. I agree that is so, but I think he will hear more of that in the Debate, because some of us hold that it is wholly unwarrantable and unjustifiable, except on the condition that some equivalent is given to the others.
§ *(4.33.) MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
As the Representative of a populous but non-county borough, I listened eagerly to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, in the hope of being able to reconcile my constituents to his refusal of the object which they all desire. But my task will, I fear, prove a hard one. The non-county boroughs view with jealousy every fresh sphere of action from which they are excluded, and now that the question of small holdings is receiving the attention of Parliament they are anxious to manage their own affairs in that matter, and not to have the County Council placed above them in everything. My right hon. Friend has based his refusal solely on financial grounds; he says that the non-county boroughs will not have enough funds to do the work for themselves, while withdrawing them from the county would cripple the County Council. The distinction between county and non-county boroughs is purely arbi- 724 trary; it is based on population, and not on financial grounds, and the non-county boroughs will say, "How much more does the independence of the county boroughs limit the funds at the disposal of the Government for their scheme, as they have greater wealth, and can use it or not as they choose?" I do not know if my right hon. Friend sees his way to make any change in the direction of lowering the population limit, so as not to make the non-county boroughs which are able to deal with the question subservient to the County Council. If he would make a concession in that direction the Representatives of non-county boroughs would have an easier task before them. But if he should hold that any such step would cripple the financial basis of his scheme, I am so anxious for its success that I would accept his view in the matter in preference to my own.
§ (4.35.) MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
This matter has been argued mainly from the point of view of the large non-county boroughs, but there are many small boroughs of 3,000 or 4,000 inhabitants, which are packed with agricultural labourers, and what is their position? At present any one of these labourers can go to the County Council and ask for land, and the County Council may make inquiry with the view to putting the Bill in force, so benefiting the people it is intended to benefit. The Amendment proposes to take this class of people and say that they shall only benefit to the extent of the rating power of their own borough. That is putting the agricultural community outside the Act altogether. I hope, therefore, less importance will be given to the large non-county boroughs, which, after all, are not injured in any way, and that attention will be given to the wants of the labourers and others who are packed in these small boroughs. The hon. Member for Islington does not say a word about Local Board districts which have sometimes populations of 30,000 or 40,000. A similar Amendment was moved to the Allotment Bill of 1890 by the hon. Member for Finsbury, and great stress has been laid on the fact 725 that it was accepted by the President of the Local Government Board on that occasion. But it was accepted with great reluctance under the pressure of hon. Members who represented small boroughs. He knew it was damaging to the Bill. The hon. Member opposite said it acted very well; it acts very badly and inflicts a grievance on the labourers in these small boroughs in this way: where a Sanitary Authority will not put the Act in operation the labourers can appeal to the County Council, who will compel the Sanitary Authority; but in these small agricultural boroughs where the Local Authority has declined to put the Act in force the labourers have no remedy. I think that should be sufficient to sustain the right hon. Gentleman in his determination to keep the Bill as it is, and I heartily trust that in the interests of the labourers he will do so.
§ (4.40.) MR. A. ACLAND (York, W.R., Rotherham)
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman how the Bill is going to work if he does not accept some provision of this kind? The hon. Member for Islington is quite right when he says it raises important Local Government questions. The feeling of many of these boroughs and Local Board districts of 30,000 and 40,000 inhabitants as to the working of the Technical Education Act is a growing one. In the West Riding the money was given to the County Council for the purposes of the Act, and they keep it in their pocket and the boroughs have not been able to get it out. If in the West Riding the right hon. Gentleman withdraws boroughs of 30,000 and 40,000 and Local Board districts of 10,000 or 15,000 there would still be left sufficient agricultural areas equal to many in the South-west and centre of England. These boroughs and districts would then have a fair chance of saying whether they would rate themselves on behalf of the labourers. But if he leaves within the county a borough, like my own, of 40,000 and two Local Board districts of 10,000 each, none much interested in small holdings but all deeply interested in having no penny rate, he will not give the agricultural part of the West Riding a fair 726 chance of working the Bill at all. The right hon. Gentleman should consider from the point of view of the West Riding and Lancashire whether he will not withdraw some of these large boroughs.
§ (4.43.) MR. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)
It seems to me that under the Bill as it stands the non-county boroughs and large Local Board districts will have to pay a very heavy share of the rates which are liable to be levied to make good deficiencies under the Act, and at the same time cannot hope to reap any benefit. I think they should have exemption. The case is not so strong for the Local Boards, as if they feel aggrieved they can take steps to become municipal boroughs, and I should be sorry to see the Bill complicated by leaving out Local Board districts over a certain population. Non-county boroughs will have to pay without getting any appreciable benefit, and I think that is a material injury which the Bill proposes to inflict upon them. The Corporation of the place I represent feels very strongly on the matter, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will consider the arguments which have been put before him.
§ *(4.45.) MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
The tone of the Debate has rather disappointed some of us who desired to see the power of the County Councils extended. When the Local Government Bill was introduced it was proposed to exempt from the county only the large boroughs of 100,000 inhabitants, but the President of the Local Government Board had to give way to similar pressure to that being exercised now, and extend the exemption to 50,000. Since that time, whenever a measure has been brought before the House dealing with a question in any way affecting the powers of the County Councils, there has been an attempt to exempt municipal boroughs from the jurisdiction of the County Councils. That is altogether destructive of the principle on which the County Council Act rests. The desire was to relieve Parliament of such work as could be done by representative local assemblies; and it was hoped that the County Councils would be very much strengthened with that object. Now it is pro- 727 posed to exempt boroughs from the control of County Councils in relation to the provision of small holdings. Under these circumstances, do not let it be said that hon. Gentlemen opposite are the opponents of local self-government. The proposal comes from, and is supported by, many Members on this side, and arises entirely from the action of hon. Gentlemen representing small Municipalities. Many of these Municipalities control what are practically mere villages, while larger populations, represented by District Boards, would have to accept the control of the County Councils. If you exempt these Municipalities, you must exempt Local Board districts also, and so deprive the County Councils of a great deal of their power and usefulness; creating a patchwork system destructive of efficiency. I rose to point out that the proposal to exempt non-county boroughs is a retrograde step in Local Government. Our object should be to strengthen the County Councils and give them fuller power, and at the same time to create other Local Bodies, such as District Councils, and to revise the parish assembly, so that there can be co-operation between these bodies, the final control resting with the County Council—the greater representative body—in order that there may be uniformity and satisfactory financial arrangements, which would be fair to all parties. The proposal now before us is so retrograde that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not accept it.
§ * MR. AINSLIE (Lancashire, N. Lonsdale)
I rose to say very much what the hon. Gentleman just said. In the discussion on the Local Government Bill, the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Gully) desired to have his city among the county boroughs. At that time I rose—anxious for my large County of Lancaster—to protest against the frittering away of the county proper. If the principle sought by this Amendment were carried into effect, our counties would present a patchwork which I think would be almost unrecognisable by a schoolboy fresh from his maps. I think the Committee will do wrong if they accept this Amend- 728 ment, and I rise to protest in the name of my Division of the County of Lancaster, which has not got one of these boroughs in it.
§ (4.52.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
We have just listened to two Tory speeches, one from each side of the House, and I gather from the hon. Member for St. Pancras (Mr. Bolton) that he is in favour of centralisation and therefore opposed to Parish Councils. I happen to represent one of these non-county boroughs which is in favour of the proposal embodied in the Amendment, and it appears to me that the time has arrived when the Minister for Agriculture might give way on this matter, which is not a Party question. I think this is a matter which the non-county boroughs might be left to manage for themselves, because, as a rule, they manage their business very well. In my own city we have a bishop, a cathedral, and a river, and we manage these things very well, and I think we could also manage the business imposed by this Bill. I trust the President of the Board of Agriculture will not waste the time of the House any longer, but will give way now with good grace, for he will have to give way in the end.
§ *(4.54.) SIR W. FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
I should like to suggest, as there is a large amount of feeling in favour of populous places being taken out and allowed to act by themselves, that some kind of compromise is desirable. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Bordesley that there are many small boroughs where agricultural labourers live which ought not to be excluded from the operations of the County Council, for in these places we consider that the County Council is the most suitable body to administer this Act. But in the larger places of 10,000, 15,000, or 20,000 inhabitants I think the Local Authorities might be safely left to act for themselves. If the right hon. Gentleman would put a limit of 20,000 or 25,000, though I would prefer it at 10,000, he would meet the views of many Members on both sides of the House.
§ (4.55.) VISCOUNT GRIMSTON (Herts, St. Albans)
I should like to point out that if the County Councils were pre- 729 vented from drawing some portion of the rate from these small boroughs they would not be prepared to place the population of these boroughs under the operation of this Bill. That would be a check on one of the first principles of the Bill, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will adhere to the Bill in its entirety.
§ (4.56.) Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 174; Noes 210.—(Div. List, No. 69.)
§ (5.10.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, after "is," to leave out "Act," in line 10, and to insert—In any parish or parishes within such county, a demand for small holdings.The object of this Amendment and of another Amendment which stands in my name further down on the Paper is to enter a sort of qualified protest against the form in which the Bill is drawn, and which might lead County Councils to buy land in large blocks in some parts of the county with the view of an experiment being carried out there rather than to localise the experiment by making the small purchasers of land in a greater number of parishes or areas in the county. The two Amendments that stand in my name amount to this: that where a County Council is satisfied that there is a desire for small holdings in any specific parish or parishes in a county, that then the procedure of the Act will be set in motion in order to provide within such parish or within adjoining parishes, or at any rate within reach of those who locally require the lands, that their purchases should be directed to supply that local demand and local requirements; and that the County Councils should not by the form of the Bill be led to enter on an experiment in one or two parts of the county by buying a large block of land. I do not know that I should be justified in discussing an Amendment of this nature at any length; but I wish to move it in order to elicit from the right hon. Gentleman such a statement of his intention with regard to the distribution of the money in large areas as will indicate whether, if this particular Amendment cannot be accepted, he will himself deal 730 with the question which I wish to raise—namely, where there are local wants that these local wants shall, as far as possible, be supplied locally, and that the action of the County Councils shall be directed to the local provision of land rather than to one or more experiments of blocks of land. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 7, after the word "is," to leave out the words to "Act," in line 10, and to insert—
In any parish or parishes within such county, a demand for small holdings."—(Mr. Channing.)
§ *(5.12.) MR. CHAPLIN
The effect of the hon. Member's Amendment if adopted would be to limit the powers of the County Councils for the acquisition of land to the parish or parishes in which the persons who applied for it resided or to which they belonged. Well, I do not understand why we are to limit the powers of the County Councils in this direction. The County Councils, no doubt, will attend to local requirements, and it must be assumed that this is one of the main and chief objects of the Bill; and I think there is no reason to suppose that the County Councils will not perform their duty, so that there is no reason for excluding the power from the County Councils of taking land in other parts of the county. The Amendment proposed by the hon. Member is a distinct limitation of the power of obtaining small holdings for people who want them. We must assume that the County Councils are composed of men of business who thoroughly understand the work they have to do; and I cannot see anything more unsatisfactory or more prejudicial to the general scope of the Bill than to limit it in this direction. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not persevere with his Amendment.
§ MR. CHANNING
I will not press the Amendment to a Division, or press it further. I beg to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (5.16.) MR. JESSE COLLINGS
I beg to move the Amendment which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for East Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse), in page 1, line 8, to leave 731 out "for the labouring population." I am able to say that if the Bill be confined to the labouring population a very worthy and deserving class of people would be shut out from its benefits by the retention of these words. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment to leave out "for the labouring population."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 8, to leave out the words "for the labouring population."—(Mr. Jesse Collings.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ *(5.18.) MR. BARCLAY
The scope of the Bill is obviously limited by the idea that it is to be exceptionally advantageous to the agricultural labourers. I think the object of the Bill is to profit as much as possible every person in the community. In this view I think it unwise to limit the scope of the Bill. We should give the County Councils as free a hand as possible. To limit the Bill to the labouring population would, I think, be found to have a prejudicial effect. In the first place, I should like to know what is meant by the labouring population? Is the village blacksmith, the wheelwright, or small shopkeeper going to have any right to acquire this land? In my opinion, no disadvantage could arise from allowing these people to acquire holdings. I have a further Amendment very much on the same lines, and I shall deal with it if this one is not accepted. In the meantime, I think it would be wise of the Government to accept this Amendment.
§ (5.20.) MR. H. T. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
I hope the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment. It would be a great pity if any ambiguity in regard, to the labouring population should possibly go out, because in my opinion there are many persons, besides those who are distinctly agricultural labourers, who will benefit by this Act. If we leave out these words we may no doubt give an opportunity for undesirable persons probably to get possession of holdings, and even rich men may come in and get land which was not intended for them, but for the agricultural labourers 732 and other persons; but I think the Act will contain sufficient safeguards against that. I hope the Government will accept the Amendment.
§ *(5.21.) MR. CHAPLIN
If we were to omit the words "for the labouring population" from this part of the Bill the effect of it would be this: that although there may be no demand whatever on the part of anyone belonging to what may be called the labouring population, the County Council would, nevertheless, still have to put the Act into operation. The only way in which the class of persons for whom these holdings are to be provided is limited at all is explained in the two last lines of the clause. The limitations upon the people who are to have these holdings are described in these words: They are to be resident in the county; they are to desire to buy; and they are themselves to cultivate the holding. Now, while we think it necessary to have this limitation, it is entirely wrong to suppose that the blacksmith, or the village carpenter, or the artisan, or anybody else would be excluded. Indeed, if that were the case I should be the first person to move their addition. I have no desire in the least that they should be excluded. On the contrary, I think that naturally and necessarily they must be included in the operation of the Bill. Not only is it the intention of the Bill, but I am quite sure it is the effect of the Bill.
§ (5.23.) SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to point out that, as the Bill stands, while the demand is to come from the labourers, the occupation is to be general. How are you to make the labourers make the demand for the blacksmith? And if the labourers do not make the demand the blacksmith will not get the land. I assure the Committee that is so. Why should we not say if the demand is to be general, then the applications should be general? You would then make the drafting of the Bill quite logical.
§ (5.24.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I always understood that this Bill was mainly intended for the benefit of the labouring 733 population, but that it was not meant to be applied exclusively to agricultural labourers. The right hon. Gentleman, I understand, practically admits that. Might I suggest that he should put in the words "and others" after "labouring population"? (Laughter.) The right hon. Gentleman laughs, but I may remind him that in the Glebe Lands Act the words "cottagers, labourers, and others," were inserted, thereby indicating that the Act should be applied to some others. I think the object of the Bill is for the benefit of the labouring classes in the main, yet I think that other classes, such as shopkeepers and others, have a perfect right to derive benefit from the Act.
§ (5.25.) VISCOUNT GRIMSTON
This Bill, I think, obviously includes blacksmiths and others of that description; and the obvious object of the Bill is to put on the land such persons as are capable of using it being benefited by it. I think the Bill ought to contain the words as they now stand.
§ (5.26.) MR. HALLEY STEWART (Lincolnshire, Spalding)
In the small towns and boroughs there is a large population of clerks, about whom no one has yet said a word. Take the law clerks, for instance. Why should not the law clerks in boroughs, and the clerks engaged in shops, and the shop assistants be included in this Bill? They are amongst the labouring population; and I venture to think that the curates in some instances might also be included as belonging to the labouring population. I hope all these limitations will be removed so as to provide for the inclusion of all these classes if it is thought necessary.
§ (5.27.) MR. WHITBREAD (Bedford)
I think the intention of this measure is clearly that the agricultural labourer is to have the first chance. I will not go into the question of whether clerks or curates should have a share in the land; but I say that the labouring population have the first claim. It is to prevent them from floating into the towns that Parliament has embarked upon this sort of legislation; it is to meet their needs, and they have the first claim. I want to known what sort of a claim the labouring population are going to get out of 734 the money at the disposal of the right hon. Gentleman. I should like to know what the right hon. Gentleman is going to get out of his penny on the average valuation of the agricultural districts. It is the labourers who have the first charge, the most urgent claim, and therefore I desire to keep these words in the Bill. If you can satisfy their claim, and still have money to purchase land to give to other classes, I do not at all object to the Bill being changed in that sense; but I think the right hon. Gentleman should hold fast to these words.
§ (5.29.) MR. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey)
I hope the words "for the labouring population" which have been introduced into the Bill for the purpose of carrying out its main object, which is to retain the labouring population in the rural districts will be allowed to remain. My hope to-day is that we may be able to create a peasant class by lifting the labourers out of the terribly dependent position in which they are now situated. Hitherto they have had no resources, but if they had a small amount of land upon which they could fill up their time, it would be a source of benefit to them and a relief to the farmers who employ them. By devoting their spare time to the cultivation of their acre of land they would be able to get a considerable produce, but the moment they went beyond that limit and kept a horse they would be taking a hazardous step, for the cost of keeping a horse is equal to the whole income of the family of an agricultural labourer. Therefore I think it extremely important to retain the words "labouring population."
§ (5.33.) MR. SEALE-HAYNE
It is obvious that the words "labouring population" restrict the benefits of the Act to actual working-men. Now what actual working man has sufficient capital to enable him to pay one-fourth of the price of a small holding? There are very few such men in existence. The right hon. Gentleman announced, when he introduced the Bill, that it was intended to create small freeholders. But how are you to create small freeholders unless you extend the operation of the clause to those 735 who have the money to pay for the holding?
§ (5.35.) MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
There are nearly three Parties in this House who would deal differently with this matter. There are those who would restrict the operation of the Bill and make it too fine; there are those who do not wish to restrict it at all; and there are also the Government who dc not wish to be judged by the Bill, and who have introduced words into it that are not wanted. I think the drafting of the measure would be considerably improved if the words in question were left out. The Government evidently do not mean to restrict the application of the Bill to the labouring class.
§ *(5.37.) MR. CHAPLIN
The matter is not one of vital importance, it is only one of detail. The words it is proposed to strike out would not exclude from the benefit of the Bill any class which hon. Government opposite would like to include. If I had had the slightest idea that they would have done so, I would either have accepted the Amendment, or I would myself have moved to omit them. The words are only intended to generally indicate the class for whom the Bill is intended, namely, the labouring population of the country. If there had been no demand for the Bill on the part of that population it would not have been brought in. The class intended to be benefited is mentioned in the 4th clause of the Bill, and I hope the words will be allowed to remain.
§ (5.40.) MR. H. H. FOWLER
The right hon. Gentleman was rather severe on me this evening for presuming to question the accuracy with which the Bill has been drawn. We have got into a position, as the hon. Member for Haddington has observed, in which there are three parties in the House who attach different meanings to the words in question. The right hon. Gentleman asks us, in the interest of saving time, to pass them over although their precise meaning is not understood by the great portion of the Members of the House. The right hon. Gentleman has said that his intention is that no class should be ex- 736 cluded from the benefit of this Act. Why are these words to be introduced if they mean nothing? Judges will not look at the pious intentions of the Legislature; they will take the words which they find in the Bill. The County Council is to decide, first, whether there is a demand for small holdings for the labouring population. Now, if that means anything, it means that they are to decide whether the labouring population demand small holdings for themselves. The clause does not go on to indicate, as you would expect, that they shall enable the labourers to acquire them if they require them. It has been stated that it will enable everybody to acquire them. Now that is what we want. Then why leave the words in? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will re-consider this matter, and decide to leave them out for they have no meaning whatever.
§ *(5.44.) MR. WINTERBOTHAM
I have not heard any answer given to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture can have weighed what that right hon. Member put so clearly. We all agree that the labourers should first and foremost benefit from the Bill, but others should not be excluded who desire to occupy land for cultivation.
§ (5.45.) MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I scarcely think it will be necessary to go to a Division in regard to a matter of such small importance. Either these words mean something or they mean nothing. If they mean nothing there can be no objection to striking them out; if they mean anything, then I strongly object to them, and I would request the right hon. Gentleman to leave them out. Of course this is a Bill for the benefit of the labouring population; it is also a Bill for multiplying small holdings, and 737 we are anxious that it should be a great social reform. Whether the small holder is a blacksmith, a small shopkeeper, or a labourer does not affect the matter in the slightest degree; therefore, I should exceedingly regret if anything were done, either intentionally or inadvertently which in the slightest degree would restrict the classes to whom small holdings should be given.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I am very anxious to meet the views of the Committee in this matter. I will assent to the insertion of the words "and others," after to the labouring population," which have been suggested.
§ (5.48.) MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
It is well known to all persons who are connected with the legal profession, or who are engaged in Courts of Law, that there are no two words in the English language which have given more trouble to the Judges than the words and others." They may mean persons of the same class, or persons of a different class. If they mean persons of the same class they are utterly uncalled for. If they mean persons of a different class then a Judicial Body has to discover some class to which they might possibly apply. I trust the Government will re-consider the desirability of inserting words which might be appropriate enough in dealing with the Preamble of the Bill, but which otherwise must obscure its meaning and defeat the intentions of Parliament.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
As the meaning of the words does not seem to be satisfactory to the Committee, and as I have never attached any importance to them, will assent to the Amendment as it stands on the Paper.
§ (5.50.) Question put, and negatived.
§ * SIR W. FOSTER
I beg, Sir, to propose in page 1, line 10, to leave out the word "may" and to insert the word "shall," and I do so with the view of bringing this measure into closer harmony with the Allotments Act. The clause as it stands gives a double permissiveness. If the Council are of opinion, after deliberate inquiry, that it may be necessary, they may proceed to create these small holdings. I propose that the word "may" should be altered to the word "shall," which 738 is the word in the Allotments Acts. I believe the Bill would be improved by the alteration that I suggest.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, to leave out the word "may" and insert the word "shall."—(Sir W. Foster.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'may' stand part of the Clause."
§ * MR. WINTERBOTHAM
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken. The substitution of "shall" for "may" does not at all involve the granting of the compulsory powers dealt with in a subsequent Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman said last night that "may" and "shall" are interchangeable terms involving the same meaning. We merely appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to carry out his own dictum. The word "shall" inserted here simply means that a county, as soon as they have decided that they are justified in putting the Act in force, shall go on to provide suitable land.
§ * THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER, Isle of Wight)
The real question is what construction would be put upon the word "shall." There are Acts in which "may" is read "shall." These are Acts in which a public duty is involved and some latitude given. If this word "shall" is here inserted, County Councils having only a limited power of purchasing a certain amouut of land must buy. If it does not involve the question of compulsion the word "may" is the proper word, because that will leave the matter to the discretion of the County Councils. This is not a case in which on a question of construction the word "may" would be read as "shall."
§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I cannot think that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture is right in saying that this involves compulsion. The words immediately after the word "may" are, "subject to the provisions of this Act." If the words are voluntary and not compulsory, the word "shall" would not have a compulsory effect so far as the sale of land on the part of 739 the owner of land is concerned. If you leave the word "may" there, though the County Councils could by voluntary arrangement with the owner acquire land, yet they may not do so. There is nothing more absurd than the legal decisions of the Courts of Law as between the words "may" and "shall." The matter ought not to be left in a condition of ambiguity. It is said that this Amendment does not leave it open to the County Council to take land which it may acquire voluntarily. Therefore, I wish to clear up the idea that this involves compulsion.
§ * SIR R. WEBSTER
I really think the ambiguity would be increased if the word "shall" was inserted. The section is to enable County Councils to acquire land "subiect to the provisions" of the Act. I admit that the word "shall" would not involve compulsion. All that is required to make the section read properly are enabling words, and the word "shall" would require to be followed by the words "if possible."
§ * SIR W. FOSTER
I should like to withdraw the Amendment in the interests of the progress of business.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ * SIR W. FOSTER
I shall now, Sir, move an Amendment, providing that the Council may acquire land either by voluntary agreement or compulsorily. If this experiment is not to be foredoomed to failure, we should take every step that is possible to insure that land is acquired under such conditions as will enable the Council to sell or let it to the agricultural population on easy terms. If the land is to be obtained at an advantageous price there must be compulsion. I do not want to harrass the landlord, for compulsory powers in the background would be seldom used. If compulsion is not in the Bill the land will not be obtainable at a fair price. The experience of the Allotments Act is not favourable and encouraging to the attempt to acquire land voluntarily. Small holdings must, moreover, be diffused throughout the country. They must not all be placed in one locality. Therefore, if you have 740 one landowner willing to sell to the extent of the financial powers of the county, others may not be so minded and the land will not be, as it ought to be, distributed all over the county. Again, landlords may refuse to sell and the Act may thus be rendered nugatory by the action of a few owners. Further, the expense attaching to proceeding under agreement as in the Allotments Act is great. As much as £90 an acre has been paid of the average. It is a prohibitive price that would bring about the failure of this Bill. The rates, moreover, must not be burdened by the purchase of a large quantity of unsuitable land, because in such a case as the purchase a large parcels of land from owners unwilling to sell suitable portions along much of the land would require to be sold at a considerable loss. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture said he was a convert on the question of the application of the principle of compulsion to allotments. I hope he will be a convert in connection with the Bill before us. The people in the country are agitating for the insertion of compulsory powers in this Bill believing that an Act with compulsory powers would do something to arrear the depopulation that is not going on in the rural district. Having attended Conferences in various parts of the country, I have been very much impressed by the earnestness with which a stand has been taken on behalf of the labouring population for compulsory powers to be put into the Bill. The teaching of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham and the hon. Member for Bordesley has taken deep root in the minds of the people in the rural districts, and I believe no legislation of this kind was give them what they want—access the land on easy and fair terms—unless that legislation contains the principle of compulsory purchase.
§ Amendment proposed, in page line 10, after the word "may," insert the words "either by voluntary agreement or compulsorily."—(Sir W. Foster.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words be there inserted."741
§ *(6.12.) MR. BARCLAY
I do not believe it would be possible for any man to make a living with farming land bought by compulsory purchase. It is all very well to say the compulsory price is 10 per cent. over the fair price; but those who have acquired land by compulsory purchase will agree with me in saying that the increase in almost every case over the fair price is from 25 to 50 per cent. Hon. Members must recollect that it is desirable to have land in the neighbourhood of villages and towns, and valuators do take into account the possibility of such land becoming building land. The additional price due to compulsory purchase does not make so much difference to a labourer who is working on only a fourth or an eighth of an acre of land; but when you come to 20 or 50 acres, the excessive price due to compulsory purchase would more than swallow up any profit made upon the land. I do not think compulsion would have the same effect in the case of the sale of small holdings as in the case of allotments. For instance, the sale of land by allotment is rather a retail business which the landlord does not care to be troubled with unless he is compelled to do so. The success of this Bill depends entirely upon the landlords being as willing sellers as the County Council would be willing buyers. It is of essential importance to the success of this Bill that the land shall be bought cheap, and, in very many counties in England already, land can be bought at an extremely low figure. Within a few miles of London you can buy land for £10 an acre which would be suitable for these smallholdings. In such cases this Bill would have a beneficial effect, not only with respect to the labourers, but also with respect to every other person in the community. I do not think we would be doing any service to the agricultural labourers if we induced them to take land acquired under compulsory terms. I would impress upon Members of the House that the increase of the value of the land to the agricultural labourer depends more upon the climate and situation with reference to the market 742 than on considerations as to the quality of the soil. I cannot speak so much for England, but I know that in Scotland the holdings might be as large as 30, 40, or 60 acres. But if it is attempted to purchase such holdings upon compulsory terms, then it must be impracticable for the cultivators of those holdings to live upon them. Under the economic conditions now in force, the low prices of agricultural produce, and the steady increase of wages, it looks as if only the finest land in England will be worth an economic rent. I would certainly deprecate strongly the insertion of compulsory powers in this Bill.
§ (6.16.) MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
I would ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to resist the demand for compulsion. I would remind the House that a Committee of the House reported that if you had compulsion you would be doing a great injury in many cases to landowners. But I think you would be doing a great injury to small farmers when any land is wanted. I do not think land which is now sold at £10 an acre will be land which the labourers will want. They know that the land is no good, for people cannot make anything out of it. What they want is the best land they can get, and it would be very hard upon the farmer that you should compulsorily take away the best portion of his farm, especially when that farm is near a village. I would remind the Committee that farmers themselves feel very strongly on the subject. This morning I attended a meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and a resolution was unanimously passed against giving these compulsory powers. Although I am all in favour of small holdings, and hope and believe we shall be able to get them by the voluntary sale of land, I hope the Committee will not sacrifice the small farmers and small owners by taking away the best portion of their farms in order to make these small holdings.
§ *(6.20.) MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)
I could not put the argument for compulsion in any words of my own which are half as good as the words the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) used at one of his Agricultural Congresses only the other day. The right hon. Gentleman, when he finds himself face to face with those agricultural labourers, is transformed into something so Radical and so Liberal that I have to take his words in preference to any I can use myself. I quote the words of the right hon. Gentleman from the report in the Birmingham Post. He said—Of course, there were exceptional people who would be unreasonable, and it was to meet these exceptional cases that the principle of compulsion was inserted in those Acts" (the Allotments Acts).Now, then, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain to the House, if there are unreasonable people who render compulsion necessary under Allotments Acts, why will not there be unreasonable people who will ultimately oblige you to have compulsion in Small Holdings Acts? Where there are good landlords who are willing to provide allotments and small holdings it does not matter one bit whether you put compulsion in or not. It is to meet the case of the unreasonable people who you yourself admit do exist—who, if they offer to provide land at all, do it grudgingly and under necessity, and who take care sometimes that it shall be a mile from the village and population, often stony, bad, and utterly useless land for the purposes intended—it is to meet these cases that we propose compulsion. I tell you the Bill is useless without. I appeal to the landlords on the other side of the House. Compulsion will not hurt them; but if they want this Act to be a reality and a real benefit and blessing to the working classes and no mere sham, let it be applied universally all over the country, and for that purpose do give power to compel those unwilling and unreasonable men described by the Minister for Agriculture to do what reasonable and willing men do of their own accord. Another 744 argument in favour of compulsion is that you are not only concerned with the argument between good land and bad land—you want particular fields because of their particular position. The part of the whole Bill I am most interested in is the power given under Clause 3 (Sub-section 2) to County Councils to let five or ten acres of land to respectable labourers near to their homes, and almost everything depends upon the accessibility of the land. If you do not grant compulsory powers your Act will not be a universal Act, and there will be scores of parishes in England in which the County Council may be willing, and the labourers may be willing, and in which the land needs cultivation, but in which the land that is wanted and which is suitable and convenient will not be obtainable. Are you going to meet us with regard to these compulsory powers? We know the General Election is close at hand, and if you refuse we intend, to the best of our ability, to put before the labourers the fact that this reservation which you insist on inserting renders the Act useless, for practical purposes, to the men whom you are pretending to serve.
§ *(6.26.) MR. CHAPLIN
The hon. Member who has just sat down has quoted some words of mine which I used some time ago, and has asked me the question how it is, if people were to be coerced in respect to allotments—that coercion having been approved of by myself—that they are not to be coerced when it is a question of small holdings? The hon. Member, I am glad to find, appears to have paid great attention to the speeches which I have recently delivered. And if the hon. Member, who knows so well what I said at all these meetings, had not carefully refrained from stating to the House the explanations which I gave upon this very point upon each of the occasions when I addressed those meetings, I should have been saved the trouble of repeating them to the House upon the present occasion. Compulsion was included in the provisions of the Allotments Acts with my entire approval, though not with my sanction, 745 because I was not at that time a Member of the Government. But I cordially supported it because allotments were proved and ascertained to be for the public good, and of that I had not the shadow of a doubt for a moment. With regard to the provision of small holdings, I do not think there is any Member of the House at present who will be bold enough to say more than this: that they are an experiment, and that the Bill which is now upon the Table of the House contains proposals which must be regarded as an experiment, but which we all hope, and think there is reason to expect, may succeed. There is that complete difference between the two cases which, if there were nothing else to be said, would be, in my opinion, quite sufficient to justify the distinction in the action of the Government in the one case and also in the other. There is another reason in addition: that the power of compulsion at the present moment is absolutely unnecessary. I stated on the First Reading of the Bill, though the hon. Member appears altogether to have forgotten it, that the quantity of land in the market for sale at the present moment was something remarkable, and that the difficulty was rather on the part of the owners of land to find a market for their land than to induce them to sell it. I had some figures given to me only yesterday, coming from a single firm, dealing with this question. I have mislaid them at the present moment, but I recollect them sufficiently well to state them generally to the House. This is a firm who, during the last three years, sold some 67,000 acres of land in England alone out of 375,000 which they had at their disposal, but for which they were unable to find purchasers. If you take the number of eminent firms who have land at their disposal and multiply the number of acres which they succeed in selling, in the same proportion, you will find that there is in the market at the present time waiting for purchasers an amount of land which makes the idea of compulsion entirely unnecessary and even ridiculous. The hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) pointed out that close to London, 746 within 40 or 50 miles of the Metropolis, there were thousands of acres of land which could be sold and purchased at £10 per acre at the present moment. That is quite true; but, as far as I am acquainted with that land, it is not of a character which I should purchase myself. But the hon. Gentleman, who is a much better practical farmer than I am, and who knows a great deal more on the subject of the cultivation of the soil, said it was land that, so far as he was concerned, he would be very glad to buy. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment gave as one of his principal reasons for compulsion that he was anxious to see the land obtained at the cheapest possible price, by which I understood him to mean obtained at something less than a fair market price.
§ * MR. CHAPLIN
Then what on earth is the object of compulsion when so many acres are waiting for purchase?
§ SIR W. FOSTER
I mentioned that land at £90 an acre was too high, and that was the price paid by voluntary agreement. We want compulsion in the background, not for the purpose of using it but to prevent the advent of a new purchaser in the market having the usual result of raising the price.
§ * MR. CHAPLIN
Well; that appears to me to be just the same thing. I understand that it is the view of the hon. Member that the land ought to be cheap because it is required for a great national object. Granted that it is for a national object, should not the burden of this fall upon the nation and not upon a limited class of the nation, the owners of land? That is my view, and therein I differ from the hon. Gentleman in the view of compulsion. Compulsory measures, instead of bringing cheap land, so far as experience goes, means dear land. When the 747 St. Faith's case is given as an instance, the hon. Member says—"Do not be afraid of that; we will soon insert other clauses which will prevent all losses from compulsion in future." That is to say, he is going to take from landowners the protection given by Parliament which they at present enjoy—("No, no!")—wherever land is taken by compulsion by what may even be the arbitrary, unfair action of a Local Authority. There is another practical objection to the introduction of this. It is quite certain, whatever else happens, that the new holders when they embark in their career will have very considerable difficulties to face, many troubles to get over in regard to which they will be very glad to receive assistance from neighbours and friends, and with the application of the principle of compulsion there will be a certainty of a great deal of friction between classes on the land. It is certain that when an owner has land taken from him under compulsion he will feel considerably aggrieved, and I question very much if it will tend to encourage that assistance what is now given by farmers to their poorer neighbours. I know many instances of this, and one especial instance I recollect in relation to the small holdings in East Lincolnshire. Visiting the spot where I have property of my own, accompanied by an old tenant-farmer, I was struck with the manner in which he was looked up to by the small holders whose land adjoined his. Over and over again did he afford assistance at times of trouble and difficulty. When his horses were not at work he would lend a team to plough their land, and in many ways he rendered the greatest possible assistance to the occupiers of small holdings. The first effect of compulsion will be to destroy all this kind of good feeling among the various classes, and I believe, instead of advancing the success of this measure, it will do much to retard the prosperity of the small holders. I could, say much more on the subject, but I do not desire to do so now, for I think the Committee will be prepared to come to a decision on this question.
§ *(6.35.) MR. HALDANE
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken if he thinks this question of compulsion can be disposed of with so little discussion. This is one of the most important questions arising on the Bill. The question of whether we do or do not accept compulsion goes to the essence of the difference of parties on this subject. Let us see what is the argument the right hon. Gentleman has presented. First of all he comes forward as an advocate of this small holding measure, but as an advocate with little faith. He regards it as an experiment, and he has no great hopes of its success. We do not advocate this as an experiment merely. It may be difficult to develop a prosperous system of small holdings; it may take time, the plan may not work out at once, but we do look to this measure with a desire that in its framework it shall have an educating effect on the class of agricultural labourers that never yet has legislation had. It is not merely the possession of a small holding; we look to the possibility of raising the whole class of labourers, and because of the facilities this measure may offer for that purpose we lay much stress upon it. The right hon. Gentleman objects that the principle of compulsion will create friction among classes, but have we not had the principle applied for many years for public purposes? Legislation has sanctioned the compulsory acquisition of land by Railway Companies, and it is recognised that for public purposes it is not only desirable but natural that there should be this power of compulsory purchase. Then it is said that in the case of Railway Companies there is the protection of Parliament for landowners, and in the case of allotments there is the indirect protection of the Provisional Order system. Now, we do not propose to place all landowners at the mercy of a County Council or any other body. We propose compulsory purchase by a cheaper means. It is true that the Lands Clauses Act provides a machinery which is costly and clumsy, but which at the same time does afford protection to land- 749 owners. Nobody, so far as I am aware, has suggested that County Councils should have unlimited power to take the best part of an estate or the prettiest piece of a park; what is suggested is that there should be a power of compulsory purchase to be put in motion under the sanction of a competent authority, whether of Parliament, as in the case of a Railway Company, or in the case of small holdings under the sanction of the County Court Judge, who, with the aid of an Assessor, would be a suitable tribunal. At all events there is nothing in the point that we propose to place unlimited power with the County Council without check or protection. Then the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to another argument; he said we want land cheap, and that is desirable, but that sale under compulsion makes land dear. That is an argument put forward by the hon. Member for Forfar, and repeated on either side. I suppose there is something in it. But I am utterly unable to understand why, because you have compulsory power, you should pay more for land; surely you can take it by voluntary agreement if voluntary agreement gets it more cheaply than compulsion. Though the compulsory clause be introduced in the Bill it will not be the exclusive method; it will be only an alternative method, and I believe in 99 cases out of 100 in the future the compulsory clause would not be resorted to. But our experience of the St. Faith's case and others with which we are painfully familiar shows us how desirable it is in the interest of the working of the Bill that a compulsory clause should be included. With such a clause landlords will be more willing to treat, and in the natural course of things a great deal of land near villages and small towns will be made available for holdings. There is a great deal of such land in the country not wanted for building purposes and which never will be used for building, and yet under the name of accommodation land it is only sold to small cultivators at an unreasonable rate. It is just there should be this power of compulsory purchase at fair market value for the purpose of small holdings, and that County 750 Councils should not be at the mercy of extortionate landowners.
§ *(6.45.) SIR F. MILNER (Nottingham, Bassetlaw)
It seems to me that a certain number of hon. Gentlemen opposite regard the word "compulsion" with the same veneration as that with which a certain pious old lady looked on the blessed word "Mesopotamia." For my own part, I cannot see how it will be possible to insert compulsory clauses in this Bill without causing the greatest amount of friction, irritation, and injustice. Take such an instance as that of an owner of 100 acres of grass land attached to his house near a village. This land is his only means of subsistence; he keeps cows on the land and goes in for dairying, his wife making butter and cheese. Half-a-dozen village Ahabs cast longing eyes on the land, and, setting some patent Parish Council machinery in motion, compel the owner to sell the land for small holdings, and that man's means of livelihood and maintenance of his family is gone. It is obvious that in such cases the greatest amount of injustice may be inflicted. No one can be more anxious than I am, that this Bill should be a real Bill for the benefit of the agricultural classes, and I am certain that it will be found that owners of land will be quite ready to co-operate as they have done in relation to the Allotments Act. There is no need to introduce the friction and irritation compulsion must cause. I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture takes a firm attitude on the question, and I hope the majority against the proposal will be sufficiently large to knock on the head all idea of compulsion in reference to this Bill.
§ (6.48.) Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Whitbread.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.