§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The President of the Board of Agriculture.)
§ MR. LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the fact that at last he has been able to introduce the Bill so long promised. It has, I believe, been mentioned 1535 in no fewer than five Queen's Speeches, but this is the first time it has been brought in. The right hon. Gentleman on the very first day of the first session of this Parliament gave notice that he intended to introduce it, but instead of doing so he seems to have been engaged ever since in whittling it down until it has become a very small measure indeed. I do not wonder he has been very reticent in addressing the House on the merits of the measure. From the time taken to prepare it we were justified in expecting a more complete Bill. But while I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on introducing it, I cannot congratulate him with the same heartiness on the provisions which it contains. It seems to me that the measure gives very little power to the tenant farmer in claiming compensation for improvements at the determination of a tenancy. I wish very much that it had been otherwise, and that full and fair compensation had been provided for all tenants who at the determination of their tenancy have to quit their holdings. It certainly provides that a tenant may claim compensation for improvements under the custom of the country instead of under the existing Act, and it also allows him to claim for home-grown corn, but those two points seem to be absolutely inadequate to satisfy the legitimate demands of the agriculturists in this matter. I notice my hon. friends from Scotland are aggrieved because a separate Bill is not brought in for that country. I can only express my belief that if the clauses of this measure were applied to any part of the United Kingdom or any of its colonies it would not effect very much of a revolution. I had hoped to see a measure of simplification, but although the Bill does simplify matters to a certain extent, I cannot but think that in some ways it adds complication to the already complicated provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act. I will just take one point. This Act is to be read in with other Acts, and the ordinary tenant farmer when he takes up this Bill will have to read it in conjunction with the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1883, the Tenants' Compensation Act of 1890, and the Market Gardeners' Compensation Act, 1895. I think it is a pity the right hon. Gentleman has not taken some pains to simplify the law in this respect. The tenant farmer ought to have a single Act within the four 1536 corners of which he can tell exactly what is contained. Under the present circumstances he will need to be an accomplished lawyer to know what compensation he can get under the complicated laws that have gathered about this subject. It has been said it would be bad tactics on the part of the Government to introduce a consolidating measure. Is it not pitiable that a Government should study tactics in attempting to do justice to the agricultural interest? If there is one thing more important than another to the agriculture of this country it is the question of fruit growing. Suppose a farmer plants fruit trees, how can he get compensation under this Bill? If he plants them over an acre he must get the consent of the landlord before he can claim compensation. If he plants under an acre he will have to give notice of his intention to the landlord to plant the trees, but if his holding is treated as a market garden he can dispense with both formalities, and may plant the whole of it without the consent of the landlord, and without giving notice. For my own part, I regard an Agricultural Holdings Bill as a Bill which ought to encourage the application of skill and capital to the land. I have been unable to discover any such encouragement in this Bill. We know very well that the old system of agriculture must come to an end and farmers must pay attention to the supply of such things as dairy produce, cattle raising, and poultry breeding, things which used to be neglected in the days of high prices for wheat. Will this Bill give any encouragement to a farmer to lay out money on the land? If he wants to adapt his buildings to dairy purposes, or put up a poultry shed, in all these matters he has to go through the formality of getting the consent of the landlord. That, as everybody knows, is extremely difficult to obtain. Under this Bill the farmer will not be able even to improve a road or a watercourse—that is, with a secure prospect of compensation—unless he obtains the consent of the landlord. He is hampered and restricted in every way by the provisions of this measure. Then there is also the question of permanent pasture. I have never been able to understand why the tenant farmer should require the consent of his landlord in order to be entitled to compensation for it at the end of his tenure. I see absolutely no reason what- 1537 ever for it. If a tenant farmer lays down permanent pasture, and that increases the value of the holding to an incoming tenant, he ought not to be required to have obtained the assent of his landlord in order to claim compensation. Remember, laying down permanent pasture does not impoverish the land; it tends, on the contrary, to gather up fertility in the land. The Central Chamber of Agriculture goes one better than the right hon. Gentleman in this Bill, for it recommends that only notice to the landlord should be required to enable the tenant to claim compensation for permanent pasture. Then there is the question of seeds and two years pastures. We know that of late years a different system has been adopted. I have an instance in my own mind where a farmer has gone on laying down land to seed, and got very good pasture indeed. When he leaves he ploughs it up, and the House will see what a disadvantage the incoming tenant is placed under. It seems to me it is a rather short-sighted policy which is embodied in this Bill. A tenant is only to get so much compensation as fairly represents the value of the improvement to the incoming tenant, and if he lays out his money injudiciously he will not be recouped for it. Surely, if he lays it out judiciously, he ought to get a good return for it. Under this Bill, too, the tenant would lose the money he had expended on an improvement which might be of no value at the moment of his quitting his holding, and he would be deprived of the compensation which is rightly his due. Then there is the possibility of raising the rent on a tenant's own improvements. I know hon. Gentlemen say that no good landlord would take advantage of a tenant in that way, but there are landlords and landlords. It is not for the good landlords that we want legislation, it is for the landlords who bear hardly on the poorer tenants in remote parishes. The present law, as has been pointed out, puts an absolute premium on bad farming. If a man farms badly he will not get his rent raised on his improvements, and he will net be so likely to get notice to quit, because a farm in an impoverished condition is not likely to let readily. The good farmer is penalised and the bad farmer encouraged, and I think the House of Commons should do all it can to 1538 reverse that. Surely it is not unreasonable to ask that if a landlord unreasonably disturbs a tenant, the tenant shall have compensation. Just bear in mind, the advantage is all on the side of the landlord in the case of a change. If the farm buildings are in good repair it costs him little or nothing, but the tenant has to leave old associations and to go into a new neighbourhood, and all this costs money. If a tenant has adapted his farm to the wants of a district and worked up a business connection he should be compensated for unreasonable disturbance. My view is that an endeavour should be made to encourage the system of nineteen year leases which formerly prevailed in Scotland and the north of England, and under which there was such an enormous amount of accumulated fertility in the land as to enable the farmer to go through the first stress of agricultural depression without such a severe loss as was sustained in the Eastern Counties, where the system did not prevail. I hope that some clause will be considered which will encourage the tenant farmer to lay out his money, and to ensure that he shall not be unreasonably disturbed after having done so. Then with regard to freedom of cultivation, it seems to me absurd that a tenant should not be able to farm to the best advantage without being hampered by the restrictions which are now found in leases—provided that he does not reduce the fertility of the land. It may be asked why tenant farmers sign such agreements. I cannot explain, but it does seem to me absolutely ridiculous that he should not be able to cultivate his land to the best advantage, providing he does not reduce its fertility, and no man would more strongly support a clause to prevent deterioration of the soil than I would. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has, I believe, claimed a considerable amount of credit for having provided for one arbitrator in the settlement of disputes. I agree with him that that is a principle which should be carried out. I would go even further than he does. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal is that there shall be one arbitrator unless the parties otherwise agree. Now, I hold with the Central Chamber of Agriculture that if an arbitrator is appointed by the Board of Agriculture, he should be quite competent to decide any dispute between landlord and tenant. 1539 There ought, therefore, to be no necessity for two arbitrators and a referee, which means additional cost and an advantage on the side of the longest purse, which is not the side of the tenant in the majority of cases. This provision does not seem to me to differ very much from the Act of 1883. I hope that before the Bill is passed the right hon. Gentleman will insist that all differences shall be settled by a single arbitrator, and if that arbitrator is appointed by the Board of Trade I am sure he will have the confidence of both landlord and tenant. Then there is the question of putting in claims. I hope that the landlord and tenant will be placed on a footing of perfect equality with regard to this matter. When a tenant claims for improvements all the improvements are to be scheduled, but when a landlord claims for dilapidations no schedule is required. I cannot see why this difference should be made. Hon. Gentlemen opposite smile at the idea, but I fail to see where the merriment comes in. The Report of the Royal Commission, which was signed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture, recommended that the landlord's claim for dilapidations should be scheduled.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. LONG,) Liverpool, West Derby
Does the hon. Member say I signed a recommendation for a schedule limiting the rights of the landlord at common law?
§ MR. LAMBERT
No, Sir; but the right hon. Gentleman did sign a Report which suggested that the dilapidations for which a landlord might claim should be scheduled. In conclusion, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept some of the Amendments which will be moved, and that the Bill will encourage rather than penalise agricultural enterprise.
§ *MR. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.)
I think this measure will be a very useful one, and will be hailed as a measure for the good of the farmers, because it will help to simplify and cheapen the procedure by means of which they can obtain payment of their claims for compensation. Under the Act of 1883 compensation was no doubt given, but it was very costly and very difficult to get, and frequently 1540 after the tenant had claimed and the landlord had counter-claimed all the money went on costs, and neither party got anything. This Bill proposes to abolish all that. It proposes to give a cheap and easy means by which claims can be settled. An arbitrator is appointed, the tenant puts in his claim, and within a certain time the landlord puts in his claim, and then fair compensation is awarded. Under the former Act a tenant put in his claim, and very often the landlord simply put in a counter-claim, and that system gave rise to great discontent among the farmers. Under the present Bill both parties will have to have their claims in by a certain date, the matter will then be referred to the arbitrator, and compensation will be given by a cheap and easy method. The hon. Gentleman said that he did not think much of the Bill because it did not revolutionise the land laws of the country.
§ MR. LAMBERT
I did not say that. I said that if its provisions were applied to, say, Australia, it would not effect any revolution.
§ *MR. JEFFREYS
Our landlords and tenants get on so well that they do not want any revolution. It is quite exceptional to find a landlord and a tenant going to court with reference to these matters. As a general rule they get on very well together, and I have been much impressed at the way in which farmers have attended the meetings of the Central Chamber of Agriculture and have discussed these matters in a fair and impartial spirit. I do not believe that there is any real hostility existing between landlords and tenants in this country, but naturally when a tenant has put money into a farm and has improved it, he requires compensation when he goes out. And I hope this Bill will be the means of giving that cheap and easy means of securing compensation which we all desire. With regard to the contention of the hon. Gentleman that tenants ought to have power to put up buildings, I think that would be very unwise, and that the consent of the landlords should in all cases be obtained. There are three schedules with reference to improvements. Under the first, the tenant has to give notice and obtain the consent of the landlord; under the second, he has to 1541 give notice, but can proceed without the consent of the landlord; and under the third, he need neither give notice nor obtain consent. With regard to buildings, I should have thought that farmers would have no objection to seeking the consent of the landlords, because, if the buildings are necessary, consent is always given. I know many estates where the rental now merely represents a percentage on the capital employed in putting up buildings. A good deal of the land pays no rent at all, the rent charged being merely interest on the cost of the buildings, and I was astonished to hear the hon. Gentleman advocate that farmers should be empowered to put up buildings on their own account. The first thing a tenant does who wants an additional building is to go to the landlord, and in many instances the landlords, pinched and impoverished though they are, are willing to spare some money for the purpose of buildings. The hon. Gentleman alluded to fruit gardens, but this Bill deals more with large agricultural farms than with small fruit gardens, though I do not mean to say that the fruit industry is not an important industry in certain districts. As regards the Bill, it is very satisfactory as regards the simple and cheap method it provides with reference to the settlement of claims for compensation. That is a long step in the right direction. If hon. Gentlemen will look at the second schedule, I think they will admit it is excellently drawn up, and I am sure many farmers will desire to get rid of their present agreements in order to come under the Bill when it is enacted. The hon. Gentleman said we ought to have one Act which would enable every farmer to understand clearly what he was doing, and that the Act of 1883 ought to be joined with this Bill. I understand that there would be great difficulty in doing that at present, but no doubt in the course of time the two may be joined together so that they may be more readily intelligible to farmers. Then with regard to arbitration, the power now exercised by the county courts is to be transferred to the Board of Agriculture, and that also is a step in the right direction. I am sure we in the country do not go to law half as much as people in the towns, and I am very glad that the power of the county courts is to be transferred to the Board of Agriculture, and that the Board 1542 will appoint the arbitrator. Then there is another matter which I think farmers will be very glad of, and that is with regard to the consumption of corn on the holdings. In former days every sack of corn was worth a great deal of money. Now, however, wheat is worth comparatively little; a great deal of it is hawked about at 28s. a quarter, and in fact it is not worth growing. I think that the difference in prosperity between the farmers of Scotland and England is that in Scotland they grow hardly any wheat. England grows 96 per cent. of the wheat produced in Great Britain, most of it being grown in the Midlands and south of England, and the consequence is that the farmers in those districts are much worse off than the farmers in the north of England and in Scotland, where hardly any wheat is grown. Wheat is now at such a low price in England that a great many farmers feed their stock on it, but they received no compensation for that under the old Act. This Bill, however, provides that whore corn produced on the farm is given to the stock, the farmer is entitled to compensation, just in the same way as if he bought the food and gave it to the animals on the farm. I confess it will be very difficult to assess how much corn produced on the farm has been used on the farm, but I hope with the easy method of procedure provided in the second schedule this difficulty will be got over. With regard to pasture land, I know many farmers think they ought to have the right to lay down pasture without notice to the landlord, and then claim compensation; but I never could understand why farmers should desire to lay down pasture without the consent of the landlords. That is quite unintelligible to me, because in nine cases out of ten the landlord provides the seeds free of cost. He or his agent goes over the land, and considers whether it is suitable for pasture, and if it is the landlord provides the seeds and very often the fences; and in my county he also provides for the watering of the land. I have known farmers come from Devonshire to Hampshire and rent land, and endeavour to turn it into pasture. But it is very difficult to make good pasture on our chalk hills as compared with land in Devonshire, and these farmers at the end of two or three years found it was absolutely hopeless to 1543 attempt it. This matter of pasture is of great importance to farmers, and it ought not to be laid down without the consent of the landlord, because the landlord or his agent very probably knows most about the capabilities of the soil, and the difficulty of providing water, and, of course, without water good pasture is impossible. Taking all these considerations into account, I think that before farmers lay down pasture they ought to get the consent of the landlords. There is another matter I do not agree with, and that is that there is no compensation for seeds older than two years. The practice is different in different districts, but under the four-course rotation system clover or rye grass is sown with oats, and the following year comes into crop, and after that the land is ploughed in preparation for wheat. In my part of the country we grow a great deal of sainfoin, which stays down for several years and is often in its best condition in its fourth or fifth year, but if no compensation is to be given after two years farmers cannot get any compensation for that crop. Therefore in Committee I propose to ask my right hon. friend whether he cannot provide compensation for seeds which are in good condition and where the ground is clean and in good heart, and I hope my right hon. friend will be able to accept that suggestion. Then again with reference to the increased fertility of the holding due to continuous good farming, how are you going to assess what is due as compensation, unless you have a careful record of every field made when the farmer comes in and when he goes out? Surveyors would have to go over the land periodically and record what was the state of cultivation, and a vast cost, which neither the tenant nor the landlord would agree to, would have to be incurred. If the State sent down surveyors and did the work for nothing, no doubt the farmers would be very glad. I cannot conceive how you could carry it out; and, therefore, I am not surprised that compensation for increased fertility of the holding, due to continuous good farming, has been omitted from the Bill. But I think another matter might have been put into the Bill, and that is in regard to notice of claim. Under Section 7 of the Act of 1883, two months before the expiration of the lease, notice had to be given by the tenant to the landlord of a claim for compensation. Well, to my 1544 surprise, I see that by Section 2 of the present Bill notice must be given three months after the expiration of the tenancy. Surely that is too late. When the incoming tenant has to pay the compensation, it ought to be done before the farmer who is going out leaves the farm. I intend to ask my right hon. friend to amend the clause so that the notice of claim must be given twenty-eight days before the expiration of the lease; so that the whole thing may be decided before he quits the farm. In the same way, the landlord ought to give the outgoing tenant twenty-eight days notice before the expiration of the lease; but I would give him a little time after the tenant goes out for notice of claim in respect of the dilapidation of buildings. In regard to the land itself, both landlord and tenant ought to make their claim before the tenant goes out. There is another matter which I also think might perhaps be put into the Bill, although I do not urge it so strongly as the other point just mentioned; and that is in regard to claims in respect of damages. There is no time limit to the landlord's claim. In the Act of 1883 the limit for landlord's claims was four years. I think there ought to be some limit, and I would suggest two years. If that were done it would be a very fair thing; I do not believe the landlord would be injured, and I am sure it would be a great satisfaction to the tenant. I do not wish to be hostile to the Bill in any way. I think it will simplify and cheapen procedure, and on the whole I think it will be satisfactory to both landlord and tenant. It will prevent bogus claims, and all those claims and counter claims, not so much by the landlord as his agent, which were common formerly. Both landlord and tenant ought to put in their claim within a certain time simultaneously. The Bill will provide an easy and cheap mode of arbitration, but it will not take the place of voluntary agreements. Some hon. Gentlemen are of the belief that it will sweep away all voluntary agreements. I am glad it does not. There are many men in this country, both landlords and tenants, who get on remarkably well together. They meet together, and make their own agreements; they do not want any Act of Parliament, and they and their families live in harmony together for generations. But failing an agreement, then this Act will step in and 1545 give an easy and simple form of lease. It is for that purpose that this amending Bill has been introduced into Parliament, and I hope it will become law. I ought to have said at the beginning that a committee of the Central Chamber of Agriculture went into this question in 1889, and sat again in 1894. At that time there was a very strong committee of well-known farmers from the north of England, where they are supposed to farm better than farmers do in the south. My right hon. friend the Member for Sleaford, the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, and I myself were also on that committee. We sat for a great many days, and threshed out all these matters, and I am glad to say that a great many of our recommendations have been carried out in this Bill. It is a very simple Bill, and will cheapen and simplify the whole process of arriving at the compensation which is due to farmers when they go out of their holdings. I congratulate my right hon. friend on having introduced a Bill which I believe will be satisfactory to both landlords and tenants, and which may attract more farmers to the land instead of driving them away from it, as some Acts of Parliament have done.
§ *MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
I have been so long associated with the hon. Member for North Hampshire in the committees of the Chambers of Agriculture that I am specially glad to follow him in this debate. I congratulate him on making a speech which is fair and most useful. Although I do not agree with all that he has said, yet I cordially assent to many of his points, which I sincerely trust may be of real effect and usefulness when we come to deal with the Bill in Committee. Most heartily I agree with one expression made use of by my hon. friend, that this Bill is only a small amending Bill. I am glad that anything is being done in the direction of improvement; but it seems to me that this Bill is one of the worst in form, and one of the flimsiest and most unsatisfactory in its provisions, ever introduced into the House of Commons in my recollection. It has certainly been criticised very sharply by most agricultural bodies. The Newcastle Farmers' Club, which has taken a very active part in promoting land reform, held a meeting recently which was addressed by one of the best known farmers in the north of England, who farms 1546 10,000 acres, and who has been a leader in land reform for a long period. That gentleman said the Bill was "not worth the paper it was written upon"; that it "would be received by thinking and enterprising tenants (and by the public, if they understood it) with righteous indignation; it is better," he added, "that there should be plain speaking rather than a miscarriage of justice." I am not quite sure that that is going further than I myself would go in speaking of this Bill; but refer to it as showing how the Bill ha been received by some of the most active and thoughtful of tenant-farmer reformers. It seems to me that it deals with the mere fringe of the questions raised by, and the decisions in, the courts of law in interpreting the old Act, and does not deal at all with the wider issues raised by the complaints of the tenant farmers of the country for generations past. If the few benefits proposed to be given by the Bill were given in a simple and intelligible form, I would say to the farmers, "By all means accept the Bill"; but I hold that there are drawbacks and qualifications, even in this small boon, which are perilous and objectionable. After all, this is an amending Bill to set right the Act of 1883. Does the Bill really touch the central and essential defects of the Act? Does it protect the improving tenant? Does it give a real stimulus to the general improvement of agriculture? Having paid close attention to the whole matter, having had special opportunities on the Royal Commission of hearing the whole of the evidence in regard to the terrible period of agricultural depression, I feel bound to say that it is a great scandal, if not a cruel wrong, to the tenant farmers of England that this measure has been delayed so long. The gravest defect of the Act of 1883 was that it gave no real protection whatsoever to the tenant farmer who wanted to improve his holding, and wanted to remain to enjoy the fruits of his improvements. That defect and other defects became speedily known, and experience has more than demonstrated the sound judgment of Sir James Caird on the inadequacy of the Act of 1883 in predicting that the Act would fail just because it did not protect the tenants who most deserved protection. I maintain that if the most serious defects of the Act of 1883 had been rectified as early as 1887, or even as 1890, it would 1547 have saved an enormous amount of injustice to the tenant farmers of the country, it would have saved multitudes of them from bankruptcy, and would have left a much larger area of land in a sound state of cultivation than it is. If the improving tenant requires protection against the confiscation of his improvements by the raising of rents in good times, he needs protection ten times more against confiscation of his improvements by the refusal of adequate reduction of rents in bad times. There are large landowners who have set up the highest standard of honour, and have stated clearly the principles which govern this question. Lord Londonderry, who was chairman of the Central Chamber of Agriculture last year, said "the root of the present evil was to be found in the offering of competition rents which the land was unable to bear." The Duke of Richmond, also, one of the best and most generous of landlords, said before the Commission that it was "absolutely fatal to set men bidding against each other." Competition, unchecked by equitable machinery to divide what is the tenant's from what is the landlord's, is not a fair measure of rents, but an instrument to enable the landlord to put up to auction his tenant's property as well as his own. It has worked with ten-fold injustice and economic injury to the improving tenant during the period of depression. Where there are a few highly cultivated and thoroughly worked up farms in the market, it is obvious that those farms become prizes to a large number of men, who compete, and the relative rent of those farms is raised far higher than the rents of the neighbouring farms, which are inferior, or which have been neglected. Many interesting farm accounts were brought before the Commission, some dealing with prosperous and others with unprosperous farms. Mr. Wilson Fox, in reporting on Lincolnshire, produced farm accounts of a most startling nature. They showed that instead of the rent from the various farms being in the proportion of two to one of the tenant's profits—which was the assumed proportion for the purpose of income tax—the rents varied from seven up to thirty-five and fifty times the profit obtained by the tenants of the holdings. The results of such a system as that are to place the economic loss altogether disproportionately on the shoulders of the improving 1548 tenants on estates not managed in the broad and generous manner of those to which I have referred. It is becoming perfectly plain to the farmers that their only way of recouping themselves, and protecting the capital which they have invested in the soil, is by taking out of the soil afterwards what they first put in. That is the fatal result of this policy. In the operation of the law as it exists you are placing a heavy penalty on the best farmers, and are offering the strongest inducement to an unscrupulous tenant to rob the soil and let his land go to rack and ruin in order to obtain a renewal of his tenancy on easier terms. After all, this is first and foremost a landlord's question. We have just been pleasantly reminded by Sir Ernest Clarke's article on Mr. Philip Pusey, that it was a great landlord who first raised the question of tenant right, and raised it not only from generosity to tenant farmers, but because it was the highest interest of landlords. The working of the present land system for the last fifteen or twenty years has resulted in the deterioration of the land and the impoverishment of the landlords. They have been ill-advised enough to refuse proper reductions to improving tenants, who have thrown up the land in despair and had to go elsewhere, and the land has then, in many cases, been let to an inferior tenant at a rent which he knew he could not recoup by fair farming, and who worked out of the soil the good the previous tenant had put into it. That has largely been the case in Essex and the other Eastern Counties, where in many districts there have been as many as three sets of tenants in ten years, each of whom has left the land in a more ruinous condition than his predecessor. It is in the interest not only of the tenant, but in the interest of the landowners of England that the land should be cultivated continuously up to the highest point. Now I deprecate anything like a conflict of the classes in this matter, and it is the most short-sighted policy to look upon this matter as one of conflicting rights. It is a landlord's question as much as a tenant's. I have urged that it was a grave wrong to the tenant farmers of England that nothing should have been done to remove the main defect of the Act of 1883, and to protect them from the worst effects of the terrible depression, and that these evils should 1549 have been let run rampant and work general ruin. Well, does the present Bill do anything to remove those wrongs? I say it does not. There are a few amendments which are simple and useful, including the clearing up of three small legal points, in which little more is done than affirming what has become the practice of the Courts. Coming to the central point of this Bill, the arbitration procedure of this Bill is excellent. I do not know whether any Amendments are likely to be introduced in the second schedule, but it is not necessary to discuss that now. But all those who have followed this subject will agree, as I do, with the hon. Member for North Hampshire, that the procedure seems so excellent, that many farmers who read this schedule would be glad to give up their agreements and come in under it and enjoy its advantages. There are points where I take issue with the hon. Member. The Bill provides most satisfactory machinery for arbitration between landlord and tenant, but the Bill also gives the most absolute power for contracting out, not only as to the scales of compensation for specific improvements, but even as regards the procedure of arbitration itself. The eighth section of the old Act is now struck out, which provided that the reference under the Act must take place, if either party insisted. There is a passage in the second clause which will enable the landlord and tenant to set aside the procedure of the Bill, and agree to some other sort of arbitration to be specified in the agreement. I consider that most serious.
§ *MR. CHANNING
In the first sub-section of the second clause the Bill provides that—The difference shall be settled by arbitration in accordance with the provisions, if any, in that behalf of any agreement between landlord and tenant, and in default of and subject to any such provisions, by arbitration under this Act in accordance with the provisions set out in the second schedule of this Act.That is to say, the procedure contemplated under this Bill is, in the first place, to form agreements between landlord and tenant which would oust the procedure under the Act, and even subject the procedure under the Act to conditions which would alter its meaning and effect in practice.
§ *MR. LONG
I think the hon. Gentleman has rather misapprehended the meaning of the sub-section. The Bill provides that a tenant may go out under custom or agreement, and that even then, where there is a difference, he should have the benefit of recourse to arbitration proceedings, in accordance with the rules set out in this Bill. The power of choice rests entirely with the tenant.
§ *MR. CHANNING
The right hon. Gentleman has not entirely cleared up my point. I cannot myself see, even if his intentions are as he has explained, that the words do that as they stand in the present sub-section. They do admit of the evil which I contemplate, namely, that you may have a form of agreement made as a condition of the tenancy that the tenant of a farm on an estate shall accept a certain form of arbitration with respect to compensation for specific improvements, and the name of the particular arbitrator may be imposed on the tenant, I do not say compulsorily, but made a condition of the tenancy, on the estates whore these arbitration clauses are introduced into leases. I rather think the hon. Member for North Hampshire took the same view of the question, because he considered that the benefit of the Bill was rather for those who did not wish to come under agreements and leases, and would only operate in their case. I must say that I think these words are exceedingly dangerous and seem to me to point to a contracting-out quite as grave, quite as serious, and quite as objectionable in its results to the agricultural tenants of the country as the great contracting clause of the Act of 1875. Unless the words are so amended as to remove this objection, I for one shall be decidedly inclined to resist the Bill at a later stage, because in that case I certainly think it would be not only a meagre, timid, and hesitating Bill, but it would be a distinctly reactionary proposal. In fact, I am bound to say that this extension of the policy of substituting agreements, whether as to the amount of compensation or as to procedure for the operation of the Act in all cases, is a most serious and most dangerous and reactionary policy. I also dissent from the view which I know is held very largely by tenant farmers as well as by hon. Members opposite, namely, that it would be a benefit to the 1551 tenants of this country and to agriculture to have agricultural compensation cases decided according to custom instead of according to the Act. The reason for that is perfectly obvious. In many cases these customs are customs which really allot to the outgoing tenant payments for which the incoming tenant is receiving no real equivalent at all. In many cases the customs have certainly the result of crippling the capital of the incoming tenant, and that is especially apparent in Scotland in the case of sheep farms and some big agricultural farms in the south of England. I quite agree, and I think everyone will agree with what my hon. friend said with regard to the three months notice. I think it is inevitable that this Bill must be altered so as to introduce simultaneous notices of twenty-eight days before the end of the tenancy, which seems to be what most agriculturists have agreed upon. In striking out the old Section as to waste, and re-enacting portions of it, this Bill omits the essential words: "except so far as a proper return of manure to the holding has been made in respect of such produce so sold off or removed there from." So long as the tenant is keeping up the fertility of the soil he should be left free. These words should certainly be retained in the present Bill. I was glad to hear my hon. friend urge that there should be a time limit to the landlord's claim for waste, and agree with him that it should be two years. But the gravest fault I find with the present Bill, is that it gives no real encouragement to a bold policy of high cultivation and decisive and therefore profitable improvement. Nothing could be more striking than the evidence given to the Agriculture Commission of the inadequacy of improvements, and of the equipment of farms as agricultural machines, except on those great and admirably worked estates such as I have referred to, where the owner is a law in himself, and where the worst economic effects of this great depression have scarcely been felt at all. It seems to me that you must do something towards enlarging the powers of tenants to carry out for themselves, or to obtain from landlords reasonable improvements and the best equipment in order to carry on agriculture in the most effective way. In regard to permanent pasture I was glad to hear that my hon. friend supported the suggestion that two years and older seeds 1552 should be compensated for. I myself think that the recommendations of the Committee on which I sat with my hon. friend should be adopted in the Committee of this House. The Central Chamber of Agriculture insisted that permanent pasture should be transferred to Part 2 of the schedule, and that thus, by notice, the landlord should be enabled to see that the laying down and treatment of the pasture is carried out in the best and most scientific way. That places him in a position to point out to the tenant when experiments are made on unsuitable land, which would result in failure and bring him no good in the end. The recommendation that there should be compensation for increased fertility of the holding due to continuous good farming is one to which the utmost importance is attached, especially in Scotland and the North of England. It is urged that the power to award such compensation is in the hands of valuers, now, under the present Act. There are valuers who in practice do now award an additional compensation for continuous high farming. I may give an illustration of how far and with what effect this is really exercised at present. There is a well-known case in Scotland. A man had spent thousands of pounds in enriching the land by the most lavish use of fertilisers. The rent which the tenant offered for a renewal was refused, and the landlord gave the farm to another tenant. It was proved conclusively that the outlay of this man had enormously increased and enhanced the value of the land. The farm was twice re-let at a relatively very high rent. The occupier's estimate was that he had conferred £300 a year on the owner for an indefinite period. But the arbitration, although there was allowance specifically made for continuous good farming, was only to give the improving tenant £300, or one year's purchase of the added value of the farm. I should like to see the principles of the Market Gardeners Compensation Act freely and fully extended to all agricultural holdings in this country. These principles gradually grew out of the natural equities of the case, where men were employing large sums of money in agricultural work were allowed a perfectly free hand to put up buildings and make other improvements suitable and necessary to make their work a success. It seems to me if the same principles were applied generally, 1553 and tenant farmers had a free hand to carry out either themselves or through their landlords the improvements suitable to the effective working of their holdings, it could only have the same result, and that is enormously to increase the value of the land on which those advantages were given to the tenant farmers of this country. It is possible to encourage improvement too much. It is possible to put more capital into the land than it is possible to get interest for, and what we should aim at in our legislation is to expend the fullest amount of capital on the soil that is found to earn maximum profits continuously. You can never get this under the present hand to mouth system, which involves a struggle between the two parties instead of that rational and economically sound partnership with friendly feeling and absolute security on both sides. That would be best for both, best for the highest agricultural development, best in the interests of labour, best for the whole community. This Bill is going to pass its Second Reading, and probably will be carried through this Parliament. We shall certainly put down those Amendments which we think will carry out the principles which I have endeavoured to lay before the House, and which will make this Bill a really effective instrument. I sincerely hope that some of those Amendments may be favourably considered by the right hon. Gentleman. The despairing agriculturists of this country have waited so long that they are only too eager to accept anything, and I should myself deprecate any handling of the Bill which would lose even the small advantages now proposed to be conferred. But I consider that the history of the last twenty years has imposed upon the Ministry the solemn duty of considering some of the suggestions which have been made by a number of the most practical agriculturists of the land, and of seeing whether they cannot strain a point in order to introduce some of them into this Bill before it passes into law.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I think the hon. Member for South Molton is certainly rather hard to please. From my point of view, the agricultural interest ought not to be dissatisfied with the present Bill. To say that agriculturists will be grateful for it is perhaps a rather 1554 large order, because they seldom are grateful; but, as times go, it is as good a Bill as can reasonably be expected. After all, what you require in a Bill for the Amendment of the Agricultural Holdings Act is a measure which will cheapen and simplify the procedure and remove to a certain extent the difficulties in connection with leases so that tenants may be induced to put their capital into the land, and generally make things easier for the landlord and tenant all round. Some time ago I suggested to the House that the difficulty in the agricultural districts of the Eastern Counties was that twenty years ago we used to have a dozen tenants running after one farm, while now we have a dozen farms running after one tenant. I hope this Bill will help to remove that difficulty, and be of considerable assistance to the agricultural interest in that direction. I am not prepared to go as far as the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, if one can judge his views and intentions from the speech he delivered on the First Reading of this Bill, and which in great part he has done us the honour to repeat to-night. We must draw the line somewhere, and though the hon. Gentleman apparently thinks that landlords and those interested in the land are hardly to be considered as fellow-creatures, he ought to remember that if he deprives them of the opportunity of eking out a precarious existence and drives them all into the workhouse, the rates on agricultural land will be considerably heavier than at present, and we shall be worse off than before. The President of the Board of Agriculture might, however, have broadened the Bill in one or two directions. For instance, he might have adopted the advice of Mr. Read, who suggested that where there had been continuous good farming a tenant ought to get some consideration or compensation. Moreover, a tenant should be allowed to lay down land for pasture if he desires so to do, and to cultivate and sell the produce of his land precisely as he chooses, so long as the fertility of the land is not thereby impaired. Then there is the old question with regard to distraint for rent. That is a very moot and disputed point, and so long as the Central Chamber of Agriculture has not made up its mind upon the subject I do not feel disposed to say much about it. The old Act was all very well, but it was 1555 cumbrous and expensive, and did not prevent a landlord being robbed by a dishonest tenant, and it certainly did not assist the man who was cultivating the land. I should like to impress upon the House in reference to this Agricultural Holdings Bill that rent, as far as my experience goes, has absolutely nothing to do with it. The hon. Member for East Northamptonshire spoke about competitive rents. If the hon. Gentleman would come down into Essex and compete for some of our land, it would be quite a novel experience for us, and possibly we might be able to let a little of it at remunerative prices. I was very glad a little while ago to let a farm tithe and rent free, which means that you pay a man five shillings an acre for making a small fortune out of your land. I say, therefore, that rent has practically absolutely nothing to do with the question so far as an Agricultural Holdings Act is concerned. For my part, I shall do my best to support this Bill. Half a loaf is better than no bread. Possibly in some other session in another Parliament, when we get an Agricultural Rating Act, as I hope we shall, we may have another Bill which will more largely fulfil our aspirations in this direction. I am perfectly certain the Bill will do much more good than harm. It ought to be accepted with gratitude by the agricultural interest, and I should certainly advise those whom I have the honour to represent here to take the same view of the matter as I do.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
This seems to me to be a case of "hope deferred," because we have so many times had this Bill dangled before our eyes in Queen's Speeches and otherwise that we had begun to despair a little bit when this measure was sprung upon us with a suddenness somewhat difficult to explain. Whether coming events are beginning to cast their shadows before them, I do not know. It would have been a great advantage if the Minister in charge of this Bill had given us more time before the Second Reading, so that we might have consulted our constituents and have had more time to consider the very complicated and complex provisions of the measure. I am not a lawyer, and perhaps, therefore, am not able to follow the intricacies of a Bill of this kind; but I understand that trained lawyers and even right hon. 1556 Gentlemen sitting on the front bench, who enjoy the higher scale of intelligence which belongs to gentlemen in that position, are of opinion that this Bill is badly drawn, clumsily arranged, and alogether so confused that it passes the wit of ordinary men to discover what it is all about. If that is how trained lawyers feel, what will be the position of the poor simple farmer of Aberdeenshire who tries to find out the object of the measure? On this point let me read a short extract from a letter, not of a simple farmer, but of a highly intelligent farmer in Aberdeenshire—one who has had a university education and carried on agricultural operations with great success. He says—The Bill looks to me to be too complex for ordinary mortals like myself to follow, but the Parliamentary enactments are all very much alike in that respect.In that opinion I am bound to say I heartily concur. Between the confused provisions of the measure and the perpetual references from a clause of one Bill to a clause of some other Bill I am really confused beyond all measure, and if I fail to make my meaning clear to the House it will be entirely due to the mental confusion into which I have been thrown by spending this forenoon in endeavouring to find out what the Bill is about, and in trying to follow all these cross-references. I had hoped the right hon. Gentleman would have given the House a plain statement of what the Bill really proposes to enact—more especially, of how it differs from the Act of 1883, and what special advantages are gained by this Bill which were not secured by the Bill it is intended to supersede. I will not now go into the question of whether it is desirable to have a Scotch as well as an English Bill. I might explain the differences of procedure and of nomenclature, but as the question is probably to be raised later on I will not make any reference to the matter now. I understand that eventually the Bill is to be sent to one of the Standing Committees. I trust the House will strenuously oppose such a course. Considering how little work we have to do I really cannot see why we should not have the opportunity of talking on the clauses of this Bill in Committee of the whole House. All of us who represent agricultural constituencies are deeply interested in this question, and we shall feel ourselves very much aggrieved if we 1557 are not enabled to take part in the discussion of the various clauses——
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! There is a motion on the Paper to refer the Bill to a certain Committee, and the observations of the hon. Member on this point should be made when that motion comes on.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
I will not pursue that matter. It is known to all of us that we cannot secure proper competition or raise prices by legislation, but we can to a certain extent remove hampering restrictions and encourage the farmer to place his capital freely and boldly in the soil. I believe that if the farmers of England and Scotland had more adequate compensation for improvements, 40 per cent. or 50 per cent. more of good results would be obtained. The universal opinion is that the Agricultural Holdings Act as it exists has not been a success, and in the evidence given before the Royal Commission there is a very wide difference of opinion as to the best means of improving the Act as it now stands. I am bound to say that a little reflection has shown me that these Acts are not required. It seems to me that the proposed benefits will be largely counter-balanced by the great millstone which will be hung round the neck of the incoming tenant. The Commission which considered this subject decided by six votes to three in favour of two out of the three Acts to which I have alluded, and they reported in favour of a land court—which I am in favour of in a modified form—and also some form of fixity of tenure. I contend that the Crofters Act has been a great success in spite of all that has been said against it. Many crofters who were once much out of hand and spirit have now become orderly, peaceful, and industrious, and they are working their farms successfully, paying their rents regularly, and are making great progress. New houses are springing up, and the condition of the crofters generally has improved in a most extraordinary way. Year after year in this House my hon. friends and myself have spoken in favour of the extension of these agricultural benefits to the part of the country we represent. We have a large number of small farmers in Aberdeenshire who carry on their work very much under crofting conditions, but who will 1558 get no benefit from the Bill in its present form. We have asked over and over again for some special agricultural concession, and, if something of the kind could have been introduced into a Bill of this sort it would have been a very valuable thing. I see the first schedule deals with improvements carried out by the tenant, but these improvements in every case in Scotland are made by the landlord. In Aberdeenshire the landlords do all the improvements, and this first schedule has very little bearing upon the position of agriculture in that county. As to the great provision of the Bill itself, it is that the tenant muse get compensation for such improvements as are of value from the landlord, and he will receive such sums as fairly represent the value to an incoming tenant. I believe myself that the only satisfactory way of assessing the value of such improvements is by free sale. This Bill proposes to have this question carried out by a system of arbitration, which, I am bound to say, on the whole, is not badly arranged. The arbitrator is to be appointed by the Board of Agriculture, and I think it is right that he should be appointed by the State, and he should be an officer receiving State pay. Two or three of these officials working in Scotland would bring special knowledge to the discharge of their duties upon settled principles, which would not be the case with arbitrators selected haphazard. I have had some experience of arbitration, and the result is that the tenant's nominee goes for the tenant and the landlord's for the landlord, and the whole matter is practically settled by the referee. One of the things that is necessary is that the tenant should have the power to cultivate the land pretty much as he pleases, for the great danger is that if you have a bad tenant he will leave the farm like a squeezed orange, and it will not recover except after great labour and expense. I think safeguards should be introduced by which the tenant should be compelled to put his land into a proper state of cultivation. I wish to give credit whore credit is due, and I think Lord Fife was the first landlord who gave his tenants free cultivation, for many years ago he introduced a system of lease under which the tenant got freedom of cultivation. I had the pleasure of following him, and I think this system has become pretty general. I must give 1559 the right hon. Gentleman credit for having practically provided for freedom of cultivation in this Bill. A friend of mine experienced in law has pointed out to me that, by Clause 3 Section 2, which provides compensation for breach of contract, freedom of cultivation is practically given. I give the right hon. Gentleman credit for bringing about in this Bill an improvement which many of us have already carried out. There is the question of the consumption of grain grown on the farm. The tenant would have to keep granary books, which would be rather inconvenient. There is also an appeal to the Court of Sessions, but I think that is hardly necessary. What we want in this respect is to make the machinery of the Bill swift, sure, and cheap. These cases are first considered by the arbitrator and afterwards they are to be brought before the Court of Sessions, which makes the last state of the man worse than the first. It is certainly not a good Bill, for it is small and not far reaching enough, although I do not go so far in its condemnation as some of my hon. friends. I think it contains some very good and useful provisions, and that being so I shall certainly give it every facility, and do my best by Amendments and criticism to improve it.
MR. GRANT LAWSON (Yorkshire, N.R., Thirsk)
I think the points which have been raised in the discussion are essentially matters for consideration in Committee. I do ask the House to consider whether a great deal of what has now been said would not have been much more effectively said in Committee. There is no principle at stake here, and, therefore, there is nothing to prolong the Second Reading discussion. To quote the words of a very large and experienced committee of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, I welcome this Bill "as a fair attempt to give effect to some of the principal recommendations in the report of the Agricultural Holdings Act Committee of that body." I reserve to myself the right to press for the adoption of more of those recommendations when this Bill gets into Committee, but these are details to be considered at a later stage. I do not think that there is any justification for the argument that tenants' rights are landlords' wrongs. All we ask is that the law should not operate unfairly against the agricultural interest. 1560 Farmers have a right to ask that they should get from the law such protection as will cover the money which they wisely and judiciously lay out, and they should have by law the power of recovering the full value of their improvements from the man who reaps the benefit of them It has been found, after seventeen years experience, that the Act of 1883 has disclosed certain defects. When that Act passed through this House the agricultural interest was not very largely represented. There is one remark made by the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire to which I wish to allude. He declared it to be "a grave scandal and a cruel wrong" that this question had not been dealt with before. I would remind the hon. Member that the party to which he belongs ware in power for some years between 1883 and the present day, and they never attempted to deal with this "grave scandal and cruel wrong."
§ MR. CHANNING
But the Government of 1892 supported the Bill of my hon. friend the Member for South Molton.
MR. GRANT LAWSON
We all know what Government support of a private Member's Bill on a Wednesday afternoon really means. The Government of 1892 certainly, but in no Government measure on the subject. The criticism directed against this Bill has come from the avowed opponents of the policy of freedom of contract because in certain cases it will allow farmers to make their own contracts. I consider that to suggest that farmers are incapable of entering into a contract and are liable to be imposed on, is a very poor compliment, and could only be paid by men who have no personal acquaintance with the very practical and business-like character of the agricultural community. Then it has been stated that this ought to be not an amending but a consolidating Bill. As a matter of fact, even after this Bill is passed, the whole of the law of England and Scotland dealing with agricultural tenancies can easily be put into one textbook small enough to be carried in the waistcoat pocket, if not capable of being carried in the head. This Bill will make the whole law on the subject rather shorter than longer. Farmers are not so unmindful of the class of man who acts 1561 as his own lawyer as to follow his example. If a farmer wants to consider the legal aspects of a case, it is not to the Acts of Parliament he will turn, but to a text-book which will show him the law as amended. It would be very easy indeed to draw up a short text-book of the law of England and Scotland on the subject of agricultural tenancies, and so simple are the amending and repealing sections of this Bill that anyone could do it who had a sufficient knowledge of the English and Scotch languages. The hon. Member for the South Molton Division dreamt of a code of laws which could be safely interpreted by the man in the street, but that will never be realised unless the legal profession is first of all abolished. With regard to the suggestion of a separate Act for Scotland, it is proposed that after we have finished the labour of passing an Agricultural Holdings Bill for England we should proceed to consider the very same problem and the very same remedy for Scotland, because that was the course pursued in 1883. In principle and in all their main features the two Acts are the same. I have referred to the Acts, and, with the translation of English terms into Scotch terms which I have been able to effect from my knowledge of both languages, both are practically identical. I daresay the microscopic eye of some Scotchman may be able to discover some difference, not apparent to a simple Saxon like myself, but so far as relates to anything touched on by this Bill they are practically identical. There are two differences—in Scotland four months previous notice is claimed before the end of a tenancy, and in England only two months is claimed, and the other difference is that in Scotland there is one referee unless the parties agree to two, whereas in England there are two referees unless the parties agree to one. The differences are immaterial, because the Bill abolishes previous notice altogether, and as regards referees the Bill adopts the Scotch and not the English method. I want to ask hon. Members for Scotland is it really worth while taking up the time of Parliament with a Scotch Bill, simply for the sake of calling an umpire, a "third's man," instead of having an interpretation clause in the present Bill. I should like to ask a more weighty and important question. Is it worth while to 1562 divide the agricultural forces in this House, already weak enough, by setting English county Members to work on a Bill for England, and Scotch county Members to work on a Bill for Scotland? Surely it is better that the whole agricultural party should deal with this Bill, which will have the same effect in both countries. By this Bill the Scotch farmer will get much that he wants, and he is canny enough to recognise that a Bill in the hand is worth any prospect of legislation in the undefined future. I hope hon. Members for Scotland will not press their opposition, but will allow this Bill to pass its Second Reading, and then join with us in making it as perfect as we can in Committee.
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)
I desire to answer at once the appeal of the hon. Gentleman. He puts to Scotch Members, generally, the question whether it is worth while to have a Scotch Bill. I will answer in some detail that question by and by, but Members on this side of the House who hail from Scotland share in the opinion expressed by my hon. friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire, that this Bill as it is drawn will produce a maximum of confusion, because of its draughtsmanship, particularly with reference to our country, and in such a degree that it will require half a generation of judicial decisions in order to reconcile it with the main body of Scotch law. I agree that in this discussion we should avoid purely Committee points, and although I shall have to comment strongly on the draughtsmanship of the measure, I shall only do so on the broad ground that it is in point of form the very worst kind of legislation, namely, legislation by reference. Agriculturists in Scotland have waited very long indeed for some remedial measure. A promise of such a measure was made in the Queen's Speech in the first session of this Parliament and in each succeeding Queen's Speech, but I feel bound to say that I do not think that this measure will prove very satisfactory. On opening the Bill one's enthusiasm is at once damped, because the very first sub-section of Section 1 excludes all that class of tenants—the sitting tenants—whom Sir James Caird described as the backbone of agriculture. But the real test of the substantial value of 1563 this Bill will be found in the schedules. The whole question, so far as principle is concerned, is in Sub-section 1—namely, that the test to be applied as regards compensation is the value of the improvements to the incoming tenant, but I deeply regret that Her Majesty's Government have shown little confidence in that principle in the details of the schedules. The fact is that, under that principle, there is security to the landlord, and he pays, as he ought, only for value received. If the tenant got more it would be unfair to the landlord; if he got less it would be unfair to the tenant. What we say with regard to the schedules is that we hope the House and the Government will show more trust in the principle that has been laid down. Under the details of the schedules it is still permitted to the landlord to pocket in a very large measure the increased value of the holding on the technical plea that he did not give his consent to his property being improved. That is practically a repetition, not an advance on the principle laid down in the Act of 1883. It is true that there is an increase in the number of cases in which compensation is obtainable if notice had been given by the tenant to the landlord that the improvements were to be executed. We thought, of course, that that increase would include substantial and cardinal things, such as permanent fences or buildings, or permanent pasture, but I am bound to say that agriculturists in the north will be especially disappointed that the additions to the schedule do not include substantial or important matters, but such small and trivial affairs in the main as gardens, orchards, or osier beds all under one acre. Intense dissatisfaction will be produced by the introduction of these trivial matters instead of far weightier matters of law. Under the system that prevails at present the labour, skill, and capital of the tenant are practically confiscated. The best and most industrious class of tenants in Scotland have had year by year their fortunes depleted by nothing less than confiscation, and we did think that there would be some diminution of that state of affairs, which in many instances has approached almost a scandal. Instead, however, of a diminution of these cases, we have practically a re-affirmation of the whole of them. With reference to the drafting of this Bill, it is the worst and most confused which 1564 has been produced in recent times either by a Government or a private Member. As regards Scotland, it is legislation by reference. Clause 2 refers to the Scotch Acts of 1883 and 1889. Now, the question has been asked, why should there not be a simple and convenient code in one statute? The hon. Member for Thirsk appears to see the force of that contention, because he suggests that people should not have to ascertain the law from the language used by hon. Members in this House, but should have the assistance of commentators in text books. That, in my opinion, would be an abrogation on the part of this House, not only of its functions, but of its absolute duty. In this Bill there are fourteen clauses, but there are also clauses in the schedules fifty-seven in number—that is to say, we have a Bill of seventy-one clauses. The Scotch Act of 1883 contains forty-three clauses and seventeen schedules. The sixty items in the Scotch Act are represented by seventy-one items in the present Bill, and as a result our Scotch Bill is reduced to a condition of tatters—"a thing of shreds and patches"—which will render confusion worse confounded. I really protest on behalf of the Scotch agricultural interest against this method of dealing with this question. It has been asked by the hon. Member for Thirsk, why should Scotland demand a separate measure? I will answer that question. Scotland demands a separate measure for a variety of reasons, the principal of which is that the whole history of the land tenure of England and of Scotland is essentially diverse, and the progress of agriculture is also different. In the next place, our system, not only as regards history, but also as regards legal tenure, is as different as if the two systems were not only in different parts of one country, but in different planets. We speak a totally different language in these matters, and, as we think, a much more sensible and intelligible language. I have asked the meaning of the expression in this measure, "cesser of a contract of tenancy," and I have been told by English lawyers that not only is it not sound English law, but that it is not a good English expression. Yet that expression is incorporated in this Bill by way of an improvement on the definition of the words "determination of tenancy," which is 1565 already defined in our Scotch Acts as the determination of the lease. Our Scotch judges will have to puzzle over what is known as "the mind of Parliament," when, instead of the "determination of the lease," they will have to interpret the new expression "the cesser of a contract of tenancy." That is a sample of the kind of foreign language introduced into this Bill. But my final reason for a Scotch measure is, that the whole history of Parliamentary dealings with reference to this subject entitles us to say that we ought to have a separate Scotch measure, as we had in 1883. I am not aware that there is any confusion or difficulty in putting into the Scotch language for our own country the requirements of Scotch agriculturists, and I do not see why any Government should endeavour to combine in one measure for England and Scotland legislation with reference to different systems of land tenure and different systems of agricultural holdings. It has been demonstrated that every consideration of convenience, example, and precedent is in favour of a separate measure, so that we shall know our own law in our own language in our own country. That is what we desire, and what Parliament has been gracious enough to afford to us in the past, and there is no reason why we should be treated differently now, or in a more cavalier fashion than the rest of the country. Of course it may be said that it was to save the draftsman trouble. If that be the plea it is a petty and contemptible excuse for a failure of Parliamentary duty. It will put every landlord and farmer in Scotland into trouble for a generation, in order that the drafting department of the Government may be saved trouble. There will be animadversion from the humblest farmer up to the judicial bench against this method of legislation, which is so derogatory to the true interests in point of principle and intelligibility of our Parliamentary proceedings. This bad, confusing, distracting Bill has been drafted deliberately. I will give the House one or two illustrations of what I mean with regard to the confused draftsmanship of this Bill. The Bill consists of fourteen clauses, and Section 7 does not apply to Scotland at all. Again, Sub-section 4 of Section 3 does not apply to Scotland, but it is in respect to Section 3 that we approach the climax. Section 3 1566 states that the powers of the county court under the principal Act—which appears to be the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1883, but which later, we learn, is nothing of the kind—with respect to charges shall be exercised by the Board of Agriculture, and accordingly the Board of Agriculture shall be substituted for the county court in Sections 29, 30, 31, 32, and 39 of that Act. But Section 10 states that references to the principal Act, and to Sections 29, 30, 31, 32, and 34 thereof, shall be construed as references to the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1883, and to Sections 24, 26, 25, and 30 thereof respectively, and that Sections 31 and 39 of the principal Act shall not apply at all. I say that is perfectly grotesque, and that Scotland is entitled to better treatment. Again, in another sub-section there is a reference which, as far as Scotland is concerned, is a reference to nothing in the world. I make no reflection on the person who drew this Bill. A Scotch writer, Dr. John Brown, said that there was a deal of fine confused feeding in a sheep's head. Now in this Bill there is a good deal of fine confused feeding, but the fineness is on the minimum scale and the confusion is on the maximum scale. The climax of confusion, however, is reached in the schedules. When one looks at these schedules the wonder is what is left of Scotch legislation. Section 1 of the Scotch Bill is repealed, then a few sections are left alone, and Sections 6 and 8 are repealed, and then a gap begins. But they are not content with repealing some sections and leaving other sections alone, but at Section 16 they say that is repealed from the beginning thereof to "within the county," and from "the amount awarded" to the end of the section. This is the gift which the Minister of Agriculture is giving to the Scotch farmers! I never knew anything more confused. It would require an army of commentators to make it intelligible. There is no system, no code, no intelligibility, no convenience, no coherence about it. I can remember nothing in literature like it, except the reference that Captain Cuttle made to the qualities of his watch. I can fancy the Minister of Agriculture saying to the Scotch farmer, "A parting gift, my lad. If you put it back half an hour in the morning, and a quarter of an hour now and again in the 1567 afternoon, it is a watch that will do you credit." That is exactly the situation in which the Scotch farmer finds himself. It is as if the legislative watch had been worn by some legislative Captain Cuttle. It is said that the Scotch legal authorities were consulted upon this matter. In those days of verdant hope regarding agricultural reform in 1896, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture was asked a question as to whether there would be a separate Scotch measure, and this is the answer which he gave to the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire—The provisions of the Bill to amend the Agricultural Holdings Act, of which I have given notice, will certainly be made applicable to Scotland as well as to England, but whether by means of a separate clause or clauses in the English Bill, or by a Bill specially dealing with Scotland, is a matter which is at present under consideration by the Scottish legal authorities."*
§ *MR LONG
In 1896, the answer I gave was to the effect that I was taking the advice of the Scotch legal authorities. Between that time and the time of introducing this Bill, I received that advice, and in conjunction with the Scotch Department, and entirely with their approval, I determined to adopt the plan embodied in the Bill.
§ MR. THOMAS SHAW
I quite agree that the right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the scheme of the Bill, and I hold him responsible for defects of a very grave order in it; but I am not going for one moment to acquit any department of responsibility for any advice given in regard to this matter. I say that all the precedents were entirely in our favour as to the necessity for a separate Bill for Scotland, and we shall listen with some interest to know why the precedents have been departed from on the present occasion. I suppose there is a kind of policy which is represented in high quarters at present of which we had a cynical intimation from the Financial Secretary for War, who, in answer to a question, said that Scotland was a part of England.* [HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!] I hope the hon. Gentleman's life will be spared when he goes north of the Tweed. I suppose that, by parity of reasoning,* See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. xxxvii., page 237.†Ibid., Vol. lxxx., p. 480.1568 England may be called a part of Birmingham. These jokes may be good enough for Englishmen, and they may pass in England, but when you put a joke of that kind, even an English joke, into a Bill, you are going beyond the score. I want to know particularly on behalf of my Scotch friends what is the reason why, with regard to arbitration, you should substitute the Board of Agriculture sitting in London for the Sheriff, and the practice before the Sheriffs Court which we have in Scotland for the nomination of arbitrators. The Sheriff is on the spot. If you think he has not sufficient knowledge of agriculture, he has certainly much knowledge of the locality to be dealt with, and the men in the district. But if you desire to have an official other than the Sheriff, surely there are numerous Scotch boards capable of appointing arbitrators, instead of going to London for the nomination by the Board of Agriculture, by which system we may get gentlemen from Cornwall sent to arbitrate in Aberdeen, or gentlemen from Kent sent to Shetland to decide the compensation to be given to a Shetland farmer. We are perfectly satisfied with the Scotch system, and we prefer a Scotch nomination. I do say we are entitled to contrast our position in regard to this matter with that in Ireland. Ireland has recently had the appointment of a separate Board of Agriculture, but Scotland, instead of being so treated according to our needs and our history, is to be treated as an annexe of England, with all its inconveniences. There is a perfect infatuation abroad in dealing with Scotland, and with our own institutions. I never knew a Government that was so chary of giving Scotch legislation according to Scotch ideas. I know the meaning of it. It is obvious. If there were a separate Bill for Scotland we would see in every division the great majority of the Scotch Members on one side, and the Government and the majority of English Members on the other. Hence the Government do not like separate Scotch measures. I would like further to add that there has been in recent history in regard to Scotch legislation one fact which is of the greatest value with regard to what I call the advance by way of amendment on Scotch measures. We had a separate Bill in 1883. Now there are contained in this Bill various amendments in the schedule in regard to the 1569 subject of arbitration, the preference for a single arbitrator, and so forth. Will the House believe that we had a separate Scotch Bill in 1889 amending the Scotch Bill of 1883, and those very things which were referred to by an hon. Gentleman opposite as a great advantage in this Bill, we had eleven years ago, because we had a separate Bill which could be separately amended? I think it is a pity that the Government have departed from that good rule of having separate Scotch measures which are capable of separate amendment. I am bound to say that if that Bill of 1889 had been introduced as an amendment of a compound Bill for England and Scotland it would have had but a very poor chance of passing through the House of Commons then. I protest against the Bill on account of its draughtsmanship. I think, particularly in regard to Scotland, the draughtsmanship is confused almost to the point of being fantastic. I would express the hope that it is not too late to permit of Scotland being treated, according to its needs and its records, both from an agricultural and a national point of view, by a separate measure.
§ *MR. LOYD (Berkshire, Abingdon)
I do not propose to detain the House for more than a few moments, but I could not help thinking, in listening to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that he hardly did justice to his well-known powers and legal acumen in describing the hopeless state of confusion to which he found himself reduced by the perusal of this Bill. This Bill amends legislation which already applies to Scotland as well as to England, and it gives effect to no fewer than eleven out of the thirteen recommendations of the Royal Commission on Agriculture. It only omits to give effect to two—the recommendation that there should be a schedule of landlords' dilapidations, and that in the case of tenancies from year to year there should be a limit to the landlord's claim under Section 6 for waste to two years. But this Bill gives effect to four or five additional recommendations which were made by the committee of the Central Chamber of Agriculture. Further, it provides a simplified method of procedure for giving compensation to which the tenant is entitled, and I think that when that is considered it can hardly be said that it is a very 1570 bad Bill. The main objections to the Bill have turned upon the fact that a certain number of recommendations made by the Chamber of Agriculture and other persons of authority in farming matters have not been adopted. But that fact does not in itself constitute any serious indictment against the Bill, because, as I understand, the whole of this legislation in regard to compensation has hitherto taken the form not of imposing fresh terms upon unwilling parties, but of recognising and giving definiteness and extension to those reasonable arrangements which had already to a large extent become customary owing to the spread of enlightenment among those engaged in agriculture. Therefore, in abstaining at this stage from discussing in detail the complaints as to what is omitted from the Bill, it may be urged generally, and as a matter of principle underlying the whole of this Agricultural Holdings legislation, that the Government are not entitled to take the wishes of this or that body, however well informed, and make them compulsory all over the country as part of the usual conditions of tenancy unless they have already been so largely adopted voluntarily as to have been thoroughly tried by experience. For, what were the steps by which this Agricultural Holdings legislation became possible? With the introduction of improvements and scientific farming the defenceless position of the out-going tenant in respect of improvements and acts of husbandry was seen by the most enlightened landowners and land agents to be unjustifiable, and most injurious to good farming. The agreements voluntarily made on the best managed estates, between the most enlightened landlords and tenants, led the way in reform. Smaller properties and scattered tenancies here and there in the neighbourhood thought what had been found suitable and fair on the big estate would do for them, and thus, gradually, the "custom of the country" arose of making such and such allowances. But at this stage of progress a fresh difficulty presented itself. When a tenancy was determined and any dispute arose, there was often great doubt as to whether the custom to be relied upon really applied to that precise locality, or whether it would be wiser to rely upon a slightly different custom which was also very prevalent at no great distance from the farm in question. The area of each 1571 custom was necessarily vague, and, to avoid the perplexities thus arising, legislation was invoked to give definiteness and universality of application to such customs as had stood the test of actual experience, and only needed to be freed from the doubts and vagueness and opportunity for litigation incidental to them. But such customs only applied where the agreement was silent, and therefore the Acts were confined to recognising certain rules and methods of compensation as reasonable and proper to be applied unless the parties preferred to make their own arrangements. A great deal of what is heard about the power of contracting out is really directed against the continuance of that perfect freedom of contract which existed always side by side with those customs of the country whose vagueness was remedied by the Acts, but which never had any application in over-ruling any agreement which the parties thought fit to make. Now, judging the present Bill by these principles, a great deal may be said in favour of the decision to refuse admission to some of the proposals urged from various quarters. And wherever something which is thought very desirable by large and influential bodies of agriculturists has been refused admission to the Bill, I presume it is on the ground that that particular matter is considered to be not yet sufficiently adopted in different parts of the country to be treated as a custom requiring legislative recognition to remove uncertainty in its application, and that it is better to leave those who insist strongly upon it to make it a matter of agreement. Of the matters which have been omitted, the question of placing the laying down of permanent pasture in the second part of the first schedule, instead of in the first part, is undoubtedly one of the most important in the estimation of the farmers. But, on the other hand, it is not one of those which the Royal Commission saw its way to endorse, and therefore, in the absence of any strong body of evidence that landlords were unreasonably withholding consent—certainly a very large acreage had been so laid down within the last ten or fifteen years—probably the Government regard this as one of the points which should be left to agreement. But I believe that the farmers attach no less importance, perhaps even greater importance, to the proposal that two years and older seeds, 1572 where there is a good plant, and the land is clean and in good heart, should be placed in the third part of the schedule, as a matter for compensation irrespective of either notice to or consent by the landlord. On tins point I think the Government may be asked even now to re-consider the wishes of the farmers, and I desire to join my honourable friend the Member for North Hampshire in the remarks which he made in that direction. I think there is also a good deal to be said, in the interests of the parties and for promoting the speedy settlement of disputes, for adopting the proposal of the Royal Commission that the period in respect of which the landlords might claim for waste or breach, under Section 6 of the Act, should be limited in the case of tenancies from year to year to a period of two years. On this point, however, at the proper stage it will be necessary to discuss the effect of the repeal of Section 6 and the substitution of other provisions. But on the point of putting the two years awl older seeds into the third part of the schedule, I feel sure that if the right hon. Gentleman can see his way to meet the farmers, he will find he has in no way rendered the Bill less acceptable to the agricultural interests generally. In regard to the Scotch claim for separate legislation, I think the hon and learned Member for the Hawick Burghs is not quite correct in saying that there is no precedent whatever for joining the two countries in one Bill, in spite of divergencies of language and even of practice, where there are strong grounds of convenience for doing so. I remember myself when the law regarding bills of exchange—a law largely originating in custom—was codified, the admirable way in which the Scotch lawyers worked with the English lawyers, and several compromises were effected, so as to secure uniformity for the whole country, and no grievance has existed since. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having produced a really useful measure.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire. E.)
The hon. Member for the Abingdon Division has slightly misapprehended the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the Hawick Burghs. We did not object at all in regard to the Bills of Exchange Act to uniform legislation for England and Scotland. The point of my hon. and learned friend was, 1573 that on the subject of agricultural legislation we have had in the past separate measures and a separate system of administration to which we are accustomed, which we know well, and trust well; and we claim here our right that this subject shall be treated separately in the future as in the past by separate Acts of Parliament, so that our constituents may clearly apprehend it without difficulty. I do not propose to follow the observations of my hon and learned friend, because he has analysed with great skill the details of this Bill. The hon. Member for Thirsk made an unfortunate observation when he appealed to our human instincts not to prolong this debate. He went on to say that when a Liberal party was in power they did not amend the Agricultural Holdings Act. The Liberal party were in office up to 1886, but I do not think that Mr. Gladstone with the Home Rule question on hand could have attempted to amend the Act which had only been passed two years before.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
In 1893, 1894, and 1895, upon every occasion of the introduction of the Queen's speech, an Amendment was moved from the opposite side of the House clamouring for legislation on this subject, and complaining of the neglect of legislation on agriculture by the Liberal Government. The Amendment in 1893 was moved by the right hon. Member for Ripon, in 1894 by the hon. Baronet the Member for Central Sheffield, and in 1895 by the hon. Member for Basingstoke. Not content with that, in 1894 the hon. and gallant Member for South-east Essex moved the adjournment of the House as a matter of definite public importance on the 13th April,* and was supported by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture.
§ *MR. LONG
I beg pardon; I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. I under-* See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. xxiii., page 342.1574 stood him to state that I moved an Amendment as to the necessity of the amendment of the Agricultural Holdings Act.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
In so far as the neglect of the interest of agriculture included the question of tenants' compensation. I venture to quote the right hon. Gentleman's words. They are very apt words, and better express what we think than any words of mine. In February, 1893, when supporting a motion for the adjournment of the House, the President of the Board of Agriculture said—A number of Members opposite have been returned to the House on an agricultural platform. During the General Election they never tired of telling their constituents how much they would do if they were returned to the House, but they have not shown any great eagerness in this debate to redeem the pledges they have given."*Does not that apply to the present condition of affairs? When the present Government came into power at the last General Election, and this Parliament assembled in August, 1895, my hon. and gallant friend the Member for East Norfolk moved an Amendment to the Address in the exact words of the hon. Member for Basingstoke, which was received with very great indignation by the hon. Member for Basingstoke and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture, though they had previously supported a similar Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture on the 16th of August, 1895, said—When the right time came they would be prepared with their proposals and suggestions—not merely to lay them before the House, but to give them practical effect."†That was nearly five years ago. What happened shortly after that? On the very first day of the session of 1896 the President of the Board of Agriculture gave notice from the front bench that or an early day he would ask leave to introduce a Bill to amend the law in regard to agricultural holdings, but from that day until March 12th, 1900—a lapse of more than four years—no further step was taken to further the subject, by a party in possession of a majority of 140! Now after four years we have the Bill before us.* See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. viii., page 704.† See Ibid., Vol. xxxvi., page 244.1575 The hon. Member for Basingstoke speaks of this Bill as a small amending Bill, and the hon. and gallant Member for South-east Essex considers it as good a Bill as you can expect under the circumstances. I do not think these words very enthusiastic. They remind me of the Indian proverb, that it is better to have a one-eyed maternal uncle than no uncle at all. That is the way these hon. Gentlemen are prepared to support this Bill instead of a Bill of a more substantial character. But let us see what the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues said they were going to do to relieve agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman in the very short speech he made when he introduced this Bill told us he was going to settle all the difficulties between owners and occupiers of land; but when we come to see the Bill, and listen to the debate on it, I think that the performance of the right hon. Gentleman lags very far indeed behind his promise on that occasion. In the month of December, 1898, the right hon. Gentleman, in addressing the annual meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, spoke of the necessity of amending the law in regard to the occupation of the land, and hoped he would be in a position to do so very soon. Can any man reasonably say that this very limited and attenuated Bill deals in a satisfactory way with the great question of the ownership and occupation of land? But the President of the Board of Agriculture is not the only member of Her Majesty's Government who has made statements and given promises, here and elsewhere, as to what they were going to do for agriculture. The Colonial Secretary has made promises, and given rise to hopes no effectual fulfilment of which has ever been given. I am not going to quote from any speech of the right hon. Gentleman in his unregenerate days, but from a speech he made on July 22nd, 1895. That was in the middle of the General Election, when the right hon. Gentleman held the important post of Colonial Secretary, and when he was looked upon as one of the most important members of the Government. He has told us that the old Government could not give time to English agriculture, but they could give time for the Irish Land Bill, and then he made the usual allusion to the honest English tenants and the dishonest Irish tenants, and he went on 1576 to say that compensation for improvements would be given by the Unionists if they were returned to power; that the Unionists wished to give to the English farmer the opportunities and facilities possessed by the Irish tenantry of becoming owners instead of occupiers of their holdings, and so far as the Colonial Secretary could, he would endeavour of persuade the Government to bring in a scheme, on the lines of the Irish Land Bill, to apply to England and Scotland. No action whatever has been taken by the Government, and for a Minister to go down and contest an election with specious promises of that character, and not make an effort to carry them out, is a gross imposture. In view of the promises held out to the agricultural electors of this country at the time of the General Election, I think the Bill which we have heard discussed to-night cannot fail to be considered unsatisfactory. It only deals with the merest fringe of the question, and is a beggarly redemption of the promises made to the agricultural interest by its promoters and supporters. I have heard with great interest the statement made with regard to the new scheme of arbitration; but having studied this Bill very carefully, I fail to see where the cheapness comes in as compared with the present method of procedure. That method would be one of the best which could be adopted if it could be made cheap, and I hope we shall have some explanation from the right hon. Gentleman with regard to it. I would suggest that the work be carried out by an arbiter. In special cases there might be two and an umpire. Appeals to the High Court in England or to the Court of Session in Scotland are to be deprecated. Now, with regard to the Bill, we have overwhelming evidence in the Report of the Royal Commission that the system of the Agricultural Act of 1883, both in England and Scotland, has lamentably failed. It has absolutely failed to carry out the purposes it was intended to serve. Surely it would have been worth the while of the Government under those circumstances to start de novo, and endeavour to establish a new method for the benefit of the tenants in the future. I am not going to suggest new legislation, but in the Crofters Acts there are provisions, not only for the land court and fixity of tenure, but for giving the tenants com- 1577 pensation for their improvements, and if the Government were to introduce a simple method such as exists in the Crofters Acts they would effect a real and fundamental reform. The landlord and tenant would endeavour to agree as before, but if they did not agree the Board of Agriculture would appoint an arbiter. The general demand in Scotland has been that official arbiters should be appointed, so that farmers could send to the Sheriff and an arbiter could be appointed and quickly settle the difference between the landlord and the tenant. There will be great disappointment in Scotland that such a scheme has not been carried out. This Bill will not apply to improvements which have been or are now being made, but only to such improvements as are commenced after it comes into force. That is carrying its non-retrospective aspect to great lengths. Then, again, if there are suitable and proper tribunals to assess improvements there is no need for any schedule. Of the new matters in the schedule I can only find osier beds, which Scotland does not possess, and orchards, of which she has very few. They are very small alterations indeed from the existing schedule of improvements. I join with the hon. Member for Hawick in what he said against the President of the Board of Agriculture having anything to do with this Department in future. The Board of Agriculture is an English Department having no office in Scotland, and its Minister, always an Englishman, though, no doubt, conversant with English affairs, cannot be expected to be conversant with Scottish affairs. I have a great admiration for the right hon. Gentleman and the way he dealt with the rabies question, but no one knows better than himself what a farce his connection with Scotland is. He goes down there once a year, and attends a conference of the agricultural societies in the afternoon and a dinner in the evening. I have never attended these conferences myself, but I understand that in the afternoon speeches are made to him, and I am sorry to say at him, and in the evening he makes a speech, when I am happy to say his hearers are better prepared to listen to him than earlier in the day. But that is not business: it is not the way we want the agricultural affairs of Scotland dealt with. Our countries and customs are distinct, and this is the first 1578 step which has been taken for extending the administration of departments in England to a purely Scotch matter, because by this Bill we are giving the Board of Agriculture a similar position in Scotland to that which it holds in England. Scotch farmers generally prefer to deal with the Sheriff, whom they know and whose mode of work they know, rather than with a new Department like the Board of Agriculture, which dwells a long way off and which cannot be fully alive to their interests. The benefits, such as they are, conferred by this Bill are meant to be valuable to all tenants, but when it is worked out in view of agriculture in Scotland, it will be found that the Bill is largely inoperative. It contemplates farms of a large size, and a system of tenure under which improvements are elected by the landlord. It contemplates giving facilities and advantages to the larger class of tenants, which is the only class which was able to take advantage of the Act of 1883; the smaller tenants of Aberdeenshire could not use the Act of 1883, nor can they use this Act. The cost forbids it, and the procedure forbids it. To them this Bill will be a dead letter. In Aberdeenshire in 1881 there were 11,300 farms, of which over 6,000 were under £30 in annual value, and 3,300 under £10, and 2,700 under £100. More than half of the men represent that class to which this procedure is inapplicable. In West Aberdeenshire there are 3,045 farms, two-thirds of which are under £30, and in those cases all the improvements have been made by the tenant, and all the improvements in cultivation also. The late Government endeavoured to benefit these tenants by extending the operations of the Crofters Acts to them, and exception was taken because we were proposing measures of emergency exceeding the then present needs. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman now the First Lord of the Treasury said that, in his opinion, small tenants had an absolute right to be protected in their improvements, and he would like to see that protection extended in a safe form to all cases where the tenant had taken pains to improve the holding which he occupied. I venture to say these tenants have been unable to take advantage of the Act of 1883, and will be unable to take advantage of this when it is passed. To four-fifths of the tenants of Scotland it will not 1579 apply at all, and the remainder, by its operation, will obtain far less than their just demands.
§ MR. J. H. JOHNSTONE (Sussex, Horsham)
It must indeed be gratifying to the Government that the only criticism which this Bill has met with from the other side has been a rehearsal of advanced proofs of election literature, and yet such has practically been the case. The hon. Member for Hawick Burghs has said that there would be some difficulty in translating the terms of the measure into his native tongue, but I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has not appreciated his own powers as a translator, and I am quite certain that he must very unduly under-estimate the ability of his fellow countrymen—the ability of the Scotch tenant to discover anything which might be to his material interest and advantage, put it in what language and in what terms you like. In my opinion the right hon. Gentleman and the Government are to be heartily congratulated on this measure. No doubt the incubation of the measure has been long; it has been mentioned in many a gracious Speech from the Throne, and it has been subject to many a kindly reference at many of the festive gatherings following the agricultural meetings. It is the production of three gentlemen whose names are on the back of the Bill—gentlemen of marked ability, great perseverance, and great resource—and I can hardly suppose that the long period that these three gentlemen have been bending over the cauldron has caused the soup absolutely to boil away. I say that the Government and the House are to be heartily congratulated on this measure, because it is a source of real congratulation that after so many deliberations, after such careful investigations, and after so much criticism they have had in dealing with this subject, they find that the relationship between landlord and tenant is of such a nature that all that is needed to make it absolutely perfect is to be found within the four corners of this Bill. The Government is also to be congratulated that the measure has been read with the most friendly feelings, at all events by those whom it is intended to benefit, whilst the hostility to the measure has been confined to the conventionalities of debate, the sort 1580 of conventionalities which we hear against every single measure which does not come from the other side. The only thing I have not heard it called is an "insidious measure." We have heard all the other usual comments, such as "it is not doing what it is intended to do," "it goes too far," "it does not go far enough," and so on. It must indeed be a very great matter of satisfaction to us all to know that so little is required to make the relationship of landlord and tenant work smoothly and easily for the future. The fact is there is no doubt about it that the ordinary agricultural tenant cherishes the idea that he can make a much better bargain for himself than we in this House can make for him, and I think he is right. I will point out one or two apparent contradictions in this Bill. Sub-clause 3 says that in ascertaining the compensation any benefits which the landlord has given are to be taken into account. But in Sub-clause 5 we find that it says that nothing in this section—and therefore not the benefits—nothing in this section is to abridge the right of the tenant to claim compensation under customs agreements or otherwise. Well, as I understand it, this means that if the tenant thinks he can do better for himself by not taking into consideration the benefits which he has already got from the landlord, he is at liberty to throw him overboard altogether. I hardly think that this is a fair and satisfactory way of dealing with this subject, but I believe a good deal may depend upon that mysterious word "otherwise," which perhaps there may be some difficulty in translating into the Scotch tongue. When I had some elements of law instilled physically into my brain, I remember one of the maxims in those days was that the law existed for the benefit of people who took care of their own interests, and not for those who slept upon their rights, and it seems rather a violation of that ancient maxim to say that the tenant may claim by custom, by agreement, or otherwise. Thus the man who has slept on his rights, who has been perfectly careless of his interests, is to be allowed to come in and claim all the advantage in this, which, after all, I suppose, is a measure of considerable substance. I think it is a great pity that we should have introduced such words as "custom agreements and otherwise" for the compensation. While 1581 we were about it we should have made a measure which was quite comprehensive and inclusive, one which could be recorded both in the English tongue and the Scottish tongue as "The Charter of the Agricultural Tenant's Freedom; price twopence." He might be able to buy it, take it home, and study it; look upon it as his own measure, and hang it up in his sitting-room; and there he could have it in front of him at a very moderate price, so that at all events he might please himself by imagining that he understands an Act of Parliament. After all, there is a great deal to praise in this measure. I know the difficulties of Parliamentary procedure, and I am quite aware in a session such as this it might be a little difficult to pass a complete measure dealing with this subject. The main feature of the Bill is the simplicity of its procedure. That is a most praise worthy object which commands sympathy. One of the objections to the principal Act was the elaborate nature of its procedure, and the immense number of notices and forms which had to be exchanged between the parties. It has sometimes seemed to me that those procedure clauses in the principal Act had been framed by law stationers. I cannot imagine any other human being who could have compiled them than those who sell forms at so much a dozen. It is very praiseworthy that the procedure for assessing compensation under the principal Act should be so much simplified as it is in this measure. Provision is made for settling disputes by one arbitrator unless the parties otherwise desire; but why not be content with making it the real state of things that arbitration shall be before a single arbitrator? The second part of the clause, providing a hearing before two arbitrators, is purely voluntary. The tenant is not obliged to take advantage of it, and I do not think he ought to be encouraged to. He does not want an Act of Parliament to say that he may if he likes. I cannot congratulate the Government on their proposal to abolish penal rents. If they are abolished there ought to be some such provision as this: "The tenant shall not break up old pasture until he has given sufficient notice to the landlord to enable him to apply for an injunction in a Court of Chancery." It would not be an unreasonable thing that a landlord should have sufficient notice to defend his rights in a court of law, if he thinks fit to do so. It is a thing of which 1582 you cannot measure damage in pounds, shillings and pence. As far as I know, penal rent has never worked injustice or been complained of by any man on whom it has been executed. I am not altogether satisfied with the provision as to compensation as given in the first clause, though I am very well satisfied to see that expression about "the inherent capabilities of the soil" disappear. I think it might be well worth considering whether the amount awarded should be the value to an incoming tenant. I would rather suggest that it should be the capitalised value of the amount by which the value of the holding in the open market at the time of the determination of the tenancy is increased by improvement. That would be fair to both parties, and would give a standard which the arbitrators could work by and would have no difficulty in adopting. I have only one other word to say with regard to the measure, and that is that I greatly regret that the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with one subject, and made a complete and entire sweep of what I consider to be, after all, an unreal and unsubstantial grievance. I am sorry he has not dealt with the sitting tenant. I say it is an unreal and a theoretical grievance. In theory it is difficult to justify. It is difficult to see why a man who elects to remain in his holding, perhaps at an increased rent, perhaps at the same rent when it might have been let to another man at a lower rent, and does not face the discomforts, and in some cases the expense, of moving, should be in a worse position. Theoretically it is a grievance, but, on the other hand, it is an unreal and unsubstantial grievance. I think it is a pity the right hon. Gentleman, who has dealt with other matters in so satisfactory a manner, has not swept away that last real shadow of a platform grievance. I am certain it does not pass the wit of mankind to discover words to do it. I have felt it my duty to criticise in no hostile or unfriendly manner the proposals of my right hon. friend. I congratulate him on having produced a Bill which sweeps away an immense amount of antiquated rubbish in procedure. It is a Bill which I believe will be appreciated and welcomed by those whom he desires to benefit, and will be approved alike by landlords and tenants.
§ SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)
The position of the Scotch tenants differs considerably from that of the tenants in England. My hon. friend the Member for East Aberdeen has already pointed that out to a certain extent. The essential difference between the English tenants and the crofters has been recognised by legislative enactment. We have separate legislation for the crofters; and what is the reason of that? It is because, whereas in England the landlord almost invariably makes the improvements, in the crofting districts the tenants make the improvements. Therefore, the presumption in the one case is that the improvements are made by the landlord, and in the other case the presumption is that the improvements are made by the tenant, and it is evident that the same procedure is not suitable to meet these two sets of cases. The improvements made by the crofters are not of a small kind, but of the most solid kind. It is the custom in Scotland for the crofter to reclaim the land, to drain it, to clear away boulders, and actually to build houses upon the land. He is not in a position to be compared with the English tenant who is simply claiming for unconsumed manures. My constituents are in almost exactly the same position as the tenants in the crofting counties across the Spey. The small farmers in the north of Scotland are in an altogether different position from those in Hampshire or Gloucestershire, where they do not dream of making improvements. The extreme inconvenience of applying the same law to both cases is at once shown if we look at the first schedule, in which buildings are excluded. I have heard some hon. Gentleman say that it would be absurd to put buildings in the first schedule, because the landlord almost always makes the buildings, and that it is quite an unusual thing for the tenant to make them. It is evident that an Act which applies to both classes is not a suitable one for the people in my part of the country. The fact is that the people of Banffshire and Aberdeenshire do not differ from those in the crofting counties in the north-west of Scotland in any respect except that they do not go in for raids and disturbances. I have very little doubt, though I say it with regret, that if the area of disturbances had extended to that part the 1584 people there would probably have been included in the Crofters Act. In 1895 I brought forward a Bill to extend the Crofters Act to certain counties in the north-east of Scotland, and the Government of the day accepted an Amendment to that effect in their Bill to amend the Crofters Act. Unfortunately, it was very strongly opposed. My hon. friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire has referred to the remarks of the present Leader of the House on that occasion. The right hon. Gentleman strongly opposed the extension of the Crofters Act to these counties, but he quite admitted the need of an improvement being made, and he spoke quite warmly on the subject. I therefore feel that we can appeal to him that if the Crofters Act is not extended we shall at any rate have the greatest possible benefit from the amendment of the Agricultural Holdings Act, and that we may have a separate Act for Scotland. The matter can then be dealt with in such a way that Scotch public opinion will have due weight in modifying its provisions. Reference has been made to the good management of the Fife estates, a great many of which are in Banffshire. It is quite true that the estate rules completely protect the tenants' improvements. The system of the Earls of Fife was to let crofters take up as much land as they liked at a very moderate rent, on the understanding that there would be no enhancement of rent, and that the landlord would give them no help in reference to their improvements; the tenants undertook to make the improvements, and the landlord undertook not to enhance the rent. It was a most satisfactory arrangement. The Earl of Fife who introduced the arrangement has been called the "Good Earl," and the people have prospered under the system. But now comes in the weak point of such an arrangement. As long as the land belonged to the Fife estate it was all right, but the present Duke of Fife is selling a good deal of the land, and the purchasers are in no way bound by these rules. There is nothing whatever to prevent the purchasers confiscating the improvements of the tenants and raising the rent to the full value of the holdings. It is necessary that the Act should contemplate a condition of things of that sort, but it is impossible to do so if it is coupled with the English Act. I live in Gloucestershire, and there could not be a 1585 greater contrast than between the crofter of Banffshire and the small farmer of Gloucestershire, and the idea of the same law being suitable to both is absurd. With regard to the provisions of the present Bill, I regret that the right hon. Gentleman did not agree to the request that the consideration of the measure might be postponed in order to enable us to consult our constituents on the matter. But not long ago I took occasion to have a very thorough consultation with those of my constituents who are interested in land, and therefore am in possession of their general views on the subject, though not, of course, with regard to this particular measure. I ascertained what were the practical difficulties with which they had to deal, and the parts of the existing Act of which they approved, and the parts of which they dis-disapproved. Very briefly, they approve of the principle of the Act of 1883. That Act laid down for the first time the excellent principle of the ownership of the tenant in his improvements. They also accept with satisfaction the test by which the valuation of those improvements is to be made—that is, the value of the improvements to the incoming tenants. But they object to all the cumbrous procedure in the Act which runs counter to the good principle therein laid down. The reservations, limitations, and restrictions are such that there are very few tenants who admit having received benefit from proceedings under the Act. A tenant should be free to go on with his work; he must not be continually looking round to see if he must give notice of this, or ask the permission of he landlord for that. All his energies and time from morning to night are needed if he, is to make his farm pay. I cannot see why the excellent statement at the beginning of the schedule should not be made the definition of improvements which should govern the whole Act. These schedules would be very much simplified if there was a definition that an improvement included anything done by the tenant whereby the letting value of the holding was increased. The tenant, as a general rule, knows better than the landlord what is to the benefit of the land, and if he makes a mistake and puts up a building or makes a watercourse or a bit of road which is not of value to the holding, the arbitrator would exclude it, 1586 and very little other protection is required. To discourage a tenant from putting up buildings by requiring him to get the leave of the landlord is a very unfortunate procedure. Among the special needs of the people in our part of country are proper cottages for the farm labourers. The tendency at present is for sanitary inspectors to condemn the old houses as being unfit, according to modern sanitary ideas, for human habitation. They are then pulled down, but no other cottages are erected in their place. The farmer is the man who directly suffers from not having houses in which to put his farm labourers, and in the interests both of farming and of humanity he ought to be encouraged in every possible way to put up suitable cottages for the labourers. Another practical objection is with regard to the question of the sitting tenant. I do not at all agree with the view of the hon. Member opposite who said that this was an unreal grievance. There could not possibly be a more real grievance. The most practical agriculturist in the United Kingdom, Sir James Caird, says it is the fault of the Agricultural Holdings Act. The reason of it is very clear. At the end of a tenancy a good improving farmer finds himself in a dilemma: he does not want to pay an enhanced rent upon his own improvements, and he does not want to quit. Either course will be ruinous. The consequence is that outside unfair competition can be brought against him, and a man offers a rent which includes the improvements, sucks all the goodness out of the farm, and throws it back on the landlord. The reason we wish to extend to the sitting tenant the same benefits as are given to the quitting tenant is that we wish to put him on an equal footing with outsiders in competition for the next lease of the land. If he is given a lump sum equivalent to the value of his improvements, or an equivalent reduction of rent, he will be able to defy the outside competition of greedy and unscrupulous men. The interesting Report written by my hon. friend makes it perfectly clear what a dangerous class of men these speculators and wanderers are. To prevent such men ousting those whom Sir James Caird calls the backbone of the agricultural interest, it is absolutely necessary that the mischievous words "on quitting his tenancy" should be 1587 omitted. The next important point is the question of contracting out. There were great complaints of that in the old Act, because it simply led to the evasion of the law and to withdrawing from the protection of the Act the very men for whom it was intended. The last point to which I will at present draw attention is the question of administration. Although the Act of 1883 laid down in broad terms how the value of the improvements was to be ascertained, in practice a very bad mechanical system has sprung up. Instead of ascertaining the value of the improvements to the incoming tenant, the valuers make a certain mechanical scale of manures, the time by which these were to be exhausted, and the precautions which were supposed to be taken. This method entirely misses the object of the first section of the Act, because it is very possible, and frequently happens, that the tenant might buy the wrong manure; he might put in a large quantity, a great deal of which would be unexhausted, but yet it would not be of any use at all. Therefore to give compensation in this mechanical way without looking to the results of the manures is contrary to the principle upon which the Act is founded. Good husbandry is at the bottom of the whole thing. That is the point to which the greatest importance is attached by all those farmers who are enthusiasts in their industry, who are really desirous of improving the land and of working it in an artistic way. What you want to know at the end of a man's tenancy is not how much of this or that manure he has put into the land, but whether he has cultivated the farm carefully, whether the land is clean, and so on. Every practical man can tell you a good deal in two minutes on that point. That should be made a leading point in the Bill. We want to encourage that in the interest not only of the tenant and of the landlord, but of the whole community. I think there is general agreement that the matter would be enormously simplified if a practical and scientific record were taken of the farm when a tenant enters and a similar record taken when he comes out. That would satisfy the man, and we should get rid of all the machinery of arbitrations and so forth. At present the rules very often work so as to give an advantage to the tenant who wishes to get the most out of the land, and act as a penalty upon the deserving citizen and 1588 friend of the people who tries to put as much as possible into the land.
§ *MR. JASPER MORE (Shropshire, Ludlow)
said that at the recent meeting of the Chamber of Agriculture, after an explanation of the provisions of the Bill, it was unanimously agreed to support the measure, and probably a similar result would have been arrived in the House of Commons if the President of the Board of Agriculture had explained several points which were evidently not clearly understood.
§ *MR. CHANNING
pointed out that the hon. Member was in error in stating that the Central Chamber of Agriculture unanimously supported the Bill. The Chambers unanimously adopted the report of the committee upon the Bill, a report which contained many suggestions of amendment.
§ *MR. JASPER MORE
thought that as well as the President of the Board of Agriculture being asked to go to Scotland, those interested in Scotland should attend the meetings of English farmers. If that had been done recently the speech of the late Solicitor General for Scotland would have been saved, because on that occasion Mr. Elliott explained that whereas a consolidating Bill was desirable, before it could be obtained it was necessary to pass this amended measure. It would be very interesting if the House could occasionally have a Return showing the extent to which different Bills passed by Parliament were really carried out. Such a Return would be specially interesting with respect to the Agricultural Holdings Acts. The House had been told by a Scotch Member that this Bill would certainly not be adopted in Scotland, while English Members frequently said that landowners had such excellent agreements that they would not require this Bill. It therefore appeared that the House was discussing an academic measure, and one which would not be generally carried out. Farmers in his part of the country had had a good deal of experience in this question, and the conclusion they had arrived at was that the most important thing was to have good arbitrators. In his country there was a gentleman of the greatest experience who, when difficult questions arose, invariably gave satisfac- 1589 tion to both landlord and tenant. But the Chamber of Agriculture said there was a deficiency of these valuers. Where then were the arbitrators to come from? Perhaps the President of the Board of Agriculture would say whether members of the Institute of Surveyors would be sent down for the purpose, and, if so, as one of the objects of the Bill was to lessen expense, what the expense would be.
§ *MR. PRICE (Norfolk, E.)
The hon. Member who has last addressed the House seemed to imagine that the Central Chamber of Agriculture, after the explanation which had been given by the Permament Secretary to the Board of Agriculture with reference to this Bill, had stamped it with the hall-mark of their unanimous approval. The hon. Member for East Northamptonshire put the hon. Gentleman right in that matter, but I think the real facts of the case are hardly yet understood by the House. The debate on this question took place on the report of a committee of the Central Chamber, and that report, after the explanation offered by Mr. Elliott, was, I believe, unanimously adopted, but that adoption was not by any means a complete and absolute approval of this Bill. The Bill was approved to a certain extent, because no one would be sorry to see it pass, but several omissions from it were noticed. Let me quote to the House a few of the remarks in the report which do not show that unanimous and complete approval suggested by the hon. Member. The report states—The committee are of opinion that a clear and simple Act consolidating the retained portions of the old Acts with the provisions of the amending Bill would be of great service to tenant farmers.The Central Chamber of Agriculture is not a very reactionary body, and no doubt represents very largely the agricultural interest, perhaps even more the landlord than the tenant interest, for I certainly never remember a tenant farmer being president of the Chamber since I had the honour of being a Member of this House or of the Central Chamber. Then the report continues—The committee regret that the Bill gives the power of contracting out of the rules of procedure relating to arbitration.The committee thought that those rules ought to be binding on everyone, and 1590 ought not to be subject to other agreements being made. As a matter of fact, it is the weaker tenant who always has to make that class of agreement; the strong man in all probability will choose the Act, and if not he will be able to make an agreement which probably represents his views better than the Act. But an enormous number of agreements are entered into which one side understands and the other does not, and we should be most careful that the procedure with reference to arbitration in this Bill should be universal. The report continues—Your committee desire to point out that in several very important respects the Bill fails to carry out the recommendation of 1894. These were adopted by the Council as a fair compromise between the land-owning and the land-occupying interests, and it will be necessary that the Bill should be amended in these particulars if it is to satisfy the requirements of the agricultural community.I dare say that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Thirsk imagines that although he is entitled to make a speech on the Second Reading, everyone else ought to hold his tongue. As a matter of fact, a great many of the objections of the Central Chamber are objections of very great substance, and I must say that the form of the Bill, which is not a consolidating Bill, but a Bill by way of cross reference, is a very good subject for discussion in this House, because if this Bill were to be made into a consolidating Bill in the Committee upstairs, I venture to think the amount of Amendments that would be required would be enormous. Then the committee considered that the laying down of permanent pasture should be transferred from Part 1 to Part 2, so that notice should be sufficient instead of permission. In view of the changed conditions of agriculture during the last twenty years, and the constantly increasing practice of converting arable land into pasture, it was considered by the committee essential that compensation for the unexhausted value of this improvement should be secured to the tenant. With regard to two years and older seeds and the increased fertility of a holding due to continuous good farming, the hon. Member for Basingstoke seems to think that a record of the holding should be kept, and that it would be a very expensive matter. As a matter of fact, in the debate of 1894 of the modest recommendations I ventured to make, the one that got unanimous 1591 approval, as far as I remember, was that which suggested a record of the holding. You cannot fairly assess the difference in value between the condition of a farm when a tenant goes out and its condition when he came in without such a record, and it is perfectly obvious, of course, that as regards increased fertility due to continuous good farming such a record is absolutely necessary. There is a very important point in the Bill in which the Central Chamber of Agriculture agrees with everyone else except the Government. The Central Chamber does not understand, and neither, as far as I know, does anyone understand, why these claims of landlord and tenant should be put in three months after the termination of the tenancy. The Council suggest, we suggest, hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest, and everybody, as far as I understand, suggests except the Government, that notice should be given twenty-eight days before the determination of the tenancy. There seems to be some doubt as to what could possibly be the object of this three months proposal. The statement of the Permanent Secretary to the Board of Agriculture at the meeting of the Central Chamber led people to suppose that the idea was that this notice should correspond as nearly as possible with what would probably occur if the tenancy had been determined under an agreement, If so, all I can say is that it is one more evidence of the desire of the Government to frame this Bill so as to induce people to enter into agreements instead of coming under it. If it is a bad Bill possibly they might do better by agreements, but if it is a good Bill it is very unlikely they will do better. If the conditions of the tenancy are fair, and are understood by both parties, landlords and tenants, who have been both through the mill, will know what it means. We all want the land cultivated as well as it can possibly be cultivated, and we are all anxious that our legislation should be such as to afford the greatest possible assistance to agriculturists, both landlords and tenants. That being so, I think this House, with the advice of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, is perfectly capable of drawing up a fair and reasonable Bill as between the parties, and I think it is a very great mistake to leave to a weak and erring individual the chance of entering into an agreement against his own interests. In the report 1592 of the committee of the Central Chamber it is also stated that—They regret that effect has not been given to the recommendation of 1894, as to a record of the condition of the holding. They also regret the absence of a schedule of landlords' dilapidations, as recommended in 1894.They further considered that the limit, which is four years in the Act of 1883, should be reduced to two years, and that the abolition of the time limit was very undesirable. The committee also considered that the following words in Section 6 of the Act of 1883 should be re-enacted as part of Section 1—Except as far as the proper return of manure to the holding has been made in respect of such produce so sold off or removed therefrom.I have quoted from the report to show how inaccurate was the idea which was conveyed by the hon. Gentleman with reference to the Central Chamber of Commerce, and anyone who was not aware of the proceedings and had heard the hon. Gentleman's speech would have gone away with the idea that this Bill had really been approved in its main elements by the Central Chamber, whereas it will be seen from the quotations I have read that the Bill is taken for what it is worth, and that very serious deficiencies were pointed out. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Horsham Division, who made a most admirable speech, as all who heard it will agree, and who made us regret that he is not heard oftener in debates in this House, referred to the Bill as a small amending Bill. He himself went through a large number of particulars in which the Bill could have been extended and improved with advantage, and I am bound to say that he made us feel almost inclined to embrace him—although that would not be quite Parliamentary—when he said that he wished that the President of the Board of Agriculture had seen his way to include in this Bill sitting as well as quitting tenants. The reasons he gave were not perhaps the reasons I would have used, but the conclusion he came to was so acceptable that I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to accept the suggestion of his hon. friend. He seemed to think that the landlords were in need of protection as regards the abolition of penal clauses. I do not myself believe in the value which is attached to these clauses, and I very much doubt if they 1593 could be enforced in law; but if there is nothing in the point made by the hon. Gentleman, I hope that he and hon. Gentlemen opposite will not think we are against them. We are not in the least in favour of the tenant who spoils the farm. He is one of the greatest enemies to agriculture and to his country, while the man who benefits a farm and makes it produce more than it has previously produced is a benefactor. If the hon. Member makes good the point that the penal clauses may lead to the breaking up of old pasture land, then if the present condition of the Bill is not sufficient to make the position of the landlord secure and to make it pretty certain that farms are not to he deteriorated in value, speaking for myself, I am convinced that if that can be shown the hon. Member will not stand alone in proposing an Amendment making it an impossibility. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Abingdon Division of Berkshire congratulated the Government very much, and so did the hon. Member for the Horsham Division. The hon. Member for the Abingdon Division said that the Bill of the Government carried out eleven of the thirteen points that were proposed by the Royal Commission, and the hon. Member for the Horsham Division congratulated the Government very much on such a simple way out of their difficulties. I congratulate them too. In this debate the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire taunted in a courteous way the right hon. Gentleman with reference to previous Amendments moved in this House when the party now in power were in opposition. During those three hotly contested years there were, we know, diverse Amendments moved on behalf of distressed agriculturists; most fervid and moving speeches were made, and some of the most terrible pictures of the ruin of agriculture were drawn, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was never more eloquent than during those debates. The condition of agriculture was described in most terrible colours, and yet we find from the right hon. Gentleman's interruption that all he meant when he gave his vote and occasionally made a speech during those years was that the agricultural interest was terribly in need, was, in fact, dying for want of the Agricultural Rating Act, or—as the right hon. Gentleman put it—financial relief. This 1594 Government has been four years in office, they have had plenty of money, and we assume that they have been endeavouring to do their duty. If they thought the agricultural interest was entitled to more money, they ought to have given it. Therefore we are fully entitled to assume that they regard the reduction of the rates by one half as the proper measure of financial relief required by this terribly harassed industry. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke and voted on these various occasions he did not, as I understand, intend to convey that the Agricultural Holdings Act stood particularly in need of amendment, but whatever he thought about it he obviously considers that sufficient improvement is afforded by the Bill now before us, and so from both points of view—financial as well as cultivating—we have redressed the whole of the agricultural grievances of Great Britain. I think hon. Gentlemen opposite are fully entitled to congratulate the Government on such a solution. It has been extremely cheap. I came from Norfolk this morning with a gentleman who is a farmer on a very large scale. I understood from him that the value of the Agricultural Rating Act to him was £7 10s. per annum, and he was afraid that on the renewal of his lease next year he would not get that amount any longer, but that his landlord would. As regards this particular Bill he will no doubt have the advantage of being able to plant an acre of osiers or an acre of raspberries without having to get the written leave of his landlord, and if at the end of his lease he has a dispute with his landlord he may have the advantage of arbitration under the provisions of this Bill. I do not say that he was not glad to have the £7 10s., or that he would not be glad to have a single arbitrator instead of three. But if agriculture is in the distressed condition we are told it is, it cannot be said to be entirely relieved by those two measures, or else its condition must have been very much exaggerated. The truth is that it was exaggerated, and exaggerated, I believe, for the purposes of discussion in this House, although, of course, quite unintentionally. The Central Chamber of Agriculture is not a mere Socialistic or Radical body. It is anything but that; it is highly respectable. [Cheers.] Yes, I thought that would appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I 1595 am delighted to be able to afford them the satisfaction. The Royal Commission considered this whole question, and made a series of recommendations, some of which have, of course, been carried out, though not eleven out of thirteen. Majority Report of the Commission has had, as I dare say it ought to have had, more effect with the Government than the Central Chamber of Agriculture, but the Majority Report of the Commission was the irreducible minimum of the Central Chamber of Agriculture. After having adopted the Report in 1894, the Central Chamber proceeded in November of that year to reconsider the matter, and they decided in favour of two additions, although they did not pass them by a sufficient majority to have them included among the recommendations to be officially submitted to the Government. They go a long way beyond this Bill, and are very much nearer what the Central Chamber want. They are compensation for disturbance and compensation for the sitting tenant. Instead of that we have got a small amending Bill and a Bill by reference. The hon. Member for the Horsham Division gave some excellent advice to the Government, and I sincerely hope that if the Government have an opportunity of putting a few agricultural Members on the Grand Committee to which this Bill will be sent, they will not forget the claims of the hon. Member who made such a well-considered and excellent speech. I can only say—although, of course, we are prepared to accept any crumb of comfort and any improvement in the law that we can secure—our feeling is that we ought to have every opportunity of improving both the quality and the quantity of this Bill, and I believe that a considerable number of Amendments which will be moved by hon. Members on this side will have the support of hon. Members on the other side of the House. I sincerely trust that in the course of these debates the Government will learn not only from this side but from their own, that this Bill must be considerably extended before it is passed into law.
MR. BRYNMOR JONES (Swansea District)
I do not rise for the purpose of offering any opposition to this Bill or of making any detailed criticism upon its provisions. So far as I am able to judge, I take it as a distinct advance, and cannot 1596 help thinking that some of the observations made by the preceding speakers show that they must have misunderstood the operation of, at any rate, one of its sections. The difficulty in which, under the Act of 1883, a tenant is placed by the requirement of two months notice has more than once been pointed out in this Parliament. As I read this Bill, Sub-section 2 of Clause 2 is intended to relieve the tenant from the obligation of giving notice of claim two months at least before the end of the tenancy, and that is, I believe, a beneficial provision. With regard to the amendment of the machinery provided by the Act of 1883, I only desire to say, what I have said more than once, that it is really far better not to invent any special machinery. It is better to give a county court jurisdiction in matters of this kind. The Miners Act of 1889, which hon. Members acknowledge is a good one, allows a reference of disputes to the arbitration of an umpire. Our recent experience of the Workmen's Compensation Act absolutely supports the view I have taken in regard to special machinery. I wish to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the people of the Welsh counties are profoundly disappointed with the provisions of this measure. Rightly or wrongly, people belonging to both the landlord and tenant classes in Wales have understood the repeated references in the Queen's, Speeches to a measure for amending the relations between landlord and tenant, the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman himself, and speeches made by his supporters in the country, as a pledge in regard to Wales and Monmouthshire, that we should have some special legislation which would solve the problem of the conflicting interests of landlord and tenant in that part of the country. A Royal Commission was appointed in 1893 to consider the conditions on which land is held and cultivated in Wales and Monmouthshire. I had the honour of being a member of that Commission. We sat in every county of the Principality and in Monmouthshire, and as a result two different sets of recommendations were made. The first set, which was in the Majority Report, were agreed to by six members of that Commission. In effect they amounted to a recommendation for the creation of a modified land court system. It was not the land system of the Irish Act of 1881, which involves a 1597 dual ownership; nor quite like the crofters system in Scotland. We, as we thought, hit upon a measure which would secure the proper and equitable adjustment of the rights of landlord and tenant without in the least tending to break up estates or damage landlords' interests, if they would approach the subject in a fair manner. I frankly state that after what the right hon. Gentleman has said we cannot expect him to introduce a measure which would embrace our proposal. Nothing that he has said, however, is inconsistent with the view that we thought the Government would introduce a Bill in respect to Wales and Monmouthshire which would carry out the unanimous recommendation of that Royal Commission in a Report which was signed by Lord Kenyon and the hon. Baronet the Member for Swansea (Town), who are supporters of the Government. The Commission unanimously said that the circumstances in Wales were such as to demand separate treatment by a separate Bill. In their Report they say that while they had no right to pronounce on the question of the amendment of the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1883, and of the law of landlord and tenant as to agricultural holdings in England and Wales, without prejudice to that question, they thought the circumstances disclosed in regard to Wales during the inquiry urgently called for legislation such as they had sketched, and that they would be disposed to deal with Wales in a separate Bill, however desirable it might be, as a general rule, to avoid separate legislation. It has been thought that the Commission had some idea about Home Rule for Wales. That was not in the mind certainly of Lord Kenyon, and certainly was not in my own mind. What we had in mind was that there are certain topics of legislation and certain heads of jurisprudence which it is desirable to compress into one general statute for the whole United Kingdom, such as marriage, bankruptcy, bills of exchange, marine insurance, and matters of that kind. But that is not the case with regard to land tenure. Land tenure is essentially a topic which ought to be considered with reference to the historical and economic circumstances of the areas with which you are dealing, and it was so considered and dealt with in the Act of 1883. But what the Government 1598 is doing by this Bill is to endeavour to compress into one set of formulæ recommendations as between landlord and tenant for the whole of Great Britain. I think that is an objectionable principle. It has been urged that a good case has been made out for the separate treatment of Scotland; but I think, if I had time, I could make out an even stronger case for Wales. We have had more than once in this Parliament an opportunity of speaking on this topic; and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to take note of the sentence in the Report to which I have referred, because there is not the slightest doubt that the existing law acts rather unjustly. What are the points in the Act of 1883 proposed to be amended by this Bill? The first point is, that in the actual operation of the law at the present moment, there is an injustice wherever a re-valuation of an estate takes place. When a re-valuation is made, a formal notice to quit is given to the tenant. Now, if the tenant were really going away he would be able to give, under the Act of 1883, a notice of claim for compensation in respect of any improvements; but if he does not want to leave his farm, and puts in a claim for compensation, the formal notice would be acted upon. A second point was made by the hon. Member as to the difficulty in which a tenant finds himself when an estate is sold. The first thing the solicitor of the new owner does is to give notice to every tenant to quit, and a large number of the promises made by the agent of the anterior owner are given the go-by to, and the tenant finds himself face to face, not only with a new owner, but a new agent, who has not the slightest idea of the notions of Welsh farmers. This Bill is a good Bill so far as it goes, but is no redemption of the promises given to the farmers of the country by the Government. The Government and their supporters deliberately led the farmers of Wales to believe they were going to bring in a big measure that would do them something like justice. I do not say they led them to believe that they were going to give them land courts, but they have encouraged the farmers to believe that they would deal thoroughly with this subject. That is what is not done by this Bill. I would not oppose the measure; but I cannot allow the Second Reading to be taken without making an emphatic protest against the action which the Government has adopted.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
I do not desire to detain the House by emphasising what my hon. friend has just said in regard to the feeling of the majority of Welsh Members as to this Bill. The provisions dealing with the machinery of compensation and so forth are useful so far as they go, and no doubt will be valued by the agricultural interest of the country generally. I attach the greatest importance to the unanimous recommendation of the Welsh Land Commission that the tenant upon the sale of an estate should be protected for a period of three years under the old rent, and also to the unanimous recommendation of doing away with the necessity of giving notice in writing of a claim for compensation. The people of Wales, after the Royal Commission had unanimously reported in favour of separate land legislation for that country, believed that the present Government would bring in a special measure to carry out that recommendation. Speaking for myself, I held that opinion up till last year; but the House will recollect that when this matter was dealt with in the Queen's Speech last year, the Home Secretary made it perfectly plain that we in Wales could not look for special land reform from the present Government.* It is perfectly useless, therefore, to try and, explain to the House the reasons for which we make an urgent claim for special land legislation on political, historical, and racial grounds. I am prepared to support the Bill so far as it goes. I grant that from the point of view of machinery it will be an improvement on the Act of 1883. I wish to say that we in Wales cannot look upon it as in any sense or degree a satisfactory solution of the Welsh land problem; and we must leave it to the future and to other conditions—Parliamentary conditions, perhaps—under which we may look forward to receiving satisfactory legislation on this important question.
§ *MR. LONG
I think all hon. Gentlemen must in their hearts, whatever they may have been prepared to admit, have come to the conclusion that hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, with one or two exceptions, have shown*See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxvi., page 705.1600 that they are willing to wound, although they are very much afraid to strike. A great many hon. Gentlemen have endeavoured to make speeches which would have been more applicable had a motion been before the House for the rejection of the Second Reading of the Bill. The Government have been attacked for their belated agricultural policy, and some went on to cheer the statement made by an hon. Gentleman, who was more rash than wise, that we have altogether failed to redeem the promise, we made before coming into power, and have neglected the agricultural interest, and that they were the true friends of the agricultural interest. The only evidence which the Liberals gave of interest in agriculture, in 1892–95, was by that interesting operation so admirably described by one of the most distinguished of their own leaders, who said that they had been engaged for three years in "ploughing the sand." It can be easily shown that whilst they were in office they entirely ignored the agricultural interest and flouted suggestions that it was deserving of attention; whereas the party to which we belong have, during the time they have been responsible for the government of the country, done their best in many ways to lighten agricultural burdens and lessen agricultural difficulties. In the House of Commons hon. Gentlemen opposite said, "You have redeemed your agricultural promises very late, because you are afraid of the election"; but on the platform they allege that the Government are everlastingly giving doles to the landlords and putting the interests of the rural parts of the country before the interests of the towns. They may have it which way they like, but they cannot have it both ways. Two main objections have been made to the policy of the Government in regard to the Bill. One is from the Scottish Members, urging that we ought to have dealt in a separate measure with the Scotch question; and the other is that we ought to deal separately with the Welsh question. I admit to the full, and I thank the hon. and learned Member for the temperate and powerful way in which he put his case, but I have never heard more extraordinary proposals advanced in a more extraordinary manner than those put before the House for the separation of the Scottish from the English Agricultural Holdings Bill. The case is based in 1601 the first instance on precedent. It is always interesting to me to find that hon Gentlemen who declare themselves in favour of reforms or new measures, and that precedent supports them, are short of sound argument. There is no precedent at all in favour of separate legislation for England and Scotland. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire contested the right of the Board of Agriculture to represent Scottish interests. Whether that right can be contested or not, it undoubtedly exists. If hon. Gentlemen opposite really have the interests of agriculture at heart and really desire that the Minister who represents the agricultural interest should play anything like an important part in the work of the Government, they are doing that which is best calculated to make it impossible. If they break up the Board of Agriculture into three or four small boards, each representing a different part of the country, and obliged to strive for agriculture against other demands for legislation, and to strive for their own little part of agriculture against their colleagues in agriculture, nothing could be more calculated to injure the agricultural interest or to paralyse the hands of the representatives of the agricultural interest. I cannot conceive why Scotch agricultural business should be done in Scotland rather than in England.
§ *MR. LONG
Not since the Board of Agriculture was appointed. An hon. Member has spoken with considerable contempt and derision of the meetings that take place annually in Scotland between representatives of Scottish agricultural societies and the President of the Board of Agriculture and his expert advisers. The description which he gave of them was the last description that anybody who knew anything about them would give. I do not hesitate to say that the annual conferences which have taken place between the representatives of Scottish agriculture and the Minister for Agriculture have been of the greatest possible assistance to my advisers on the Board of Agriculture and to myself. However that may be, I do not hesitate to say that these conferences are serious and practical ones, and have been of the greatest possible assistance to my 1602 advisers on the Board of Agriculture and to myself. Year by year the agenda paper and the discussion have proved that the Minister and his advisers and the representatives of these various agricultural districts in Scotland have been brought into closer touch, gained batter and more experience of the work upon which each of us is engaged, and we are better able to understand and appreciate each other after these conferences than before. I am able, therefore, to claim that the business is of a practical character, and has been a great benefit to the Department in London and to agriculture. All that has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite on behalf of Scotland could be urged with equal force in regard to Northumberland, Cumberland, or Durham. [Opposition cries of "No!"] Certainly. The claim made for Scotland rests upon a difference in the laws and a difference in the agricultural customs. In regard to agricultural customs and practices, there is as great difference between the customs of the north of England and the south, and between the east of England and the west, as there is between agricultural practice in Scotland and agricultural practice in England. With regard to the law the only ground for the proposals of hon. Members opposite is that in one place a man is called a labourer, in another is called a hind, and somewhere else a ploughman. In one case there is one description for a court of law, and in another case another description. In Scotland the word "deterioration" is used, and in England the word "waste." The differences are so few, and the distinctions are so small, that no practical difficulty could exist in applying one Act to both countries, and great conveniences must necessarily result from legislating by one Bill rather than by two. If the motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite is to be adopted, and the House were to decide that this Bill should not be read a second time, but that it should be divided into two parts, the result would be that it would be practically impossible to proceed further with this question this session, at all events. We are asked to bring in two Bills, upon which all the questions we have listened to—sitting tenant, permanent pasture, schedule of landlord's claims—every question that has been raised to-night would be discussed twice over, simply because one word is used in 1603 Scotland and another word in England. Lord Justice Vaughan Williams has said that the Scotch Act, except that it substitutes "sheriff" for "county court judge," and Scotch law terms for English law terms, is couched in the very words of the English Act. Speaking generally, a comparison justified that statement, and the evidence of a High Court Judge on that point is at least as worthy of credence as the statement of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ *MR. LONG
And Scotch law. Hon. Members opposite not only claim for themselves that they have a language, a country, and a law of their own, but apparently also that no one who is not a Scotchman can understand either one or the other. One thing which shows the poverty of the Scotch case in this matter is the way in which the hon. Member for Hawick fell back on the old arguments. We all know that in the House of Commons, when a hon. Member has no case, and is beggared for argument, he finds fault with the draughtsmanship of the Bill. All do it, and I have done it myself. The trick is too old even to escape the notice of the greatest tyro of Parliamentary warfare. The hon. Member for the Border Burghs waxed very eloquent over the draughtsmanship of this Bill, and said it was the worst he had ever seen. I am not sure that he did not compare me or the draughtsman, or both, with a sheep's head. His experience cannot be very great. Hon. Members opposite have fallen foul of legislation by reference. That is an old, hackneyed, and threadbare argument, only to be used when all else has failed. We are following precedent. We are amending the law first, and we hope to consolidate the law afterwards. At a later date, if I am in the position to do so, I hope to consolidate the Acts relating to agricultural holdings, and even the outraged feelings of hon. Gentlemen who represent Scottish constituencies will then be soothed, because they will find that they will be able to so arrange the various clauses as to bring the Scotch part 1604 close together, and perhaps to get rid of these references to Scotch Acts, which are so distasteful to Scottish Members. The fact that there are small differences in the legal terms of the two countries does not constitute a plea for the statements made by hon. Gentlemen opposite that we ought to have brought in two Bills. The policy advocated by hon. Gentlemen opposite would result in the postponement to a distant time of a Bill dealing with agricultural holdings in both countries, whereas the policy adopted by the Government will enable us to pass in one session a Bill which will remove many, at all events, of the difficulties which have been proved to exist. I will just say a few words about the other criticisms which have been passed on the Bill. Great fault has been found with the Government because we do not include in Part 2 of the first schedule the right of the tenant farmer to lay down permanent pasture for himself. I have heard that objection raised in many quarters, but I believe it is a suggestion which, although attractive at first sight, will not bear examination in the light of practical experience. The laying down of permanent pasture is one of the most delicate of agricultural operations. You may take the greatest care and spend a great deal of money, and yet in the end it may turn out that the land was altogether unsuitable for the purpose. In this case it is the incoming tenant whose interest the House must guard. The soil and the seed may be selected with the utmost care, and the land laid down under the supervision of the most skilful man; but it frequently happens that while for two or even three years it shows a splendid growth, it then begins to steady down, and in six years the weeds choke the grass and the land proves to be altogether unsuitable for the crop. It is said that in that case the quitting tenant gets nothing. But what is the position of the incoming tenant who comes in at the end of the two years? He has to take the improvement, which has every appearance of vitality and profit attached to it, but he has hardly got into his farm before he sees the pasture wither up. I do not believe it can be shown that landlords have prevented their tenants from laying down land to permanent pasture, if they have to do so, and I am bound to say that I think enough land has been laid 1605 down to grass. Great fault has been found on both sides of the House with regard to the three months limit, within which claims may be made. I cannot help thinking that there must be some misunderstanding on that point. The Government has no affection for this three months limit, and if in Committee there is a general expression of opinion that some change should be made the Government will be quite willing to consider any such suggestion. Under custom and under agreement, not only is there generally speaking no notice, but there is no limitation whatever as to the time, after the expiration of the tenancy, within which the claim must be made. I suppose that for every settlement between landlord and tenant that takes place in this country under the Agricultural Holdings Act there are fifty, or even a hundred, which have been made under custom or agreement. It may be asked why, then, have we put three months into the Bill. That I will explain. Under custom and by agreement landlord and tenant are governed by conditions to which both have been a party. But here we are giving to tenants certain statutory rights, which enable them to claim compensation, and we are casting upon landlords certain statutory obligations. The Government thought it would be only fair, therefore, in regard to these statutory obligations, that there should be a limit of time within which claims for compensation should be made. The various suggestions which have been made with reference to the period in the Bill will be carefully considered by the Government. The hon. Member for South Molton has referred to the fact that tenants' claims are strictly scheduled, but that landlords' claims are not scheduled. In answer to that I would say that I will answer the hon. Gentleman's objections by an authority which I think he will readily accept—namely, that of the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire, who, in a separate Report, stated that the common law rights of the landlord could not be got rid of, and added—I am disposed to think that the suggestion of the landlord's schedule is of little practical value, and that it might even lead to an ingenious expansion of the landlord's claims.That, I think, answers the comments of the hon. Member for South Molton. We are giving the tenant new rights; we are giving the landlord no new rights, and I think it is only fair and reasonable that 1606 those rights should be scheduled so that Parliament should know what it is giving to the tenants. Reference has been made to the sitting tenant question. The question of giving compensation to the tenant while he remains in occupation of his holding may or may not be a just one, but it is practically inconsistent with the principles upon which the Agricultural Holdings Acts have hitherto rested. It is inconsistent with the principle which is at the foundation of this Bill, and, that being so, it would have been impossible for us to deal with the suggestions made in the unanimous report of the Welsh Commission in this respect. There is another point referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Swansea which, I confess, at first sight attracted me very much. That is the difficulty that arises in certain cases when a property is put up for sale, or when a change takes place either in the ownership or management. It is one of those peculiar agricultural problems which are more likely to solve themselves effectually to the permanent advantage of landlord and tenant by the free expression of public opinion, and the pressure of public opinion as expressed in the House of Commons. It is one of those things where we must rely upon personal feeling rather than legislation, My hon. friend the Member for Horsham referred to penal rents. I cannot help feeling that some who have referred to that subject indulged rather freely in their criticisms, and that under the circumstances they were a little vicious occasionally. I could not help wishing that they were called upon to draft a Bill, in which case I might be able to find as many faults in their Bill as they find in mine. Recently a paper in Scotland which does not generally support the views of those who sit on this side of the House and some other critics have been examining our Bill, and the Bill brought forward by the hon. Member for East Northamptonshire. I am content with my case, even at the hands of the most unfriendly critics on the other side. Though they do not like my Bill very much, if they had to choose between the two they would prefer mine. At all events that enables me to bear with composure the criticisms they have passed upon it. Penal rents is another of those subjects it is difficult to deal with. If penal rent had only been 1607 used by the owners of the land for the purpose originally and properly intended we should have heard no objection to it at all. But unfortunately there are black sheep in every flock, and no doubt penal rents have been exacted which were of a most arbitrary and unjust character. With regard to the point raised by my hon. friend—namely, if there is any risk of permanent pasture being broken up haphazard by the tenant—there is no doubt that some Amendment will have to be introduced to remedy that, because it would be the greatest possible injury to agriculture generally. Therefore, if the abolition of penal rents is liable to be as dangerous as my hon. friend suggests, I will make it my business to bring in an Amendment upstairs. It has been suggested that two years seeds should be included. Our reason for not putting that in the Bill was that we believed that the occupier's position was rather better now than if this was included in the Bill. I think the suggestion is a very valuable one, and if a proposal of that kind is made upstairs it is one to which I will give very favourable consideration, and I will do it because it is a step in the right direction. We wish to do everything we reasonably can to enable the occupier to cultivate his farm to the best of his ability, and to give security that fair and reasonable compensation will be paid to him for the money he has spent. We seek to do nothing in this Bill which would depart from the sound principle of giving the tenant compensation for that which he has justly and properly done, and to prevent him, to his own ruin and the ruin of the landlord and the land, from embarking upon unsound experiments, because he believed that whether he succeeded or failed he would be able to fall back on the landlord for compensation. I think anything that would produce that conviction in the mind of the farmer would do ten times more harm than good. Believing that these are the principles which should affect agricultural compensation, we have asked the House to read this Bill a second time, and we hope and believe that with such Amendments as may be necessary it will prove a desirable and a useful measure.
§ MR. URE (Linlithgowshire)
In moving the Amendment that stands in my name I desire to disclaim altogether any act of hostility to the Bill. My Amendment is 1608 not a patriotic outcry, and my right hon. friend may feel assured that there is substance in it, and, I hope, a businesslike aim. The right hon. Gentleman has taunted us with being over-sensitive on the question of precedent. I at all events am not over-sensitive on the subject. What I do say is that the onus lies upon the Government of proving that Scotland should have separate treatment, because undoubtedly up to the present time legislation with regard to the land laws of Scotland at all events has always proceeded by way of separate Bills, and when the Government depart, as in the present instance, from that custom, it is for them to show cause and to justify the course they have taken. It is no use appealing, as the right hon. Gentleman did, to legislation dealing with the sale of goods, or private rights, or bills of exchange. The right hon. Gentleman claimed precedent in support of this legislation, and offered to support that statement to the House, but he has not supported his statement. He has not pointed out a single statute in which questions connected with Scotch land laws have ever been dealt with in an English Bill. This is, so far as I am aware, the very first occasion in which the attempt has ever been made, and I hope to be able to show that it is a most luckless attempt. Our system of land laws is different, our system of landlord and tenant is different, and our climate is different. There is a wide general difference between the soil and climate of Scotland and the soil and climate of England. Our methods of cultivation are different, and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate knows, our system of deciding disputes by arbitration is in many respects different from that in England. The evidence given before the Agricultural Commission by Scotch witnesses has been placed in a separate category, and in every summary of the evidence the Scotch evidence is placed in a separate and distinct chapter. All these considerations seem to point in the direction of separate treatment, and there lies on the Government the burden of showing why we should depart from that course in the present instance. We have no desire whatever to change our system, and to alter the law of landlord and tenant, or, at all events, if we have a desire to change, we prefer to develop on our own lines rather 1609 than to borrow from England. I have often observed in this House that our system of jurisprudence is regarded by our English colleagues as bordering on the barbaric, and our legal nomenclature is given up by English critics as hopelessly beyond the comprehension of ordinary intellects. When business relating to Scotland comes on in the House there is a rapid stampede from the Chamber, which would lead any impartial onlooker to think that we had been suddenly stricken with plague. We are well contented with our system. Some of us are profoundly convinced that we would not better ourselves by copying your English system, and some of us go a little further, and are disposed to believe that you could copy with advantage from us. Vie do not insist upon that point, but what we do insist upon is that if you will legislate for us you should do it with informed intelligence and perspicacity, and with a reasonable approach to scientific accuracy and artistic finish. In all these respects this Bill is lamentably deficient. The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that it is the familiar and hackneyed device of the Opposition to abuse the draughtsmanship of a measure to which we are opposed. That may be so, but I have not used that argument in this House. I think a reasonable examination of the present measure will show that that familiar device is eminently well justified in the present instance. This is a Bill which ought to be designed for non-experts and rustics. By its machinery the landlord and tenant of Scotland are to settle down to ascertain their rights at the close of a tenancy. That is the kind of Bill which we should expect—a Bill that would tell its own story upon its face, which anyone who runs may read. It ought to be clear, distinct, concise, and self-contained. Is this Bill so? In order to approach an understanding of the measure you require to take down four volumes of the general statutes, you require to spread out no less than five Imperial Acts of Parliament, and you require to seclude yourself from intercourse with the outer world, and after that you may reach a glimmering idea of what the Government really intend. I am speaking of my own personal experience. Of course, I do not pretend, like the right hon. Gentleman opposite, to be art authority upon agriculture. I do not pretend to understand 1610 what "fruit bushes permanently set out" means, and there are many other phrases in this Bill which are incomprehensible to me. But then, after all, this is a Bill which is not intended for the use of experts; it is intended for agriculturists, who are to find in it a ready and easy means of settling their disputes. Will they find it in this measure? Let the House consider for a moment what it is the Government intend to do for Scotland in this Bill, and then how they have succeeded or attempted to succeed in doing it. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that what the Government intend to do for Scotland is this. They propose to give compensation for three new kinds or types of improvements not hitherto dealt with. The Bill indicates the improvements which tenants may make if they get the landlord's consent, and those which they may have compensation for whether the landlord gives consent or not. The Government further propose to credit tenants with what may be called the inherent capabilities of the land. They wish to give the landlord power to visit the holding at any time to see what is going on, and they wish to reduce penal rents to actual value. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that these are things that are capable of being expressed in homely and simple language. Apparently, the Government do not consider it so. To begin with, the Government take the Act of 1883 and say, "We repeal the first clause, and we allow Clauses 2, 3, and 4 to stand; we repeal 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10; then we repeal 17 to 20, and pass on to 38; and we repeal the schedule." I say, from experience, that it will take you a mighty long time to discover what is left, and a still longer time to discover what is the object of leaving anything. I have stated in a very short, summary fashion the whole of their Bill. Is that a reasonable provision for Scotland? It is perfectly true that our agriculturists are said to be as intelligent as the best educated in the world. I do not for a moment deny it; but, after all, you must not ask agriculturists to assume the attitude of mental acrobats for the purpose of ascertaining their respective rights and obligations at the end of a tenancy. There are three ways the Government might have gone to work with their measure. There are two of these ways which I would call 1611 good, and the third bad. I think the Government have chosen the last way. The first and best way would be to repeal all prior legislation, and to pass a simple Bill for Scotland containing all the clauses you think should now be passed into law. That would afford a simple and easy means for the agriculturists to understand what their rights and objections are. It is desirable above all things that the measure should tell its own story, that it should be self-contained, and that you should not require to refer to other statutes to ascertain what it means. The second way would be to pass a simple amending Act applicable to Scotland alone. That is not so good a way; but still, following the usual precedent, that might have been adopted. But the third way the Government have taken is that, as I have explained, which leads us into chaos and confusion worse confounded. What is the reason given us for adopting this peculiar and unprecedented form of legislation for Scotland? The right hon. Gentleman opposite will say that this Amendment to the motion is a covert and sinister design to wreck the measure, and that it is one of the familiar devices of an Opposition. Well, there is nothing further from my intention than to stop or wreck the measure, even if I had the power. If my right hon. friend the Lord Advocate gets up and on his responsibility tells us that the resources of Dover House are exhausted, and that their draughtsmanship cannot produce a better Bill, I will make him a perfectly fair offer. I offer to sacrifice a portion of the Easter recess now approaching, and with the material the Government has given us, to frame a Bill which would tell its own story upon its face, so that he who runs may read. I will present it to the right hon. Gentleman before the vacation is ended, and surely our Scotch Bill could follow rapidly and closely in the wake of the English measure. The Scotch Bill would then come before the House and pass with ease, I should imagine. Then we should have a measure which would really be perfectly intelligible to the agriculturists of Scotland.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
I wish to second the Amendment. I rise without the slightest intention of criticising the Bill, which I think is a good Bill. I think that so far as 1612 the reform goes to which the right hon. Gentleman has set himself, he has fulfilled his task in a way which does not leave him open to any very serious criticism, but I am not impressed with his reasons with regard to the merging of the Scotch with the English Bill. I hope he will not insist upon that. We think that there are great advantages in having separate treatment from our point of view. I should be curious, I must say, to hear the Lord Advocate's explanation of some of the clauses of this Bill. The hon. Members for Aberdeenshire who have spoken referred to a class of tenants who come between the sphere of the Crofters Act and the Agricultural Holdings Act. In the northern counties you find a small class of tenants who pay £30 and £40 a year in rent, who have to build their own houses and make their own permanent improvements, and they are really quite as much entitled to compensation as the tenants under the Crofters Act. I think some clause might be framed which would give security to this class of smaller tenants for the kind of work which they have to do in their holdings, and which the landlords do in all the larger farm steadings in Scotland. If the Bill were considered, as we think it should be considered, by the Scottish Members in Committee of the whole House, or by a Scottish Grand Committee, what has been suggested by the Members from Aberdeenshire would be taken in hand. We, of course, all know that it is very awkward to devise legislation three times over in Parliament to meet the state of affairs in Scotland, England, and Wales, and we have advocated devolution of one form or another whereby Grand Committees for the Committee stage would deal with measures as they come up, and as they affect the separate portions of the country. It is, however, proposed to relegate this Bill to the Committee on Trade, but I do think that this is a case in which the agricultural Members and the Scotch Members ought to have an opportunity of dealing with the details of the Bill.
To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'it is desirable that legislation relating to agricultural holdings in Scotland should proceed on the lines hitherto followed; and that it is highly unsatisfactory to legislate on that
subject for England and for Scotland in one and the same measure' instead thereof."—(Mr. Ure.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed be left out stand part of the Question."
§ *THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
As my right hon. friend particularly claimed to speak as a layman and not as a lawyer, and as a great deal of reference has been made to the legal portion of this Bill with a view to showing that it would introduce immense confusion with regard to Scotland, perhaps it is as well I should say a few words. An appeal has been made to precedent, and the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire seemed to deprecate the idea that the Board of Agriculture should in this matter be the ruling authority, and we had an echo of that in the speech to which we have just listened. But it seems to have been forgotten, so far as precedent is concerned, that the Bills we are amending were passed in 1883, whereas the Board of Agriculture was not constituted until 1889, and that that Board was constituted, as the title of the Act shows, as a Board of Agriculture for Great Britain. That may have been right or it may have been wrong, but at any rate it was done, and the hon. Member can scarcely expect that we should graft upon this Bill the creation of a new Department. As there is an existing Department, it would be little less than absurd to give the charge of agricultural measures to the Scotch Office instead of to my right hon. friend, with all the expert advice which he has at his command. The hon. Member for Linlithgow said he knew of no case in which Scotch land rights had been dealt with in the same Bill as English. "Land rights" is a rather large term. If he meant land tenure in the sense of having to do with conveyancing and the actual title of land, that no doubt is always dealt with by a separate Bill, because the two systems are quite different. But if he means questions such as the present, where such technicalities are absent, I cannot give him a better instance than the Succession Duty Act and the Finance Act. There you have to deal with very difficult questions indeed. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members who say "Oh!" do not know the facts as well as I do. If they had to advise on them 1614 about twice a week, as I do, they would know that there were very difficult questions connected with land tenure in those Acts, and that if there was a case under which a claim might be made for separate treatment because of Scotch nomenclature, it would be those Acts. The Succession Duty Act was passed in 1852, but we have gone on comfortably ever since. Although it is perfectly true that land tenure in Scotland and in England, in the proper sense of the term, is different, yet for the practical purposes of this Bill it is precisely the same in both cases. I do not mean to say that you cannot find minute differences in the law of landlord and tenant in the two countries, but they are really the same. The practice in Scotland and the practice in England have no doubt been very different in one sense, that in old days the rule in Scotland was to have nineteen years leases, whereas in England the practice was to have year to year tenancies. But what does that matter in a Bill which makes no distinction between long and short tenancies? The compensation for improvements is treated in this Bill irrespective of the length of a particular tenancy. So much for the merits. Now let me come to the form. We have heard a speech which certainly was meant to trade on a feeling on which probably it is always safe to trade—namely, the patriotism of hon. Members. To listen to the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite one would have supposed that this Bill was packed with phrases of high English which poor unfortunate Scotchmen could not understand. But while Englishmen may not always be able to understand Scotch, I think Scotchmen can always understand English. If this Bill is read through, it will be found that with the single exception of "distress" which is in a Section which does not apply to Scotland, there is not a single term of art. Every term used is a term of ordinary English, with the possible exception which the hon. Member for the Hawick Burghs flourished, namely, "cesser." It is quite arguable that "cesser" is ordinary English, but at any rate to talk about the difficulties a Scotch Judge would have in making out the meaning of "cesser" is pure affectation. On referring to the Reports I find that not only has the effect of the word "cesser" been discussed, but it is actually a catchword in the Index to 1615 the Scotch Reports. Therefore if the Judges did not understand the meaning of "cesser" they would be very far from fit for their duties. The argument used by the hon. Member for Linlithgow was not an argument on the question of whether there should be a separate Scotch Bill, but on the question of consolidation versus amendment. I challenge anybody to go through the Bill and find a single term of art in it, and I look upon this idea of ultra-Scotch patriotism as perfectly ridiculous.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfarshire)
I am glad to be able to support the contention raised by my hon. friend the Member for Linlithgow. Apart altogether from precedent—and the Lord Advocate has not attempted to argue that precedent is not on our side—let me point out the practical hardship under which we must labour even if this Bill is not discussed in Committee of the whole House. Whenever a Scotch Bill is sent to a Committee upstairs it is the practice that Scotch Members should be added to the Committee in larger proportion than in the case of an English Bill. This is a Bill which affects both England and Scotland, and therefore we cannot in fairness to the English interests in the matter claim, in any way, a preponderating Scotch representation on the Committee. Everyone knows there are differences between Scotch and English matters, especially in regard to land tenure. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture said he stood before the House as the advocate of the agricultural interests. If I may be allowed to say so, that is not at all his primary position in this House in proposing this Bill. He is the advocate of Her Majesty's Government and of the policy of that Government which has led up to the introduction of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said this Bill was ready four years ago. If that was the case, we complain that it was not presented four years ago. I was endeavouring to show that the fact of Scotland being grouped with England in this Bill has led to Scotch interests being sacrificed. As a matter of fact, legislation and administration go together, and what we have suffered from in Scotland is the fact that subjects in which we have a deep and substantial interest have been delayed because it has not been possible for Governments to bring forward legisla- 1616 tion to deal with them. The real reason we are not allowed to have separate Bills for Scotland is that the Government will not give the time of Parliament to the matter. The right hon. Gentleman will have to hold his annual meeting at Edinburgh for a good many more years before he gets thoroughly into touch with Scotch opinion. All the arguments which have been laid before the House in the endeavour to controvert the proposition of my hon. friend would apply with equal cogency to Ireland. But in Ireland there is a separate department, a separate organisation——
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The only question before the House is whether Parliament should legislate on this subject for England and Scotland by one Bill or by two.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I was simply showing that the arguments applicable in this case to Scotland are just as applicable in principle to the case of Ireland. I do not wish to go beyond your ruling, and if I do so it is purely by accident, but I do feel strongly that the agricultural interests of Scotland are sacrificed by the procedure of the Government in regard to this question. In Ireland there has been a very great revival of agriculture, which would have been impossible if Irish interests had not been specially regarded. No one can deny that during the last five years the progress made in Ireland with regard to agriculture has been greater than in any other part of the three kingdoms. I am not content with the position of Scotland at the present time. The foundation for any further progress must be a strong local interest, but it is entirely contrary to that spirit of local interest to adopt the attitude which the Government have adopted in this present Bill. We have in Scotland the same difficulties as are complained of in other parts of the kingdom. We have men wanting land who cannot get land, and we have the same difficulties as to the concentration of population. All this can be combated only by the endeavour to stimulate local interest in agriculture according to local customs and local habits. It is not only on the legal arguments which have been put forward by my hon. friend, but because I believe that underlying those legal arguments are the foundations of a revival of agri- 1617 culture in Scotland as strong and as useful as the revival of agriculture in Ireland, that I support the motion which has been submitted to the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, &c."—(Mr. Long.)1618
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 115; Noes, 30. (Division List No. 100.1617
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Fry, Lewis||Murray, Charles J (Coventry)|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Lon.)||Newdigate, Francis Alexander|
|Arroll, Sir William||Godson, Sir Augustus F.||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Goldsworthy, Major-General||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Goschen, Rt Hn G J (St. George's||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlingt'n|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Bethell, Commander||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Griffith, Ellis J.||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Gull, Sir Cameron||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Bond, Edward||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord Geo.||Purvis, Robert|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hanson, Sir Reginald||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Carlile, William Walter||Hardy, Laurence||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Charles T.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)||Helder, Augustus||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.||Henderson, Alexander||Round, James|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Houston, R. P.||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Charrington, Spencer||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William||Smith, James Parker(Lanarks.|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Keswick, William||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles R.||Kimber, Henry||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)|
|Colston, Chas. E. H. Athole||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning (Corn||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow||Long, Rt Hon Walter (Liverpool||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Cornwallis, Fiennes Stan. W.||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Cotton-Jordrell, Col. Edw. T. D.||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Webster, Sir Richard E.|
|Curzon, Viscount||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Welby, Lt-Col A. C. E. (Taunton|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||M'Killop, James||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Malcolm, Ian||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Fellowes, Hn. Ailwyn Edward||Mellor, Col. (Lancashire)||Williams, Joseph Powell-(Birm|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. Manc'r||Milward, Col. Victor||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Monckton, Edward Philip||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R.(Bath|
|Firbank, Joseph Thomas||More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)||Wyndham, George|
|Fitz Wygram, General Sir F.||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Anstruther and Mr. Fisher.|
|Foster Harry S. (Suffolk)||Murray, Rt Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.)||Horniman, Frederick John||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Caldwell, James||Kilbride, Denis||Ure, Alexander|
|Channing, Francis Allston||M'Dermott, Patrick||Wason, Eugene|
|Doogan, P. C.||Maddison, Fred.||Weir, James Galloway|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Price, Robert John||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Gurdon, Sir Wm. Brampton||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Haldane, Richard Burdon||Roberts, John H. (Denbighsh.||Mr. Causton and Mr. Munro|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale-||Sinclair, Capt. John (Forfarsh.)||Ferguson.|
Bill read a second time.
§ *MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)
I object to this Bill being referred to the Grand Committee on Trade. Scotland has, proportionately, larger agricultural interests than England has. In the ordinary case of referring Scotch Bills to Grand Committees, matters are so arranged that, whilst retaining the balance 1619 of parties, a preponderating number of Scotch Members are added to, or form the actual attendance of, the Committee. In the present case, as the Bill equally applies to England, the English Members will desire their full representation, leaving only one-eleventh for Scotland to be divided between the two sides of the House, allowing only three for the Opposition, a totally inadequate representation for what is the most important Bill of the Session relating to Scotland. It is bad enough to be out-voted by English Members on purely Scotch Bills, but worse to be deprived of all opportunity of discussing an important Scotch Bill in Committee. Step by step Scotland is being deprived of her representative institutions. Only the other day Scotch Members protested against the Ecclesiastical Assessment (Scotland) Bill being sent upstairs. The Government intend to remit two other questions to the same Committee. One is the Railway Servants Bill, and that will take a long time. The Factories Bill is also to he remitted to the Standing Committee on Trade, and now there is this Bill to be considered by the same Committee. What in the world are you going to have considered in this House?—for you are sending everything upstairs. It is not as if this House were over-pressed with work. It seemed as if the Government by sending these three important Bills to the Grand Committee on Trade meant to have an excuse for dropping one or more of them. I think everyone in the House will admit that the majority should not be overbearing upon a question of this kind with the minority; and to say that upon an important Agricultural Bill this side should have only four Scotch Members on the Committee upstairs is treating Scotland in a way which is very unfair.
§ *COLONEL MILWARD (Stratford-upon-Avon)
I do not often agree with the views of the hon. Member for Mid Lanarkshire, but I regret that the Government have determined to send this Bill to the Standing Committee on Trade upstairs, because it is a measure which affects largely the agricultural interest generally. It must be admitted that it is a large Bill, and that there are more Members in this House interested in agricultural questions than in any other question. It has been said that it is unnecessary for us to take part in this Second Reading discussion, 1620 because we should be discussing simply matters of detail. This Bill is almost entirely concerned with questions of detail, and those questions alone can be dealt with in Committee. The only opportunity, therefore, of pressing Amendments is to get some member of the Committee to move them, and it is impossible that any member of the Committee can take charge of an hon. Member's Amendment and do it the same justice as the hon. Member himself would do. When the Bill returns to the House it is perfectly true that you can put down the same Amendment, but the answer given is invariably, "This matter has been discussed and settled upstairs." It is almost impossible to carry out alterations afterwards, because this answer is so ready and effective, and even those Members who vote in favour of an Amendment upstairs will often vote against it upon Report, in order to act loyally to the Committee upstairs. Under these circumstances I regret that the Government have made up their mind to send the Bill upstairs, because I think it is one of those measures which could be dealt with better in Committee of the whole House.
§ SIR BRAMPTON GURDON (Norfolk, N.)
I desire to say a few words upon this point, because it is a Bill which concerns agriculturists alone, and I represent an agricultural constituency. The right hon. Gentleman is aware of the difficulty which any hon. Member has in persuading the House to make any alterations after the Bill has been threshed out by the Grand Committee. This Bill requires very considerable amendment. It seems to me as if someone had gone through the Bill of 1883 and made pencil notes upon it of the amendments required, and instead of drafting a new Bill, the Bill has been reproduced with the pencil notes. Having regard to the importance of this Bill, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not press the motion.
§ MR. WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
Upon this question I wish to add my voice to the opinions expressed by those who have spoken before me. This has been a very technical debate, and the speeches have shown that this measure is dealing with a purely agricultural subject, and it should be left to agricultural Members to decide. If it goes to the 1621 Grand Committee on Trade the agricultural Members representing agricultural constituencies will have very little say in the matter, and I am afraid it will be made into a Bill which will not suit agricultural constituencies. I do ask the Government to reconsider this motion, and give agricultural Members some reasonable chance of moving Amendments.
§ *MR. LONG
One of the grounds upon which we have been asked to reconsider our determination to refer this Bill to the Standing Committee on Trade is that opportunities may be given to Scottish Members to press forward Scottish interests, of which we have heard a good deal to night. The hon. Member has evidently overlooked the fact that the Committee of Selection have added some fifteen members to the Standing Committee on Trade for the purpose of considering
§ sidering the measures which have been referred to that Committee. I believe it is the most businesslike method of dealing with a measure of this kind to refer it to the Committee upstairs, where the speeches are not so long, and where you get every point considered from a practical point of view. The Government have taken this course with a view of getting forward with the measure, and I do not think this House will be deprived of a reasonable opportunity of introducing Amendments. There might be something said against my proposal if this Bill raised matters of a strictly party and controversial character, but that cannot be said in this case. I hope the House will accept the motion which I have made.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 110; Noes, 35. (Division List No. 101.)1623
|Acland-Hood, Capt, Sir A. F.||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Lond||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Arrol, Sir William||Goldsworthy, Major-General|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Goschen, Rt Hn G. J, (St George's||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Pease, Herbt. Pike (Darlington|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Piatt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Gull, Sir Cameron||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Bethell, Commander||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord George||Purvis, Robert|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hanson, Sir Reginald|
|Bond, Edward||Hardy, Laurence||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas Thomson|
|Helder, Augustus||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Carlile, William Walter||Henderson, Alexander||Round, James|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.||Houston, R. P.||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wo'r||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Smith, J. Parker (Lanarksh.)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. William||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Keswick, William||Stanley, Edward J. (Somerset)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Kimber, Henry||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (Liverp'l|
|Cornwallis, Fiennes Stanley W.||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Webster, Sir Richard E.|
|Cotton-Jodrell, Col. Edw. T. D||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E, (Tauntn|
|Curzon, Viscount||Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts.)|
|Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||M'Killop, James||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Malcolm, Ian||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset)|
|Dyke, Rt Hn Sir William Hart||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Williams, J. Powell-(Birm.)|
|Martin, Richard Biddulph||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Fellowes, Hn. Ailwyn Edward||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E.R. (Bath)|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn Sir J. (Manc'r||Monckton, Edward Philip||Wyndham, George|
|Finlay, Sir Robt. Bannatyne.||More, Robt. J. (Shropshire)|
|Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Fitz Wygram, General Sir F.||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Anstruther and Mr. Fisher.|
|Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry|
|Newdigate, Francis Alexander|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.||Haldane, Richard Burdon||Roberts, John H. (Denbighsh.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale-||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Horniman, Frederick John||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Jones, David B. (Swansea)||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.||Ure, Alexander|
|Crilly, Daniel||Kilbride, Denis||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Disraeli, Conings by Ralph||Maddison, Fred.||Wason, Eugene|
|Doogan, P. C.||Milward, Colonel Victor||Weir, James Galloway|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarth'n||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Moulton, John Fletcher|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Price, Robert John||TELLERS, FOR THE NOES—Captain Sinclair and Mr. Caldwell.|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Reckitt Harold James|
|Gurdon, Sir Wm. Brampton||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
§ In pursuance of the Order of the House of the 6th day of this instant April, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.1624
§ Adjourned accordingly at five minutes before Twelve of the clock till Thursday, 26th April.