HC Deb 17 May 1892 vol 4 cc1131-53

COMMITTEE. [Progress 13th May.]

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(3.55.) New Clause—

Page 9, after Clause 15, insert the following Clause:—

(Modifications as to preparation, &c. of titles &c, connected with small holdings in Scotland.)

"In Scotland the County Council shall cause to be prepared and duly registered all deeds, writs, and instruments necessary for completing the title of the purchaser of a small holding, and for securing the payment of any unpaid purchase-money, and shall include in the purchase-money the cost so incurred, or to be incurred, according to scales set forth in tables fixed by the County Council.

Provided that—

  1. (1.) The County Council, if they think fit, may appoint a person duly qualified (in the opinion of the Sheriff) to carry out the provisions of this section, and shall assign to him such salary or other remuneration as they may determine; and
  2. (2.) The County Council shall not be liable for any expenses incurred by the purchaser of a small holding for legal or other advice or assistance rendered to him on his own employment.

Section 10 of this Act shall not apply to Scotland,"—(The Lord Advocate,)

—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."

MR. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)

I am very glad that the Government has responded to the appeal which we made on the last occasion. It would be impossible, I think, to frame a clause precisely on the same principle as an English clause, and I think the Lord Advocate has taken a judicious course in framing his clause on the lines, he has done. He has, I think, succeeded in accomplishing the substantial object by providing machinery by which the cost of registration will be largely reduced. He proposes that an officer should be appointed by the County Council on a salary, and fixes the registration at a moderate scale fee. I think that will go a very long way to accomplish the same object as has been accomplished in England by other means.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.

(3.57.) — New Clause. — Page 1, after Clause 1, insert the following, clause:—

(County Council may lease land in lieu of purchasing.)

"Where land through its proximity to a town or suitability for building purposes, or for other special reasons, has a prospective value which in the opinion of the County Council makes it unsuitable for purchase, the Council may take the land on lease or hire for the purpose of small holdings instead of purchasing it,"

—brought up, and read the first time.

MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)

I beg to move the clause, with a small verbal Amendment. I understand the right hon. Gentleman accepts this clause, and I will not, therefore, detain the Committee.


I accept the clause.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second; time."

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.

MR. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)

The clause which I beg to propose increases the scope of the Bill without adding to the responsibility of the County Council. A good many landlords in years past have been in the habit of consolidating farms and leaving the small holdings to go into decay, or adding these small holdings to large farms. It is a mistaken policy, and now they are anxious to break up these large farms into small holdings, because they find it much easier to let small holdings than it is to let large farms. The object of this Clause is to facilitate that proposal by enabling the County Council to lend money to the tenant in cases where the landlord agrees with the tenant of the farm. I propose that the County Council shall lend the money on the security of the land, if the landlord gives a satisfactory tenure to the tenant. That tenure shall be a perpetual tenure. That is essential in all cases of small holdings, because without perpetual tenure I do not think the tenants will be stimulated to that improvement of their farms upon which the whole success of this experiment depends. My proposal, therefore, is that when the landlord creates a new holding and lets it to the tenant upon terms which are satisfactory to the County Council, and the main conditions of which are embodied in subsequent clauses standing in my name, the County Council shall be authorised to lend money for building sufficient and adequate houses on the small holdings. I hope the purpose I have in view will recommend itself to the right hon. Gentleman, and that he will be prepared to accept the clause, and look upon it as a valuable extension of the scope of the Bill.

New Clause—

Loans for Farm Buildings.

(A County Council may lend money for farm buildings on new holdings.)

"For the purpose of facilitating the subdivision of large holdings a County Council may make advances by way of loan for providing suitable buildings on land which has formed part of a large holding, and is to be let as a separate holding, provided the annual value for the purposes of the Income Tax of such new holding is not more than seventy-five pounds, and that the advance in respect of each holding does not exceed two-thirds of the value of the buildings erected thereon.

"The application for the loan shall be submitted to the County Council by the landlord and the tenant, or proposing tenant, jointly, along with the contract or proposed contract of tenancy, plans of the buildings to be erected, and a suitable portion of the Ordnance Survey Map, with the area of the holding delineated in colour thereon,"—(Mr. Barclay,)

—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."


I entirely sympathise with the objects the hon. Member has in view, but I cannot help thinking the clause is altogether superfluous. If the estate is unencumbered it will be perfectly simple for the owner to obtain money to effect the purpose without going to the County Council at all. But, on the other hand, if the estate is encumbered, then it seems to me that probably the security would be one that the County Council would not be well advised to invest their money in. Moreover, the hon. Member proposes that no loan shall be authorised unless the tenant is to have perpetuity of tenure. That would be importing into our practice in this country a form of tenure which is entirely novel, and to which on other grounds, independently altogether of the question we are now discussing, I should not be prepared to agree. I really do not think anything would be gained by the addition of this clause, and I am inclined to hope the hon. Member will not press it to a Division, for I should not be able, I am sorry to say, to accept it.

Question put, and negatived.

MR. HALDANE (Haddington)

I do not see the hon. Member for Stamford (Mr. Cust) in the House, but the clause standing in his name seems to me to be an extremely valuable clause, and I take the liberty of appropriating it and moving it in his absence. The clause proposes that these small holdings, instead of being real property descending to the heir, shall be personal property descending to the personal representative. There is one strong reason why that should be the law. These people who own small holdings have but a limited knowledge of real property, and very often do not make wills. If they do not the pro- perty will go to the heir, with the result that the widow will be left without any provision. If this clause passes the property will be personalty, and the widow will take a third. It seems to me right that the law should be altered in this way, and it seems to me, further, that it is not contrary to what we are familiar with on the subject, because when small holdings were created in Ireland under the system which obtains there, the small holdings were made personal property by the Government under the Act which they passed last year. It seems to me that what has been done in Ireland ought to be done in England too. Then, again, we have recently, in the Conveyancing Act of 1881, made trust estates devolve as personalty to the legal personal representatives; and certainly there is nothing anomalous or extraordinary in making land so devolve. Land which is held for a term of years devolves in this way at present. There are various other estates which from time to time have been changed from realty into personalty; and certainly we are not infringing any great principle, or making any general attack on the principle of primogeniture which might be unacceptable to hon. Gentlemen opposite, by making this small proposal.

New Clause—

(Small holdings to be personal property.)

"Land comprised in a small holding shall be, and shall for ever afterwards remain, personal property, and shall devolve and descend as a chattel real, and all enactments and rules of law applicable to chattels real, both as regards beneficial enjoyment, trusts, and the administration of estates, and all other matters shall apply to such land in like manner; provided, that such land shall not be liable to Probate Duty or Legacy Duty, or exempt from Succession Duty,"—(Mr. Haldane,)

—brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."

MR. CUST (Lincolnshire, Stamford)

I am obliged to my hon. and learned Friend for taking up this clause during my temporary absence. I do not wish at any length to take up the time of the Committee in supporting this clause, although it is one to which I myself, and many of my friends, attach very considerable importance. I am aware that it seems to some hon. Gentlemen, including, I fear, the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, a novel and almost a startling proposal; but, as a matter of fact, it follows logically and almost necessarily upon the clauses which the right hon. Gentleman has already accepted. As he has already been good enough to accept a series of Registration Clauses, I trust to again hear that he may be willing to give his serious consideration to a clause which follows so naturally upon them. I am not aware that there is a single instance in the laws either of this country, of the Continent, or of the United States of America, where any system of land registration has not gone hand in hand with a clause of this nature; and as the right hon. Gentleman has been willing to adopt the enormous advantages of the system of compulsory registration—exceptional, I admit, to these statutory holdings and not applying to the whole land of the country—I hope to hear that he may be willing to make an exception for these small holdings in this case, for the whole case is exceptional throughout, and to give his favourable consideration to the present clause, and thus complete that land reform, at least with reference to small holdings, which he has already initiated, and confer still further advantages upon the class which he wishes to benefit. I admit that the clause is stated somewhat badly upon the Paper, but it is in no sense original. It has three direct precedents—if not actually legal precedents in form, at least precedents for the principle which it proposes. First we have the Land Registration Act of Ireland, which was passed last year, by which it is actually laid down that all land purchases under the Irish Land Act of 1891 shall be treated as personal property. Next we have the Land Transfer Bill, which has been introduced by the present Lord Chancellor in another place on more than one occasion, and which directs that the same principle which this clause embodies shall be applied to the whole land of the country. And, third, we have that which, if not a precedent, is at least a very close analogy—the system by which land lying in trust for sale in this country is for the whole of the period which may intervene before it is disposed of (and that period may be one of considerable length)—treated as personal property. I do not wish to detain the Committee by entering at any length into the various distinctions between real and personal property, and I can only lay before the Committee as shortly as possible what will be the practical results of the adoption of this clause. During the lifetime of the owner very little change will be felt, except possibly in additional facilities in the sale and transfer of his land; but it is in cases of death and succession, more especially in cases of intestate succession, that the full benefits will accrue. I desire to remove two possible causes of alarm to which this proposal has given rise. The first is that it would in any way alter the testamentary freedom of property holding, and the second is that it would interfere at all with the present financial arrangements or burdens which rest upon the land, whether Succession Duty, or rates, or whatever public burden it may be. Such charges would remain wholly untouched by this clause, and wholly unaffected. As to the other point, the testamentary freedom of the small holder, even under this clause he would be absolutely free to make what will he chooses for the disposition of his estate, as he is at the present moment. But it is in the case in which he makes no will and dies intestate that this important and valuable alteration in the law will be felt. What happens under the present state of the law? The heir-at-law may be either the eldest son, who may practically reduce his brothers and sisters to poverty, or he may be some distant male relative, who may reduce the widow to beggary. I will give an instance of what has occurred in this direction. It is the case of a labouring man and his wife. The wife unexpectedly inherited £700 or £800. The money was put into the bank. A will was made so that the money was left to the wife. Some years later the man and his wife purchased a plot of land and erected a house upon it, and in their ignorance they had no idea that the Law of Succession had changed. The husband died, and a nephew was declared heir-at-law, the widow being reduced to the position of a servant on the land which her money had purchased. Such a case as this is far from being an uncommon one—there are plenty of instances of the kind to be found up and down the country. There are two cases of a somewhat similar kind at the present time in my own Division of Lincolnshire. I would remind the Committee that although the sums of money in question in such cases are small they are relatively of importance to the persons concerned, and the amount is soon eaten up by litigation. What would be the result of the adoption of this Amendment by the Government? First, the entire property would pass at once into the hands of the administrator, who would be required to settle immediately, so far as the estate was concerned, all claims against it; secondly, instead of the son or a remote male relative succeeding to it, to the total exclusion of the widow or the family, the value of the estate would be divided amongst the family. It may be asked, Why make such an innovation? I would answer it is not an innovation in any sense, because it is based on the action of Parliament last year. Then, again, the holdings we are now dealing with are created solely by Statute; therefore this clause would upset no existing arrangement, and it would do wrong to no one. On the contrary, it would benefit those who most require to be benefited. It is with the object of providing a remedy for the distress, the serious injustice, and the gross grievances which exist that I bring forward this Amendment, and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will give it his full and careful consideration.

(4.15.) MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

I am sure we are all much indebted to the hon. Member for having brought up this subject for our consideration. I sincerely trust that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give the clause his approval. I do not think it is much to ask from the Government, because, as to the principle of the clause, it has already been accepted as part of the Government programme. Not being a lawyer, I should hesitate a great deal in offering an opinion as to the meaning of legal phraseology. It may be that the wording of this clause is somewhat defective; but as to the object of the Mover we can have no doubt whatever. It is to prevent grievous injustice being inflicted by dividing, after a man's death, the property he leaves in a way which he himself, if alive, would not have approved. That principle has been accepted by the Government in a measure which they have proposed to the House. That measure was not passed, because of difference of opinion with regard to some of its provisions; but on this question of dealing with primogeniture there cannot be any difficulty whatever with regard to the principle. What I particularly want to impress upon the Committee is this—that whatever may be the feeling of hon. Members with regard to the general principle of primogeniture, there cannot be any possible objection to dealing with it as is proposed in this particular clause. In many cases the people whom you are going to put upon the land do not make their wills, or, if they do make them, they may possibly be found afterwards to be invalid, and their desire that the estate should be divided amongst those who are dearest to them is frustrated. The additional argument which has suggested itself to me is that in dealing with this land the work of the woman is undoubtedly of extreme importance, because if small holdings are successful it will be largely due to the wife's management of the poultry yard; and it will be an additional hardship if those who have contributed to the success of the holding should, on the death of the owner, find themselves deprived of any further benefit from it. I do not think that the question needs very much argument, and I sincerely trust the Government will see their wav to accept the Amendment.

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

I rise at this moment to say that I am particularly anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should give this Amendment his most careful consideration. He should know that there is on this side of the House a very strong feeling in favour of it. Those who buy their holdings will, no doubt, do so because they be- lieve that the property will afterwards be divided between their widows and their children. They would not like it to go to a distant relative. It is because I believe that great hardship will result if this Amendment is not adopted, that I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to agree to it.

BARON F. DE ROTHSCHILD (Bucks, Aylesbury)

I would not have spoken upon the question had I not represented an agricultural constituency. It is my earnest wish that this Bill should meet with unqualfied support. I have found in my constituency that the agricultural labourers have a horror of the word "primogeniture." It is-one which they cannot understand, and I therefore hope the right hon. Gentleman will give the Amendment his most favourable consideration.

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

I wish to say a few words on this very important Amendment. In making a great change, such as that contemplated by this Amendment, plenty of time should be given to consider it. No one wishes more than myself to see this Bill made a fair, full, and complete Bill; but this question is one which I think ought to-be dealt with in a measure by itself so as to give full opportunity for its discussion on each stage. My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment pointed out very clearly what has been done in regard to registration in America and other countries that have adopted registration.

A hon. MEMBER: Ireland.


Well, Ireland does not come into the question, as Ireland is an exceptional case in the way it has been dealt with. Are you going to cast a slur on those you wish to see small holders of land by saying that with the education they have received they will not be able to make a will in conformity with their views and opinions, and thus do what they wish with their own? If education does not teach them this, the first thing they should learn as soon as they have got the property is how to make a will, so that they may be able to leave the land to whom they like. I should also like to ask, Is this property to remain under the law of personalty, or to again go under the law affecting realty in case pre-emption is granted and it is bought by the original owner? I think that is an important question, and deserves consideration. And then, with regard to the rates, my contention is that if it is to be made personal property it should be excused from the rates, as is the case with personal property. As to the law of primogeniture, I must say that I have never understood it is in such disrepute among the lower classes as the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Baron Rothschild) appears to think. I have always been of opinion that they are anxious, if they have property, to leave it to their eldest sons, so that it may be handed down to their children. ("No, no!") Some hon. Gentleman says "No, no," but that has occurred in many cases I have known. But, be that as it may, I have never heard it said before, and if I had not known the opinions of the hon. Member who spoke, I should say he was one of those who are anxious to make an attack upon property.


If this Amendment is passed it will not prevent anyone making a will and leaving his property to his son.


Quite so, if he makes a will; but the object we have in view would be secured better without this proposal. I hope my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chaplin) will carefully consider the nature of this clause. It is an innovation to ask the Committee to make changes of such grave importance without giving the House an opportunity of discussing them most fully.

*MR. WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)

I think the right hon. Gentleman will see there is a strong disposition to view this clause favourably. It seems to me, however, that this proposition is mixed up with the question of pre-emption. The one depends considerably on the other, because if this is to be made a question of personal property the point that would arise is, what should be done if it is re-sold to the original owner? Will it then remain personal property, or become again real property? This is one of those matters which should be deferred for Report, as it affects others already left to that stage. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to take that course.

(4.35.) MR. CHAPLIN

I frankly own that there is something extremely attractive to myself and others in the proposition of my hon. Friend, and it has been made not less attractive by the able and sympathetic speech in which he introduced it to the notice of the Committee. But there are some considerations of a practical character which I think deserve the attention of the House before we come to a decision. I think the argument adduced from the case of Ireland was in no way complete. The same principle, it is true, has been adopted in Irish legislation; but there was a reason for it in the case of Ireland that does not exist here. In Ireland there were a vast number of leasehold properties which by the legislation of some years ago were converted into ownerships, and the people who had been accustomed to treat these leasehold properties as personal property never became habituated to the change in the law, and continued to treat them as personal property, although they had become real property, and the law was, therefore, altered to meet their case. Then my hon. Friend pointed out a case in which he showed that great hardship had arisen to the family of a small owner of land, because of the ignorance of the law which existed at the time, and owing to which the whole of the property was divided amongst relations to whom it was, never intended to go. Well, I sympathise very much with the hardship in that particular case; but I do not think we should be wise to initiate legislation because of individual cases of hardship. But, Sir, I want the Committee to consider for a moment what are the practical objections to this proposal. It is one with which I myself have full and entire sympathy, and when the hon. Member appears to think that there is something of so novel and startling a character in this proposal that it would probably alarm me so much that I should not assent to it, I would remind him that there is nothing novel and startling in it at all. The precise principle has been adopted by Her Majesty's Government in the Land Transfer Bill which was introduced into the House of Lords; and, therefore, it is not because of anything novel and startling in the proposal that I oppose it. I see considerable practical difficulties in the way of carrying it out with regard to one particular class of landed proprietors, and one particular class alone. Now, take the case of a small holding that reverts possibly to its original owner and ceases to be held for that purpose. There you have the owner holding his land under two different titles—under one of which it is real property, and under the other personal property. My right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir W. Barttelot) has also raised the difficulty with regard to the rates, and I am bound to say it seems to me to be a matter of great inconvenience that by passing a clause in Committee in the House of Commons one afternoon we are suddenly to create two classes of landed property in this country. I think these are considerations which ought to engage the attention of the Committee before we come to a decision, on this subject. It has been frequently pointed out in the course of the Debates on this Bill that one of the things we should, above all others, guard against with regard to these small holdings, is their possible sub-division in times to come. But surely, if we adopt this proposal, we shall be doing more to facilitate the sub-division of these holdings than anything else I can imagine. I hope, Sir, for the reasons I have stated—although I am entirely in sympathy with the object of the clause myself—that the Committee will come to the conclusion that it is too large a question to be hurriedly settled in an afternoon towards the close of the discussion on a Bill. Although there is no doubt that on the first convenient opportunity the present Government will endeavour to carry out the proposals they have made already on the subject, I strongly recommend the Committee on this occasion to abstain from supporting the proposal of the hon. Member.

*MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)

It appears to me that the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) has adduced against this proposal might have been fairly urged against the proposal in respect to small holdings, carried by his own Government under the Ashbourne Act. The main argument of the right hon. Gentleman has been that it is not desirable to create two classes of ownership of land under different forms of succession in the case of death. But that has been done in the case of the small holdings under the Ashbourne Act; and I may remind the right hon. Gentleman that not only did this apply to future purchasers under the Land Purchase Act of last Session, but also retrospectively to all land sold to tenants under the Ashbourne Act. Therefore, the strongest argument that can be conceived in favour of this proposal is that its principle is already embodied in Acts which the present Government have placed on the Statute Book. The right hon. Gentleman further said that it would make a great difficulty in the case of land being redeemed by its former owner under the clause which he has promised to bring up on the Report; but I think it would be quite possible to consider that question when the clause relating to the redemption of land by the former owner comes before the House. But let me point out that the land redeemed in that way would cease to be a small holding under this Bill, and consequently it would revert to the ordinary law of the land. For my own part, I venture most sincerely to hope still that the Government will take into consideration the strong feeling on the other side of the House in favour of this proposal and give way. My strong belief is that the disappearance of many of the small holders in the past has been largely due to the great complications attending transactions connected with the succession or transfer of land. If we had only at an earlier period adopted the general rule of applying the law of personal property to land—especially to small holdings—we should not have had to resort to this exceptional and artificial system of creating small holdings. Under these circumstances, I think there is a strong opinion on both sides of the House that the Government would do well to yield upon this point, and to promise that on the Report stage of the Bill they will bring up a clause for the pur- pose of carrying into effect the important suggestion of the hon. Member.

(4.44.) MR. CUST

The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) has said that the hardship which exists under the existing law is exceptional, and that on that account we ought not to make a change of the sort now proposed. So far from being exceptional, it is a hardship that is almost universal. It is a mute hardship, and for very natural reasons. People who suffer from it have not the opportunity or knowledge to bring the matter before public notice. The only people through whom that can be done are the local lawyers, and they, for very natural reasons, do not desire to see this change in the law. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's objection that we should have two classes of property, I will offer two remarks in answer. Surely it is unnecessary to talk about the danger of having two different classes of property when we are speaking of the English Land Laws. If we had a symmetrical Code, nicely cut and dried, then there would be some reason against making a disturbance; but while there exist such absurdities—and how can we expect labouring men to know them?—as a leasehold for life being personal property and a freehold for life real property, or that shares in a Water Company are personal property and shares in the New River Company are real property, it is unnecessary to discuss this question as if it would interfere with a delicate symmetry. Another point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend behind me was that it would be an innovation far too great to introduce on a side issue. But this innovation is not one bit greater than the principle of registration which was swallowed whole by the Committee on Friday night, and which has opened up the way for the change now proposed. In every other country the two changes have gone hand in hand, and it does seem to be a case of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel for the Government to accept the principle of registration of land, and then absolutely refuse to take what follows. The question as to whether the acceptance of this proposal would make small holdings personal property in cases where the land is redeemed by its original owner might be held over until the Report stage; and if the right hon. Gentleman will agree to that, I am sure we shall be willing to meet him. Otherwise, I think there is a strong feeling amongst hon. Members on this side, as well as on the other side, that we should take the sense of the House upon this clause.

*(4.47.) MR. DARLING (Deptford)

If there be such a strong feeling on this, side of the House as a majority in, favour of this proposition I am the more proud to say that I do not share that opinion. This appears to me to be a much smaller question than it has been represented to be. It is a mere matter of how land shall devolve where the tenant dies intestate, but it has been stated that in the majority of instances he will die without a will. In that case, I believe one of the chief merits of this Small Holdings Bill will be gone if this proposition is accepted, because if the tenants die intestate there would then be a distribution of the land, or its price, amongst the personal representatives. To my mind, the great merit of this Bill as it now stands is that one person will succeed to the property, which would not happen if the property was sold whenever a tenant died intestate. This proposal is founded on what makes the worst kind of law; that is, on cases of individual hardship. To alter the law of England simply because a few people make bad wills is to make a great change for a very small reason. If it be true that the Government contemplate making a change one day in the devolution of real property, let it be on a general Bill. I would point out that the one kind of property where the rule of primogeniture is most useful is that of small estates. Everybody, except the Radical agitator, knows that the great estates of the country do not devolve because of the rules of primogeniture, but because of the law of settlement. The principle of primogeniture affects small estates, where there is no settlement, far more than large estates; and it is because I consider it far better that these small holdings should be year after year in the same family rather than be constantly thrown upon the market that I shall oppose this clause.


I have heard nothing in the course of the discussion which has removed my objections to the clause for the reasons I have already stated. At the same time, I recognise that there is a strong feeling on the part of the Committee, with which I sympathise; and if it will meet the views of hon. Members, I will undertake to re-consider the matter with a view, if possible, to deal with it on the Report.

MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

I think we should quite understand the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman. Re-considering a question may mean re-considering it with a view to its rejection as well as with a view to its acceptance. If the President of the Board of Agriculture says that he now accepts the principle that this property is to descend as personal property, and that all he wants is an opportunity of considering details, we need not prolong this discussion for another moment; but if he is not prepared to accept the principle, then this House should express an opinion upon it.


I said that I would re-consider this question with the view of dealing with it on the Report.

MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)

I think the Committee should know what that means.


I mean that we should postpone dealing with this question till the Report stage in order that I may examine into it. I might possibly on further consideration find it impossible to accept the proposal, and if so I should not consider myself pledged to go on with it. The House would then have the opportunity of discussing the subject on an Amendment moved by anybody else, but my intention is to re-consider this question with a view to accepting the principle of the proposal.


As I recognise the desire of the right hon. Gentleman to deal with this question, I will ask permission of the Committee to withdraw the Amendment.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

(4.55.) MR. HALDANE

I beg to move that the following clause be inserted in the Bill:—

(Extension of Provisions of Settled Land Act, 1882.) Where a tenant for life within the meaning of 'The Settled Land Act, 1882,' sells, exchanges, or leases any settled land to a County Council for the purposes of this Act such sale, exchange, or lease may be made at such a price, or for such consideration, or at such rent as, having regard to the said purposes, and to all the circumstances of the case, is the best that can be reasonably obtained, notwithstanding that a higher price, consideration, or rent might be obtained if the land were sold, exchanged, or leased for another purpose.

The object of this clause, which is of a technical nature, is to enable life tenants and limited owners of land to sell more cheaply and freely than they otherwise would be able to do. As the Bill is now framed, a life tenant or limited owner who desires to sell must take advantage of the Land Clauses Act, and thus incur the expense and go through the formality of appointing two arbitrators. I understand it is the view of the Government that some Amendment for getting over that difficulty is necessary, and I gather from the hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Webster) that he is prepared to accept this clause.

Clause brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Clause be now read a second time."


I shall be prepared to recommend my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chaplin) to adopt this clause, subject to further consideration before the Report stage, as to whether an alternative machinery could not be devised with the view of providing proper safeguards as to price.

Motion agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.


I have now to move the following clause:—

(Power to Limited Owner to Sell at a Fee Farm Rent.)

"A tenant for life within the meaning of 'The Settled Land Act, 1882,' may grant the settled land, or a part thereof, to a County Council for the purposes of this Act in perpetuity, at a fee farm or other rent secured by condition of re-entry, or otherwise as may be agreed upon."

The reason that this clause is limited to England is on account of the scandalously backward state of entail in Scotland. In England we have mended the laws over and over again; but in Scotland, when we have mended them, it has been only to put them a quarter of a century behind those in England. If I blame one party more than another for this, it is the party to which I belong. In 1882, the Settled Land Act was passed for England at the suggestion of Lord Cairns, but in Scotland an Act was passed of the most meagre description, and provisions were deliberately inserted in it which made it impossible for freeholders there to have the same scope as those in England. I regret very much that I cannot apply this clause to Scotland.

Clause brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."


The hon. and learned Gentleman has delivered a speech of a kind I have often heard. We are told that the position of the law is such that it is necessary that we should be shut out from something. It is unfortunate that the Lord Advocate is not here to give us the information, for I suppose the Attorney General will profess once more his entire ignorance as to whether this clause would apply to Scotland.


There is no doubt about the matter. The particular part of the Bill to which this new clause refers could not possibly apply to Scotland, because of the Act which has been mentioned.


On the last occasion the Attorney General said he did not know whether it would apply to Scotland or not.


Indeed, I said nothing of the kind.


It may be well worth the consideration of the Government whether in regard to entailed property it would not be well to include Scotland. With respect to this matter, the Member for Haddington (Mr. Haldane) is under a habitual mistake. He forgets that the land which would be described as settled land in England is in Scotland governed by the law of entail, and there are ample provisions for giving facilities to deal with this land. I would press upon the President of the Board of Agriculture that he should communicate with the Lord Advocate on this matter.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.

*(5.10.) SIR W. FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)

I beg to move the following New Clause:—

(Rating of small Holdings.)

"For the purposes of poor rates and of all other rates the rate able value of a small holding shall be taken to be the same as that of agricultural land of the like quality in the neighbourhood of such small holding, and the rate able value of a small holding shall not be estimated from the rental where such rental exceeds that of such agricultural land as aforesaid, by reason of (a) the price which has been given by the County Council for the land of such small holding, or (b) the legal expenses of transfer thereof, or (c) other expenses of the Council in relation thereto which have not increased the value of the land."

After the Allotments Act was passed there was a complaint about the heavy rating, and I should be sorry to see the same difficulty arise in this matter. In some parts of Suffolk the allotment holders were rated in some cases four times as high as the farmers; and in consequence of the widespread feeling of the general unfairness of this, a Bill was brought in making special provision that the allotment holders should be rated under the provisions of the Public Health Act of 1875. But in spite of that experience there is no provision in the present Bill to prevent injustice in the way of rating being practised on the small holders. I am not wedded to the special form of clause that I have put on the Paper; but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept some words which will secure the object I have in view—that of protecting these small holders from excessive rating. The land, in the first place, will have been bought at a high price, and that price increased by the necessary legal proceedings, and the rent will consequently be very much in excess of the agricultural value of the land. The consequence will be that while a farmer is rated at 25s. or £1 an acre, the small holder will have to pay on 30s. or £2. If we apply the provisions of the Public Health Act and also pass this clause we shall prevent considerable injustice and agitation, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept the clause.

Clause brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."


If the contingency foreshadowed by the hon. Member were to arise, it would be wise to put in a clause like this; but I do not think it is likely to arise, nor do I Understand from the hon. Member that the clause is necessary. He says the rate able value should not be higher than that of other holders or farmers in the same neighbourhood; but I do not see how the fact that they are likely to be rented higher than their neighbours affects his argument. The rate able value is not estimated on the rental alone, but on the rental at which the land might reasonably be supposed to let from year to year. Therefore, I do not see that the clause would be necessary; but if, on examination, I find there is any reason for apprehending the danger which the hon. Member has foreshadowed, I shall be ready to deal with it in a manner which I hope will be satisfactory to the hon. Member.


A difficulty has already arisen on the Allotments Act. However, as the right hon. Gentleman has promised to examine into the matter, I will withdraw the clause

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. THOMAS ELLIS (Merionethshire)

I beg to move, in page 5, after Clause 7, to insert the following clause:—

(Power to attach grazing rights, &c. to Small Holdings.)

"Where any right of grazing, sheepwalk, or other similar right is attached to land acquired by a County Council for the purposes of small holdings, the Council may attach any share of the right to any small holding in such manner and subject to such regulations as they think expedient."

This clause is the result of a discussion which took place on the first clause of the Bill.

Clause brought up, read the first and second time, and added to the Bill.

*MR. SEYMOUR KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)

I beg to move the following clause:—

(Limitation of Advances.)

"No advance shall be made by a County Council under this Act for the purchase of any holding, for the purchase of which any advance has been already made under this Act, until the perpetual rent-charge and the entire annuity for the repayment of the advance shall have been redeemed or repaid."

This clause, which is the last on the Paper, is taken bodily from the Irish Land Purchase Act, Section 9, Sub-section 4. So far as I am concerned, I should be perfectly satisfied if the clause stopped in the middle, because my object is merely to prevent the sale and re-sale of land from owner to owner by means of advances of public money made over and over again on the same land. The clause was inserted in the Irish Act, because it was shown that there had been re-sales under the Ashbourne Act, in which the landlord, having got a tenant to buy at a ruinously high price, bought back the holding from the defaulter at half what he had originally received for it, and then effected a fresh sale by means of a fresh advance from the public Treasury. When I moved this Amendment to the Irish Bill, the clause only went as far as the word "Act" in the middle of the now proposed clause, and the Government insisted on the words at the end being added. They recognised a defect in the law, but they declined to accept my Amendment unless words like these which now appear were added. The words were added, and the clause made part of the Bill, and that is why these latter words stand in the clause which I now submit to the Committee. I trust, therefore, that the Government will have no difficulty in adding to the Bill either the whole of the Amendment or the first three lines of it as far as the word "Act."

Clause brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed "That the Clause be now read a second time."


I have read the clause, but I am unable up to the present to see any advantage to be gained by adding it to the Bill. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not think I am discourteous in any way; but with every desire to ascertain in what way the Bill would be improved by the insertion of this clause, I confess I am unable to see it.


Will the right hon. Gentleman explain in what sense he differentiates this present Bill from the Land Purchase Bill of last year, in which the Government accepted the Amendment as a great improvement on the Bill?


The circumstances are totally different. I have rather avoided framing this Bill on the lines of the Irish Act, the conditions of the two countries being so entirely different.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.


Will the Bill be printed as amended, and circulated? [Mr. CHAPLIN: Yes.] I wish to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the skill and success with which he has piloted the Bill through Committee, and on the character of the Bill so far as it goes.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next and to be printed. [Bill 355.]