§ (1) During the continuance of this Act, that is to say, the period of five years after the 31st day of March next after the passing of this Act the occupier of agricultural land in England shall be liable in the case of every rate to which this Act applies, to pay one half only of the rate in the pound payable in respect of buildings and other hereditaments.
§ (2) This Act shall apply to every rate as defined by this Act, except a rate—
§ (3) which the occupier of agricultural land is liable, as compared with the occupier of buildings or other hereditaments, to be assessed to or 2 to pay in the proportion of one half or less than one half, or
§ (b) which is assessed under any commission of sewers or in respect of any drainage, wall, embankment, or other work for the benefit of the land.
§ And which Amendment was, in subsection (1) after the word "England," to insert the words "not being situate in a borough or county borough":—(Mr. James Stuart.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words 'not being situate in' be there inserted:"—Debate resumed.
§ *MR. H. E. KEARLEY (Devonport),
who was speaking at 12 o'clock last night when, by the Rules of the House the Debate stood adjourned, resumed his speech in support of Mr. Stuart's Amendment. He said he had no doubt that if the Government could see their way to accept the Amendment the Opposition would be prepared to listen to some suggestion as to which boroughs should come within the Amendment and which should be excluded, as he did not think his hon. Friend intended that every borough should come within its operation. One 3 of the main reasons advanced by the President of the Local Government Board for refusing Amendments was that their acceptance would create a complicated and difficult situation, because there would be difficulty in defining area, position and so forth. No such objection could apply to this Amendment, because the areas were already defined. Some time ago the right hon. Gentleman promised to consider this proposal, and yesterday he said he had considered it and was not able to accept it. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that much of the land in these districts was most profitable, but he added that some of the remaining land was used for ordinary agricultural purposes, and for that reason it would be a great injustice to exclude it. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could tell them what he meant by "ordinary agricultural purposes." That was not the reason given by hon. Members on the other side. The hon. and learned Member for Stroud gave a reason which was quite different to that given by the right hon. Gentleman. He said that the Bill was introduced not, as stated in the Queen's Speech, for the relief of agricultural distress, but for the reform of local taxation, and that, therefore, no discrimination could be made in reference to the different circumstances of land in different districts. ["Hear, hear!"] He wished now to refer briefly to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill as to the amount of agricultural distress existing in the Metropolitan area. The right hon. Gentleman stated that within the 15 miles of the Metropolitan area there were places in which the distress was as severe as in any part of England. He entirely traversed that statement, and challenged the right hon. Gentleman to give the names of such places. The right hon. Gentleman had been an active Member of the Royal Commission on Agricultural Distress, and if such distress as he said existed within the Metropolitan area, how could he explain the fact that not a single witness came before the Commission to bear out that statement? The explanation was that the statement was not accurate. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not mean to imply for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman had intentionally misstated the case, but 4 he had been misled by a want of knowledge of the conditions of this particular area. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he had received letters from persons within the area pointing out that it would be unjust to deprive them of the benefits of the Bill. Naturally so, but had the right hon. Gentleman made any efforts to verify the statements in those letters? If so, he would be able to tell the House the names of the districts in which distress existed. But he was not able to do so, because the contrary was the fact. In this area agriculture was prosperous, by reason of the fact that those cultivating the land had a large and ever-increasing population to feed, were free, to a great extent, from foreign competition, had their markets close at hand, and therefore had little difficulty and expense, comparatively, in conveying their produce to them. He should like to quote some figures relating to towns in the area to show the inaccuracy of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the Metropolitan area was suffering from acute agricultural distress. He thought they might obtain some guidance on this point by ascertaining the annual rental value of towns and places within the Metropolitan area. In the Debate on this Bill they had heard a good deal about Essex as the most distressed county in England. Well, parts of that county were within the Metropolitan area, and he thought they might get some idea of the condition of at least a part of that county by quoting the returns of annual rental value of certain places. By the return of 1894, he found that the annual rental value of Barking was £103,288, East Ham, £123,048; West Ham, county borough, £857,013; Ilford, Great and Little, £73,684; Walthamstow, £163,008; Wanstead, £93,452; Woodford, £60,556; Chigwell, £35,116; Loughton, £21,820; and so on. In Hertfordshire, within the area, the annual rental value of Barnet, East, was £38,307; of Bushey, £28,321; of Cheshunt, £56,768; and of Elstree, £10,559. In Middlesex, the annual rental value was in Chiswick £130,851; Ealing, £253,514; Edmonton, £174,219; Enfield, Middlesex portion, £167,959; Finchley, £101,000; Harrow, £120,000; Hornsey, £428,000; Tottenham, £402,000; Twickenham, £112,000; and Willesden, £335,000. 5 In the Surrey and Kent parts of the area there were places the annual rental value of which was similar in amount, and those facts went to show that some differentiation ought to be made in the distribution of the relief granted by the Bill. Indeed, there was land in the Metropolitan area which was fetching as much as £8 an acre, and there was a very large quantity which, used for market gardening purposes, fetched £4 an acre. It was preposterous that half the rates on such land should be remitted, and if the Bill was honestly meant for the relief of distressed agriculture, the Government would see that it did not apply to such cases as those. ["Hear, hear!"] The rejection of the Amendment, therefore, would simply mean that there would be less available for the districts where distress really existed. Had hon. Members considered how much of the £1,500,000 to be granted under the Bill would be absorbed by the Metropolitan area if the Amendment were rejected? Taking the total value of agricultural land in the area at about £1,000,000, and the rate as approaching 5s. in the pound, and reckoning that the great boroughs would absorb £100,000, he calculated that the Metropolitan area would take £125,000, out of the £1,500,000, a large portion of which area had no claim whatever to the proposed relief. ["Hear, hear!"] What he and those who agreed with him wished, was to secure that the money granted in relief by the Bill should be confined to districts where agricultural distress genuinely existed; for it should not be forgotten, in debating this matter, that there were other industries in the country which were suffering keenly from foreign competition, and were in a distressed condition. ["Hear, hear!"] He wanted to say a word as to how this matter affected Devonport, which was one of the highest rated towns in England. The rateable value was £110,000, and the total amount raised was £37,000—equal to 34 per cent. of the rateable value. This was raised as follows: 81½ per cent. out of local rates, and 18½ grants in aid. How did this compare with Devon county? There the rateable value was £2,633,000, the amount raised was £292,000, and the percentage of the rateable value was 11¼. How was this raised? 73 per cent. out of the 6 rates, and 27 per cent. grants in aid. ["Hear, hear!"] The overtaxed town received 18 percent, from the Exchequer contributions, while the county received 28 per cent., notwithstanding that in the former case the amount raised was 34 per cent. of the rateable value against 11¼ per cent. It was bad enough now, but it would be worse if the Bill passed. In Devonport, where the working classes were overtaxed and landlord ridden, this would be the last straw. The county got more of the grants in aid than the town, which was more heavily rated. They were not suffering from agricultural depression in Devonport—what they were suffering from was land hunger. The people wanted land; the landlord doled it out on his own rapacious terms; and he thought the House would be rather surprised to hear that the average capital value of the land in his constituency that was going to get relief was £3,000 per acre. That was the land that was going to get relief under this Bill. [Cheers.] The capital value was increasing rapidly, and they were going to subsidise such landlords as that, [Renewed cheers.] There were, he knew, good landlords and bad; the latter, he was glad to think, a small percentage. They had at Devonport as bad a landlord as ever existed. With all respect to his hon. Friends below the Gangway, Ireland could not show anything like him. [Loud laughter.] He was the very worst, and yet they were going to subsidise him, to further enrich him, and to further encourage him to horde the land. That man was responsible for the misery, the overcrowding—Devonport was more overcrowded than London—disease, and death. ["Hear, hear!"] Those who knew the facts knew that he was not overstating them. This class of people were not entitled to receive anything—["hear, hear! "]—and the people of Devonport would feel bitter indeed if this relief was to be given irrespective of whether there was distress or not. The promise on this subject in the Queen's Speech was unreal, as they now knew that the relief was not to go exclusively to where the distress was genuine; it was to be given everywhere. This was not a Bill to relieve agricultural distress, but to reform local taxation, founded on the basis of increasing taxation of overburdened 7 taxpayers in towns where industry was to be taxed in order to subsidise those, in so-called agricultural districts, who were already in affluent prosperity. He hoped the country would remember this. [Cheers.]
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said there were portions of the county of Middlesex where great quantities of grain were grown, and it was agricultural land of very great value. He agreed with much that his hon. Friend had said, but he feared that his argument went beyond the Amendment, for it struck at the Bill itself. He was opposed to the Bill, and should vote against the Third Beading, as he did against the Second Reading, if anyone gave him a chance; but as to the Amendment, he feared the whole Metropolitan area had no more right to exclusion than half of the country. It was very difficult to distinguish between districts which were distressed and others which were not, and it seemed to him that this difficulty had increased and not decreased since he last spoke on this point. ["Hear, hear!"] Then there was a large number of allotment owners who would object to be left out when others in the near neighbourhood were included. As to what his hon. Friend said about Devonport, he knew it to be true, and he had his sympathy, but the real way to get rid of it was to oppose the Bill in every way. ["Hear, hear!"] He could not support this particular Amendment.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
said he should have thought that his right hon. Friend would have supported the Amendment, because it was a step towards getting rid of the Bill. [Loud cheers.] What was their objection to the Bill? Their objection was that the Bill was an unfair and an unjust Bill, which, under the pretence of relieving agricultural distress, used public money to make a gift to the landowners and land monopolists. [Cheers.] They wanted to see that no one who was not entitled to it should get any of this money. Perhaps the Amendment would not do all that, but it would do it to a certain extent. When he recently said there was a large class of land which could not be said to be distressed, he was told, "Oh, you are giving us examples from Liverpool and populous boroughs all over the country." Land 8 in the neighbourhood of Liverpool was let for £5 an acre, and he was asked what was the use of quoting such cases. Were the Government going to give money to that land or not? [Cheers.] If they were, it was very much to the purpose to consider these cases. The argument he had always addressed, and should continue to address, against this Bill was that landlords who were receiving £4 or £5 an acre for land in the neighbourhood of large towns ought, if relief was to be given, to give it themselves. [Cheers.] That was their capital objection to the Bill. The Government might come in forma pauper is on behalf of the landowners as well as the occupiers in Essex, but they had no right to come in forma pauper is for the landowners in the neighbourhood of Liverpool and of Devonport. ["Hear, hear!"] What they wanted was some test of the land which was not entitled to be relieved at the expense of the general taxpayers of the country, and they had such a test, because the land in the neighbourhood of great and populous towns was in a condition which had not a right to call upon the general taxpayers of the country for relief of this character. That was the nature of the Amendment. He did not say it went to the full extent. They could not go over the country. That was the fault, in his opinion, of the method of relief which the Government had chosen. He thought it was a capital error to have dealt with the relief of agricultural distress by revolutionising, as they did in another Bill, the whole system of rating in this country. It was the vice of the form of relief which they had adopted in regard to the rate, but they could diminish the evil and reduce the injustice of their proposal if they accepted the proposition that land in the neighbourhood of large towns was not agriculturally distressed, that the landowner was not badly off who held land which was saleable at a good price, and which was let in most cases at a high rent. [Cheers.] The Member for the Forest of Dean talked of allotment. It was not a question of the allotment occupier, it was a question of the allotment owner, and the allotment owner in the neighbourhood of large towns was perfectly able and ought to pay this reduction of rate to the allotment holders. He had got relief given to land of great 9 value, and he was therefore well able to give that relief to the allotment holder. That was the character of the objection to this Bill—a Bill which, from its injustice, would be condemned throughout, the industrial populations of this country. [Cheers.] He had not the smallest doubt that there was in the town populations a sympathy, as there ought to he, with agricultural distress; but, while they were willing to contribute to the relief of real agricultural distress, they were not willing to give up their hard-earned money to those who were not distressed, but who, on the contrary, were among the most wealthy and the most prosperous classes of the community. [Cheers.] This Amendment gave a fair test to the operations of the Bill. It was not true that the landowners within the ambit of these boroughs were a distressed class. They were wealthy and prosperous, they possessed land which was saleable at a high value, they received high rents, and yet this Bill called upon the industrial populations—many of them quite as distressed as the agricultural populations, if not more so—to contribute to those who were not suffering from distress of any kind, but who, as he had said, were amongst the most prosperous classes of the community. [Cheers.] That was the objection of the Opposition to the whole framework of the Bill.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
We have heard that several times. [Cheers.]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Yes; the right hon. Gentleman had had experience of the use of saying things so many times—[Opposition cheers]—and when the echo of those words came back to him from the country, he knew what was the fate of Measures which he was unable to defend. [Cheers.] The object of the Opposition was to make the country understand the real character of the Bill, and that they intended to do. [Cheers.] They were endeavouring in this clause and upon this Amendment to remedy what they believed to be a capital injustice in the Bill. The object of the Amendment was to provide that the Government should not squander public money; that they should not take the money of the industrial classes to give it to men who had no right to have it, 10 and to make this boon—as they might choose to call it—not to distressed agriculture, but to the wealthy owners of land in the neighbourhood of towns. It was for that reason they should support the Amendment, and they believed they should be supported in that view by the country [Cheers.]
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. T. W. RUSSELL,) Tyrone, S.
said the right hon. Gentleman had candidly stated at the commencement of his remarks that he supported the Amendment because it went to the root of the principle of the Bill. He had not had the Parliamentary experience of the right hon. Gentleman, but he had always imagined that the principle of a Bill was dealt with on the Second Reading, and that once the House had affirmed the principle, it was not necessary or competent to raise it upon every Amendment. [Cheers.] This Amendment raised the policy of discrimination in another form than that which had been before the House on several occasions; the two sides were at issue and were not likely to agree. The hon. Member for Devonport had dealt with the question mainly as affecting the Metropolitan police area, and had challenged his right hon. Friend to produce a single case of distress in agriculture within that Metropolitan police area. He did not admit the hon. Member's statements, and if he would read the evidence and Report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture, he would find a very large number of cases of acute agricultural distress in boroughs, and this Amendment dealt with boroughs as well as the Metropolitan district. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. KEARLEY
said he dealt with the Metropolitan police area, and he challenged the production in this area of a single case of distress as acute as that in other parts.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
observed that there were numerous cases of distress, especially among milk farmers, in connection with boroughs. [Mr. KEARLEY: "In the Metropolitan police area?"] This was not confined to the Metropolitan police district, and if the Amendment were carried it would shut out relief from all agriculturists in connection with these boroughs.
§ MR. JAMES STUART, (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
on a point of order, asked whether the Amendment did not leave open the question of what was to be excluded in circumstances to be decided later on.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
If the Amendment is carried in the affirmative—that is, if the words "not being situate in" were carried and inserted in the Bill—then it would be open to hon. Members who have Amendments in respect of boroughs, metropolitan and urban districts, to endeavour to insert those words or any of them. If those words are negatived it disposes of the matter.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
remarked that hon. Members would not deny that if their policy were carried out it would shut out a large number of allotment holders, and did they mean to say that the relief proposed in the Bill ought not to be given to allotment holders? [An HON MEMBER: "It would go to the landowner."] That was the old story.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
replied that that was only true in certain cases, and there were numerous cases of allotments by public authorities where the rates were paid by the holders. The whole question was simply a matter of discriminating between those who were to get relief under this Bill and those who were not. It had been raised in countless forms in the Debates, and the Government did not see their way to adopt it, especially as it would give rise to difficulties and hardships in connection with those holding agricultural land in boroughs. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said that as far as he understood the position of the Government, they were about to withdraw, or were actually withdrawing, the slight and nominal concession they made to the Opposition in Committee. The one point they relied on most was that the question of accommodation land should be considered, and there was no better moment for covering such cases than the present. The hon. Member for South Tyrone, in reply to the challenge of the hon. Member for Devonport, had been unable to point to a single case of distress in the Metropolitan police area, and the Government could easily exclude that area even if they did 12 not concede the rest of the Amendment. The right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean made a weak point with regard to the Metropolitan police area. He said that in the neighbourhood of Staines there was a grain-growing district. Staines was on the border of the area, and most of the grain-growing districts were outside it. But the House should remember that this land was not held for the production of grain, but as a capital investment for the holder. Its value was increasing every day and every hour, and it was one of the best properties to be found in any part of the country, and yet, in consideration of these fields of gold, as they might be called, the right hon. Member was going to vote against the Amendment. The argument with regard to agricultural depression in Essex was fraudulent. Essex was one of the most prosperous counties in England. Its population had increased by 250,000 during the ten years ending in 1891. [An HON. MEMBER: "Including West Ham?"] Yes; including West Ham. Essex was not a large county, but it was full of boroughs.
§ MR. LOUGH
The very name suggests peace and prosperity, and although he bad not intimate acquaintance with the boroughs in Essex, he spoke generally and broadly, and he hoped truthfully. The farmers of Essex were in the most happy condition of any farmers, for the simple reason that they had not to live exclusively on the land. They could go a few miles away and make a fortune in one of the neighbouring towns. [Ministerial laughter.] There was no right to speak of distress in such a district. There was no distress in Essex—[Ministerial laughter]—and it was a mistake to try to represent a small county like Essex, which was increasing in population faster than any other district in Europe as suffering from distress. It was the seat of wealth and prosperity. [Ministerial laughter.] In regard to the Metropolitan police district, he understood that some concession was to be made. The Metropolitan police area was surrounded by an imaginary circle. It consisted of a 15-mile radius from Charing Cross. It included nearly the whole of Middlesex, a small part of 13 Essex, Kent, and Surrey. In the middle of the district the Thames was flowing, and in the centre was London, which was not the only great city in the district, which contained a population of 6,500,000. It was the most flourishing and prosperous district in the whole world. The Bill of the Government sought to discriminate between certain rates, and only dealt with certain rates. Their argument on the Opposition side of the House was that when they were promoting a great measure of reform they must not only discriminate between particular rates, but particular districts. He defied anyone to point out any agricultural parish in the Metropolitan police district which was distressed. As his hon. Friend who moved the Amendment said, not a single witness before the Royal Commission alluded to any distress in the district. It was nothing less than an iniquity to pick out rich men with splendid property and relieve them at the expense of the poor people who dwell in the cities. Look at the populous districts lying outside London. There was Ealing in the west with 250,000, West Ham in the east with 204,000, Acton with 146,000, Chiswick with 126,000, Edmonton with 160,000, Harrow 120,000, Hendon 100,000, and Croydon 103,000. If there was distress any where in the Metropolitan police area it was in the towns, but the Bill aimed at bringing a tax on people in the towns to relieve the rich people who lived in fine houses and comfortable villas in the suburbs. The rates in the suburbs were only half what they were in the Metropolis. The suburban districts were policed at the expense of Metropolitan ratepayers. Therefore, dwellers in the suburbs derived certain benefits from the high rates paid in the Metropolis itself. The Bill proposed to levy a tax upon the poor dwellers in the slums to provide a subsidy for the prosperous people who lived in the suburbs. If the Government refused to accept the Amendment, they would make another of those mistakes which were tending to weaken their influence in the country.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said the right hon. Gentleman opposite was at liberty to make as many platform speeches as he chose and to repeat the arguments which he had advanced, but surely there should be a 14 limit to the repetition of a single argument in one aspect of the case, and they might be permitted to come to a conclusion. Once they admitted into the Bill the principle of discrimination proposed in the Amendment and numerous other Amendments, they would destroy the Measure. He believed the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Dilke) had stated that fact, but whether he had or not, it was a fact perfectly well known to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. That was not a reason, he admitted, why the Leader of the Opposition should not support an Amendment which should destroy the Bill, but it was a reason why the discussion should not be protracted to an undue length. In regard to the main argument that no alteration in the incidence of rating was to be permitted in districts prosperous and wealthy, he would point out that that would entirely preclude those future reforms in the incidence of rating which hon. Gentlemen pressed for. If they were to lay down in the Bill that there was to be no change in the rating of the Metropolitan area, then it would be of no use starting that Inquiry which the Government had promised, and which they hoped to bring to a fruitful issue. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might make what profit they pleased out of the Bill as it stood, but he begged the House not to press upon the Government Amendments which would have the effect not of improving, but of destroying the Bill. [Cheers.]
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
reminded the Government that this question was raised towards the end of the recent all-night sitting, and the President of the Local Government Board said he would look into it and see what he could do to meet the views of Members on the Opposition side.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. HENRY CHAPLIN,) Lincolnshire, Sleaford
said he expressly stated during the discussion on Tuesday that he gave no pledge. That was accepted by the hon. Member for Sheffield.
§ MR. BUXTON
said he did not assert that the right hon. Gentleman gave any pledge, but he distinctly promised to look into it and see if he could meet Members of the Opposition. 15 He contended that the House was entitled, on an important point like this, to enter at some length into the merits of the Amendment. After all, the House had only been discussing it for a comparatively short time. As to the Metropolitan area, at all events, they asserted that there was no land in that district which was entitled to relief. Though the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill said there were such cases, none were adduced by him in the course of his reply. The only two cases quoted against the Amendment—Staines and Saffron Walden—really told in favour of those supporting the Amendment and not against them. By making this Measure a temporary one, the Government had themselves acknowledged that the whole question of rating, apart from the question of area, must be taken into account and dealt with on a fair and just basis. The Government had been unable to deny that the vast bulk of so-called agricultural land brought in under this Amendment was not land in a distressed condition. The rents were high, and the values were increasing, and agricultural distress did not exist there, and one of the great anomalies of the Bill was that this relief was given in those areas where the value of land was not diminishing, and those areas being urban districts rates were higher there than in agricultural districts. It was asked whether allotments ought to be excluded. There were a considerable number of allotments in his constituency, and those allotments were not agricultural land which it was intended under the principle of this Bill to give rating relief. They were in the centre of London, and possessed enormous advantages. All allotments near towns where there was access to markets ought to be excluded from a Bill which professed to deal with distressed agriculture. He supported the Amendment.
§ MR. BATTY LANGLEY (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
pointed out that the discussion had only touched one-half of the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman confined his answer to the land and conditions in the Metropolitan Police area, but he said nothing about the thousands of acres of land within the limits of municipal and county boroughs. The occupiers of land in municipal and county boroughs had received concessions 16 from the local rating authorities. In a great many county boroughs the rates upon land were only about half the rates paid for house property. An assessment of £ 100 on land in Sheffield now paid £22 10s. to local rates; house property now paid £10 a year towards the local rates. If this Bill became law the proportion would be, on the same assessment of £100, £11 10s. for land, while works and houses would still continue to pay £40 a year on an assessment of £100. That appeared to him to be an easy way of giving the landlord and tenant relief at the expense of trade and commerce. The borough of Sheffield had been mentioned; but it was only a representative borough. There were scores of boroughs in England and Wales similarly situated. The right hon. Member for the Brightside Division (Mr. Mundella) said there was land in his constituency of from £2 to £4 an acre in value. The right hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) contradicted the statement, but he did not produce any facts or figures to support his denial. He had figures to prove that the right hon. Gentleman had made a mistake, and that he spoke without knowledge.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
To what statement does the hon. Member refer? Quote my actual words.
§ MR. LANGLEY
said the right hon. Gentleman stated in substance that most of the agricultural land coming under the Bill was situated in the Hallam Division of Sheffield, and very little in the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mundella).
§ MR. LANGLEY
said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division (Mr. Mundella) stated that there were thousands of acres of such land in the borough of Sheffield. A good deal of this land was let at £4 per acre, and he had figures to prove that the average rent of the land (including the moor land in the Hallam Division) was more than £2 per acre. They had heard a great deal about the present unfair and unjust incidence of taxation. He maintained that when the Act expired the unfair and unjust incidence of taxation that would then exist would take a good deal of righting 17 by Parliament. The President of the Local Government Board had said that there was a great deal of agricultural distress within the limits of county boroughs. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman to prove that statement by facts and figures. An hon. Member of the House who owned a farm within a borough had told him that he was getting £3 an acre for it, and that a few weeks ago he received a letter from a farmer asking for the refusal of the farm when it was to let. Did that look like agricultural distress? There were scores of acres of land in the borough of Sheffield which were being reserved for building purposes. If any of the owners of that land was offered £800 or £900 an acre for it, he would say, "No, I will wait until it is worth £1,400 an acre." And yet that land was to be relieved of half its rates out of the ratepayers pockets! That showed the monstrous injustice of the Bill.
§ *MR. CHARLES HARRISON (Plymouth)
said that whatever might be the value of the arguments against differentiation of treatment of land outside boroughs and populous areas, they had no application to areas within boroughs and in populous centres. The great reason was one which had not hitherto been much pressed during this Debate, and it was that all Imperial and local taxation was already differentiated in favour of land except those rates, which the present Bill dealt with, and which were practically Poor Rates and Highway Rates. Already differentiation had been allowed by the Government in reference to some land in boroughs, such, for instance, as in the case of land in Doncaster forming the site of the racecourse. That land, producing £30,000 yearly as a racecourse, was within the borough and belonged to the town of Doncaster, whose expenditure was fully discharged out of that income. The President of the Local Government Board had promised to introduce words into the Bill to except that land from the benefits of the Bill, and as the Debate was now limited to the question whether there should be inscribed in the Bill the words "other than lands situate in"—leaving for future discussion the particular lands—the Government had themselves admitted this principle of differentiation in a borough, 18 and had, thereby, accepted the principle of the Amendment. That all Imperial and local taxation in a borough was already differentiated could be shown by reference to an actual case in a borough which contained some 2,000 acres of agricultural land. Take as illustrations, a 52-acre farm rated at a a net of £122, and a house in the same borough rated at £117 10s. These rateable properties were alike subject to Imperial as well as to local taxation, and as already Imperial taxation specially favoured the landed interest at the expense of houses, the total taxation to both Imperial and local purposes must be taken into account when considering the question of adjusting local taxation on farms and houses. Now what were the Imperial taxes? They were, first, Property tax under Schedule A on the rateable value of farms and houses, and, secondly, Inhabited House Duty levied on farmhouses and houses and works respectively. As regards buildings on land, whatever were the size of the buildings or their value, one-eighth deduction from the assessment was arbitrarily allowed under the Property Tax Schedule A. As regarded Inhabited House Duty, farm houses under £20 annual value were exempt from that tax, and if over that value were taxed only at 2d., 3d., and 4d., up to £60 and over, whilst works and dwelling-houses if over £60 were charged 9d. in the pound, or more than double what farmhouses were charged. Beyond these two Imperial taxes there was the local taxation, consisting of the two rates, Poor and Highway—dealt with by this Bill, and special district rates, which, under the Act of 1875 were assessed on land only at one-fourth of the annual value of the assessments, as against the full value in the case of buildings, houses, and premises. And what was the practical operation of this rebate in the borough to which he had alluded? The rateable value was £635,000, the expenditure £143,358, so that 54d. in the £ would be required. But owing to land having its allowances and differentiation in assessment under the existing system, no less than £25,500 rateable value of laud was allowed exemption. In consequence a 54d. rate had to be increased to a 56d. rate in order to raise the £143,000. In other 19 words, on account of these allowances in favour of land, houses and works had to pay 2d. in the £ more rate to make up the allowance to land. Applying the present actual taxation to the two instances of the 52 acre farm and to similarly assessed house, the result in the cases alluded to was that the farm rated at. £122 now paid in Imperial taxation £4 5s. 8d., and in local taxation, including School Board rate, £19 5s. 10d., or together, £23 l1s. 6d.; whilst the £117-rated householder paid in the same borough £9 2s. 4d. Imperial taxation, and £32 8s. 5d. local taxation, or together £41 10s. 9d., beside a School Board rate of £7 1s. 5d., or a total of £48 12s. 2d., as against the farmer's £23 11s. 6d. Such was the result of the present taxation paid by farm and householder on practically the same rateable value. Such was the result of the present system of differentiation of Imperial taxation and the ¾ allowance as regarded local rates. Without inquiry it was proposed to extend the differentiation to the only two remaining rates, Poor and Highway Rates not already differentiated. This would exhaust the list of taxes levied on rateable property which were not already differentiated in favour of land as against houses. For these reasons, the rebate should not, in his opinion, as regarded lands in boroughs and populous areas, be further extended, because the present system of differentiation supplied sufficient relief, and the class of land mentioned in the Amendment ought, consequently, to be excepted from the operation of the present Bill. He heartily supported the Amendment.
§ *CAPTAIN PRETYMAN (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said that it had been argued by the supporters of the Amendment that if the Amendment were accepted greater relief would be available for agricultural districts. But as the representative of an agricultural district that was distressed, he congratulated the President of the Local Government Board upon rejecting the Amendment. If they once began to fritter away the Bill by accepting Amendments of this character it would be absolutely impossible to draw the line. He confessed that when he first read the Bill he thought it would be desirable that less money should be given where 20 the distress was not so great, in order that more money might be given where the distress was greatest, but he had come to see that they, as farmers and agriculturists, did not look upon this Measure as a dole. Their position was that as citizens and taxpayers they were paying burdens which had been imposed under different circumstances, and which were now absolutely and entirely excessive. They were not asking for relief at all. They were asking that a portion of the tax which was unjustly imposed upon them should be remitted by that House. They allowed that with regard to districts to which this Amendment referred there was also injustice, but the Government had expressed their intention of bringing in a Measure which would deal with that injustice. If they were to have this Measure at all, it was absolutely necessary that it should be on the sound basis of justice and that it should stand firm upon that basis, and that if there was to be relief to agricultural land, it must be given to all agricultural land. He might mention that in his own constituency there was a parish which consisted of 12 farms, the acreage of which was 900 acres and the labour bill upon which was £1,673. On these 12 farms, the tenant of one of which was leaving because the rates were so heavy, the rents would be now £153, and it would amount to this, that the rates would be 6s. in the £1, tithe would be 6s. in the £1, while the rent would only be 5s. on the assessment of the farms. That showed that they had a case and that it was merely justice they asked. Here was a case, and not a selected one either, in which the State was a far heavier landlord than the landlord of whom they heard so much from the opposite side of the House. The larger proportion of this money would go to the labourers. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might say "No!" but he had given a case where landlords were taking £153 in rent in a parish where £1,673 went to the labourers, so that they arrived at a proportion of more than 10 to 1 of the money that was now actually earned in the parish going to the labourers and not to the landlord.
§ *CAPTAIN PRETYMAN
said he did not wish to do so, and he would not pursue the matter further. He felt that the point on which they opposed the Amendment was that this was a measure of justice, and that it must be universal in regard to agriculture—a measure of justice which they hoped would be dealt out equally with regard to property that was not agricultural, as soon as possible. The Leader of the Opposition had consistently and determinedly attacked this Bill. He thought his excuse was very similar to the one which the right hon. Gentleman made the other day for the noble Lord the Member for Rochester. The right hon. Gentleman said he envied the noble Lord many things, but none more than his youth and inexperience. He envied the right hon. Gentleman many things, but none more than his inexperience of farming. [Cheers.] [SIR W. HARCOURT: "I have probably farmed longer than the hon. Gentleman."] There was a class of farming which they called gardening, but if the right hon. Gentleman had farmed 5,000 acres of light land, as he did, he would know the difference between farming and gardening.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said there was one remark of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down, with which he could not agree, and that was that he and those who acted with him could take this money in any other way than that in which it was given. They could not say they would not take it as a dole, but that they would take it as a concession to justice. They must take it in the terms of the Queen's Speech, which were:—I regret to say that the condition of agriculture is distressed beyond any recent experience. Measures will be laid before you of which the object will be to mitigate the distress under which the classes labour who are engaged in that industry.The hon. Member also said that he did not want the Government to fritter away this great boon by accepting Amendments. But the Government had already accepted an Amendment on this point, and never was there a pledge made across the Table of that House more clear and distinct than that in which the President of the Local Government 22 Board accepted the principle of this Amendment, and promised to carry it out in detail.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
said that was not a very courteous, and certainly a very premature observation. [Cheers] He repeated that the right hon. Gentleman accepted to a very great extent the principle of this Amendment. [Cheers.] In Committee the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil moved to insert after the word "land" the words "other than accommodation land as hereinafter defined." The hon. Member stated that "accommodation land was certainly not in need of relief like the agricultural land, for the benefit of which it was supposed the Bill had been introduced. In many cases accommodation land had been largely benefited by the increase of the neighbouring towns, and yet, if the Bill passed as it stood those towns would have to help to provide the funds for granting relief to the land of which it was most in need." That meant that this accommodation land was paid for to the landlord in the shape of competition rents, and there was no one, either a political economist or a practical farmer, who did not acknowledge that, in the case of a competition rent, every penny of the reduction of the rates would go into the landlord's pocket. That was the principle of that Amendment, and he ventured to say it was the same principle in the present Amendment. How did the President of the Local Government Board meet it? He said:—He was bound to remark that there was much to be said in favour of the proposal contained in the Amendment. The difficulty in the matter was in the point of definition, for, unless the definition of what was accommodation land was made clear, the danger was that occasion might be given for disputes hereafter, and this, of course, they would all be anxious to avoid. The hon. Member had said he was not wedded to his own particular definition, and, therefore, to arrive at an amicable arrangement on this point, he would make this suggestion. He accepted the proposal of the hon. Gentleman in principle." [Loud cheers.] "He did not think this was the place in the Bill where it ought to be inserted, but, if the hon. Gentleman would agree to his proposition, he would do his best—and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would do the same—to produce another definition at a later part of the Bill and one which he hoped would be satisfactory. On those terms he would accept the proposal of the hon. Gentleman.23 [Cheers.] He held that he had made good his assertion that never was a more clear and definite pledge, never was a more generous concession, made across the floor of the House. [Cheers.] That was the only pledge and the only concession made in their favour, and the right hon. Gentleman could not but acknowledge that if this, their poor ewe lamb of the Session, was to be murdered on the spot, they would have been treated as no Party had been treated before—and not they alone, but also all the town Members in the House. [Cheers.]
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said that, in view of the attack which had been so pointedly made upon him, he hoped the House would, at all events, give him the opportunity of replying to the statements of the right hon. Gentleman, although he had spoken before. The direct charge of mala fides which had been made against himself, a charge which had never been made against him before in the House of Commons or elsewhere, was one which he would never submit to, and least of all from the right hon. Gentleman. [Ironical Opposition cheers.] He could not be answerable for the exact accuracy of this Report. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] If hon. Gentlemen would only study the Reports and the omissions of what was stated by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in that House over and over again, they must know that they could not absolutely rely upon all the words of this Report. But he was perfectly prepared to accept this; he told the hon. Member in Debate across the Table that upon the condition that he would do his best to produce an Amendment dealing with accommodation land, and giving a definition of it, he would do his utmost also in that respect, and that upon those terms he would accept the principle of the Amendment that the hon. Member proposed as one of which, if it was possible to carry it, he should himself approve. He had done his utmost to fulfil the pledge and the statement he made on that occasion, and he had laboured hard to obtain a definition. He told the House at the time he made the statement that that was the great difficulty he had, and when he gave the pledge he knew there was a definition in the existing Irish Land Acts of accommodation land, and 24 that led him to give the pledge, more hastily than in more prudent moments he should have done. [Opposition laughter.] But there was something then which he was not aware of which he had learnt since, and that was that the definition clause in regard to accommodation land, as he was informed, had led to more repeated and constant disputes and difficulties in connection with the Irish Land Acts than any other single clause in those Measures. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: "Hear, hear!"] Those very disputes were the things against which he had pointedly declared that he must do his utmost to guard. He had endeavoured to the very best of his ability to produce a definition, with the aid and support of the extremely competent gentlemen who had assisted him in the drafting of this Measure, with the assistance of the Law Officers and others well versed in the law, but up to the present he frankly confessed he had been absolutely unable to produce an Amendment, one of the conditions of which was, as he stated to the House, that it must be generally satisfactory to all. Up to the present moment he had found it absolutely impossible to produce a definition upon this subject which would not lead them into more difficulties and greater objections than they were confronted with at the present time, and it was under those circumsiances that he frankly told the hon. Gentleman to whom he gave the assurance, so far as it was an assurance, that he had done his best to endeavour to meet these difficulties, and the hon. Gentleman to whom the pledge was given received his assurance in a very different manner to that which had been adopted by the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. [Cheers.]
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
said he did not want to charge the right hon. Gentleman with a breach of good faith, and he did not think his right hon. Friend intended to do so, but his speech was certainly a very remarkable one as affecting this Bill. There was a vast amount of accommodation land in all parts of the country of enormous value, and the right hon. Gentleman was apparently of opinion that it would be in accordance with justice and propriety that that accommodation land should not receive the benefit which was 25 intended for agricultural land in this Bill. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman had told them that he had endeavoured to find a definition of accommodation land which should be sufficiently precise to be introduced into the Bill. But for lack of a definition, or because no definition appeared to be thoroughly satisfactory to the right hon. Gentleman's mind, they were to vote large sums of money to be paid to gentlemen who, in principle, according to the right hon. Gentleman himself, ought not to receive them, and that was a Bill which the House was asked to accept. [Cheers.] The Amendment raising the question did not confine it to London, and yet the First Lord of the Treasury had intimated to them that it ought not to be discussed at any considerable length. For his part he did not think it was so difficult to define accommodation land. He believed it was quite true that difficulties connected with accommodation land had arisen in regard to the Irish Land Acts. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: "Hear, hear!"] But he thought the hon. Gentleman who signified his assent would not dispute that extremely rigid and technical views of those sections had been taken by Irish Courts of Justice and he did not believe they would be repeated in the same spirit in English Courts of Justice.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he knew nothing in connection with the whole Irish land question which had given rise to more friction and heart-burning than this question of accommodation land.
§ SIR R. REID
said that was no doubt in substance true, but he believed a proper and suitable definition could be ascertained. But what he wished to call attention to was that, because of this lack of definition, the industrial part of the community was expected to pay large sums of money to people who, according to the right hon. Gentleman himself, were not rightly entitled to receive it. He could not imagine any more severe condemnation of the Bill than the want of this definition.
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
said there was scarcely a Conservative Member representing the towns in the whole of England who had not expressed himself in favour of the taxation of land values. On the eve of the General Election a Resolution was 26 carried in a fairly full House to the effect that the class of landlords they were dealing with now ought to be taxed more than they were at present. Instead of taxing them more, however, they were now relieving them from taxes. The principle of the Amendment was just, and rested on a solid foundation. It was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill and his official advisers to find a way out of the difficulty. What difficulty was there in providing that land which was valued at a certain amount should not gain from the operation of the Bill? Let the right hon. Gentleman say that land which was not depressed, or which was obviously not in a district where distress prevailed, ought not to benefit from the operations of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, in 1871, said that the result of the present state of things had been that many great improvements in the Metropolis, in Liverpool, in Manchester, and in other large towns, had been made in the last 10 years exclusively because of the occupiers, without the landlords contributing a single shilling towards the expenditure. That opinion ought certainly to be more strongly held to-day than it was in 1871. The hon. Gentlemen opposite said that they wanted more money to enable them to deal with distressed agriculture. But the Government were going to give money under the Bill to those who did not require relief. If this Amendment were carried, and land which had increased in value were to be excluded from the operation of the Bill, there would be a larger fund available for the relief of real agricultural distress. The hon. and gallant Member for Woodbridge appeared to agree to that. Then why in that case did not the hon. and gallant Gentleman support the Amendment?
§ MR. DALZIEL
said that he must leave the hon. and gallant Gentleman to fight that out with the right hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Bill. The overburdened tax paper, who was living under the best of all possible Governments, was by this Bill to be given the privilege of paying half the rates, not only of the distressed agriculturist, but of the wealthy landlord. He was dealing with the cases of those landlords whose 27 land had increased in value by the labour of the industrial classes. It would appear as though the Government had so much money at their disposal that they were going to treat the millionaire on the same footing with the distressed farmer. All this showed that the real object of the Government was to relieve landlords, whether their property was in towns or in the agricultural districts, and that they intended that the taxpayer should pay whatever sums were needed for the purpose. He hoped that the Amendment would be carried.
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
said that the House was entitled to receive some more definite statement from the Government in reference to this subject than was to be found in the speeches which had been delivered by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. The House had been discussing this Amendment now for some hours, and he desired to point out on whom the responsibility lay for the prolongation of the Debate. The assumption made in every speech directed against this Amendment was that to adopt the principle of discrimination would be to make a fatal inroad upon the principle of the Bill itself. The House had been told throughout the discussion that such a principle was inconsistent with the very foundation of the Bill. But when the Bill was in Committee the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, had admitted that the principle of discrimination was right. However strong might be the case that was made out for the relief of distressed agriculture out of Imperial resources—and he admitted for the purposes of his argument that such a case had been made out—no such case could be established on behalf of the owners of land situated in such positions that they could obtain high competitive rents for it, so that any relief from the public exchequer which might be given in respect to it, would go either directly or indirectly exclusively into the landlord's pocket. When the point was brought under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman while the Bill was in Committee, so strongly did he feel the justice of the objection, that he said that he would consider whether some means could not be devised for carrying the principle into effect. Who therefore was responsible for the prolongation of 28 the Debate—the right hon. Gentleman who admitted the justice of the principle of discrimination, or those who now opposed that principle. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he was bound to admit that if it were possible to devise some appropriate form of words to carry it out, the principle of discrimination ought to be adopted. He could not believe that the resources of drafting had been exhausted, or that the English language could not furnish words that would enable a clause to be drawn that would adequately embody the principle of discrimination. It it were impossible for the right hon. Gentleman himself with his skilled advisers at his back, or for the Government to devise such a clause which the right hon. Gentleman admitted ought to be inserted in the Bill to prevent gross injustice being done, and the absence of which would have the practical effect of enabling large sums of public money to be diverted from the purposes to which they ought to be applied, and handed over to people who had no claim to them, the Opposition were perfectly willing to assist them in drawing up such a clause. He for one did not believe that the problem was insoluble. The Amendment now under discussion did not ask the House to finally commit themselves to the precise form of clause, but merely that the principle of discrimination should be recognised. He trusted that out of respect to the House of Commons some Member of the Government would, before they went into a Division, state his views upon the subject. The question he had to put to the Government was, did they or did they not recede from the admission that had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, that a discrimination ought to be made between distressed agricultural land and other land which was not distressed? That was a very plain question and it ought to be answered before they went to a Division.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
said that he should not have intervened in the Debate had it not been for the appeal of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down. He really did not think that the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman 29 had any bearing upon the Amendment under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had been directly charged with having violated his pledge, but the right hon. Gentleman who made that charge appeared to have forgotten that the pledge to which he referred was given in reference to another Amendment and to another clause. The right hon. Gentleman never gave any pledge that discrimination should be made between distressed and non-distressed agricultural land. What the right hon. Gentleman had said was that if a satisfactory definition could be given of accommodation land he should be prepared to insert a clause that would have the effect of excluding such land from the operation of the Bill. His right hon. Friend had found out, as he pointed out last night, that there were more than 20 rural boroughs in which there were tens of thousands of acres of purely agricultural land; and the moment this Amendment was moved the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean pointed out that there were to his knowledge numbers of rural boroughs which included large quantities of agricultural land. If this Amendment were admitted, the Committee could not help excepting urban sanitary districts as well, and then hundreds of thousands of acres would be excluded from the Bill which ought to be included in it. The discussion with regard to accommodation land had no relation whatever to this Amendment. Whatever might be said as to any attempt hereafter to define accommodation land, it was not quite fair to say the Government had at any time or at any stage of the Bill admitted that they would be justified in excluding from the operation of the Bill those areas which would be affected by the Amendment.
On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
SIR HENRY CAMPBELL-BAN-NERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
said he rose when the Attorney General sat down to express, in some degree, the bewilderment in which the House found itself owing to the action of the Government, and that feeling was stronger in this case than in most others. He was an onlooker and, to borrow a word with 30 which they were familiar, an Outlander, who had been sitting there in daily increasing amazement—first, at the English system of rating; and, secondly, at the extraordinary manner in which the Government was dealing with it. ["Hear, hear!"] They were told at the outset, with regard to this Amendment, that it would defeat the Bill to differentiate between different classes of land, but in the middle of the Debate his right hon. Friend (Sir G. Trevelyan) quoted a distinct promise made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) that he would endeavour to embody among the clauses words that would exclude accommodation land, because he entirely accepted the principle that it should be so excluded. The Attorney General spoke of his right hon. Friend as having accused the right hon. Gentleman with bad faith. ["Hear, hear!"] No such accusation was made, but his right hon. Friend did charge the right hon. Gentleman with inconsistency.
SIR H. CAMPELL-BANNERMAN
said if the Attorney General had been present—[The ATTORNEY GENERAL: "I was."]—he must have heard the explanation given that the Amendment now before the House was merely opening the door to all those other Amendments which would affect individual cases, one of which would be accommodation land.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said if there was no accommodation land in boroughs and other centres of population, perhaps the Attorney General would tell them where it was to be found. The Government was completely responsible for the time spent on this Amendment. Hon. Members opposite declared over and over again that they could not discriminate between various classes of land, but that was wholly inconsistent with the promise given by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman said this was not the proper place to introduce the Amendment, would he kindly state what was the proper place?
§ *MR. GEORGE LAMBERT (Devon, South Molton)
denied that if they discriminated between different lands in different districts they would lead to 31 litigation. The Bill was only for five years, and no one would go to law for such a period. The Government having limited its duration, seemed not to know, or professed not to know, whether the Bill was just or not, but most certainly he would not give money to those lands which had accommodation value. There was plenty of land near towns in Devonshire let for £6 or £7 an acre. He left it to the House to say whether such land suffered from agricultural depression or not. There was no principle involved in the Bill, otherwise the Government would not limit it to five years. What was agricultural land this year might in two years' time be built upon. Then look at the accommodation land in the London suburbs. Land round the towns was of great value other than agricultural value, but the very title of the Bill showed that it dealt with agricultural land. It was an Agricultural Land Bating Bill. But they were told that any discrimination would be to strike a fatal blow at the vital principles of the Bill. He did not believe that. There was no agricultural distress existing in some pastoral districts which he knew, and some of it was let as accommodation land at £8 an acre. Surely this land ought not to be relieved of half its rates, but they were relieving land of this value of far more rating liability than the distressed districts. He appealed to the common tense of the Government to insert some Amendment which would meet this.
§ MR. EDWARD MORTON (Devonport)
said the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had told the House that he did not object to the principle of excluding accommodation land and such agricultural land as may be situated in large centres of population, but that his sole difficulty was in finding a definition. It seemed to him, however, that the Amendment excluding the Metropolitan Police area, which was admittedly not distressed, covered more than half the difficulty, and that therefore the Government might accept that one Amendment excluding all land within the Metropolitan Police area.
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
was astonished at the silence of hon. Gentlemen opposite representing the Metropolis, because this was a question which very much concerned 32 the Metropolis, and as the Metropolis unfortunately returned a large number of Conservative Members, he should like to be enlightened as to the views of their constituents upon the point. It would be admitted that the Government were entirely driven to the wall. [Laughter and "No, no!"] He never yet knew a Government put up their Law Officers unless their case was an exceedingly bad one. The Attorney General did not condescend to discuss the Amendment upon its merits, but he rather tried to draw a red herring across the track by dilating upon what the President of the Local Government Board had promised or had not promised, and suggesting that they ought to wait till the clause embodying the question of accommodation land was brought forward. He was surprised to hear the Secretary to the Local Government Board give as his reason for resisting the Amendment that it embodied the policy of discrimination. Why, what was legislation but discrimination.? And when they had a proposal to grant in formâ pauperis to the landlords of England—[murmurs of dissent]—a very large sum of money out of the public Exchequer, it was absurd to ask them not to discriminate between those who required relief and those who did not, but to give it indiscriminately to the whole. What would the Secretary to the Local Government Board say if it was suggested that because agriculture suffers in Ireland and rents are too high, all rents in that distressful country should be reduced to one dead level? Yet that was what his argument in regard to non-discrimination came to. No doubt this was a large and difficult question, but they were there to legislate fairly and honestly. He thought everybody would admit that a fair and full case had been made out in regard to London. Within 10 miles of London there was no agricultural distress either in relation to the landlord, the farmer, or the labourer. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated the astounding proposition that it did not follow because land was highly rented, that there was no agricultural distress. Very likely, no doubt, a great deal of land was too highly rented, but how did they meet that? They did not go to the Treasury and ask money to be given to induce the landlords to charge a fair rent; they 33 called on the landlord fairly to rent his land. Speaking generally, they knew perfectly well that land in the neighbourhood of a town was rented much higher than land at a far distance from a town. The only thing urged against the contention of his side was that under the proposal allotment land would berated at a high amount. In the main, however, allotment land belonged to the owners, not the allottee, who paid the rate. He knew that there were some of those lands that were owned by the municipality itself, but there again they had to discriminate. They could make an exception again. They could have another Amendment upon that particular subject, and then could agree that where the municipality holds the land and divides it into allotments, then in that case the half rate instead of the whole rate should be charged. He urged that the only reasonable way of proceeding was to pass the words "not situated in," and then, having passed them, they should consider what words should follow and what places should be excluded.
§ MR. J. M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
wished to know whether the pledge they understood to have been given that the right hon. Gentleman would endeavour to frame words to meet what he admitted to be the peculiar position of accommodation land would be further considered before Clause 9 was reached. If so, no doubt the resources at the command of the right hon. Gentleman would enable him to achieve that object. If they went to a Division without knowing whether the Government intended to carry out the pledge given on the Committee stage and again in this Debate, he could not understand how hon. Members opposite could refuse to vote for the first three words of this Amendment.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
and Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs) rose to continue the Debate, whereupon,
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 222; Noes, 131.—(Division List, No. 263.)34
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words 'not being situate in' be there inserted."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 131; Noes, 236.—(Division List, No. 264.)
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
rose to a point of Order. He said he had an Amendment to move to Clause 1 preceding that of the hon. Member for the Flint Boroughs, and it was to insert after the word "England" the words "where it is situated in districts declared for the time being by Provisional Order, made subject to the confirmation of Parliament by the Local Government Board, to be distressed areas." He asked whether he should now be in order in moving that Amendment. On the last Amendment the House discussed the principle of excluding from relief land to which, for certain reasons, an artificial value was attached; but the Amendment he wished to move provided that the operation of the clause should be confined to districts declared to be in a depressed state. If in order he would proceed.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
submitted that, on the ruling already laid down by the Speaker, the Amendment was out of order.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said his point was that the relief granted by the Bill ought to be confined to land which had been going down in value through the depressed state of agriculture in the district.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
said it had been already expressly stated that after the words "not being situate" had been carried, words defining an area of any kind might be inserted, but if those words were not carried it would not be possible to move to insert words defining an area. Therefore, the object of the hon. Member for Carnarvon was excluded, and the Amendment was not in order.
§ MR. LEWIS moved to leave out the words "one-half," in order to insert instead thereof the words "three-quarters." He remarked that the Amendment raised a question of considerable importance. It appeared to him that if this Bill was really a Bill for the purpose of altering the incidence of 35 rating by fixing this amount at 50 per cent., they were, without considering the question as a whole, prejudging the matter. If this Bill was of an experimental kind, it seemed to him the very utmost limit to which they ought to go in the direction which the Bill contemplated was 25 per cent. That was the reason he had moved his Amendment. They had already, during the past few years, seen enormous demands made upon the Imperial Exchequer, and the House was now called upon to decide whether it would sanction this enormous addition to the burdens which now fell upon the Imperial as distinguished from the local exchequer. They were told that personal property and property in towns was to be treated on the same footing as agricultural land. If that were the case, how many millions would be required from the Imperial Exchequer for a purpose of this kind? When the right hon. Gentleman was asked during the Committee stage for the reasons which had induced him to fix the figure at 50 per cent., he gave none except that he must cut his coat according to his cloth. His contention was that the right hon. Gentleman wanted more cloth than he was entitled to, and did not pay sufficient attention to the needs of the scantily-clad urban communities. There were other industries that had been much more distressed than the industry of agriculture, and he thought they had a right to some clear and definite statement from the Government as to the reasons which had induced them to fix 50 per cent. as the amount of relief to be given from the Imperial Exchequer to the local taxpayer. It appeared to him that the course upon which they were embarking was one which would lead to the utmost financial danger and difficulty in the future.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
thought the House had great reason to complain of the practice which appeared to have recently sprung up of moving Amendments of which no notice had been given. He might remind the House that to such an extent was this carried during their proceedings in Committee that the Chairman on one occasion drew attention to the great inconvenience of this course, and added that at that moment he actually had before him more manuscript Amendments than there were Amendments 36 on the Paper of which notice had been given. He thought it right to make this protest against a practice which had grown up quite recently, and which, he hoped, would not become a regular feature of their proceedings. He could not conceive anything more calculated to lead to inconvenience and even to abuse. ["Hear, hear!"] The statement that he had given no reason whatever for fixing 50 per cent. as the amount of the relief was absolutely inaccurate, and the hon. Member must forgive him for saying so. He called attention, in the first place, to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and said that those recommendations did not, in his opinion, go beyond what might very well be dictated both by expediency and justice. But he also said the House must remember the great claims that had been made on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he had been compelled to cut his coat according to his cloth, and that that was the reason he had inserted the present amount in the Bill. This subject was discussed at great length both on the Second Reading of the Bill and in Committee, and if these questions of principle were to be raised over and over again at every stage it would be impossible to carry any Bill to a conclusion. ["Hear, hear!"] For the reasons he had stated he could not accept the Amendment.
§ *SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
reminded the right hon. Gentleman that the practice of handing in manuscript Amendments was by no means one for which they on that side of the House were responsible. It was a custom that grew up in the almost interminable Debates on the Home Rule Bill and the Finance Bill, and on those occasions the Chairman had repeatedly to complain of the number of fresh Amendments that were handed in by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his friends. ["Hear, hear!"] It was no use the Attorney General saying "No!" He sat on that Bench during the whole of the Debates on the Parish Councils Bill, and upon that occasion they had over and over again complaints from the Chairman of the difficulty he was placed in by written Amendments being handed in of which no notice had been given. But in the case of the present Bill they had not had the opportunity of preparing their 37 Amendments. This matter had been brought on thorn as a surprise. It had been on the Paper for three weeks, it was true; but they had no notion they would be discussing it that day. They thought they would have been discussing the Education Bill. This Amendment proposed to lessen the amount of money to be distributed through this Bill. They had contended from the beginning that the Bill was bad in principle and unsound in its economical methods. Therefore, they were justified in supporting the Amendment. They were also justified in endeavouring to limit the amount, when they had the evidence of the Royal Commission, that in a large number of districts the rents had fallen much less than rates, and as that was so, they contended that rates had much less reason to be relieved than they would otherwise have, and that rents ought to be the means of relieving agriculture rather than the Imperial Exchequer. On that ground they thought this Amendment was a reasonable one.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he desired to add a word with reference to the protest of the right hon. Gentleman against handing in manuscript Amendments.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
said he did not think there was any need to carry this matter further. The right hon. Gentleman had made a protest upon the subject, and this had been answered by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derbyshire. It was, therefore, not necessary to continue the discussion of the subject.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I am glad, Sir, that you have ruled the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman on this subject as entirely irrelevant.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE,
continuing his observations, said the reply of the right hon. Gentleman had been characterised by the same lack of appreciation of the points of his own Bill as had characterised most of his speeches. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Royal Commission had recommended that relief should be given to the extent of three-fourths, and because the Royal Commission recommended three-fourths, he said 38 that was a good argument in support of relief to the extent of 50 per cent. Might he point out that the House was not bound by the recommendations of the Royal Commission. It was a Commission mostly of landowners and farmers, and they naturally recommended in favour of the relief of their own class. It was simply a Class Commission, and he did not think the mere fact that it recommended that three-fourths of their rates and the rates of their tenants and the rates of their class should be paid by the Imperial Treasury was a sufficient answer to the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman, in speaking on any Amendment, had never defended the propositions in the Bill on their merits, and what they wanted to hear from him was such a defence. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon Gentleman would, he thought admit that the reductions in rent were a fair test of agricultural depression, and taking Norfolk, which was one of the most depressed counties in England, the average reductions had been 25 per cent. The best test of the depression was, indeed, that which was imposed by the landlords themselves, and as, even in the very worst districts, the relief they had given to their tenants was only 25 per cent., why should the taxpayers of the country be called upon to relieve the landowners to the extent of 50 per cent. in every district, whether it was depressed or not?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
observed that the question of the Scotch and Irish portions could be dealt with when they came before the House on the Bills which would have reference to those countries, but it did not arise on the present Bill, which was confined to England.
§ Question put, "That the words 'one half' stand part of the Bill."39
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 234; Noes, 116.—(Division List, No. 265.)
§ MR. LEWIS moved to leave out the word "only."
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'only' stand part of the Bill."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question 'that Clause 1 stand part of the Bill' be now put." [Ministerial cheers.]
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I think the Amendment about to be proposed is one that the House should have an opportunity of considering—[Opposition cheers]—but after that Amendment has been put, having considered the Amendments that follow, I shall be prepared to put the question that the Clause stand part of the Bill. [Ministerial cheers.]
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE moved after the word "payable" to insert the words "at the date of the passing of this Act." The hon. Member said that if his Amendment were not accepted, the relief to come out of the Imperial Exchequer would be confined to rates paid at the passing of the Act. But the relief proposed to be given to the occupier of land by the Bill as it stood referred to increases of rates which might be levied at a future time. Supposing in a town district the rates amounted to 2s 4d. in the pound, relief would be given out of the Imperial Exchequer to the amount of 1s. 2d. But supposing the rates went up to 3s. in the pound, owing to extra expenditure the relief out of the Imperial Exchequer would be only 1s. 2d., and the balance would have to be made up, not by the occupiers of land, but of houses and buildings in the district. That was exceedingly unfair. The point was raised during the recent bye-election at Frome. In Frome they were paying a rate of 1s. 10d. for the district. In a short time they would have to spend a large sum to erect a workhouse. The way this Bill would work there would be, assuming the rate was 2s., the occupier would be relieved to the extent of one-half; Is. would come out of the Treasury. As long as the rate remained 2s., this was all right, but when extra 40 expenditure, like the building of a new workhouse, was undertaken, the rate would go up to 3s. A shilling only would still come out of the Imperial Exchequer, and the remaining 2 s. would come out of the pockets of the occupiers of houses in the district. This was iniquitous. It showed how unfairly the Bill worked. In districts where the rates went down, the owners and occupiers of houses would benefit, but in districts where the rate went up, the very cases in which relief ought to be given, the owners and occupiers of houses would have to pay more. The Bill would operate most unfairly on town householders. In town districts, where the rates were constantly going up, the owner of land there would be relieved to the extent of one-half, having regard to future rates. The very rates expended there were rates which increased the value of land in the district, still the owners of land would only pay one-half, and the owners of houses had to bear the whole burden of the rates spent for the benefit of the land—not merely their portion of Imperial taxation, but, beyond that, the difference between the increase in the rate for the future and the rate after the passing of the Act. He maintained that the Bill as it stood was exceedingly unfair, and hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said he was exceedingly glad the hon. Member had supported the Amendment in a tone and spirit very different from those recently adopted—["Oh, oh!"]—especially towards himself. When the hon. Member said the effect of the Bill would be to impose entirely upon houses the burden of a future increase in the rates he was mistaken. What would happen was that, where there was an increase over and above the sum taken from Imperial Funds, to meet the deficiency an increased rate would be required, and that increased rate would fall upon both kinds of property. It would fall upon land in a less proportion than it would fall upon other descriptions of property, but the increased rate in these differing proportions would be borne by both kinds of property. It was said that if land were rated upon half of the increase only, that would lead to great extravagance, 41 and it would also impose an unfair burden on other kinds of property. The majority of ratepayers were not all occupiers of land, and that majority would all be in favour of economy, because, whatever increase there was in the rates, it would fall upon them in larger proportion than upon the owners of land. If the majority of ratepayers did not care to keep the rates down that would show that they did not feel the increase very much. It was said that farmers would have less inducement to economy, but they would still have to pay one-half the rates on land, and the whole rate on houses and buildings; and therefore they might fairly be trusted to discourage undue extravagance. It was said that Government grants, as a rule, encouraged expenditure. It might be true with regard to some old grants, like the police grants, because where most was spent most was received; but there was no evidence to show that this was the case with regard to Government grants as a whole. Figures were adduced the other day which went to show that there had been an increase in the expenditure in consequence of Government grants; but an analyisis of local taxation statistics would demonstrate that the greatest increase in the rates on the part of local authorities had been made by those who received the smallest subventions—namely, by the Sanitary Authorities. Their whole grant did not exceed, at present, £ 200,000, but their rates had been increasing more rapidly than those of any other local authorities. In 1868 the rates raised by the Metropolitan Vestries and District Boards amounted to £1,036,000, and those of urban sanitary authorities to £3,000,000. In 1894, the Metropolitan Vestry rates had risen to £2,185,000, and those of urban sanitary authorities to £8,793,000. The Report of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton laid great stress upon the point that the rate for the relief of the poor had risen almost more than any other large rate. To lump together those 42 who had received much aid and those who had received little aid by subvention, and then to argue that because there had been a rise in rates it was a consequence of Government grants was not an accurate method of dealing with the question; it was a source of statistical confusion which deceived many, and when the position was examined the confusion would, to a great extent disappear. What they had to ascertain was whether those who received the most spent the most; and, if it could be shown that the contrary was the case, the argument derived from the fear of extravagance disappeared. The Amendment involved the practical difficulty that it would necessitate two assessments, one for the rates to be levied up to the passing of the Bill, and another, where there may have been an increase in the rates, after the passing of the Bill. He hoped the House would receive what he had said as an adequate defence of the proposals of the Bill and as a reason for refusing to accept the Amendment. [Cheers.]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said he was extremely glad the First Lord of the Treasury had not succeeded in shutting out the speech they had just heard. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman truly said that this was a very important question, and yet the First Lord of the Treasury had moved that the clause should be put before the discussion of this Amendment. [Cheers.] This was the policy pursued upon the whole Bill; they had not been allowed to discuss it. ["Oh, oh 1" and Opposition cheers.] The Government might Closure discussion on this Bill, they might prevent its being discussed in the House of Commons, but they would not prevent its being discussed elsewhere.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I want to know whether it is worth while attempting to discuss this Bill if such Motions 43 are to be made by the First Lord of the Treasury.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
If the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman is accepted, it is one that by the Standing Orders must be put without Amendment or debate, and it is irregular to debate it.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said he did not propose to debate it, nor did he propose to discuss the Closure which had been refused, but he did ask whether it was worth while discussing the Bill there; of course they could discuss it elsewhere, and they would do so. [Cheers and counter cheers.] If there were no use discussing it in that House, they must appeal to Caesar from the majority of that House. Differing from the First Lord of the Treasury, the President of the Board of Agriculture thought there was something still to discuss in this clause. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted with reference to an increase of rates that land would have to pay less than houses. This was an important admission and one that affected the future of local government. The hon. Member for Carnarvon had put the case of the making of a road which would benefit an agricultural district. The people who benefited most would pay the least, those who derived least benefit would pay most, and that was of a piece with the principle on which the whole Bill was founded. They objected to that altogether. The right hon. Gentleman assumed that those who imposed the rate would be in a majority; but they might be in a minority, and this was an example of the unfairness which permeated the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said the ratepayers had their remedy—that, supposing they were the majority, all they had to do was to refuse the public improvement. A principle more destructive of local government it was not possible to conceive than the principle introduced by the Bill. Hitherto the only principle had been that everyone should pay, share and share alike. But 44 the moment the vicious principle proposed by the Bill was established there would be two classes, one paying a low rate and the other paying a high rate—a most pernicious state of things which would not fail to do infinite harm to local improvements. [Opposition cheers.] The Bill was a Bill which favoured one class to the disadvantage of another, and so long as they were permitted to discuss it they would show up its fundamental injustice, and if they could not discuss it there they must discuss it elsewhere. [Opposition cheers and Ministerial ironical laughter.]
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
contended that it was absolutely incorrect to say that if the Amendment were adopted it would require a second assessment. The assessment was on the whole value of the land, and the land instead of paying on the whole assessment would pay on one half. Take the case of a place where the rates were pretty evenly divided between agricultural land and house property, and where there was an increase of a penny in the rates. At present both classes of ratepayers would all have to pay a penny more. But under the Bill agricultural land would only have to pay a half-penny, while houses—even cottages belonging to poor men—would have to pay a penny halfpenny. That would be a very serious burden when the rise in the rates would represent 3d. or 4d. in the pound.
§ *MR. HARRISON
said that in boroughs and urban sanitary areas, the. second clause of the Bill, Sub-section (a), exempted from the operation of this Act those rates which were already differentiated by existing Acts in favour of land as against houses. That differentiation, established by an Act 20 years old, fixed the rebate in favour of land at 75 per cent., and land was now only assessed to rates under that Act at one-fourth of its full yearly value. This Bill applied to poor and highway rates, but unless the Amendment were adopted so as to exclude land in populous places 45 as regards future increases from the provisions of the Bill as regarded its benefits, the result would be that the increase of expenditure over the present expenditure would, under this temporary Act, fall in different ratios upon land than that which the Acts now 20 years old gave them, namely, 25 per cent. This was made clear by a concrete case. Take rateable value of land at £78,500, of houses at £44,500, or together £123,000, and extra expenditure for any purpose at £2,052. He was citing an actual case under the existing state of things. With the present allowances in favour of land, the amount which would be paid by land would be £1,306, and houses would pay £746, making in all £2,052. But if the Bill passed without the Amendment, lands would then pay £957 only, or £349 less than what they would now pay, and houses would have to pay to this new expenditure £1,095, or £347 more than they paid under the present system. If the differentiation had hitherto been fixed at 75 per cent. in favour of land, and for 20 years, and many of them years of great prosperity, land had the benefit of that amount of rebate, there was no reason to increase that ratio. Let the existing ratios be preserved, at all events till after the Inquiry was concluded. For these reasons he strongly supported the Amendment, which in effect would leave the increase of expenditure to be paid by land and houses in their present proportions.
§ MR. LOUGH
said the speech of the President of the Local Government Board on the Amendment presented a striking contrast to every other speech which the right hon. Gentleman had made on the Bill. All the other speeches of the right hon. Gentleman had been short. But his speech on this Amendment was a long speech, though about three-fourths of it was not directed to the Amendment. If he wished to be unkind he would say it was a Second Reading speech. [Cries of "Divide!"] But why was there so little of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman devoted to the Amendment? It was because the right hon. Gentleman felt it was a just and reasonable Amendment, and as he was in a difficulty with dealing with it, he therefore spoke about something else. [Cries of "Divide!"]
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I trust hon. Gentlemen will listen to the hon. Member. [Opposition cheers.]
§ MR. LOUGH
said the Opposition denounced the Bill because it was most unfair to certain classes of the community. The rejection of the Amendment would increase the evil. It would be the means of introducing a bone of contention into every rural district. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that if the Amendment were not adopted owners of houses and other kinds of property, except land, would in the case of an increase of rate have to pay more than their share. The result would be disastrous to the peace of every locality in England. Under this infamous Bill—as he ventured to call it—whenever a local improvement was proposed one class would say, "Let us pay fairly, everyone his share," but another class would laugh and say, "Oh, no; we will not pay our share; you will have to pay the bulk of the cost." Another evil that would follow the rejection of the Amendments was that it would be impossible to get local improvements carried out. If a bridge was broken down by a storm the people would not repair it because the cost would fall unfairly on the different classes of the community. The farmers who made most use of the bridge would have to pay very little, while the poor shopkeeper and others like him, who had little or no interest in the bridge, would have to bear the greater share of the expense. He hoped the Government would give the Amendment a little more sympathetic consideration than they had yet given it. If they would adopt the proposition they would at once escape from all the evils he had described.
§ MR. LEWIS
said the substance of the reply of the right hon. Gentleman was practically that the ratepayers would in future do their utmost to prevent rates rising. He was acquainted with five small and poor counties which were interested in one joint institution. It had been found necessary to enlarge that institution very considerably at a cost of about £80,000. Who would have to pay for that enlargement? The work would have to be done, and under the circumstances it was perfectly obvious that the owners of other property, as 47 compared with agricultural land, would have to bear an unfair proportion of the cost. In his county they had just built an expensive but very necessary bridge. The rate for it had not yet been levied, and therefore the consequence was that the occupiers of one particular class of property would have to pay more in respect of the construction of the bridge than they would if this Act was not passed. Again, many millions sterling had been spent on the Manchester Ship Canal. The Manchester Corporation would have to contribute a very large proportion of the cost. The rate had not yet been levied. What would happen under such circumstances? The land which was chiefly benefited by the construction of the canal would have to pay a smaller proportion than the house property which benefited least. Such cases could be found in every part of the country.
§ DR. CLARK
said the Amendment was proposed for the purpose of harmonising Clauses 1 and 6. He should have thought the Government would have accepted the Amendment, firstly, because it was quite possible agricultural depression might pass away. He certainly was under the impression that it would. Secondly, even if that did not happen, they were about to have an Inquiry into the whole question of rating. After that Inquiry a Bill would be brought in to settle matters. Surely they could wait until they knew the facts of the case before finally determining what the future rate should be.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 117; Noes, 250.—(Division List, No. 266.)
§ And, it being after half-past Five of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the Business,
§ Whereupon THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question 'that Clause 1 stand part of the Bill' be now put." [Ministerial cheers and Opposition cries of "I object."]
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I have considered the Amendments that stand against the rest of this clause, and those of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, the hon. 48 Member for the Ilkeston Division, and the hon. Member for North Monmouth-shire are out of order for reasons which I need not go into. The other Amendments appear to me to be all Amendments which would necessarily be supported by the same arguments which the House has listened to on previous Amendments, and which the House has refused to accept by a large majority. It is under those circumstances that it appears to me to be a case in which the rule was intended to apply, and I therefore accept the Motion.
§ MR. DALZIEL
On the point of Order I wish to ask you, Sir, whether you will be good enough to say under what Standing Order is it possible for a Minister to move that the clause stand part of the Bill after half-past Five o' clock, taking into account the fact that no Amendment at any time before the House was closured at the time of the interruption of public business.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I have not got the Standing Orders before me, nor do I think it necessary to refer to them. [Ministerial cheers.] This is a Closure Motion, and it is perfectly clear that a Closure Motion may be put at the moment of the interruption of public business, whether the interruption of business takes place at the half-hour or at the close of the Division that goes over the half-hour. The question is that the question that Clause 1 stand part of the Bill be now put. [Ministerial cheers.]
§ Question put, "That the Question 'That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill' be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 245: Noes, 111.—(Division List, No. 267.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 243; Noes, 109.—(Division List, No. 268.)
§ And, it being after Six of the clock, further Proceeding on Consideration, as amended, stood adjourned.
§ Proceedings to be resumed To morrow.
§ And Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put.
§ House adjourned at two minutes after Six o'clock.