HC Deb 20 April 1898 vol 56 cc593-612

Order for Second Reading read.

MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)

The Bill which I now ask the House to read a second time is the same in character as the Bill which was introduced and debated for a whole sitting last year. It is therefore unnecessary for me to give any lengthy description of the Bill, which is based on the recommendations of the Report of the Royal Commission appointed in 1893 to investigate the question of land tenure in Wales. The Commission took evidence in every part of Wales. The Report of the Commission was carefully considered, and I am sure the House will agree with me that it deserves respect, and that the Commissioners are entitled to all praise for the extreme care and thoroughness with which their Report has been prepared. I am glad to see two members of that Commission in their places, and I hope we shall have the advantage of their observations in the course of this Debate. This Bill is applicable to Wales only, because the facts of the case and the inquiries of the Commission have shown that the tenure of land in Wales has distinctive features which demand special treatment. The tenure of land which prevailed in Wales up to the end of the last century was derived from the tribal occupation of land; it was practically a fixed occupation, not a tenancy from year to year, and the change from the old to the new system of holding land has never been regarded with satisfaction. Another fact, indicating the difference between the conditions of agricultural tenancy in England and Wales, is the comparative smallness of the holdings in Wales. The holdings from 20 to 50 acres are 20.48 in Wales, as compared with 14.74 per cent. in England. The holdings from 50 to 100 acres are 16.69 per cent. in Wales, as compared with 10.82 per cent. in England. Then, with regard to labour, the average number of labourers employed on farms in the various counties of England varies from about 10 in the eastern to five in the western counties, while in Wales the number is from one and a half to two labourers on each farm. There is also a great difference in the proportion between indoor and outdoor labourers. In Wales, the farmers' families and the labourers boarded by the farmers do about two-thirds of the labour, instead of about one-third, as in England. Another peculiarity which differentiates the case of Wales from that of England is the land hunger that exists in Wales. In England, at recent times of severe depression, there have been hundreds of derelict farms on the landlords' hands. Such farms are quite unknown in Wales. The chief cause of the land hunger of which I have spoken is the fact, that half a million of the people of Wales speak Welsh exclusively, and they are therefore unable to move to an English district in which they can get cheaper farms. Moreover, the evidence given before the Royal Commission showed that Welshmen who are accustomed to worship in their own language will make great sacrifices rather than forego the religious privileges they enjoy in their own country. In consequence of this keen competition for land, and the willingness of the Welsh tenant farmer to lead a life of hardship which the English tenant farmer would not tolerate, rents have been kept up to a higher point in Wales than in England. The variations in the Agricultural Assessments to Income Tax for the 29 years ending in April, 1894, show that rents in the seven eastern counties of Wales have fallen to the level of what they were in 1864; in the six western counties they are now, in spite of the depression, 18½ per cent. higher than they were in 1864, or, taking the whole of Wales together, the net increase during the period in question amounts to 7.8 per cent. In England, on the other hand, rents have fallen 15.2 per cent. below their level in 1864. And one conclusion at which the Commission as a whole has arrived, is, that though the physical and industrial conditions both in Wales and in the north-western counties of England are practically identical, and though the agricultural depression has been felt equally in both districts, yet rents in those English counties have been reduced more than in Wales. Having regard to the special circumstances of agriculture in Wales, the Commissioners, as a whole, make certain recommendations for the amendment of the law, which are embodied in this Bill. The only essential point on which the minority part company with the majority is the proposal to constitute a Land Court. Six out of nine Commissioners say that, in their judgment, they believe that nothing short of the creation of a judicial tenancy and the constitution of a Land Court having power to fix fair rents and reasonable conditions of tenancy, coupled with provisions giving tenants security in their holdings as long as they observe the conditions and pay the judicial rent, will suffice to secure those general advantages for the attainment of which the State is constituted, or to place the agricultural industry in Wales upon a sound basis, while securing an equitable adjustment of the rights of those concerned. Having regard to the nature of the evidence given before the Royal Commission, the majority of the Commission were amply justified in recommending the establishment of a Land Court. The preponderance of evidence from tenant farmers in favour of a Land Court was overwhelming. Out of 516 tenant fanners who gave evidence before the Commission, only 37 expressed opinions adverse to a Land Court. In this connection it should be remembered that every tenant farmer giving evidence knew that his landlord would be better pleased to hear him condemn it, and it was therefore far easier for a tenant to give evidence against than for a Land Court. The proposal to establish a Land Court is objected to mainly on two grounds—first, that it impairs freedom of contract; and secondly, that it would destroy the good feeling between landlord and tenant. With regard to the first objection, the sacred principle of freedom of contract has been repudiated in practice by the present Government over and over again, and with regard to the second objection there is nothing whatever in this Bill to compel landlord or tenant to go into the Land Court if they both prefer to remain outside. The strong opposition offered by the landlords who gave evidence before the Commission to the establishment of a Land Court shows that they are not likely to have recourse to it, and if a tenant feels that his position cannot be improved by applying to the Land Court for relief he is not in the least degree likely to go into the Land Court, The Welsh tenant knows where his own interests lie. The Court is required chiefly in the interest of the tenant who has a too exacting landlord, and having regard to the immobility of his capital, the insecurity of his tenure, the feeling that he is in the power of another man, it is only right that he should have that protection which the law has given elsewhere with the most beneficial results. The minority frankly admit the necessity for a certain measure of outside interference. They draw attention to the position of trustee landlords, who are bound to act strictly under penalty of being held accountable, and they are unable to ignore the existence of estates sometimes recently purchased at high prices where the tendency is towards a merely mercantile view of the relation of landlord and tenant. In these cases they say, the position of tenants in case of exorbitant rents, or the refusal of reductions or abatements, is sometimes peculiarly helpless. They might also have referred to the case of heavily encumbered estates, and estates in the possession of mortgagees, a condition of things under which, to my own knowledge, tenants have suffered great hardships. While the minority object to the judicial or compulsory fixing of rents, they say that this affords no reason why, in cases of great hardship, the State should remain wholly inactive. They admit that some remedy is necessary, and what is the remedy they propose? They suggest that if on an estate there should be a general dispute between landlord and tenant, tending to disturbance, or public scandal, or manifest injustice, both, landlord and tenant should have the right to call in to their aid an expert from the Board of Agriculture, to act as mediator—the word "mediator" is italicised in their Report—with a view, if possible, to bring about a friendly settlement. That is to say, an oppressed tenant is to have no protection unless he happens to have a holding on a large estate on which disturbances take place, and even then he is only to have the help of an expert from the Board of Agriculture. But a landlord whose conduct has provoked disturbances is just the one who would take a delight in snubbing the Board of Agriculture. What the tenant wants is legal protection, whether he be on a large estate or a small one, whether he suffers unjustly alone or in company with other tenants on the same estate. The proposal to call in an agricultural expert under such circumstances, judging from what has recently happened in North Wales during a great labour dispute, is one which is not likely to be adopted by the landlord who has behaved unfairly towards his tenants. The landlord is one, the tenants are many, and any attempt at union among them is bitterly resented by the landlord. The proposal of the minority is therefore entirely inadequate. But those who object to a Land Court warn us against adopting the Irish precedent. We do not assert that the circumstances of Wales are on all fours with those of Ireland, neither do we propose to apply the same treatment to Wales as has been applied to Ireland; but when we are told to take warning by the example of Ireland. I would ask whether anyone supposes for a moment that the Irish tenantry, as a whole, would now, if they had the opportunity, revert to the old system. Nor do we allege that the case of Wales is identical in all respects with the case of the Scotch crofters; but the Commissioners draw attention to the remarkable evidence given by Sheriff Brand, the Chief Judge of the Court appointed to carry out the Crofters Act of 1886—evidence which was not challenged by the landlords. He stated that the practical operation of that Act had been to restore peace and a considerable degree of prosperity, where before discontent and misery were the prominent features of society. Mr. Sheriff Brand describes the positive and direct results of the Act in these words— The most important of these results is security of tenure. In other words, a crofting tenant who possesses under the Act from year to year cannot be removed from his holding so long as he complies with the statutory conditions.… This security of tenure I regard as a great moral and legal benefit, as it has not only imbued the crofter community over the greater part of the crofting area with a sense of independence, but has greatly encouraged the crofter in the matter of improving his holding. And Sheriff Brand's evidence led the Welsh Land Commission to conclude that the Crofters Act of 1886 has been entirely successful in attaining the object of the Legislature. The Irish and the Scotch Acts were obtained in consequence of revolutionary agitation. There has been no lawless land agitation in Wales, but that is an argument in favour of, and not against, a modification of the existing law. And although the Commissioners differentiate the case of Wales from that of Ireland, they assent that, when the matter is probed to the bottom, there is a substantial similarity between the conditions of each case. This Bill commences by providing for the establishment of a Land Court, the machinery of the County Court of the district in which the holding is situated being utilised for that purpose, the jurisdiction being exercised by agricultural judges. In every County Court Office in Wales a book is to be kept to be called the "Tenants' Holdings Book," in which there shall be recorded every judgment or order of the Court made under the Act. The judgment or order of an agricultural judge is to be final, but he may be required by either party to submit a case upon a point of law to the judge of the County Court, whose decision shall be final. When either landlord or tenant apply to the Court to determine a fair rent and reasonable conditions of tenancy, the Bill provides that there shall be appended to the judgment a schedule recording the condition of the holding. After the commencement of the Act every contract of tenancy to which the Act applies is to become a judicial tenancy, and the tenancy shall only be determined if the tenant shall give 12 months' notice to quit, expiring with the end of the judicial tenancy, or shall fail to pay the fair rent fixed by the Court for 21 days after the date when it shall have become due, or shall commit a breach of any of the reasonable conditions of the tenancy settled by the Court; but the Court may, upon the application of the tenant in default, relieve the tenant from the consequences of default, or breach of condition, upon such terms as it thinks just. Upon the making of any application by a party to a judicial tenancy, the Court is to fix the fair rent of the holding, and to settle reasonable conditions of tenancy. In fixing the fair rent of a holding the Court must take into account the whole circumstances of each case, and must have regard to the interests of both landlord and tenant. The judgment of the Court is to operate for a period of five years. No revision of rent or other conditions of tenancy can take place during that period except by mutual agreement. One great grievance of agricultural tenants is that they are not allowed to dispose of certain classes of their produce. The Bill also provides that no condition restricting the tenants from selling or disposing of their farm produce shall be deemed reasonable, save that in the case of hay, straw, or green crops the Court may require an adequate return of manure to the land by the tenant. If landlord and tenant agree upon the fair rent and reasonable conditions of tenancy of a holding, and reduce their agreement into writing, either party may apply to the Court to have the agreement recorded in the "Tenants' Holdings Book," and the agreement shall have the same effect as a decree of the Court. If landlord and tenant prefer to have the fair rent and reasonable conditions of tenancy settled by arbitration, the Bill provides facilities for having that desire carried into effect. The Bill also contains provisions for the recovery of possession by a landlord when the tenancy terminates, and for a valuation of the improvements or dilapidations on the determination of the judicial tenancy. It also provides that the landlord may resume possession of a part of a holding for the purpose of making improvements, such as the erection of cottages for farm labourers, allotments, planting trees, working minerals, making roads, and so forth, the tenant being entitled to a proportionate reduction in rent and compensation for depreciation of the value to him of the rest of the holding. The landlord may also, subject to proper compensation for dis turbance, resume possession of the holding for the purpose of taking it into his own occupation, or permanently letting it to any member of his family. These are the main provisions of the Measure to which I now ask the House to give a Second Reading. Such a Measure is necessary in the real interests of the agricultural community in Wales. The Welsh tenant farmers—I am speaking in the presence of many men who have had long experience of them in many relations of life—I say the Welsh tenant farmers are an honest, hardworking, God-fearing class of men. The lot of tens of thousands of them during the last few years has been one of bitter privation. Many have lost their all in the struggle with years of depression, many have been driven from the land to seek a livelihood in those great centres of population whose aggrandisement at the expense of the rural districts is not conducive to the welfare of the country at large. The land has been bereft of labourers, the soil has become impoverished for want of capital, and the Welsh farmer has been unable to make the best use of his labour and skill. It is only right and fair that he should have the just safeguards for the fruits of his labour that this Bill proposes to confer upon him. The Bill is a moderate and fair Measure of land reform. The just interests of landlords have been considered and safeguarded, and it is put forward as a Measure intended to promote the equitable adjustment of the condition of land tenure in Wales.

MR. A. S. T. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tonbridge)

I really think that to introduce a Bill of this kind at half-past four is most extraordinary, for it is a Measure more confiscatory in its character than anything which has been brought in during the present Parliament. Here is a Bill introduced which was last year rejected by the substantial majority of 124, and yet the hon. Member for Flint Boroughs, who has brought it forward, thinks it necessary to come down here and ask the House to carry the Second Reading through after an hour's Debate, in the face of all that has happened. I venture to say that this Motion is simply wasting the time of the House. I am opposed to this Bill for two reasons. In the first place, I am interested in Welsh land; and, in the second place, if I were not interested in Welsh land, this is a question which affects England equally with Wales, because there is no Welsh land question at all as distinct from an English land question. The system of land tenure in Wales is exactly the same as in England. The conditions of farming are exactly the same in the two countries; the tenants are of the same class of men, and they do exactly the same as English tenants; and the duties and responsibility of landlords are precisely the same, and if you set up a Land Court or anything of that sort in Wales there is no argument whatever why you should not set it up in England also. I fully admit that Welsh tenant farmers have grievances—in fact, I know they have, and I believe that a good Agricultural Holdings Act would remedy them. But they share these grievances with English tenant farmers also, and it is nonsense, under these circumstances, to come down here and ask for a special Land Bill for Wales. Let us look at the distinction which the hon. Member has tried to draw. He tells us that the farms, on the whole, are smaller in Wales than those in England. Yes; but he compares the farms in Wales with the farms in England generally, forgetting that Wales is a mountainous pastoral country. Now, if he will compare Wales with those counties in England which most resemble Wales geographically, he will then see that there is no distinction whatsoever. You cannot ask for a special privilege for Welsh counties, which you are not prepared to give to Cornwall, Westmoreland, Cumberland, and Cheshire, and other counties which are precisely similar. He tells us that English landlords have met their tenants more fairly daring the depression than Welsh landlords have. Again, he is comparing Wales with the whole of England, in the eastern part of which agriculture has been depressed far more than it has been in Wales, owing to the fact that the great wheat and other cereal crops have failed. Were he to compare Wales, not with England generally, but with the counties where it is a fair comparison, he would find that Welsh counties are no worse off than Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, which are very similar in character to Wales. In the four counties I have mentioned the total rental according to the income tax returns in 1877 was £3,292,139, and in the whole of Wales for the same period it was £3,221,896. In the English counties there has been a decrease between 1877 and 1890 of £135,000, and in Wales the decrease was £133,000, which is just a slightly higher percentage than in the four English counties. I say, therefore, that if you make any fair comparison with that part of England which is a parallel case with Wales, you will find that Welsh landlords have treated their tenants quite as fairly as the English landlords have; and we are reduced, therefore, to this absurd position, that the only real reason why you are asked to pass different laws is because a certain number of the Welsh tenants speak a different language to the English tenants. The fact that, they talk Welsh may be a reason for translating the laws into Welsh, but it is no reason whatever for their having different laws. Therefore, I say that on these grounds you have no right whatever to ask for separate legislation for the Welsh people. I know that an attempt has been made, and very cleverly made, for a good many years past to manufacture a Welsh land question. Well, the whole thing has been a thoroughly "got-up" job from the beginning, and it has been absolutely manufactured by the Radical Press for Wales, and the Radical Press of Wales for party purposes, and for nothing else, and there was never any justification for it whatever. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well if hon. Members doubt this—and I do not want to keep the House—I will quote from their own vernacular Press to show that my statement is not inaccurate. I remember many statements which have been made in the papers. Here is one which appeared in 1886 in a paper called The, Herald Cymreig. It notified that a meeting was to be held at Rhyl on the 15th or 22nd of June— in order to establish a society similar to the Irish National League. It went on to say that— Mr. John Roberts, Mr. Thomas Gee, and Mr. Samuel Smith, who are the foremost men in the land, will be present. And it also urged— all the farmers in the Principality to join. Another newspaper quotation invites the labourers, in these words— You labourers and working men, do not keep like Dan in the ships while we are fighting, but come with us, and you shall get a share of the spoil. And then The Banner mixes up this question with an attack upon the Church and the tithes, and threatens the landlords that if they help the clergy in demanding payment of tithes they will attack them in return on the question of rents. On 13th August, 1887, The Banner states— The landlords are fools enough to shield the clergy. The effect of this will be to change, or rather extend, the battlefield. Let it be remembered that the first cry raised in Ireland was 'no tithes,' and then because of the meddlesome behaviour of landowners was raised the cry, 'no rent.' I say that I can prove up to the hilt that this land agitation is a "got-up" thing by the Press and the Welsh Members of Parliament for Party purposes, and there never was any justification for it whatever. You can see what a poor thing it was, and how fictitious it was, by the fact that it was never taken up by substantial men in Wales at all, and financially it was a great failure. There was a great leading Nonconformist, Dr. Pan Jones, who, speaking in 1888, pointed out that the land agitation was a failure because, although it had been in existence two and a half years, the total subscriptions only amounted to £62 13s. 2d., which shows that the Welsh farmers did not care in the least for the Welsh Land League, or National League, or anything of the kind. I submit that it was a fictitious agitation from the start, and it would never have had any effect at all had there not been, before it came to an end, a change of Government, in 1892, the Liberals coming into power. They appointed a Royal Commission for the express purpose of making a certain report on the Welsh land question. Now, I am not going to enter into a discussion of that ridiculous Commission, which masqueraded in Wales for three years, and which caused the utmost ridicule to be cast upon the name of Royal Commission all through the Principality. It was sent down to Wales with a definite purpose, and simply and solely in order to report in favour of a Land Court. It wasted three years in taking hearsay evidence in a slipshod manner, and at the end of it the result was that we had a Land Court advocated, and a Bill was based upon that report. Now that Commission was a thoroughly unfair one. It consisted of nine people, and eight of them were already, when appointed, known to be either for or against a Land Court to start with. Six of them had publicly advocated a Land Court before they went on the Commission, and two of them were landlords, and there was only one man impartial, in the sense that he was not committed either way, and he was not convinced that the Land Court was necessary, and so he joined the minority in voting against it. You have only got to look at the procedure of the Commission to see what a ridiculous body it was. It took slipshod evidence, and it took hearsay evidence, largely given by Nonconformist ministers. It permitted no proper cross-examination of witnesses, although my hon. Friend opposite, the Member for Swansea, cross-examined all the landlords in such an exceedingly expert manner that The Banner declared "that he had cut laces out of the skin of the landlords." It finally finished by getting a large number to say that they were in favour of a Land Court by putting absolutely "fishing" questions. The method pursued was simply this: questions were put by the Commissioner to the witnesses suggesting a Land Court, and asking if they were in favour of it. Mr. Richard Jones, one of the Commissioners, asked a witness— Then, do you consider that a tenant is at the mercy of his landlord? Of course, the reply was "Yes." Then the following question was put to him— Then, because of that do you ask for some important tribunal to decide the question of rent as between landlord and tenant? Of course, the man again answered, "Yes," and then he was put down as an independent witness. Then Mr. Commissioner Griffiths asked a witness in favour of a Land Court— Then, would it not be fair for the tenants and labourers, as well as the landlords, to have some Court to settle this question—some Court of Appeal? Again the man said "Yes." Some tribunal or Land Court, or anything else' And he replied that— He didn't quite understand it, but he thought it would. He was also put down as one of those independent tenants in favour of a Land Court. I venture to say that, in fact, these Commissioners were simply Land Court missionaries, and they went down to Wales to preach the necessity for establishing a Land Court; and they extracted from the witnesses the very evidence they needed in favour of it by suggesting the very answers they were to give. Yet 37 independent tenant farmers gave evidence against the Land Court, but, notwithstanding this, we have now a Bill brought in based upon the Report of this Royal Commission, which was dismissed last year by the House, and which simply and solely suggests, in the baldest fashion, that there is to be a Land Court established in Wales. Now, Sir, hon. Members will perceive the character of the whole thing. Of course, the Commissioners reported, as the result of their labours and suggestions, in favour of the setting up of a Land Court in Wales, and in the Report I read these extraordinary words— Not only did the great majority of the tenant farmers who gave evidence earnestly advocate the fixing of fair rents by a third party or judicial tribunal, but many responsible witnesses of a representative character took the same view. For instance, Mr. Thomas Gee, of Denbigh, was of this opinion. But Mr. Thomas Gee, of Denbigh, was the author of the whole thing. He was the man who first wrote the articles upon this land question, and it was Mr. Thomas Gee who is put down as an independent and responsible person in favour of a Land Court. This is the most remarkable instance of the ridiculous way in which the duties of a Royal Commission were carried out that I ever heard of. I venture to say that a Land Court in Wales would do a great deal of harm. I believe it has done a great deal of harm in Ireland, but, if not, the conditions which make a Land Court justifiable in Ireland do not exist in Wales. In Ireland the repairs are all done by the tenant, who is very often the owner of the House, so that it may be said there is a dual ownership between landlord and tenant. The function of a Land Court is to settle what belongs to the landlord and what belongs to the tenant. But that state of affairs does not exist in Wales. The landlord there does all the repairs, and, therefore, even that justification for a Land Court, which may exist in Ireland, does not exist in Wales. A Land Court in Wales would create bitterness where none exists; it would turn Welsh landlords into absentees—and Welsh landlords are not absentees at present. Moreover, if you have a Land Court in Wales, you must extend it to England, and public opinion is not ripe, and probably never will be ripe, for it in England. In order to resist it in England we must resist it in Wales. But not only would a Land Court be bad in itself, but it would make all land reform in Wales absolutely impossible. The thing most wanted in Wales is a better Agricultural Holdings Act, which will give landlords security against wasteful tenants, and give a good tenant security against the rents being raised by the landlord on improvements. Another thing that is desired in Wales is that assistance should be given to small freeholders by loans; but, if there is to be a Land Court, the State will never risk its money by making such loans. In fact, by reporting in favour of a Land Court the Commission have stultified all their other recommendations. Turning to the Bill itself, it is thoroughly unfair in its details from beginning to end. By Clause 6, the agricultural judges of the Court are to be practically chosen by the county councils. In Wales the county councils are invariably elected on party lines, and the method proposed by the Bill is an improper way of choosing people to exercise judicial functions. The Bill breaks all leases, but a worse element in it is that the operative clause which deals with the way in which fair rents are to be fixed, gives no definition of fair rent at all, although the majority Report of the Commissioners recommended that there should be such a definition. The Bill simply says— In fixing the fair rent of a holding the Court shall take into account the whole circumstances of each case, including the interest of the landlord and of the tenant respectively. But they give no definition of what the interest of the landlord and the interest of the tenant is, beyond saying that, in settling the reasonable conditions of any tenancy, the Court should have regard to the circumstances of each case, and that is the only reference in the Bill as to what principle should decide a fair rent. The conditions of fixity of tenure proposed in the Bill are absolutely unfair. The tenant may determine a judicial tenancy by twelve months' notice for any reason; but the landlord may only determine it for two reasons—if the land is wanted for allotments or for the purpose of letting it to any relation; and the relations are defined as follows: "father, mother, wife, husband, brother, sister, son, or daughter of the landlord." For these persons a landlord may determine a judicial tenancy, but he has to give, compensation for disturbance, and is placed in a very unfair position as compared with the tenant. There is one other point I wish to mention. Under Clause 16 of this Bill, if a tenant is in default with his rent, or breaks the conditions of his tenancy, he may be relieved by the Court, but there is no relief for the landlord. In fact, here again the Bill is absolutely unfair; it gives a chance to the tenant, but no chance is given to the landlord. Then I cannot myself understand how you can possibly have a system of Land Courts and fixity of tenure which does not involve free sale. You create a judicial rent, which is rather less than the proper rent, and, therefore, there is a margin of difference between the two rents which belongs to somebody, presumably the tenant. It comes to this: that what was the landlord's property becomes the tenant's property, and the result is that you produce at once all the evils of free sale which exist in Ireland. The proposals of the Bill with regard to this matter are thoroughly crude. Free sale must result, and will produce a whole crop of the evils which, I am glad to say, do not exist at present. The main principle of the Bill is absolutely unsound. It is based upon the Report of the Commission, which acted throughout most unfairly; it is the result of an agitation which was factious from beginning to end. I ask the House to reject this Bill by as large a majority as it did last year.

MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)

I beg to second the Motion of my hon. Friend, the Member for Tonbridge for the rejection of this Bill. I desire, however, to put on one side, once and for all, any allusion to the discredited Commission, upon which the hon. Member founded some of his remarks. I shall endeavour, however, to support his position by some facts and figures which will be of infinitely stronger weight. The first fact that must be borne in mind is the inferiority of the agricultural land in Wales and the badness of the farms. This is not a matter of recent date. It has been reported on over a great number of years. The first authority I shall bring forward is Lord Carrington—I mean the first Lord Carrington, who was a very clever man. The first Lord Carrington, in a letter written about 1814, said that Welsh agriculture was so inferior that no tenant of the common sort could well afford to give more than half of what the same sort of man would give under a good system of husbandry. That was the case 40 or 50 years ago. What does Mr. MacCulloch, in his "Statistical History of the Empire," say 30 years afterwards? He says— There never existed a county more erroneously conducted as to its agriculture than Carmarthenshire. These are not my words, they are the words of Mr. MacCulloch. Mr. Boyle, the Commissioner of Agriculture, also said that, as a rule, the small freeholders are probably the worst farmers in the Principality. The first thing to be remembered in regard to Welsh agriculture is the want of education, want of capital, and want of enterprise on the part of the agriculturists. But the most potent factor in the backwardness of Wales is the ignorance of the monoglot Welsh of the English language. I give the authority of Sir Frankland Lewis for that. Sir Frankland Lewis, who is not prejudiced in any way, said, in a letter to Mr. Nassau-Senior, that what principally keeps down the people of Wales is that they do not know one word of English. That ignorance, Sir Frankland Lewis went on, excluded them from domestic service, it prevented them obtaining employment in English towns, and, if they enter the Army, it prevents them rising above the lowest ranks; it is a badge and a cause of inferiority.

The Debate stood adjourned at 5.30 by the rules of the House.