HC Deb 12 May 1892 vol 4 cc731-94

COMMITTEE. [Progress, 10th May.]

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 5.

MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

There are a number of Amendments put down in my name, in order to remove objections which this clause suggests. I dare say the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) has gathered that I object to the Bill as a whole, and I put down this series of Amendments with a view of mending it to some extent. I do not, however, propose to move them, and perhaps I may be permitted to say that whilst I am quite of the view that the Bill, so far as it enables County Councils to buy land and let it in small holdings, will be an advantage, I think that so far as it attempts to resuscitate the class of yeomen farmers it will be an absolute failure, and in my part of the country it will be inoperative. Feeling that, I do not know that it is any special duty of mine to endeavour to amend the clause in that direction. As I have said, in my part of the country it will be inoperative, and I shall be glad if it is, because I regard this effort to revive the yeoman farmer class as trying to set back the hands of the clock. I do not wish to express my views at length now, because I shall have an opportunity on a subsequent occasion, and I beg to withdraw the series of Amendments in my name.

Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.

(5.15.) MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)

The object of the Amendment I have to move is to alter the payment of the first instalment from one-fifth to fifteen per cent. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make no objection to that alteration, because in his opening speech he said that the amount he had put down represented a principle rather than the exact amount upon which the Government had decided. I am glad that the Government have stuck to the main principle of the Bill, which is to create owners instead of tenants, or rather as well as tenants; but I think now it is our duty to make it as easy as possible for everyone to become owners. The object of fixing any sum at all to be paid down is, of course, simply to secure the bona fides of the purchaser, and to protect the ratepayers from any fear of loss. It seems to me, however, that one-fourth is a very large sum, and one which would give rise to a great deal of difficulty in many cases. Besides, there is a precedent which will, no doubt, occur to the Government—that is the case of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who in all the sales they have hitherto made have put fifteen per cent. as the sum required to be paid down; and if the right hon. Baronet (Sir H. Selwin-Ibbetson) were in his place he would be able to say that they have found the amount quite satisfactory, and that it has worked very well. I am aware that there are other Amendments on the Paper, but I do not think the difference between 20 and 25 per cent. is sufficient alteration to make, and 15 per cent. seems to me to be a fair thing between the ratepayer and the purchaser, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept it.

Amendment proposed, In page 3, line 7, to leave out the words "not less than one-fourth," and insert the words "fifteen per cent."—(Mr. Jesse Collings.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'not less than one-fourth' stand part of the Clause."


The hon. Member is quite right in saying that on the introduction of the measure I did say that the amount which was put down was a question of degree rather than of principle, and I am very anxious that the views of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, which have been put forward from time to time, should receive every attention; but I am afraid I cannot go to the length that the hon. Member desires. It is necessary that the Government should look after the interests of the ratepayers; and though I am prepared, with a view to meet the wishes of the hon. Gentleman, to make a reduction in this amount to be paid down, I cannot go beyond one-fifth, which I see is the suggestion of several hon. Gentlemen. Beyond that I cannot go; that is the utmost limit, Amendments to the extent to which I am prepared to go stand in the names of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) and the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Channing); and in order to meet the wishes of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and with the object of making progress in Committee, I am willing to accept one-fifth instead of one-fourth, but I cannot go beyond that.

(5.21.) MR. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)

The right hon. Gentleman seems to be afraid that the tenant will have an opportunity of running away, but to my mind there is no fear of any such thing. The County Council can make an arrangement by which the first instalment shall be paid in advance, and then there would be no risk to the County Council. The most tremendous risk they can undertake is the loss of one year's rent, and I think if the instalment were paid in advance the purchaser might very well be allowed to have the land without any capital sum being paid down, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consent to accept the 15 per cent. It has been said that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners only ask 15 per cent., and why should the County Council be more exacting than the Ecclesiastical Commissioners? No doubt the instalments to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are paid more quickly than we should require, but the right hon. Gentleman must remember that if a man occupies a farm three, four, or five years and pays instalments during that time the security of the County Council is steadily increasing, and I do not see how it is possible for the County Council to lose, at all events, more than the rent for one year, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his decision.

*(5.22.) COLONEL EYRE (Lincolnshire, Gainsborough)

The Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who have fixed 15 per cent. as the amount to be paid down, have sold land of no less value than £350,000, and they have conducted their business with success, and have found no reason to go back on the principle which they adopted. I think we may trust the County Council, who are a popularly-elected body, in the matter. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to adopt this Amendment.

(5.23.) MR. HALDANE (Haddington)

There seems to be such a general agreement as to the 15 per cent., that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to meet us. If the clause passes in its present form it will make the Bill quite unworkable in many parts of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman says it is our duty to protect the ratepayers. Surely that is the duty of the County Councils. They represent the ratepayers. Why cannot they be left to bargain with a would-be purchaser in the same way that an ordinary vendor bargains? If they found that a man who wanted land was impecunious, probably they would make him pay more than one-fourth—perhaps the whole of the purchase money, or secure it by mortgage; but, on the other hand, I do not see why they should not be allowed to accept less. If the right hon. Gentleman does not accept some further reduction, I am certain the result will be disastrous to the working of the Bill, and the Government will defeat the object they have in view.

*(5.24.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)

I should very much prefer that no money should be required from the purchaser at all, and I think the right hon. Gentleman might do something better than 20 per cent. I have a Motion on the Paper that 10 per cent. should be the amount, and I am certain that if you do not come as low as 15 per cent., you will not benefit at all the class which this Bill proposes to benefit. If the average small holder has to provide 20 per cent. of the purchase money, you will leave him nothing to start and stock his small farm. The old land companies used to ask the purchaser to deposit only about five per cent., or half-a-year's payment in advance on the ten years' scale, and they did not consider that they took an extraordinary or any risk. In these cases the County Council will retain the deeds and virtually the land until the whole of the purchase money is paid. If the County Council, or the Parish Council as I hope it will be, use ordinary prudence, there will practically be no risk at all, and we shall prevent these people being driven out of the country or into the great towns.

(5.26.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)

I should like to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that what is fixed here is a minimum and not a maximum. As an hon. Member observed, the County Council can ask a larger sum if they think fit; if the circumstances demand more than a minimum they can ask it. Why should not the County Council be trusted to exercise their discretion the other way? If they are to be trusted there is no occasion to put in a minimum. The County Council will have to inquire into the solvency of a purchaser, and when you are dealing with these very small men and these very small amounts surely you may believe that 15 per cent. would be enough to ask as security. Under these circumstances, I think there is no danger in the minimum proposed by the hon. Member for Bordesley (Mr. Collings).

(5.28.) MR. GURDON (Norfolk, Mid)

I think it would be a most foolish thing if the County Councils were to allow purchasers to take land without paying down a substantial sum. A man who has no money cannot take land, because he will require money to stock his farm; but if a man has money to lay out and is solvent and prepared to pay that is a different matter, and I should like to see a lower amount fixed to be paid down. I hope the Amendment will be pressed.

(5.29.) MR. CUST (Lincolnshire, Stamford)

The Government have already gone some way to meet the wishes of hon. Gentlemen on the other side, and I hope they will not give way on this point. The right hon. Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) says this is only a question of fixing a minimum; if that is so, why not fix it at £1? But it is not a question of that kind purely, and I think the amount that has been fixed will meet all emergencies. The Member for Peterborough spoke of the very small risk to the County Council, but we have to think not only of the risk to the County Council and the ratepayers—we must also think of the risk to that class which we desire to benefit—namely, the labouring class. We must not tempt the small holders to undertake the care of land which they have not the money nor the ability to cultivate with advantage. If we make it too easy for them, and do not take the trouble of finding out by their antecedents whether or not they are thrifty and possess a certain amount of business capacity, they will take the land, and it will be not a blessing but a curse to them. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will stick to the sum he has laid down.

(5.31.) MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)

I am myself perfectly willing to accept the Amendment I have put on the Paper, but I think it might with advantage be the maximum as well as the minimum. I do not see why the words "not less than" should not come out, so that the one-fifth should be the statutory sum which should be asked for.

(5.32.) MR. A. E. GATHORNE-HARDY (Sussex, East Grinstead)

I would press on the right hon. Gentleman not to give way in this matter. It is true this is only a question of fixing a minimum, but the minimum is apt to become the maximum. It is not merely a question of trusting the County Councils; I think we have rather to protect them. If we put in too low a sum undue pressure will be put on the County Councils to take it.

*(5.33.) MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)

There are two reasons why I gladly support this proposal to reduce the minimum. The first is that the lower the amount of the deposit the greater will be the obligation on the County Council to see that their purchase is a sound and economic one. You have not got compulsory purchase in the Bill, and it is possible that a County Council might be pressed to buy at too high a price. The answer to that would be, "We cannot give the price asked because it will not be safe for the ratepayers, as the security of the deposit is so small." My second reason for supporting the Amendment is, if the amount is smaller it will be more likely that the holdings will be smaller, and the land will be more likely to go in 10 or 15 acre lots instead of in 50 acre lots, and that smaller class is the one we on this side wish to see get the advantage under the Bill. We believe the smaller the deposit the more likely the County Council will be to give small holdings to the poorer and, therefore, the more deserving class.

(5.35.) COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)

May I point out to my right hon. Friend that 15 per cent. would be about four years' rent, and that would be pretty good security to the County Council? I think, if my right hon. Friend could be induced to reconsider the matter in that way, he might be inclined to diminish the amount to 15 per cent., which, I think, would be enough.

(5.37.) BARON DIMSDALE (Herts, Hitchin)

I must appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to adhere to the Bill as far as possible. The Bill is one in regard to which we must show our trust in the right hon. Gentleman. I think, if we do so, he will do what is right and proper, and though I do not like the reduction to one-fifth, I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to accept that.

(5.38.) MR. CHAPLIN

I am bound to say I have heard nothing in this discussion to induce me to modify my opinion further than I have already done. I must remind my hon. Friend that in the Report of the Select Committee these words occur:— That it is essential that the purchasers of small holdings should provide in cash a portion of the purchase money not less than one-fourth or one-fifth. I am not aware that my hon. Friend took any objection to that clause when it was inserted in the Report. Something has been said about the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The money would be paid in a much shorter time under the Ecclesiastical Commissioners—in thirty years, I believe—whereas under this Bill we have allowed fifty years. I would also remind my hon. Friend that, although one-fifth may be too much in those cases where the purchaser cannot find that amount, there the powers inserted in the Bill which enable the County Council to let will come into play. The man will then hold as tenant instead of owner, and over and over again it was urged on that side of the House that the great object and desire of hon. Gentlemen was that the holdings should be let rather than that they should be sold. I cannot see that any good reason has been given for a change, and, while regretting to differ from my hon. Friend, I must adhere to the change from one-fourth to one-fifth.


I regret that the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept my Amendment. The clause in the Report gave 20 or 25 per cent. and the object of that was to secure the bona fides of the applicant, and not to state a principle. The Government have rightly made the purchase of small holdings the great principle of the Bill, and they have increased the amount of land a man may hire if he be not in a position to buy. The carrying out of the principle of the Bill will be most valuable in restoring the class of peasant proprietors, and our object should be to make that restoration as easy as possible; and I contend that 15 per cent. would abundantly protect the ratepayers from loss, because every yearly instalment would increase the security. As to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, I do not see what the shorter period of payment has to do with the question. They have taken 15 per cent. in many cases, and it has been found sufficient. Lord Wantage's Small Holdings Company only ask ten per cent., and there are many other arguments which might be put forward in favour of this percentage. I would like to point out that in the last hundred years this class have been practically deprived of their interest in the land. I am aware that the public has benefited by that, and that agriculture has been improved in every way by that process. But we cannot forget that this class as a class suffered from the operation which has been for the public good, and they have a sort of moral claim on the Legislature that it should make their restoration as easy as possible. We have precedents which have answered admirably, and I regret that the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept my Amendment. The change from 25 to 20 per cent. is something, but I think he would do right to go further.

(5.43.) MR. FULLER (Wilts, Westbury)

The only real and substantial security is unquestionably the land, and, therefore, I think we ought to encourage those who are prepared to put their labour into the land, and make it more valuable, for no rent will be got from land not well cultivated. I hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will look at the question in a practical manner, and will look for security to the manner in which the land is cultivated, and will not imagine that 15 or 20 per cent. is likely to meet the requirements of security. We know perfectly well that if land is badly cultivated it soon deteriorates more than 15 or 20 per cent. I hope he will seriously consider the Amendment.

MR. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)

I would venture to put a little pressure on the right hon. Gentleman on this question. We want men of small means to buy or hire these small plots of land, and it is not worth while to spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar. I think we should rather let them pay 15 per cent. than call upon them for a larger sum, which in many cases would probably prevent them taking the holdings at all. I do not think the question of risk to the ratepayers is of much importance, but I do know that the main obstacle to the taking of holdings under the provisions of the Bill will be that the people have not the money. If the experiment is to be fairly tried, I think we should strain a point in the direction of the Amendment rather than be steadfast against it.

MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)

There seems to be such a division on this subject among those behind the right hon. Gentleman and such singular unanimity among those who have spoken on the subject, that, perhaps even at the eleventh hour, the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his determination. The right hon. Gentleman said that we on this side were in favour of leasing, and not of purchase. That is to a great extent true, but the reason we were so much in favour of leasing was that we considered that the very poor class are not sufficiently rich to purchase. If we ask them to purchase, it is obvious that the deposit should be as small as possible. The difference between 15 and 20 per cent. is so small that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be persuaded to accede to the change.

Question, "That the words 'not less than' stand part of the Clause," put, and agreed to.

Amendment proposed, In page 3, line 7, to leave out the words "one-fourth," in order to insert the words "one-fifth."—(Mr. Chaplin.)

Question, "That the words 'one-fourth' stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.

Question put, "That the words 'one-fifth' be there inserted."

(5.45.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 228; Noes 173.—(Div. List, No. 124.)


I beg to move— In page 3, line 9, to leave out. Sub-section (4) and insert the following Sub-section: "(4) A portion representing not less than thirty-five per cent. of the purchase-money shall remain unpaid, and be secured by a perpetual rent-charge. The reason I move this Amendment is that owing to the strange wording of Sub-section (4) I confess I am not able, as it stands, to understand what it means. It appears to follow the recommendation of the Select Committee in providing for a perpetual rent-charge. But the Bill goes on to say "it shall be redeemable," which to my mind destroys all usefulness with regard to perpetual rent-charge; and, therefore, I propose the substitution of this sub-section in order to carry out in plain language the intention of the Government.

Amendment proposed, In page 3, line 9, to leave out Sub-section (4) and insert the following Sub-section: "(4) A portion representing not less than thirty-five per cent. of the purchase-money shall remain unpaid, and be secured by a perpetual rent-charge."—(Mr. Jesse Collings.)

Question proposed, "That Sub-section (4) stand part of the Clause."

(6.4.) MR. CHAPLIN

The hon. Member says he does not understand the effect of the clause as it stands. Perhaps, therefore, I may say exactly what the intention of the Government is with regard to this clause. Their intention is that on the completion of the purchase a certain portion of the money—one-fourth as the Bill was originally drawn, but one-fifth as it stands now—should be paid down; that another portion should remain as a rent-charge, and that the remaining portion of the purchase-money should be paid by annual instalments. That is the scheme or framework of the Bill, and I think the hon. Member will clearly understand it. He appears to be somewhat confused by the expression in the clause of a perpetual rent-charge, which is to be redeemable in the manner directed by the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act. I can only say that the clause has been taken from that Act, and that it would have been presumptuous on my part to attempt to improve upon it. The Amendment of the hon. Gentleman deals with two questions. It deals, in the first place, with the amount that is to remain as a perpetual rent-charge; and, in the second place, it deals with the question as to whether that rent-charge is to be redeemable or not. I think it would simplify the matter very much if we came to a decision upon the first question in the first instance. Let us first settle what the amount of the rent-charge is to be; and then let us decide whether the rent-charge is to be redeemable or not. I hope I have now sufficiently explained the clause to the hon. Member, and that he clearly understands it.

(6.7.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)

It seems to me that there are three Amendments now before us. First, there is the Motion proposed by the Government that one-fourth, or 25 per cent., of the purchase-money should remain as a rent-charge; then there is the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bordesley that 35 per cent. of the money should so remain; and there is also the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian that 40 per cent. should remain. Now, I am rather against all these Amendments, although it is very curious that the other day I moved a Motion on the subject, and got only very small support. Let me point out what the result will be if either of the two Amendments of my hon. Friends were adopted. In the North we have no land that will bear one-fourth of the amount in the shape of permanent tax. In Lothian, where the soil is richer, the land might perhaps bear 40 per cent.; but we have no land in Caithness that will bear it. The result will be that our crofters and agriculturists will have a burden placed upon them which their land will not be able to pay. If the improvements made upon the land are to be charged, I do not see why a charge should not also be placed upon other forms of property, such as the stock of the merchant. I think we ought to differentiate between the poor soil in the North which will not be able to bear that burden and the richer soil in the South which might be able to do so. I would, therefore, rather support the Government in keeping the amount down to 25 per cent.

(6.10.) MR. STOREY

I confess I do not understand my hon. Friend's statement. The lowering of the amount of money to be paid down from one-fourth to one-fifth is a diminution of the security of those who have to provide the money, the public at large. That being so, I venture to represent to the House that what we ought to aim at in the remainder of the Bill is to make the security as good as possible. I must say I have an indisposition to accept the wording of the Bill, that one-fourth of the purchase-money may be secured by a perpetual rent-charge. If the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to omit all the subsidiary words about the redemption of the rent-charge, I think it would be an improvement from my point of view. I think where the public are advancing money and giving credit to private persons for specific purposes, unless we are ready to adopt the same principle and to apply it to all other classes of persons who may apply for public money, we ought to take all the securities we can. If we adopt the principle that the public without any advantage are to give a man who wants to become a landlord the use of public money and the use of public credit, I confess I cannot see why the poor pitmen of Durham, at present unluckily on strike, should not come to the House and ask I to have money advanced to them for the purchase of coal pits on the same terms. If that proposal were made to the right hon. Gentleman it would be difficult for him to give an answer to it which would be satisfactory either to the persons concerned or many others who are in favour of the nationalisation of all these public values. If the public lend their credit to a man and enable him to become a landowner, I think the public ought to have some fair return for it. The public being able to borrow at a small rate of interest ought to be able to lend that man the money at a slightly increased rate of interest, and with that increased rate of interest in the course of a long term of years his rent-charge would be bought out, not for the benefit of the man, but for the benefit of the public at large. There would then be a newly made landowner or landlord—and I must take the liberty of saying that I am a little surprised at the Liberal Members being so extremely anxious to multiply the number of landlords in this country—this newly made landowner would have paid down 20 per cent. of the money at first; he would have paid during the term of years another 55 per cent. of the money; so that he would remain the absolute possessor of 75 per cent. of the land; and the other 25 per cent. would belong to the public, who had enabled him to acquire the other 75 per cent. by the use of their money. It would remain to County Councils as a perpetual revenue coming to them year by year; and the extent to which men availed themselves of this arrangement, they would enable the County Councils to that extent to be under no necessity to levy rates. Whatever Amendment he accepts, I would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity there is in the public interest of requiring the rent-charge to be perpetual.

THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. COURTNEY,) Cornwall, Bodmin

I would suggest to the Committee that it would be much more business-like if they were to take the issues involved in this question in order, instead of confusing them. There are four issues involved in this question, and they have been all mixed up together.

(6.16.) MR. HENEAGE

The whole question of what should be the amount of the rent-charge must depend entirely upon whether it is redeemable or not. If it is to be an irredeemable rent-charge I, for one, do not think we should make it a very large amount. But, certainly, while I am in favour of it being entirely irredeemable, if the clause is to be left as it is now, I do not care very much about the amount.

(6.17.) MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

I confess I am a little confused by the speeches which I have just listened to. I should like very much to know from the Government exactly what is intended by the reservation of this right of the State to a perpetual rent-charge. I am not dealing now with the question whether it should be redeemable or not, but merely with the question of what is the object of a rent-charge at all. The object of the Committee in recommending that a sum should remain in the shape of a perpetual rent-charge was twofold. In the first place, they desired by this perpetual rent-charge to give the County Councils the power to carry out the conditions of purchase, for instance, to provide against subletting and sub-division, and matters of that kind; and in the next place they intended, as the hon. Member who has just spoken desires, that whatever was to be reserved as a perpetual charge should ultimately belong to the ratepayers. I really want to know whether that is the object of the Government? As the clause reads, the ratepayers would not gain anything. Whether the charge is to be a redeemable charge or not, even if the words were struck out which make it a redeemable charge, still the ratepayers would gain nothing, because all a man has to do is to pay the lowest rate of interest upon this redeemable charge. He pays a slightly increased rate of interest upon the rest of the amount in order that it may be redeemed in 50 years; but upon the rent-charge he only pays the rate of interest which is required for such a perpetual charge. Well, as I say, I do not know what the objects of the Government are, but whether the objects of the Committee are secured by this proposal is another matter. One of these objects is the same as one of the objects of the Amendment, namely, a desire to obtain some profit for the ratepayers. But if we look only to the desirability of giving to the County Councils power over the conditions of purchase, then it does not matter what the amount of the rent-charge is; a rent-charge of five per cent. would do as well as 95 per cent. for that purpose. If that be the sole object of the Government—and so, far as this clause is concerned, that appears to me to be the sole object—I do not think that the object would be attained by taking any amount, it matters not what, but by striking out these words which enable the rent-charge to be redeemable, because if rent-charges were redeemed, the control of the conditions would go with the redemption.

(6.23.) MR. CHAPLIN

The reason why this amount was fixed as contained in the clause was to facilitate as much as possible the purchase by persons of small capital who desired to buy small holdings consistently with security to the ratepayers. In order to afford the ratepayers that security the Bill provides that a certain amount of the purchase-money is required to be paid down. It did not enter into our calculation that the clause is not framed with the view of giving any profit to the ratepayer by a redeemable rent-charge. That, I think, is an answer to the right hon. Gentleman, who seems to imagine that the retention of a rent-charge, that is to say of a rent-charge which is to be redeemable, would render the County Councils powerless to enforce the conditions of purchase. When the right hon. Gentleman rose just now I was about to make an appeal to my hon. Friend, and to ask him whether or not it would not meet his views equally well, and whether it would not be more convenient for the purposes of discussion, if he were to consent to withdraw the Amendment which stands in his name and let us take the discussion upon the three points in order; first, the amount that should remain as a rent-charge; then, when that is decided, let us settle the question as to whether it should be optional with the County Councils or obligatory upon them to insist that there should be a sum left as a rent-charge: and, in the third place, let us take the discussion upon the question whether the rent-charge is to be redeemable or not.


I think the right hon. Gentleman refers to my Amendment as it appears on the next page—Clause 5, page 3, line 9, leave out "not more than one-fourth" and insert "thirty-five per cent." But my Amendment does not touch the question which my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland dealt with; that is, giving the ratepayers a profit by charging more per cent. to the purchaser than was paid to the Exchequer. I thought that certainly would be raised by a separate sub-section.


There is nothing in the Bill to prevent it.


I am, aware that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent it, but there is nothing in the Bill to favour it. To facilitate progress, and in order to adopt the course suggested, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Does the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Clark) wish to leave out the words "not more"?

(6.29.) DR. CLARK

I wish to keep in the words "not more." In its present form the Clause is permissive. The amount to be paid as a rent-charge is not to be more than one-fourth, but it may be less than one-fourth.


Does the hon. Member intend to make any Motion?




Then the hon. Member has no right to speak.

Amendment proposed, In page 3, line 9, to leave out the words "one-fourth," and insert the words "thirty-five per cent."—(Mr. Jesse Collings.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'one-fourth' stand part of the Clause."

(6.31.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

I understand from your ruling, Sir, that no one is entitled to move the omission of the limit, and now we are discussing the limit to be accepted. I would, therefore, suggest that 35 per cent. is not sufficient. I was led to understand that what was wanted was to retain as large an interest in the land by the County Council as possible, and that many Members on this side thought it desirable that private ownership should as far as possible be restricted. It will be restricted better by retaining a larger quit-rent, or what we call in Scotland feu duty. And I would submit that, so far as Scotland is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly safe in giving County Councils liberty to put what we call feu duty at a larger proportion than 35 per cent. I should like to see 75 per cent. retained, but I hope 50 per cent. may be conceded by the Government. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to meet us to some extent. I am sure we are all at one in thinking that whilst the County Councils lay upon the rates the obligation and responsibility of buying the land, the more they retain in their own hands in regard to quit-rent or feu duty, the more they will exercise control over the cultivation of the land, and the better it will be for all concerned.

*(6.34.) MR. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)

Although the withdrawal of the last Amendment has in some degree cleared the ground, yet one important point put by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham surely ought to be replied to, or, at all events, comprehended by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture, because, until he gives some declaration to the Committee as to the instalments he is to charge the tenant in respect of his rent-charge, hon. Members are quite unable to judge what amount of the capital should be secured by such a perpetual rent-charge. The right hon. Gentleman, in fact, has put no arithmetic into this Bill; he has left everything in the shape of arithmetic apparently to be settled by the County Councils in their discretion, and, unless they all turn actuaries, it is possible that most difficult calculations will come before them. Anyhow, there is no question that the Committee has not made these calculations. Although the right hon. Gentleman told us one thing—namely, that he did not want to benefit the community by this perpetual rent-charge, yet I do not see how, if he takes a concrete instance, he is to carry out his view. Suppose he secures £25 of a capital of £100 by a rent-charge, unless he knows what the tenant is to pay as yearly rent-charge in respect of that £25, how is he to make up his account with the County Council? The County Council has to borrow the £25 at 3 per cent. It is never to get that back, because it is going to lend it for ever, and the tenant is to pay a yearly rent-charge in respect of it. Yet the right hon. Gentleman does not tell us whether that annual rent-charge will be a sum greater or less than the 3 per cent. which the County Council has to pay to the public creditor. The result is that if not more than 3 per cent. is taken from the tenant annually, the County Council's £25 will never be repaid, or, if more than 3 per cent. is taken, and the £25 are consequently repaid, then the perpetual payment, whatever it may be, from the tenant will eventually go to the community and benefit the community in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I conceive that point is entirely novel to the right hon Gentleman, although it is entirely germane to the consideration now before the Committee—which is, whether a large or a small portion of the capital value of the land should be left secured by a perpetual rent-charge upon the holding.

*(6.38.) MR. THOMAS H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)

The effect of this proposal will be to considerably reduce the scope of the operations of this Bill. It may, in fact, lock up one-fourth of the ten millions of money which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture proposes to use for the purpose of promoting the establishment of these small holdings. If 25 per cent. remains and is to be secured to the County Council by a perpetual rent-charge, that 25 per cent. will, of course, have passed away as the purchase money to the persons from whom the land was bought, and the result will be that 75 per cent. only will be available. I do not see what benefit this provision is to confer. It certainly must be immaterial to the purchaser, except as a mere convenience, whether he pays the capital down or has a rent-charge secured upon his property. But there is another objection. Our policy in dealing with land has been to get rid of these small rent-charges, for small rent-charges are considered an annoyance and a nuisance. That was the object of the Copyhold Enfranchisement Bill. Now it is proposed to establish in connection with this Bill all over the country a number of small rent-charges. I hope the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) will see his way to drop this clause altogether.


I do not think there is very much in the objection of the hon. Member (Mr. Bolton) that this proposal will reduce the operation of the Bill, because, although there has been some limit put upon the operation of the measure, that is distinctly because it is an experiment. If the experiment succeeds, I do not think any great difficulty will be felt in proceeding with it further. I want the Committee to see, what I think I see clearly now, that so far as the intending purchasers are concerned it matters very little whether the sum reserved for perpetual rent-charge is one-fourth, one-fifth, or any other fraction. I can best show the Committee what is the exact pecuniary effect of the principle by taking a concrete case. Assume that a man purchased a piece of land worth £200. In that case he has, under the existing arrangement, to pay down £40, which is one-fifth. He may then, if he and the County Council agree, leave one-fourth, or £50, as a perpetual rent-charge on the land; the £110, or what is called the residue, he will have to provide for by annual payments sufficient to pay the interest and the sinking fund. Now, on the £50 which forms the perpetual rent-charge he will only have to pay a sufficient sum to cover the interest. The pecuniary difference, therefore, to the purchaser is a difference between interest and sinking fund and between interest alone upon a sum which, in the case I have taken, is £50. In other words, it is a difference of one-half per cent. on £50, or a difference of 5s. a year. That is the whole pecuniary difference which is made by the introduction of this perpetual rent-charge. If my hon. Friend's Amendment were carried, and instead of one-fourth we had 35 per cent., or one-third, that would make a difference of perhaps a couple of shillings more—that is the whole extent of the difference between the one system and the other. I think, therefore, that as a pecuniary question it is hardly worth consideration. But there are two grounds for the proposal which I think deserve consideration. The first is that by maintaining a rent-charge you maintain control over the holdings. I do not believe there is any other way by which you can prevent the small owners—whom you have gone out of your way to create, you have called in the aid of the locality, yon have lent them money at a low rate, and you have taken considerable risk upon yourselves—from the moment you have done all this, turning themselves from a peasant proprietary into a miserable class of landowners with small sub-lettings. Your whole object will thereby have been lost, and you will have created probably the very worst form of tenancy in the world. You are bound to take every possible precaution to prevent that, and it has not been suggested to the Committee that there is any other effective way of doing it except by creating a rent-charge, and maintaining what would then be the conditions of the lease. That, I think, is an important reason for maintaining some kind of rent-charge, although it is no reason at all for any one kind more than another. Now comes the point which has reference to the Motion. I know it is the view of my hon. Friend (Mr. Jesse Collings) that the one dread which we have in regard to peasant proprietorship in this country is that as soon as it is established the money lender will come in, that he will lend money upon these small holdings, and get the owners into his power, so that ultimately their last state will be worse than the first. There is only one way—and I do not say it is thoroughly effective—to prevent it, and that is that the County Council or the community should be the first mortgagee. If it is the first mortgagee to a sufficient extent to make a second mortgage unsafe, then the money lender will be kept out. It will not be worth his while to come in—the risk will be too great. The only money lender will be the County Council, and the objection to its having a lien will not be so great as it would be to that of a private individual. That is a very important point, and the Committee will have to consider whether a rent-charge of one-fourth is sufficient to prevent the money lender from coming in, or whether it would be wiser to raise it to 35 or 50 per cent.

(6.48.) MR. CUST

In answer to what the right hon. Gentleman has just stated, I think I am right in saying that a rent-charge would have no legal effect to prevent a second mortgage or sub-division. A much more effective way would be to direct the Registrar proposed to be set up by this Bill to refuse to accept any mortgages or to register any sub-divisions. With such a statutory declaration you would find very few persons ready to risk their money on such a title. But you cannot look upon a quit-rent as a safeguard. Where a man pays his quit-rent no earthly right will be left to the County Council to interfere to prohibit any treatment of his land the man likes to pursue. I believe the Committee would be labouring under a misapprehension to think that for any purposes a quit-rent would be a safeguard.

(6.49.) MR. HALDANE (Haddington)

I do not quite agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Cust.) The rent-charge is secured upon the land, and, therefore, the County Council, as owners of the rent-charge, have an interest in seeing that the security is kept intact. In order to do so, they will take care that the conditions subject to which it is created, and which are defined in Clause 7, are complied with. That being so, I think the existence of a rent-charge does give security, although not a legal one. The hon. Member is perfectly right that no powers of distress will attach to the enforcement of the conditions; but the moral security is very valuable. For that reason it seems to me that this provision for a rent-charge should be enforced. Then, my right hon. Friend (Mr. J. Chamberlain) has spoken of the importance of this in connection with the provisions which are to prevent the land being diverted from the ordinary purposes for which it was granted; and perhaps the Committee will have observed that in Clause 7 it is only for ten years that the Minister for Agriculture contemplates putting the least restriction upon the use of the land. It is, therefore, doubly important that we should insist upon this provision as to rent-charge, with the view of founding Amendments which we shall bring forward upon Clause 7.


The discussion, I think, has got into a sort of legal vein, and perhaps I may be allowed to give what seems to me a common-sense or layman's view of the advantage of this provision. Originally, in the Bill I had, my proposal was that three-fourths should always be left unpaid, and a small quit-rent paid in perpetuity. The reason was this; the tenant, we will presume, is a man with not much money. He does not pay the amount of the purchase money, but instead of that he keeps the money, and pays a slight interest in perpetuity, and therefore the capital he keeps is put into the land for the cultivation of it. The second reason is this—I do not know whether it is a legal reason, but it is a reason that I think, will have influence. That reason is this—that the large balance of three-fourths, as I proposed—and I should like to see that proportion adopted now—being a first charge on the holding, there is little or no temptation to the money lender to lend anything further on it Take the case mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman just now—£200 worth of land, a large unpaid balance of 35 per cent., and a low interest as a quit-rent. That holding would be already mortgaged, so to speak, for £70—the first charge of £70 on it due to the Local Authorities—to that extent that land would be no good to the money lender, and to that extent the purchaser would be saved from the money lender's devices. And here I will ask the House to consider what are the notorious facts. The peasant proprietors all over the world, whether it be in France, Egypt, Ireland, or anywhere else, have failed, so far as they have failed—I am not going to admit that they have failed, but they have been embarrassed—almost solely by the action of the money lenders. I will refer the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture to the results of the Commission of 1882. He was a Member of that Commission, and, if he remembers, there was evidence that went to the uttermost height as to the effect of the money lender on the small owners. Take the Isle of Axholme in his own county; there it was shown that the great trouble of these people was due first of all to paying a high price for the land; that obliged them to borrow the money, and from year to year they were subject to embarrassments from winch they never recovered, and from which a man never does actually recover. It is far better, if a man does get into the money lender's control, to sell the whole business and put himself out of torment at once, and pocket what he can, than that he should go on year after year in the utmost embarrassment, knowing that there can only be one end to the thing. I will pass from the evidence taken by that Royal Commission in England, and refer the right hon. Gentleman to the evidence taken by the Sub-Commissioners of that same Commission abroad. Mr. Jenkinson's Report shows that in France the small holders begged, borrowed, or did anything in order to buy more land, and therefore they became permanently embarrassed to the money lender. That is a difficulty which might not be a legal one, but I think it shows that if an unpaid balance remains and is paid off by a perpetual quit-rent—to that extent everyone will see that the holder is relieved from the money lender. There is one other reason, and it is this—that if these small holdings are created to any Large extent we shall find them passing from hand to hand in the market. Take the poorer classes of buyers. Is it not much easier for a man, a comparatively poor man, to buy a small holding with only a quit-rent on it and a small amount of purchase money, than it is if he had to pay all the purchase money down? Bear in mind that this quit-rent could never be raised upon him, and these poorer classes of purchasers would be able, in the market, to buy at a much lower price with only a quit-rent than they could if they had to pay the purchase money down. In the latter case they would have a mortgage, and they would have to go to the money lender. With regard to my hon. and learned Friend opposite, who said there was no legal safeguard for the County Council, I think he will admit that by the charge on the land already—say 50 per cent. or 35 per cent.—to that extent, at any rate, the purchasers would be safe from the money lender. But if the plan which he seems to favour is adopted, and you allow a man to pay the whole amount of the purchase, I am advised by lawyers that that man is practically free when he sells, or if it should be sold a second or third time, I am told by lawyers that any conditions which the County Council might like to put into their sale will be inoperative after there have been one or two sales. I am told that by lawyers who are conversant with this question, and what will be the consequence? We shall see a series of holdings in this country with the power of creating life interests, rent-charges, and so on, and we shall have a squalid reproduction of all the evils of our present land system, because you will have, of necessity, the worst kind of landlords. They will sub-let and they will create rent-charges, and it will lead to all the evils of the present land system. But there is a difference in a rent-charge which is private property and which can be sold at a higher and higher charge, and a charge which is sold by the County Council or the community. Let me give a case with which the right hon. Gentleman may be acquainted. I mean the case of Minster Lovell. At the present moment, within a few miles of London, there are 60 to 90 holdings of from two to four acres each. Originally there was a perpetual quit-rent of £9 10s. Some of the holders are the original proprietors of that quit-rent. They are proprietors of the holdings subject to a quit-rent, which cannot be raised upon them, of £9 10s. for the four acres. But the great majority of them are hiring their land from landlords who have purchased those quit-rents in the open market—shopkeepers in the neighbouring towns—and they are charging the poor cultivators as much as £17 a year. That is what we want to avoid. Nothing of that sort can happen in cases where the County Council has the control of these rents. I am sorry to have detained the Committee so long, but I certainly consider that this is one of the most important matters we have had to deal with in connection with this Bill.


I am sure the hon. Member for Bordesley need not have apologised to the Committee, because everyone knows the great interest he takes in this question. For my own part, I wish to raise a question for the consideration of the Committee. What effect will this Amendment have upon those who desire to purchase? I cannot help thinking that the person who wishes to buy a holding wishes also to have absolute ownership; and if you are going to embarrass him by imposing further conditions, I believe you will do a great deal to prevent peasant proprietors coming into the market at all. I quite agree that we are creating, in the first instance, a different class of proprietors, and that we are laying down certain conditions; but I think that those conditions should exist only as long as some portion of the purchase money has still to be paid. Two arguments have been advanced against this contention. One is the desire to enable the County Council to keep some control over the holdings. I quite agree with my hon. Friend who spoke on this side of the House that no quit-rent that could be imposed would by itself have any effect. The second argument—a very strong one—is that it is desirable to keep the land out of the hands of the moneylender. I quite agree as to that, but I would point out that until the money has been paid up the purchaser will keep out of the hands of the moneylender. The County Council has the first charge on the property, and I do not believe any money-lender could be found to advance money upon it until the whole has been paid up. I should be very sorry if the owner began to borrow money upon the property; but he would then be the absolute proprietor, and I cannot see why you should impose upon him a disability to borrow money that does not exist in the Bill. I do not believe you will keep him out of the hands of the moneylender by means of a perpetual quit-rent of one-fifth. Therefore, although I entirely sympathise with the object of the Amendment, I utterly repudiate the idea of imposing a perpetual quit-rent upon the property.


I think it would be convenient for the right hon. Gentleman to state what are the conditions of the perpetual rent-charge before it is decided what proportion of the capital shall be represented by that rent-charge. He will see that other Amendments are to be proposed with regard to it. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider the financial quandary in which he is placing the Committee in reference to this matter. If he does not tell us what the rent-charge is to be, it will be impossible for us to judge whether it would be fair to the tenant or to the community that it should be more or that it should be less. I will try to make my meaning clear by giving a concrete example. A portion of an estate is to be purchased, for which the landlord is to be paid £100. Under the scheme of this Bill as it now stands amended, the tenant-purchaser will have to pay £20 in cash, consequently £80 will have to be provided from some public source. The County Council go to the Public Works Loan Commissioners and borrow the remainder of the money. Now, we have not been told what the tenants will have to pay on the rent-charge, or whether there will be something in it to pay off the principal, as well as to meet the yearly interest on the £80.

(7.12.) MR. CHAPLIN

I have no desire to place the Committee in any quandary whatever in regard to this matter, and I am somewhat unable to comprehend the hon. Gentleman's figures. The interest payable on the rent-charge is to be a matter of agreement between the purchaser and the County Council, precisely in the same way as the interest on the annual instalments will be. The real effect of the rent-charge will be to make the conditions binding until the rent-charge has been paid off. When that has been done, the land is perfectly free, and the owner is at liberty to do what he likes with it; and I ask why should he not be so? I have been told that in past days small freeholders were greatly injured by the extortions of moneylenders. There is nothing in the rent-charge remaining on the land which will give any safeguard against moneylenders, and I think it will be agreed that we are not called upon to make any distinction between the owner whose property is small and the owner whose property is large. What I am anxious to create is a number of freeholders of free land, and I think that object should commend itself to the Committee, and to the public beyond these doors. I consider it is only right that until the money is paid off we should insist upon the conditions we have laid down in the Bill; otherwise the County Council might run the risk of never receiving payment for their land. The Committee should recollect that if the scheme that we are proposing is a sound one, it will work well; if it is not sound no restrictions or conditions that we can impose will ultimately make it successful. I am sure that my wiser course will be to adhere to this sub-section, and, without wishing in any way to be antagonistic to my hon. Friend, that is the course I propose to adopt.

(7.17.) MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)

I will not occupy the time of the Committee by entering into the point of difference between the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Bordesley. The right hon. Gentleman wishes to create owners with unlimited power—that is to say, without any restrictions. They may buy up the rent-charge as soon as they can get the money. What some of us on this side of the House say is that we should prevent a process being carried out which has already destroyed nearly all the small holdings. The Committee have reported that the effect of the law as it now stands is to keep out small landowners and to accumulate property in large masses. That is what we wish to prevent. We do not desire to find that, as soon as the public money has been spent for the purpose of creating a large number of cultivating owners throughout the country, they will proceed to sell at what profit they can the property so created for them at a great expense. The same objection would arise with regard to sub-letting. We desire that there should be limitations or restrictions to prevent the property being so dealt with, and it is for that reason I shall go into the Lobby in support of the Amendment.

*(7.19.) MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)

I should like to ask what it is we are actually going to vote upon? Whether 25 or 35 per cent. is to be paid down is not very material; but whether the remaining charge is to be redeemable or not is quite another question.

MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

The Amendment now before the Committee is that the words "not more than one-fourth" be left out, and that "35 per cent." be inserted, which the Committee will soon be able to decide. The question that arises is whether a quit-rent is possible or not?


I would point out that the right hon. Gentleman is not quite correct. My hon. Friend proposes to have a quit-rent all over the country.


When the Committee have divided upon the Amendment, it can then go to the question whether the rent-charge should be terminable or not.

Question put.

(7.20.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 161; Noes 137.—(Div. List, No. 125.)


In my next Amendment I will simply ask the right hon. Gentleman to leave out the words "may if the Council think fit," in page 3, line 10, and insert the word "shall." If these words are not left out it cannot be supposed that the intention will be carried out.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 10, to leave out the words "may if the Council think fit," and insert the word "shall."—(Mr. Jesse Collings.)

Amendment negatived.


The Amendment I have now to bring forward is— In page 3, line 11, after the word "rent-charge," to insert the words "of such an amount as shall include the yearly interest payable by the County Council on loans, in respect of such portion of the purchase-money, and a yearly payment of not less than one per cent. to a sinking fund, which shall be established by the County Council for the purpose of the redemption of such loans. About an hour ago I did myself the honour of asking the right hon. Gentleman if he would give to the Committee certain information which I suggested would be most valuable, inasmuch as it would enable us to know whether the rent-charge was to be lower or higher than would enable the County Councils to meet their obligations for interest and repayment of principal. The right hon. Gentleman did not give the information. The reason for which I asked for information was this—If the rent-charge is to be paid to the State byinstalments fully equal, to pay the interest the County Council will itself have to pay upon the loans in respect of that part of the purchase money, then I should certainly desire that the proportion of the purchase money to be secured by the rent-charge should be high; because, in that case, if there was a sufficient instalment taken yearly both to meet interest and to furnish money for a sinking fund, then, when the County Council was able to pay off the loans incurred in respect to that part of the purchase-money represented by the rent-charge, after the loan had been fully paid, the County Council would still continue to receive that perpetual rent-charge, although the debt incurred in respect to it had been wiped off. I think that was a very reasonable question for me to propound, and I venture to again submit it as essential before this Amendment can be considered. The character of the Amendment will be to insert a provision which will be an injunction to the County Council that the rent-charge which they are to exact from the tenant purchaser in perpetuity shall not only contain the interest which they are themselves to pay, but shall also contain a payment to a sinking fund by which they will be able to extinguish of the principal of the debt. In suggesting this Amendment I would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman that without it, and taking the Bill as it stands, there is nothing to prevent any County Council jobbing away the land at a peppercorn rent. Just before the election or re-election of members some of these things are done by bodies in perhaps less favoured countries than our own. I am not prepared to let the Bill confer on County Councils the indefinite power of borrowing thousands or tens of thousands of pounds and exacting only from the tenants instalments which would not even meet the interest the Council has to pay. I would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the special clause in the Amendment for the provision of a sinking fund, and I would point out that it will be impossible at the same time to do the two things which he states are done by this Bill. He says he does not want to put anything in the pocket of the County Council on behalf of the general community. On the other hand, the Bill provides that the County Council shall pay off their debts within fifty years. Now, if they are to pay off their own debts in fifty years, they must receive from the tenant-purchaser instalments sufficient to allow them to pay not only the yearly interest due, but to make a sinking fund to extinguish the principal of the debt in that time. If that is so, they must also have a sinking fund for that part of the purchase money to be secured by the perpetual rent-charge. Now, after the whole debt is repaid, there can be no question that they will still be in receipt of the perpetual rent-charge, and that, therefore, a sum will go into the pocket of the community. Consequently, the right hon. Gentleman is not rigidly correct in stating that the making of this rent-charge perpetual was not intended to put anything into the pocket of the County Council on behalf of the community.

Amendment proposed, In page 3, line 11, after the word "rent-charge," to insert the words "of such an amount as shall include the yearly interest payable by the County Council on loans, in respect of such portion of the purchase-money and a yearly payment of not less than one per cent. to a sinking fund, which shall be established by the County Council for the purpose of the redemption of such loans."—(Mr. Seymour Keay.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


So far as I understand the hon. Member's Amendment it appears to be open to two objections, either of which would be fatal to it. The perpetual rent-charge is to be of such an amount as shall include the yearly interest payable on the loans, and also a yearly payment of not less than one per cent. to the sinking fund. That is to say, that the yearly payment may be unlimited —it may be anything anybody pleases. The second objection is this—that the purchaser is to find the money for the sinking fund to pay off the whole debt, and yet, having found the whole of the money and the debt being paid off, the rent-charge is to remain perpetual. The Amendment then is surely of such a character that the hon. Member cannot reasonably expect me to accept it. The hon. Member said that this Amendment would prevent County Councils from doing "jobs" of a certain description, and which he seemed to expect. In that I entirely differ with him. I have no anticipation whatever of any conduct of that description on the part of the County Councils. If ever there were such an occurrence, the remedy would be in the hands of the electors, and the guilty persons would never be re-elected. I am quite unwilling to accept the Amendment.


From the right hon. Gentleman's first sentence, it was perfectly obvious that he does not understand the Amendment, nor the finances of his own Bill He seemed to think it was an absurdity for me to suggest that the rent-charge should amount to enough to pay the current annual interest of the County Council loans, and that it should also include an amount sufficient to gradually destroy the principal. The right hon. Gentleman was surely not altogether absent from the House when the Land Purchase Bill was before us. The terms I have used were then adopted by the Government as binding the Land Purchase Commissioners to do exactly what I am wanting the County Councils to do by this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman abstained from even reading the wording of the Amendment. He said there was something in the Amendment which rendered it possible for the County Council to charge anything they pleased. Now, I do not think there is any suggestion of the kind. I only desire the Statute to provide what amounts shall be included in the charge, namely, sufficient to meet both principal and interest, and in that I have only followed the precedent of the Land Purchase Bill and of every other Bill dealing with the lending and repayment of public money. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether the position he should occupy, when the first financial Amendment to his Bill is submitted, is to attempt to ridicule it, or pretend that he does not grasp its meaning? The Amendment is perfectly plain. If I am compelled to detain the Committee, it is only because the right hon. Gentleman stands up and, in consequence of two or three lines appearing recondite to him, at once says it has no meaning whatever, and sits down. I want him to recognise that it has a meaning to every financial Member of the Government but himself, and has also a plain meaning to those hon. Members throughout the House who know anything of the raising of loans or cancelling of public debt. If the right hon. Gentleman will peruse the Amendment carefully, he will find that there is nothing for him to object to, or even to reply to, except one question—is he or is he not prepared to provide that the County Council shall exact from the tenant-purchasers such sums in the shape of annual rent-charge as shall not only enable the County Council yearly to discharge its obligations for interest, but shall also contain the element of a Sinking Fund, which shall enable it to pay off the debt to the Public Works Loan Commissioners in 50 years' time?

Question put, and negatived.

MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 11, to leave out from the word "rent-charge," to the end of sub-section (4). In doing this I shall not detain the Committee, as the question involved has been threshed out. It is a question whether the perpetual rent-charge involved in this sub-section is to be redeemable or not. My object in moving this Amendment is to prevent sub-letting of the land, to enable the County Council to uphold the conditions of Clause 7, and to prevent the purchasers coming into the hands of the moneylender. It has been said that these objects cannot be maintained, but I contend otherwise, because under Clause 7 it is set forth that—not only for the 10 years, but so long as any part of the purchase-money remains unpaid—periodical payments due in respect of the purchase-money shall be made, that the holding shall be cultivated by the owner, and shall not be used for any purpose other than agriculture, and that the holding shall not be sub-divided or let without the consent of the County Council. In addition, we have been promised a registration clause; and I believe that if the County Council have a lien upon the land, they will take care not to allow sub-letting, mortgaging, or anything prejudicial to the conditions embraced in the registration. I feel very strongly on this question, and I am opposed very much to any possibility of a holder, after a certain number of years, becoming pauperised by the money-lenders.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 11, to leave out from the word "rent-charge," to the end of sub-section (4).—(Mr. Heneage.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


I hope the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) will accept this Amendment. I am bound to say this seems a wonderful sub-section. It may be clear to the legal mind, but I should think it is not clear to any other. In my opinion, it is a sub-section that will not at all carry out the recommendations of the Select Committee. If this Amendment is negatived the result will be that those who are better off than their neighbours will redeem the land-charge and then sub-let their holdings and put on a rack-rent, and all this will tend to diminish the benefits of what is really a good Act.

(7.53.) MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvon, Eifion)

It seems to me that if this Amendment is passed it will have directly the opposite effect to that which is intended. I think it would be better to let the words stand, and insert the word "not" after "shall." The clause will then read— A portion representing not more than one-fourth of the purchase-money may, if the County Council think fit, be secured by a perpetual rent-charge, which shall 'not' be redeemable in manner directed by Section 45 of the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act, 1881, with respect to rent-charges to which that section applies. My contention is that even if you omit the words proposed to be omitted, instead of inserting the word "not," the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act will still apply to this clause.

*(7.55.) MR. JEFFREYS

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not accept this Amendment. We are going to give land to some of our labourers, and I think they should have it on the same terms as we possess ours. There is nothing more unpopular than to have these charges placed on the land. The whole tendency of present-day legislation is to sweep them away, and I cannot understand why we should legislate to create freeholders and then burden them in this fashion. I quite appreciate what the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings) said about the moneylenders. It would be unfortunate if those men were able to get the freeholders into their power, but I think that is not likely to be the case. I am sure the yeomen of England are not people you can easily get over. They are quite as capable of looking after their own property as we are, and I do not see why we should impose this charge upon them and so prevent them from obtaining the freehold of their land.

(8.0.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

It appears to me that the effect of this Amendment would be to create a new form of tenure of land. Speaking for myself, I do not think that would be desirable. The holdings so affected would be subject to all the restrictions and disabilities contained in Clause 7. It would be necessary that they should be cultivated by their owners for agricultural purposes alone, and they would not be allowed to subdivide or re-sell any of the land to smaller people, even after they had paid off all the purchase-money except the rent-charge. It appears to me that the Bill already goes a long way in the direction of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Heneage), because as long as the rent-charge remains unpaid the land will be subject to the restrictions of Clause 7, and a certain process involving some difficulty will have to be gone through before the owner can get rid of that charge. If the words objected to are allowed to stand in the Bill it will always be possible for the purchaser, by going to the Copyhold Commissioner, to get rid of the rent-charge and secure his freehold. I believe that these small holders will desire to be in the same position as others possessing land, and I shall therefore oppose the Amendment.

*(8.3.) MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)

I utterly disagree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and I hope we shall go to a division on this Amendment. We aim at creating under this Bill, by the help of the national credit, a class of men who shall themselves cultivate their holdings, and we object to having a repetition of creating such holdings every generation. If, however, this Amendment is rejected, we shall have to do the same work over and over again. The House has no right to use the national funds for the purpose of creating a class of individuals who directly they have paid their instalments for ten years may go and make a profit by selling their land to someone else, or by becoming landlords. The Select Committee have recommended that a certain rent-charge should remain the property of the community, and that the ownership should be conditional upon the bonâ fide occupation and cultivation of the land by the purchaser. I hope, therefore, we shall go to a Division upon this question, and try to prevent any need for a repetition of what we are now doing by this Bill.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture will, not accept this Amendment. I believe if this quit-rent is not made redeemable it will be the greatest obstacle to the success of this Bill. As to the question of the money-lenders I confess that that argument had some weight with me once, but I think if these small holders are to fall into the hands of these gentry they will not be prevented from doing so by any quit-rent. If you really believe this Bill is for the benefit of the country, and will create a class of landowners who will continue on the soil and restore again that class of yeomen who are gone, I do not think the House should attach conditions to their ownership which, to say the least, will not make them very grateful.

MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)

I do not think some hon. Members opposite quite understand the Report of the Select Committee. That Report is one of great ability, and it goes fully into this question, and for reasons of a most conclusive character recommends that there shall be a different class of tenure from the freeholders in regard to these new holdings. The reason why that Committee—and I am speaking from memory—recommended in substance some form of tenure of the kind proposed is this. Experience shows that there is a great tendency in land to accumulate in some parishes into a few hands, and it is most desirable to provide in some way or other that the land obtained for small holdings by means of the public funds shall be consecrated to that purpose for the future; otherwise this House may be compelled to do over and over again the same work that the right hon. Gentleman is desirous of doing now. The spirit of the Report of the Select Committee is that something should be done to make these small holdings perpetual. This is the very pith of the whole thing recommended by that Committee, as I think the Attorney General will find if he has a copy of the Report with him.

(8.8.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight

I think my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries a little exaggerates the strength of the recommendation of the Select Committee. I do not, however, propose to deal with that any further, but I should, like to say a few words on the principle of the question how before the Committee. The real question is, are you or are you not going to restrict the ownership of these small holders? The view my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chaplin) has taken is that if we are going to create this class of proprietor the County Council should be secured so far as instalments of the purchase money are concerned, but that when the purchaser has shown his solvency and comes with his purchase-money and says, "Make me a freeholder," no restrictions ought to be imposed on his ownership. On what principle of equity or right can restrictions be imposed by the County Council which no other freeholder has imposed upon him? It is a mere incident in connection with this question whether or not there is a quit-rent. The mere existence of such a charge will not, I think, prevent the evils which the right hon. Member opposite seemed anxious should be prevented. Certainly experience does not lead me to the same conclusion as he has arrived at. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) has several times laid down the principle, and I support him, and I believe the principle finds acceptance on both sides of the House, that if you are going to create this class of peasant proprietors you must secure to the County Councils the payment of the instalments, and see that the land is not starved and thrown back in a worthless condition on the hands of the County Council. But when a man has shown his solvency and has proved by his industry that he is without doubt the class of man which it is hoped to benefit by this Bill, then you can act differently. It will not do always to keep these small peasant proprietors in leading strings; they must not be prevented from becoming the absolute owners, and we think all that the County Council ought to do is to see that the money will be paid, and having secured that object we fail to see why all restrictions on the ownerships should not be removed. I am very much in sympathy with the Member for Bordesley in the object he wishes to attain; but I think he has shown in this matter that simplicity of character which marks everything he does. Now, I on the other hand belong to a profession which is naturally brought very closely in contact with the troubles of life, and speaking from experience I venture to say that if a man is going to borrow money no quit-rent will save him from the moneylenders. The only effect of this will be that when the money-lender finds that borrowers have a charge upon their holdings he will be all the more exacting in the terms which he imposes, and will get much higher interest. I am glad the House adopted the 20 per cent. instead of the 25 per cent. to be paid down, because that will give all the less room for the money-lender to screw. The real question is, Is it or is it not desirable that the land should be fettered by restrictions? When a man is in a position to become the actual owner of the land you ought not to impose restrictions beyond the payment of the instalments. I care not whether yon call it rent-charge or instalment, it is merely a matter of phraseology, but I do say that when a peasant proprietor becomes the owner of the land he ought to be allowed to deal freely with it. Our idea is that this rent-charge, though it is perpetual, shall be redeemable, and that is the idea to which effect is given in the Bill. The hon. Member for Bordesley thought this was a confusion of terms, but it is nothing of the kind. It simply means that in fixing a rent-charge we do not fix it on the basis of a sinking fund. The rent-charge should be redeemable in a way which is found to work well, and we do lay it down as a principle that when the peasant proprietor has become the absolute owner he should be left unfettered and unshackled to deal with the land as he likes.

(8.15.) MR. HALDANE

We on this side of the House say that the reason why we should differentiate this class of owners from any other class is that we are asked to make use of public money in order to create their position. Another reason is that we do not wish to create a class of small proprietors only; we wish to put a certain class upon the land, and to keep them there. If the plan of the Government is adopted the result will be to create a number of small holders, who may deal with the land not as agriculturists or small farmers, but may in the end become a large class of absentee landlords. These are the grounds which this Amendment raises, and upon these we feel it our duty to insist.


Will the Attorney General tell us what is the object of this Bill? I understood it was to create owners of the cultivating class, and I hold that if a man wants to get a small holding with which he can do anything he likes besides cultivate it, he should buy the holding for his own benefit outside of this Bill. I would refer the Attorney General to the fact that this is not a new kind of tenure. It exists in Holland, especially in the northern provinces, where the farmers are the most prosperous. There you find precisely this tenure with a perpetual quit-rent and considerations, and according to-the observation of those who have seen the system, the farmers in that part of the country are, as I have said, the most prosperous in Holland. In Denmark you find a precisely similar class, and here, again, there is greater prosperity than in any other class. They consider that for all cultivating purposes they have absolute ownership; and we think that if we go outside this purpose and allow a man to speculate in land, we ought not to use the public money. Further than this, we must look after the interests of the small cultivators. The city trademan would be delighted to buy a plot of this kind, and put a profit on it, and be the rent receiver, and we want to protect the small cultivator from that. Suppose after some years there is an auction of a small holding which has been made a freehold in the way that is now proposed. How will the poorer class of cultivators have any chance of buying that? But if the holding were sold for a small amount of purchase money with an annual quit-rent, and with the condition of cultivation, the small cultivators whom we desire to put on the land will be able to secure the holdings. If you make these small cultivators the absolute owners, they will be bought out by other, people, and the object of the Bill defeated. I had no idea my right hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was so enamoured of the present system of tenure that he should advocate it as he has done. We think that this Amendment will not at all increase the power of the money lender, and, indeed, if a man has already paid £100, say of £200, he is less likely to want to borrow the money.

(8.24.) MR. SEALE-HAYNE (Devon, Ashburton)

I should like to call the attention of some of my friends on this side of the House to the fact that they have gone astray from old Liberal principles There is I know a hope prevailing amongst them that the County Council will be able to acquire for themselves a rent-charge which hereafter will be applicable to the relief of the rates. I think I am right in assuming that that is what they have in view. But how do they propose to attain that object? They propose to do it by taking from the small cultivating owner, the small labouring man, a portion of the interest he is to pay to the State, and to accumulate that money in the hands of the State at the expense of the small holder. Then what is the next step? The persons who will be relieved are the ratepayers, and the rates we know ultimately come out of the pockets of the landlords. That is a fact which is perfectly well-known on both sides of this House. They do not come out of the pockets of landlords during the existence of long leases, and therefore we are anxious to get rid of long leases, but in the end they come out of the pockets of the landlords. Therefore you will be taxing the small cultivator to put money in the hands of the rich landlord, for that is the upshot of the policy. I speak for the small holder, for I know what the small holder wants, at all events in my part of the country. He wants what this Bill unfortunately will not give him—land at an easy rent. It has been objected that these small properties will fall back again into the hands of the big landlords. We are passing this Bill as an antidote to that, and we believe that this Bill will be an effective antidote. With respect to this Amendment, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will stick to his guns.

(8.28.) MR. HENEAGE

The hon. Member was not present when the Amendment was moved. It does not in any way add to the cost of the purchase. The only question is whether the rent-charge should be made for ever or whether it should be redeemable by money. There is no proposal whatever in my Amendment that anything should be added to the costs of the purchaser, such costs to go into the pockets of anyone else. I admit, however, that there is a flaw in the Amendment in carrying out what I desire; and in order to raise the question more definitely, I think it would be better to withdraw this Amendment, and divide on the word "not."

(8.28.) MR. CHAPLIN

I rise for the purpose of making an appeal to the Committee, and asking whether the time has not come for us to go to a division on this Amendment, which has been before us so long. The right hon. Gentleman attaches very much more importance to the point he has raised than I do, and I must say I am honestly convinced that the course the Government propose is the right course to adopt. I cannot conceive anything more deterrent to intending purchasers than the knowledge of the fact that for all time to come their land will be subject to a charge of which they cannot get rid. Englishmen wish to be owners of their land. That may be an old sentiment, but it is perfectly true, and so far as my experience and knowledge go, by insisting on this charge you will be doing much to deter purchasers. I only wish to say one or two words in regard to the theories concerning the future of these freeholders. The Committee must remember that although it is perfectly true that there have been in years past a great number of freeholders who have come to an unfortunate end, they obtained possession of their properties in different times, and under very different conditions to those under which they would obtain them at the present day. They bought when land was dear and the prices of produce were high, and when prices fell these unfortunate people were in a condition of extreme difficulty; but they flourished so long as prices were high. If that is not so, how is it that in past years numbers of freeholders in Lincolnshire existed in prosperity till the depression came ten or fifteen years ago, when my attention was first called to the great trouble and distress they suffered? For these reasons I must, I am sorry to say, oppose the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and I should be glad if the Committee could now come to a decision upon it.


I would remind hon. Gentlemen here that there are not only first mortgages, but second, third, and fourth mortgages, and, if you like, subsequent mortgages of estates; and, therefore, the proposition that because you have a mortgage on a property it becomes un-mortgageable is nonsense. And then, with reference to the proposition that if you have a rent-charge upon a property you make it less capable of being mortgaged, that is equally fallacious. An enormous amount of property in this country consists of leasehold property. That property invariably is subject to a ground-rent or a rent-charge; and that property, subject to a ground-rent or rent-charge, is the object of continual and repeated mortgages. An enormous proportion of the property of London is leasehold, and all this leasehold property is continually mortgaged, all subject to ground-rent or rent-charge, and various annual payments. To talk about the existence of a rent-charge or fee farm rent, or whatever you please to call it, in connection with these small holdings, as a protection against the power of the proprietor to mortgage is absurd. The truth is that these conditions which you propose should be placed upon the small holders, so far as they have any effect, will be detrimental to them and to- the property which you propose to vest in them. We have been told that these people ought to submit to these conditions because they are not getting the land by money of their own, but by the aid of public money. Well, that is very true, but the public money is to be advanced as a matter of State policy. It is not only for individual advantage, but it is a matter of State policy. This is not the only case in which the State has come forward to encourage property for the benefit of a certain class. There have been Acts of Parliament under which public money bas been advanced for the purposes of workmen's dwellings and small holdings in towns. An hon. Gentleman, still a Member of this House, I believe, has received a very considerable amount of public money on easy terms to encourage him in erecting artizans' dwellings. If unnecessary and unreasonable conditions are insisted upon, they will work the greatest hardship upon the poorest persons—those whom you most desire to encourage. You should make the holdings as free and attractive as possible, and not put them under conditions which will deter people from taking them, or will, if they take them, place them under very great difficulties. It would be an enormous advantage to create small holdings by free purchase and sale. When the supply increases you meet the demand; it may be that a number of these holdings may be owned by small landlords, but then there will be small holdings in the market; and as there are more, there will be more properties of that kind to offer; and those who rent them will be able to get them at less rent, and, even if what the hon. Member for Bordesley anticipates does happen, still it will not be the disadvantage that he ventures to imagine. The hon. Member seems to think there should be no inducement to the thriving tradesman in the town to lay out his money in acquiring small holdings. If the thriving industrious tradesman in the town lays out his money in this way, it will be a very good thing, because he will increase the number of small holdings and increase the supply of them. I believe there is a considerable demand for small holdings; and if landowners had the means at their disposal, there, would be a great many properties cut up. But the fact is, that it is a matter of expense, and that the return received in respect of these small holdings is not sufficient, in a financial point of view, to draw capital into the cutting up of the land. Therefore, small holdings ought to be encouraged by legislation like this. Of course, if the demand for these small holdings should fall off, then you are landed in some difficulty, but that is hardly the basis of any argument used by the hon. Member (Mr. Jesse Collings). I am very much surprised to find that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, who always pose before the country as men in favour of "free" land—land free from all restrictions—are now proposing to create a class of property in this country subject to all sorts of objectionable restrictions—the very restrictions which they have in the past been endeavouring to get rid of. I hope, in dealing with this matter, the traditional policy of the Liberal Party will be followed rather than the new-fangled notions of some eccentric politicians who have latterly become identified with novel and exceedingly peculiar notions in connection with landowning in this country.

*(9.17.) SIR W. B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, North-West)

I give my hon. Friend the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings) every credit for having introduced this question, because I believe he seriously thinks that it would be the best way not only of helping the labourer, but also of protecting the ratepayer; but I will venture to say that that is a great fallacy when you come to deal conclusively with men of the type whom he hopes to place on that land. The first question they will ask is—"Are we to be treated in the same way as other men are treated who are owners of land?" The answer will be "You are not." It will at once appear to them that you are not going to trust them as I think they ought to be trusted; and if you wish to prevent men from becoming occupiers or small proprietors then that is the course that you should pursue. No one who knows anything about the conditions of land at the present time will say that it is a particularly inviting time for a man to take land. I will venture to say, and I will venture to say it strongly, that if I had to advise a man with regard to a little money he had at this particular juncture, I would say: "Don't invest it in the purchase of land at this particular moment. You may depend upon it that if you do, although the land may appear to be cheap, and although you may be in a position now to think you will be able to do well, look at those who surround you and see how many of them at this present moment whom you think in good positions and with money are able to pay their rents." I will say that a man investing at this particular moment in land is more likely to lose his money than he would be to gain anything by it. I say it honestly and openly, because I know it to be a fact; and I am going a step further. Suppose this man finds himself in this difficulty; suppose that, having got a small property, he is anxious, more or less, to get rid of it. In what position is the property placed by being hampered by this restriction? It will not be in the same position for sale in the market with that restriction hanging around it as if it were absolutely free. I venture to hope my right hon. Friend will stand to what he has put in the Bill.

(9.20.) MR. STOREY

The right hon. Baronet who has just spoken is, I think, under a little misapprehension. He said if you want to help the labourer you must do so and so; but what I wish to represent to him is that the precise point to be considered has nothing to do with the labourer at all. The labourer is a man who is going to be provided for under a different clause of the Bill. He is the man for whom the County Council is going to buy land, and to whom it is going to let land. But what we are considering at the present moment is a number of persons who must be better off than any of the agricultural labourers we know in the north or anywhere. They must be better off, because those persons with whom we are dealing now are men who must lay down 20 per cent. of the purchase money of their farms, and who, after providing the money to stock them, must work them at their own expense. Now, the right hon. Baronet will admit that a man of this class cannot be a labourer, and is not a labourer, and is not meant to be a labourer. We are not discussing any question of advantage being given to labourers, because even if we were, even so base a Radical, according to my hon. Friend the Member for South Pancras, as myself would cordially join the right hon. Baronet in doing anything we could for the labourers. We do not object to that portion of the Bill, but what we are considering at the present moment is the proposal of the Bill as to these better-to-do persons. What we have got to say about that very shortly is this—that in our judgment, if you are going to use the public money for the purpose of creating a new class of landowners, common-sense says, if political exigencies do not—Surround these minnows with such restrictions by law as will prevent them from being absorbed by the Tritons around them. What is the tendency of all economic laws at the present moment, and what is our knowledge of the past? A man gets a farm, a little freehold; he lives upon it, and works upon it. By-and-by he has a son—the right hon. Gentleman spoke of Lincolnshire, but I am telling a history which could be repeated a thousand - fold in the further north—the son goes to college, gets a little better education than his father, and gets notions. He may enter into a profession; he goes back to the little ancestral home, but it is not big enough for him, and he lets the farm. Then he goes to the town, and marries a wife, probably, and has children in his turn. Those children have notions, and by-and-by the proceeds of the father's occupation, and the rent of the little farm as let, do not satisfy him. He has to mortgage it, and he changes it and changes it, and at last he comes to the time when he has to sell, and who buys it? Not another occupying owner, whom we should be glad to see in possession. "An Amuranth an Amuranth succeeds." If after one occupying owner comes out of possession of the land another succeeded, the public would have nothing to complain of. But what the experience of the past teaches us is this. There sits the little owner, and close to him is the great landowner who does not care about the economic value of the land. What he is looking for is territorial position and political power, and he will go and buy out the little occupying owner whom we want to have in possession, and he will add Naboth's vineyard to Ahab's possessions. That may be very advantageous to the limited class, but it is undesirable in the interests of the community at large. We want to build up the ancient occupying owners of the land. And we propose a Bill—not we Radicals; it is not necessary for us to propose reforming or revolutionary Bills now-a-days; we can get it done by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They propose a Bill, and say it is for the purpose of creating occupying owners—hard-working men who will take off their coats and dig or plough the land and be content with the fruits thereof. What we have to say to the Government is—"Gentlemen, if you are really in earnest in carrying out this proposal—if you really want a suitable proportion of the land of England to be managed and owned by occupying owners who till it themselves, surround your Bill with restrictions which will prevent the rich man from swallowing up the poor. That is the reason—I could not state it with more brevity—why I support the omission of this portion of the Clause. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment says, in effect, that unless you surround this whole scheme of yours with sufficient restrictions, economic laws will have their effect; the experience of the past will be repeated, and the large landowners around will gradually swallow up the small ones again; and thirty years hence some other Minister, as convinced as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture is now convinced, will come and re-propose this method, and will take public money again to create occupying owners, only to learn that unless he surrounds the thing with restrictions he will never succeed. There was one objection made on the opposite side to this proposal, and that was that, in itself, it was not of value. I freely admit that. But I think the hon. Member who spoke from the Bench above me put the case very clearly and neatly and sufficiently when he said that although the Amendment in itself is insufficient for the purpose, yet, if viewed in relation to Clause 7, to which, in a week or two, we shall probably come, the Amendment is very desirable and very substantial. It is for that reason that I support the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman will not accuse me of being a supporter of his Bill. I told him frankly from the very first I was not. I think in this respect it is a huge sham. So far as it enables labourers to secure land by letting it will be valuable; but I think, as to the selling of land to occupying owners, it is a huge sham.


No, no!


I am sorry my hon. Friend the Member for Bordesley does not agree with me.


He knows very well—


Order, order!


I submit that it is entirely to the question that I should reply to my hon. Friend, who disagrees with me as to the suggestion that the Bill, so far as this sub-section is concerned in the creation of peasant proprietorship, is a huge sham, because the right hon. Gentleman will not consent to omit the words which it is proposed from these Benches to omit, and thus enable the County Council to prevent the occupying owner from being ousted from the land by the great gormandising land owners in his immediate vicinity. If it is thought that a statement like that is out of Order, all I have to say is that I and my father before me have seen the old statesmen of the country—or those you call the yeomen—through their own weakness, and the strength of the great landowners one by one driven from the land which has thus come into the hands of a comparatively small number of persons. What I have to say about this Bill is that the right hon. Gentleman may, with the help of the Liberal Party, pass this clause, and live in the hope—it can be but a vain hope—that by its means he can put thousands of persons on the land as occupying owners; but I venture to say that unless he leaves to the County Councils control over the holdings, he will see the time arrive when the whole of these small landholders will be driven again out of the possession of the land. I hope it will be realised by those who are in charge of this Bill that the objection we take to it is deep-rooted on this point. We are not opposed to the proposal to let land to the agricultural labourers; but we do object to the money belonging to the general body of ratepayers being used in order to benefit a certain number of large landowners. I, therefore, shall support the Amendment of my hon. Friend.

Question put.

(9.40.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 112; Noes 79.—(Div. List, No. 126.)


I now beg to move— In page 3, after line 24, to insert (a) "The rate of interest charged by a County Council on all unpaid purchase-money shall be at the rate of one per cent. above the rate of interest paid by the County Council to the Treasury at the date of such advance; (b.) All unpaid balance of purchase-money, and all interest thereon shall be a first charge on the small holding.


I wish to call attention to the fact that I have an Amendment to move first.


It has been already rejected.


I have prepared another Amendment, which I think will be in Order. It is as follows:— In page 3, line 15, after the word "and," to insert the words "shall include the portion of such purchase-money as is secured by the perpetual rent-charge.


It is the same as was negatived on the last sub-section.


With all respect I would explain that my object in dropping my former Amendment, and of proposing this one—


The hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension if he thinks he dropped the former one. It was negatived.


What the hon. Member seeks—


The hon. Member for Bordesley should confine himself to his own Amendment.


The object of my Amendment is to secure for the County Council some return for the money which it will borrow for the purchase of small holdings. The Local Authority will only retain that margin which is due to its superior credit, and a consequent advantage is that the ratepayers would be absolutely secured from loss, and this margin of one per cent., if invested as a Sinking Fund would, in addition, in course of time recoup the Exchequer and leave the authorities in receipt of a permanent income from the holdings. No harm would be done to the purchaser, who would get the money at the lowest rate; and, further, the inhabitants would be interested in this Bill, as they would not only be indemnified against loss, but, as a locality, would also be in receipt of an income from these small holdings. The rural districts would be greatly benefited, and the ratepayers would receive nothing more than justice. I could say a good deal more in favour of the Amendment; but I am anxious not to detain the Committee, seeing that many arguments have been addressed to this particular Amendment, although it was not then before the House.

Amendment proposed, In page 3, after line 24, to insert—"(a.) The rate of interest charged by a county council on all unpaid purchase money shall be at the rate of one per cent. above the rate of interest paid by the county council to the Treasury at the date of such advance; (b.) All unpaid balance of purchase money, and all interest thereon, shall be a first charge on a small holding.'—(Mr. Jesse Colling.)'

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


The hon. Member is perfectly correct in saying that we have already had a considerable number of arguments advanced in support of the specific proposal contained in the Amendment. But there are three objections to the Amendment, which the hon. Member will perhaps permit me to point out. In the first place, I believe it to be unnecessary, as the County Councils can already charge the scale of interest he specifies if they are desirous of so doing. If the hon. Member will look two or three lines ahead in the Bill he will see— That the purchase money is to be repaid by half-yearly instalments with such interest as the County Council may decide; so that it is clearly within their power to charge the rate of interest he lays, down. I also think it is objectionable that the County Council should be compelled by a rigid law to charge a certain interest. My hon. Friend says the ratepayers would get some benefit, but from whom? From the very people in whose interest this Bill is brought forward. And now I come to the third objection contained in the second sub-section he moves. In that sub-section he proposes that the unpaid balance shall be made a first charge. There is here a difficulty which I have endeavoured to avoid in drawing up the Bill. There may be existing charges, as for instance, for drainage or for land improvement or something of that nature, on the land which is purchased by the County Council; and it would be impossible, therefore, to over-ride those and make the first charge in this cost. In addition to these objections, I think every hon. Member will see that the County Councils are the people who must look after their own interest in this matter; and we may depend upon it that they will not advance the money until they have got good security. For these reasons I am opposed to the Amendment.


I hope the House will not agree to this Amendment, which proposes that the County Council shall make a profit of 33 per cent. out of these unfortunate people. I hold that the success of this Bill depends entirely upon the small purchaser getting the holding at a reasonable price, and I believe the interests of the measure will be best served by allowing the County Councils to make the best bargain they can.


The aim of such criticism as I have offered in connection with this Bill has been to give the Local Authorities as much control as possible. I am sure that in making these advances they will secure themselves against loss; and here I may venture to point out to the hon. Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings) that in Clause 12, Sub-section 3, he will find that the Public Works Loan Commissioners may lend money at such rate of interest not less than £3 2s. 6d. per cent. as the Treasury may authorise as being in their opinion sufficient to enable such loans to be made without loss to the Exchequer. Now, if that be the principle, I think it cannot be denied that the Local Authority would be perfectly justified in lending the money on such terms as would enable them to escape without loss. In doing so, they would clearly have to take account of the chances that some would pay, and that some would not pay, and fix upon such a rate of interest as would cover that possibility. I think it will be found, both as to the residue and as to the rent-charge, that the County Council will take care that the money they advance shall be advanced for such interest as will not only secure them against the possibility of future loss, but also leave a small amount in pocket; and to this I hold that the ratepayers are entitled, seeing that they provide the purchasers with security of position, ownership of land, and all the possibilities of being independent. That is a point on which we differ from the right hon. Gentleman. I think my hon. Friend might safely leave this matter to the County Councils; and, speaking for the North, I know those bodies will view the security of the ratepayers as their first duty. I hope the Amendment will be negatived.


The hon. Member's Amendment would not be consistent with the words of the previous sub-section, and, therefore, is not in Order.

(10.5.) MR. HALDANE

I beg, Sir, to move the following Amendment:— In page 3, after line 37, add—"(9) The County Council may repurchase a small holding or determine any existing lease thereof at any time by agreement; and they may repurchase a small holding or determine any existing lease thereof at any time compulsorily for any purpose of public improvement, or local utility, or for building purposes, or because the land is capable of being used more profitably than as a small holding; and the price to be paid on any such repurchase or determination of an existing lease of a small holding shall be based upon the value of the land as land held as a small holding, together with all unexhausted improvements made thereon, and ten per centum for compulsory purchase, and a proper allowance for loss of fixtures, or acts of husbandry, deducting therefrom any sums due to the County Council: Provided that nothing, shall be paid by the County Council for any increased value of the small holding which has accrued since the time when it was sold or let by them, and is due to the increase or movement of the population in, or to the industrial or other developments of any town or other populous place in the neighbourhood of the small holding, and not to any improvements or acts of management made or done by the owner or lessee of the small holding or any previous owner or lessee thereof. We are by this Bill creating a new form of tenure which applies only to the future, and it seems to me only reasonable that the County Council shall have the power to compulsorily buy the land by paying compensation.

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."

(10.7.) MR. CHAPLIN

I can quite understand that circumstances may arise under which it will be desirable that small holdings which have been provided should be acquired for purposes of public improvement or utility. But the County Council have the power to do so now by precisely the same method as other land can be taken by them for various purposes. I think, therefore, that the Amendment is quite unnecessary. I can con-conceive nothing more likely to make the Bill a dead letter and deter people from the purchase of small holdings than a provision giving the County Council the power to step in and take away, by giving a miserable compensation, the small holding of a man on which he has established a home for himself and his family, and to which he has been looking for the future. I can imagine nothing that will more effectively prevent the Bill coming into force.


I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee by a division on this matter, if as I think there is a general feeling against me. ("No, no!") In that case I will leave the matter to the Committee.


I consider, Sir, that the part of this Amendment which relates to the compulsory acquisition of land for public improvements is of considerable importance. As long ago as 1817 an Act was passed giving the authorities in London power to take lands for public improvements, so far as widening or lengthening of streets is concerned, and that has been of great value. I am certain that the improvements which have been carried out in the City of London could not have been done but for that Act, because the expense of coming to Parliament each time an improvement was decided upon would have been too costly. If the hon. and learned Member would limit his Amendment to that part which refers to public improvements, I think it would be a very useful one indeed.

Question put, and negatived.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 6 agreed to.


I beg to move the following Amendment:—In page 4, line 5, to leave out from the word "shall," to the word "be," in line 7. The clause as it stands runs thus:—"Every small holding sold by the County Council under this Act shall for a term of ten years from the date of the sale, and thereafter so long as any part of the purchase-money remains unpaid, be held subject to the following conditions." It will be seen that the object of this Amendment is to make the conditions permanent. As the clause stands now all the conditions provided will cease after a certain time and the holders will be then able to subdivide their holdings, build on them, or do anything they like with them.

Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 5, to leave out from the word "shall" to the word "be," in line 7.—(Mr. Jesse Collings.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


This is really a very important Amendment, and I hope the Government will carefully consider it. When we were discussing at an earlier part of the evening the necessity of applying certain conditions to the creation of these holdings, I think there was a universal feeling in the House that such conditions were necessary. But it was stated by my hon. Friend opposite that legally speaking it was not possible to secure these conditions by the establishment of a rent-charge. As I understood him a rent-charge would not give the legal power of enforcing the conditions, but he said all that is necessary is that there shall be statutory conditions which could be otherwise enforced. Well, I need not say that the argument of my hon. Friend involves the admission that the conditions are desirable, and I certainly understood him to speak from the position of one who supported the conditions. The important conditions in this clause are that the holdings shall be cultivated by the owner, and shall not be used for any purposes other than agriculture. Now, what is going to happen under this clause as it stands? A slice is to be taken out of the landlord's estate for the purpose of creating small holdings. Ten years after this sacrifice has been made the small owner may sell his land, and a factory may be erected upon it by the persons who would have become the successors in title. That is a state of things which Sub-section (b) is intended to prevent. I think it would be intolerable that the land given up for this national purpose should hereafter be used so as to be a nuisance to the whole neighbourhood, and especially to the estate out of which it has been created. The next sub-section was that the holding should not be sub-divided or let without the consent of the County Council. Is it really the intention of the Committee to create a congested district upon the estate? because that is a possibility we should keep in view. We know it has often been said that the great danger in connection with small holdings is that when the original small holder dies his estate may be cut up into holdings too small to satisfactorily provide for the subsistence of a number of families, and that you would get a pauperised population on the ground. That is prevented by the sub-section for ten years, but why should it not be permanently impossible? If it is right for ten years it is right permanently, and the whole public purpose Parliament has in view would be lost if after ten years the holding might be cut up into an indefinite number of smaller holdings perfectly incapable of supporting the families residing upon them. The same remarks apply to the other conditions, which I am quite sure everyone will agree are necessary to secure the comfort of the people who are hereafter to be small holders. I think that the Government having devised these very skilful and satisfactory securities against the abuse of the privileges, should make them permanent statutory conditions, and should not limit them to a period of ten years.

(10.20.) MR. BARCLAY

This Amendment deals with a very important question—namely, the tenure on which these holdings are to be held. I should be extremely sorry if this Bill were to create a new class of small landlords, with all the powers possessed by the present owners. The present system has already broken down in Ireland, and though hon. Gentlemen opposite would, perhaps, not like to admit it, it is fast breaking down in England, and I hope Parliament will not sanction the creation of a new class of small landlords, which would be still more objectionable than the large landowners. There are now a number of small landlords who let on yearly tenancies or for a period of years, and I am informed that the tenants of these small landlords are in a most miserable condition, and far worse off than the tenants of the large landowners. I hope, therefore, the House will very carefully consider the conditions on which these small holdings are to be held. My proposal is that if the small holders do let, the tenants who occupy shall be placed in the position of the Irish tenants under the Irish Land Act. The objections to the present system are that the landlord can turn out the tenant at will, he can appropriate the tenant's improvements and he can raise the rent. We must place the tenants in such a position that they will be protected from the landlords, and I have on the Paper a new Sub-section which proposes that if the new landlords let their holding, it shall be let on perpetuity of tenure, that the rent shall not be occasionally raised, and that the lease shall be assignable. With these conditions I think we should achieve the object we have in view, and we should give the cultivator what he wants—perpetuity of tenure and a fixed rent.

*(10.25.) MR. THOMAS H. BOLTON

Most people will sympathise with the object which the Member for West Birmingham has in view, but I hardly think he has considered the effect which these conditions will have upon the property. It is suggested that if the property is to be sold by the peasant owner the original owner and the County Council are to have rights of pre-emption. To that I object altogether. The holding is not to be used for any purpose except that of agriculture. That is all very well for the first occupier, who perhaps is an agriculturist; but his son, to whom he may leave the property, may not be an agriculturist and could not carry on the cultivation of the land. Is the owner to be debarred from leaving his holding to whomsoever he pleases? If the holder wants to let, the consent of the County Council must be obtained. I must say that though I have a good opinion of County Councils, I doubt very much whether the control of the County Council in a matter of this kind is calculated to add to the value of the land. Then we are told that there is not to be more than one dwelling house upon it. It may be a very desirable thing that there should be more than one dwelling house; but if a second is erected, the Local Authority may interfere. That, again, is not calculated to improve the value of this property, or to make it attractive as an investment. The object of the Bill is professedly to induce careful people, whom we want to benefit, to put their savings into the land—as the President of the Board of Agriculture expressed it, we want to make a ladder by which the agricultural labourer can climb into the position of a small farmer. I say that the man who cultivates must have the inducement that he can dispose of the land if he wishes with the tenant right put into it; and if you hamper him with conditions, you will discourage both investment and cultivation—if you impose all these conditions, you will tie the land up more completely than under a settlement. We have often heard from these Opposition Benches of the iniquities of settlement and restrictive covenants; and here restrictions are proposed from this side of the House which are practically more offensive than any restrictions of settlement. The small holder would be almost in a condition of servitude to the land. All this is opposed to the principles which have influenced men on this side of the House in the past, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, instead of extending the clause, will see his way to modify it. I can quite understand that while the County Council has money upon the land they should keep the control, but when the purchaser has paid off the County Council, it is monstrous that he should have to submit to these arbitrary and unfair restrictions.

(10.33.) MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)

The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made a speech which can hardly refer to the Motion before the House. He attacked all the conditions of this clause and made a speech against the clause as a whole, but except in a very small part of his oration he did not deal with the Amendment at all. It seems to me that under this Bill we are creating a new tenure in land altogether, and we are creating that tenure for a special purpose—the purpose of setting up a number of small holders on the land with a beneficial effect from an agricultural point of view. It does seem to me if we are to undertake this work—good work, I believe—at the expense of the ratepayers, we are justified in saying that the land which the ratepayer provides for these small holdings for agricultural purposes shall be restricted to those purposes. If any benefit is to be got from the land, we have all along contended that the County Council ought to get it, and that is why we wished them to have power to lease or feu the land. It has been decided that they shall sell these small holdings; but I think if the holders use it for other purposes, such as building, the increased value should be for the benefit of the ratepayers, and not be handed over to the small holders who got the land for agricultural purposes. For these reasons, I shall certainly support the Amendment.

(10.37.) MR. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey)

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment, because I am sure it will provide more facilities to the County Council in dealing with the owners of land. If the Amendment is accepted, the clause, as amended, will offer great security to the landowners that the land which the County Council is buying expressly for agricultural purposes will not, after a period of ten years, be turned to other purposes, such as the erection of a factory or dwellings. I think that is a fair security to offer the landlords, who will possibly part with their land to their own loss and the injury of their estates. We are going to assist the small holders with money from the State, and they must expect that some conditions will be attached to their holdings; and for that reason the proposal of the Government, especially if amended as suggested, ought to commend itself to the Committee.

(10.39.) MR. CHAPLIN

I do not think my hon. Friend behind me has been in the House during the whole of the evening, or he would know that the course he recommends would be absolutely inconsistent with the very argument which we have been using in the course of the debate. We have been contending that when the money has all been paid for the holdings the land ought to be held on terms not different from those on which other freehold land is held, and ought to be free. It is quite true, as the hon. Member for Bordesley (Mr. J. Collings) stated, that a great many arguments have been addressed to the Committee in reference to this: but the Committee has already discussed whether or not a certain portion of the money should always remain unpaid, and the question has been disposed of. I regard the conditions as desirable so long as any of the money is unpaid, but the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) must have misunderstood me if he gathered from what I said that I thought the conditions desirable after the money had all been paid. I want to call the attention of the Committee for one moment to some words in the Bill which I think they have overlooked. The Bill provides that the small holdings shall, for a term of ten years, at all events, be held "subject to the following conditions." Now, one of the reasons why these words were inserted was in order to prevent some speculator who is a better judge of the value of land than the owner, going to the owner and buying the land at a perhaps increased price and then using it for other than agricultural purposes. I think this term of ten years will prevent any transaction of this kind. But I should not object to extending that term for a certain number of years, if that would meet the objections of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) pointed out that there might be cases where the property of the landlord was acquired under the Bill, and devoted afterwards to the erection of a factory, if the conditions were not permanent. But I would observe that that would be the landlord's own fault, for he is not compelled to sell land under the Bill in its present form. If he thinks it desirable to sell the land he must take the risk of the purpose for which it will be used. It appears to me that, the arguments put forward in favour of the Amendment—if they are arguments at all—are arguments which tell rather against the Bill altogether; and one of the main objections in my eyes to adopting the Amendment is that it would remove another of the great inducements to people to take advantage of the Bill, and become owners of small holdings. I contend that, as the holdings are held for a number of years under economic conditions, if they become more valuable after that term than at first, the holder, and nobody else, is fairly entitled to the increased value. If we imposed all the conditions we are asked to impose on the small holders, I am afraid we should find the Bill in such a shape that all inducement to become owners would be taken away. For these reasons I hope the Committee will not accept the Amendment.

(10.44.) SIR H. DAVEY (Stockton)

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House. The Amendment appears to create an entirely new tenure of land. The object of all land reform in recent years has been to free land from fetters and restrictions of any kind. I understand the Amendment imposes on land sold by the County Councils under the Bill the restriction that it should only be used for one particular purpose. That is contrary to what land reformers have been struggling for ever since I have had the honour of taking part in the question of land reform; their object has been to free land from every fetter and restriction imposed on it. The Copyhold Acts were based on the policy of freeing land from every restriction on its cultivation, the timber on it, and the uses to which it could be put. If the Amendment is accepted you will create a tenure unknown to the law. The law does not allow perpetual restrictions to be imposed on land by contracts between parties; but the effect of the Amendment will be that land dealt with under the Act will be for all time subject to the restrictions in the sub-sections of Sub-section 1. I look forward to that with great apprehension. I join with hon. Members in desiring to see land held in smaller parcels than at present; but I do not think it consonant with sound policy that the land so held should be subject to restrictions which will prevent the owner making the most beneficial use of it. For these reasons, I think the Bill is right as it stands, and that ten years is a reasonable term. To make the restrictions perpetual would be an entire mistake, and contrary to the principles which land reformers have always held.

(10.47.) MR. HALDANE

For, I believe, the first time in my life, I find myself not quite in agreement with my hon. and learned Friend who has just sat down. We are proposing to create a new form of ownership through the medium of public money; to advance public funds to help individuals to become owners of land. Why should we assist them? Not merely for their own sake, but because we believe it is in the public interest; and, that being so, it is within our moral as well as our legal compass to put certain restrictions on the land we help them to obtain. We were anxious to put leasing powers in the hands of the County Council, because we thought that then the County Council would have a more complete grip on the land than by the creation of freeholds. The Government have refused to give those leasing powers; and that, surely, makes our case stronger when we come forward and say, If you do create a freehold tenure it ought not to be the old unrestricted freehold tenure, but one which will subserve the only purpose by which this Bill is justified. I agree that the restrictions of the Amendment are unknown to the law as it is at present; there is a sub-section against sub-letting which would be treated by law as void without this clause. It would also not be competent for the County Council to impose these restrictions by contract with the holders, and if you do not take advantage of the fact that Parliament can mould the law as it pleases, you are put in a difficulty. Landlords are not compelled to part with land for the purposes of the Bill. Now, I am bound to say if I were a landlord I should hesitate very much before I parted with my land under this Bill; and I will tell the Committee why. For ten years, it is quite true, the landlord has certainly parted with his land for the purpose of creating small occupying owners; but at the end of ten years what may happen? When the landlord has parted with perhaps a good part of his estate, some nuisance may be put up, or some factory. A number of the small holdings may be got together under one owner, who may do what he pleases with the property and make himself obnoxious to the persons living in the neighbourhood. It seems to me, therefore, if you pass this clause in the form in which the Government have proposed it, you will put strong deterrents in the way of landlords calculated to prevent them from taking the course which we all desire them to take. That being so, it seems to me that we have to choose between two evils—we have to face the evil of unrestricted ownership of land, or the possibility of altering the old tenure and creating a new form of tenure. To my mind it would be much better to take the latter course. I do not think I am travelling beyond the views of my hon. Friends here when I say that we should not be satisfied with what the right hon. Gentleman has suggested. What we want done here, and what we are aiming at, is a new form of tenure which will carry out the purposes of the Bill. We are not interested in the matter at all if you are going to create a new ownership which will be unrestricted. If you do so, you may bear the responsibility; but if we are to be consulted, we want something different. It is not a matter of detail; it is a matter of principle. Upon that footing, while recognising the desire of the right hon. Gentleman to meet us where he can—and I think he has shown particularly to-night a desire to facilitate the passage of this Bill—I am bound to say, speaking for myself, that I cannot regard the offer which he makes as one which I feel called upon to accept.

(10.52.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.

Perhaps I may be permitted to express the hope that the Committee may come to a conclusion on this point without very much further delay. The Government are under a pledge that at as early an hour as possible, they should commence the discussion of the next subject which stands on the Paper today—namely, the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the financial relations between England, Scotland, and Ireland, and that they should not delay the hour of Adjournment for that purpose; and it would be very convenient if the Committee would settle this question before that subject is proceeded with.


I think it would be in the interests of the labourers that this Amendment should be adopted. A County Council might go to a landowner, whose land lay in the neighbourhood of a village or a town, and say to him, "We want 50 acres of this land for small holdings." He might say, "If you want 50 acres of land you must go half a mile or a mile off and take it there, because you see after ten years are passed I have no guarantee that this land will not get into the hands of a speculator or a gombeen man; and they may have a lot of speculative cottages put there. If this land is to be used as building land, I, as the landlord, claim a right to reap the benefit of it; and you have no right to take it from me for the purpose of agricultural holdings, with the risk of the land being taken and covered with buildings after ten years are passed." In result, the County Council would probably be offered other land a mile distant from the village or the town instead of the particular land which would be of real benefit to the labourers or smallholders, because of its situation close to the population.

*(10.54.) SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)

I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddington in his regret that the principle of feuing or leasing has not been recognised in this Bill. But I cannot support the proposal to introduce an entirely new form of tenure by imposing these restrictions upon the land for all time; for that is really what is proposed by the Amendment. It would be contrary to the principles advocated for years by every reformer of the land laws. And it would bring about a most inconvenient state of affairs by creating a number of holdings with which it would be impossible to deal when public improvements were necessary. In the county in which I live it is impossible to foresee how soon such land may not be needed for cottages or a factory for a growing town. The impossibility of dealing with these holdings for all time owing to the imposition of these conditions would be a very great public inconvenience, and I must utter my protest against imposing such permanent conditions, although it is quite necessary to impose them for a short time.


I wish the right hon. Gentleman had given us some reason why he would not accept this Amendment. I cannot see why we should impose these restrictions for ten years more than for any other time. As we have heard, almost the chief argument on the part of those who oppose this Bill altogether is that it deals unfairly with other classes. Why, they ask, not give the same advantages to the miner and the tradesman, as well as to the cultivator? The answer is, because we want the land cultivated. It is for the public good to have a number of cultivators, to make the land produce more than it does, and articles of a different kind from those it does; and in that respect the trade of the cultivator is different from any other trade. But the right hon. Gentleman seems himself to take away that argument, for he is really allowing and encouraging land speculation at the expense of a public fund. I maintain we have no right to do that. As to the argument that this is a new tenure, of course it is a new case—the acquisition of land for one purpose, and one purpose only; that is, cultivation. That being so, we have a right to have such conditions imposed, even if the old tenure were satisfactory. If this land speculation is beneficial, why put in the ten years at all? Why not say to a man, "It is quite true we have advanced you money at wonderful terms which you could not have got from any private source; it is quite true we intended it for the public good, but you are at liberty at the earliest moment possible to put it to any other purpose you choose for your own particular benefit, and not for the benefit of the community"? Why not say that? If the object in putting in ten years is to secure that the land should be cultivated, then the argument holds good at the end of ten years. I am really at a loss to conceive why the right hon. Gentleman, after having brought in a Bill to create a peasant proprietary, a yeoman proprietorship, for the cultivation of the land, and for all those purposes connected with cultivation which we have heard so much about, will positively invite a class of people—for they will spring up under his invitation—who will acquire land at the public expense, and then use it for their own private speculation. Really, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some better reason why he cannot accept this Amendment. ("Divide, divide!")

(11.1.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

I beg to move that you report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

Question put, and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.

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