HC Deb 27 July 1899 vol 75 cc606-15

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)

in the chair.

Clause 1:—

* MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)

The practical effect of my first Amendment is to exclude from the operation of this new Bill the provisions of the Limited Owners' Residences Act, 1870 and 1871, and to confine the extension of the facilities for loans to landowners for improvements to the more especially agricultural and other improvements, such as buildings, bridges, jetties, roads, and other provisions which are of use to those who reside on the estate. This Act very rightly extends the power to authorise loans for useful improvements, which are urgently needed for the development of agriculture. The President of the Board of Agriculture sat with me on a Commission which recommended not only the extension of the powers as given by this Bill, but also the extension of the principle of loans of public money for this purpose, in addition to authorising the repayment of loans to be spread over a larger number of years than under the provisions of the preceding Acts. I contend that a very considerable extension is given to the powers of landowners to carry out improvements, and I would appeal to the House as to whether it is not reasonable to ask that one of the conditions of that extension should be improvements of practical value to those who dwell upon the estates in question. Of course, there are many such improvements, the most prominent among them being the provision of labourers' cottages, etc. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave extremely weighty evidence upon this point, and his evidence is quoted in the second Report of the Agricultural Commission. In that Report, which was signed by the majority of the Commission, and upon which the Agricultural Rating Act of 1896 was based, the Chancellor of the Exchequer advocated a system of loans, and classified the improvements for which loans are urgently required for agriculture, and for the interests of the agricultural population, in this way: First, the erection and improvement of labourers' cottages; secondly, the subdivision of existing holdings; thirdly, the construction of light railways; and, fourthly, general agricultural improvements. The first and second of these objects which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with all his great experience, based as it is upon his admirable management of his own estates, recommended, are improvements, surely, of far more importance for Parliament to authorise than the provision for the extension of mansion-houses. One of the reasons urged for the passing of the Limited Owners' Residences Act, in 1870, was that it would apply to Ireland and check absenteeism. But is it not pretty obvious, especially in the Eastern counties, that over-building has led to a great deal of absenteeism in England? It has led a great many landowners in the Eastern counties, in consequence of having houses far too large for them to keep up, to let those houses and to turn their estates into mere shooting preserves. Grave complaints have been made by the farmers in those districts that they are handed over to business men who come down from the city, and who have no interest in the district or in the welfare of the people, beyond the desire to take the largest quantity of game they possibly can. Moreover, those people generally get their supplies from London, and are very often a great nuisance to their neighbours, and their presence, so far from benefiting, is injurious to the welfare of the neighbourhood. I would point out that my Amendment in no sense diminishes the powers which landowners now have of charging their estates under the Act of 1870 and 1871, and if it were accepted the only change it would make in the existing law would be that they would not be able to charge their estates for a longer period than twenty-five years, or to charge more than one of their estates, supposing they had several, in order to build a mansion-house. It is very singular that during the period of agricultural depression—namely, between the years 1879 and 1894—the expenditure on mansion-houses was considerably larger than the expenditure upon cottages, £430,000 being charged on estates for mansion-houses in that period, and £377,000 only for providing labourers' cottages. And during the five years of acute depression, between 1889 and 1894, the amount of money expended and charged upon estates for mansion-houses was nearly £170,000, whereas the amount charged for the provision of cottages for the labouring population was only £67,000, or hardly more than one-third, while the expenditure on drainage, which was urgently needed in some parts of the country, amounted to only £12,000. Thus, during the worst period of agricultural depression, we find the landlords spending more money on mansion-houses and loss on urgently required improvements on their estates. These figures show the ground for the limitation I propose. I would ask the Committee once more to remember that what I suggest is not a diminution of the existing powers of landlords in charging their estates for a reasonable provision of mansion-houses, and for the enlargement of their houses for their own pleasure and comfort, but that the special facilities under this Act should not be extended to mansion-houses, and that they should not charge more than one of their estates for this purpose. I would ask, also, whether the building and enlargement of a landowner's house can possibly be such an improvement as the equipment of farms with the most modern arrangements, and it is only by these means that we can succeed against foreign competition, or the provision of small holdings and comfortable cottages for the working population, which are, after all, the backbone of the agricultural community, so that these estates may be worked not only for the happiness of the people but for the ultimate welfare of the landlord himself.

Amendment proposed— In page 1, line 8, to leave out the words 'an improvement of land,' and insert the words 'any of the improvements mentioned in section 9 of the principal Act, or in section 25 of the Settled Land Act, 1882'—(Mr. Channing)—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words 'an improvement of land' stand part of the clause."


I hope the Committee will not accept the amendment of the hon. Gentleman. I will not go into a full discussion of the history of the improvement of land, but I would point out to the Committee that the hon. Member has ignored the conditions under which money can be borrowed for the rebuilding and improvement of residences, and the general improvement of the estate. They are not borrowed under similar conditions. For the rebuilding or improvement of residences the owner is limited to two years' net value of the income. But there is a still more important limitation, that in cases of loans incurred for the improvement of estates they take priority of all existing mortgages and loans. In the absence of a residence, or where the residence is in bad order, it is clearly desirable that it should be provided or restored. If the Amendment is carried, instead of having more money to spend upon the general development of the estate the owner will have less. It would limit the powers of the owners, and prevent them from putting their residences into such a condition as would be of advantage to the estate and to the locality.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 100; Noes, 21. (Division List, No. 315.)

Arnold, Alfred Dalkeith, Earl of Long, Col. Charles W.(Evesham
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Denny, Colonel Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverpool)
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r) Doughty George Lucas-Shad well, William
Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W.(Leeds) Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Macartney, W. G. Ellison
Barnes, Frederick Gorell Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. Macdona, John Cumming
Barton, Dunbar Plunkett, Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart Maclure. Sir John William
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M H. (Bristol) Fellowes, hon. Ailwyn Edward M'Killop, James
Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Man'r Manners, Lord Edward W. J.
Bentinck, Lord Henry C Finch, George H. Milward, Colonel Victor
Blundell, Colonel Henry Finlay, Sir Robert B. More, Robert J. (Shropshire)
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Fisher, William Hayes Morrell, George Herbert
Brassey, Albert Foster, Colonel (Lancaster) Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)
Brodrick, Rt. Hn. St. John Fry, Lewis Nicholson, William Graham
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Garfit, William Nicol, Donald Ninian
Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East) Gedge, Sydney Orr-Ewing, (Charles Lindsay
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Goldsworthy, Major-General Pierpoint, Robert
Chaloner, Captain R. G. W. Gordon, Hon. John Edward Pryce-Jones, Lt. Col. Edward
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.) Greville, Hon. Ronald Purvis, Robert
Chamberlain, J Austen (Worc'r Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert W. Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.
Chaplin, Rt Hon. Henry Hare, Thomas Leigh Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson
Charrington, Spencer Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Johnston, William (Belfast) Round, James
Coghill, Douglas Harry Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn Royds, Clement Molyneux
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.) Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready Leigh-Bennett Henry Currie Ryder John Herbert Dudley
Curzon, Viscount Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine
Seely, Charles Hilton Thornton, Percy M. Wylie, Alexander
Simeon, Sir Barrington Tollemache, Henry James Wyndham, George
Smith, James P. (Lanarks.) Tomlinson, W. E. Murray Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand) Valentia, Viscount Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arey
Stanley, Edw. J. (Somerset) Warde, Lieut.-Col. C. E. (Kent Young, Commander (Berks, E.)
Stanley, Lord (Lancs.) Williams. Jos. Powell-(Birm.)
Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M. Willox, Sir John Archibald TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier Wilson, John (Falkirk) Sir William Walrond and
Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. S.- Mr. Anstruther
Asher, Alexander Horniman, Frederick John Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarsh.)
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Joicey, Sir James Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Caldwell, James Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland) Strachey, Edward
Doogan, P. C. Macaleese, Daniel Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Duckworth, James M'Crae, George Tennant, Harold John
Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale- Morgan, W. Pritchard (Merthyr TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Hazell, Walter Pirie, Duncan V. Mr. Channing and Mr. Courtenay Warner.
Hedderwick, Thos. Chas. H. Provand, Andrew Dryburgh

The next clause that I propose is a purely permissive clause. The Board of Agriculture has to consider each application with regard to a scheme of improvement upon its merits, and I seek in this clause to give them the power if the land-lord's scheme of improvement is unsatisfactory, and if it is within the knowledge of the Board of Agriculture that adequate cottage accommodation on such an estate is not properly provided, to decline to entertain that scheme unless he can amend it in the sense that he would charge his property to a reasonable extent for the provision of cottage accommodation upon that estate. I think the reasons upon which such provision is based are reasons which any practical man would suppose would be in the mind of the Board of Agriculture in dealing with this question. The Board would be neglecting their duty if they did allow estates to be charged up to the hilt without making any provision for the removal of deficiencies with regard to cottage accommodation.

New Clause— The Board of Agriculture, before making an order on any application made to them under the principal Act or under this Act to sanction improvements, may by one of their officers hold an inquiry as to the provision of adequate and suitable cottages for the labouring population on the estate in respect of which the application is made, and if the officer holding such inquiry reports such provision to be defective, the Board may decline to make an order unless the landowner shall amend his application so as to include some improvement of the cottage accommodation on the estate."(Mr. Channing.) brought up and read the first time.

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


I hope the Committee will support me in resisting this new clause. The object of this Bill is to extend the powers of limited owners especially to improve their estates. When a limited owner goes to one of these companies to obtain a loan in order to drain his cottages or to provide a water supply, the Board of Agriculture is invited by the hon. Gentleman to say, "Before you expend this money upon this most desirable purpose which will confer permanent benefit upon your property, we will inquire whether or not cottages are required upon your estate. If cottages are required we will refuse to allow you to expend this money, necessary though it is, unless you are prepared to expend other money." I submit that that is a ridiculous proposal which would have precisely the opposite effect to that which the hon. Gentleman desires. What we want to do is to encourage as far as we legitimately can the expenditure of money in the development and improvement of estates, and I hope the Committee will reject this Amendment.

MR. STRACHEY (Somerset, S.)

I hope the Committee will not shut their eyes to the fact that there are estates where the provision of cottages is very bad, and a landowner might be looking at the question and saying, "If I spend this money on drainage or on improvements I shall get a very good return for it." In many cases tenants are prepared to give a larger rent, or not to ask for a reduction of rent if these expenditures. are made. But it is a well-known fact that as regards cottage property there is no direct increase of rent, although of course there is an indirect advantage. In such cases this Amendment would be very desirable, and I should strongly support it.

MR HAZELL (Leicester)

I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his decision with regard to this Amendment. There are many cases in which the cottages are very fair as far as they go, but there are not enough of them. The mere fact that the question of proper accommodation would be inquired into would induce an owner when he desired a loan to look round at the cottage accommodation, and probably include a moderate amount of increased accommodation in his scheme.

MR. SOAMES (Norfolk, S.)

The great problem in the agricultural districts in East Anglia is to get a sufficient amount of agricultural labour in the villages, and no doubt the question of the cottages has something to do with it. Landowners who manage their estates well need have no fear whatever of this clause; but there are cases undoubtedly in which there is a tendency on the part of landowners to spend money on other objects rather than on cottages. I therefore desire to join in urging the right hon. Gentleman to consider this clause favourably.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 21; Noes, 96. (Division List, No. 316.)

Asher, Alexander Horniman, Frederick John Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Buchanan, Thomas Byburn Joicey, Sir James Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Caldwell, James Lawson, Sir W. (Cumbland) Tennant, Harold John
Doogan, P. C. Macaleese, Daniel Tollemache, Henry James
Duckworth, James Morgan, W. P. (Merthyr) Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.
Gordon, Hon. John Edward Pirie, Duncan V. TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Hazell, Walter Provand, Arthur Dryburgh Mr. Channing and Mr. Strachey.
Hedderwick, Thos. Charles H. Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)
Arnold, Alfred Fergusson, Rt Hn. Sir. J. (Manc'r Pryce Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Atkinson. Rt. Hon. John Finch, George H. Purvis, Robert
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r) Finlay, Sir Robt. Bannatyne Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.
Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds) Fisher, William Hayes Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. T.
Barnes, Frederic Gorell Foster, Colonel (Lancaster) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Barton, Dunbar Plunket Fry. Lewis Round, James
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol) Garfit, William Royds, Clement Molyneux
Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe Gedge, Sydney Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Goldsworthy, Major-General Seely, Charles Hilton
Blundell, Colonel Henry Greville, Hon. Ronald Simeon, Sir Harrington
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robt. W. Smith, J Parker (Lanarks.)
Brassey, Albert Hare, Thomas Leigh Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Stanley, Edw. J. (Somerset)
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East) Johnston, William (Belfast) Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Lawrence. Sir E. Durning-(Corn Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Chaloner, Capt. R. G. W. Lawson. John Grant (Yorks.) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Chamberlain. Rt. Hon. J. (Birm. Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Thornton, Percy M.
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc.) Long, Col Chas. W. (Evesham) Tomlinson, W. Edw. Murray
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Liverp'l) Valentia, Viscount
Charrington, Spencer Lucas-Shadwell, William Warde, Lieut-Col. C. E. (Kent)
Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E. Macartney, W. G. Ellison Williams, Jos. Powell-(Birm.)
Coghill, Douglas Harry Macdona, John Cumming Willox, Sir John Archibald
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Maclure, Sir John William Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Colomb, Sir J. Charles Ready M'Killop, James Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Curzon, Viscount Milward, Colonel Victor Wylie, Alexander
Dalkeith, Earl of More, Rbt. Jasper (Shropsh.) Wyndham, George
Denny, Colonel Morrell, George Herbert Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
Doughty, George Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute) Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Nicholson. William Graham Young, Commander (Berks, E.)
Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. Nicol, Donald Ninian TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Isaac Newton William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H. Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E. Pierpoint, Robert

Bill reported, without Amendment.


I hope I may appeal to the House to take the Third Reading now.


I do not propose to object to the Third Reading, but at the same time I wish to say with some emphasis that the absence of any limitations being imposed in this Bill will compel me to vote against it on its Third Reading.

Bill read the third time and passed.