§ Order for Second Reading road.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ * MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
rose to move as an Amendment, "That this House welcomes State action to promote small holdings; but, supporting the principle of responsible ownership in land, it believes that the Government 548 policy should be based on purchase, and deprecates the extension of an extreme form of divided ownership to districts beyond those crofter areas where the occupier provides equipment." He said the Amendment dealt with two aspects of the Bill which were detrimental to individual initiative and failed to meet the requirements of public control. The Amendment of his hon. friend opposite dealt with a similar point on more contracted lines.†It also asserted the principle of responsible ownership. That, to his mind, was an essential principle and he would be prepared to support such an Amendment as against the Bill. In his opinion no more important question had ever come before the House, and he would like to remind hon. Members of some of its main features. On the one hand they had a depressing shrinkage in the number of persons employed on the soil, a point of supreme importance when considered in connection with the restricted area of these islands and the proportion which the country population bore to the total population as well as the extent of their external responsibilities. The landward population furnished the vital strength of the people. Among the weak points of our land system one was that in no country was there so large an area of waste as they found in Scotland. In no country were large estates and large holdings so prevalent; in no country was there such an unparalleled import of the necessaries of life which could be profitably grown at home, nor was there elsewhere any such cleavage as was to be found in Scotland between the country and town populations, and where there were so few of those living in the villages and towns who found employment on the neighbouring land. In fact, in Scotland, if additional labour was required on the land they could only got it from Ireland, and they found, he admitted, that the Irish were the best workers after all. Another feature was the large extent of land devoted to purposes of pleasure and of sport. If access to the land was difficult at times it was even more disquieting to find access to it so generally unsought, and the condition† MR. BARNES:—On Second Reading of Small Landholders (Scotland) Bill, to move, "That no Bill providing for State aid in the purchase of land can be satisfactory unless it provides for the vesting of the freehold in the state.549 of affairs in Scotland showed how entirelydivorced the urban population had come to be from the soil. The State, was nowhere so little alive to its responsibilities, whether as an educator or an experimenter, and especially as an active agent in cases where the initiative of the private owner failed. On the other hand they had the first agriculture in the world in the production of certain forms of crop; they were the first stock-raisers in the world, and in no other country was the equipment of a holding at once so complete or so costly as in Scotland. They had also an elaborate system of preservation of game. He believed his right hon. friend the Lord Advocate had given some attention to that matter. But he was not himself sure of the advantages of that form of revenue. Still, it was there, and they had to make something of it as best they could, because, after all, a considerable proportion of the population in some places had come to depend upon it. He was inclined to think that on the whole they would have been bettor off in Scotland if no game rent had ever been received in that country, because then they would have had to devote their attention to the ordinary products of the soil, and the industrial use of the land by agriculture would have been more advanced than it now was. Out of a total area of nineteen million acres in Scotland about one fourth was available for agriculture and one fourth for sylviculture. Apart from the urban area, they had about ten million acres which remained to be dealt with. Their objects were two-fold, first to increase the number of those that the soil would maintain, and secondly to improve the status of those who were there. There were three lines of action open to them, the first was afforestation, the second was intensive agriculture, and the third was the creation of small farms. Afforestation would be a means of bringing population to the land of Scotland. There were four of five millions of acres which, under a Forest Department, might attract people to the soil and this was Government work, because under no other form could they ensure that continuous good management which made sylviculture possible. There were two or three millions of acres best suited to sylviculture which might be transferred, under the schedule of the Deer Forests Commission, permanently to crofters graz- 550 ing lands, that might not add appreciably to the number on the soil; it would add to the comfort of those who were already there; whereas if the area were retained for afforestation tens of thousands of families might find their living in the work of sylviculture and its attendant industries. TheBill neglected the remedy for depopulation which afforestation would afford, and unless there was some security for obtaining freeright of entry upon land suitable, it would block the way to developing any scheme of afforestation. By intensive cultivation they could supplant ordinary agriculture and it would add to the number on the soil. He thought three or four acres were sufficient to maintain a family in comfort on suitable soil. As an illustration of that he would quote from the evidence given before the inquiry of James Stewart, a small holder, who was a shoemaker by trade. He rented two acres at £5 per acre about twenty-five years ago, and went into the fruit trade. Stewart's next venture was the leasing of five acres of ground at Old Rattray, and subsequently ho bought this ground at £100 per acre. In a short time he had sold two and a half acres for £700, and held as profit the remaining two and-a-half acres plus £200. He then leased nine acres at £10 peracre, this high rent being caused by the fear of compensation claims. In 1902 he bought fifteen acres, and was now one of the occupying owners at Essendy. Since then he had leased a number of acres at St. Fink, two miles north from Rattray, at £4 per acre. That was a remarkable example of what might bedone by fruit growing, on a system of intensive cultivation. Intensive cultivation could be well conducted either through local authorities, agricultural associations, or occupying ownership. Much could be done simply through purchasing land and reselling it. In his opinion intensive cultivation was the proper sphere for the local authorities. The land needed very little equipment, whereas the county council was not competent to work small farms, because of the cost of equipment and the difficulty of management; that branch of the land question could best be dealt with by a central authority. The local authority was an admirable agent, not only to provide land for market gardening but for another ultimate purpose. If the town councils could take land by compulsion at a fair 551 market price they could possess themselves of land values, and in that way they could solve the building land difficulty. For these reasons he thought the largest powers should be given to local authorities, and there was no reason why the fullest freedom should not be allowed to the expansion of intensive cultivation. He regretted that the Bill ignored the agency of the local authority; indeed, it expressly excluded suburban land from the scope of the measure, and that was a limitation which needed explanation. Then as to the creation of small farms, he contended that if these small farms were to be used for the growth of the ordinary agricultural crops they ought to be of an economic size, say fifty acres. But by their creation they did not necessarily add to the number of persons on the soil; what they did was to add to the status of the small farmer as compared with the farm servant. The area available for small farms was limited by the visiting equipment, which represented the whole value of the arable land. They were dealing, therefore, not with land but with capital. The small farmers could not afford to pay the same rent as the large farmers. The small farmer might be able to compete with the large farmer if he was equally well trained, and could co-operate. It was only fair to state that small farms had held their own wonderfully well in Scotland considering the great disadvantages under which they laboured, although the work of dairy farming, which was the most remunerative form, without co-operation was but a life of grinding toil. The immediate needs with respect to small holdings were that the State should experiment with large groups of small holdings in suitable localities, and when it had been shown that they could be made a permanent economic success they would then be widely established. The large farmer was able to handle his produce in bulk, but not so the small farmer; and therefore to scatter small farms promiscuously throughout the country was to invite failure at the public expense. Groups of small holdings ought to be set up under cooperative conditions, and under a variety of tenure suitable to the customs of the locality. The cast-iron tenure laid down was one of the defects of the Bill. Tenure differed in different counties. In Worcestershire they found occupying 552 ownership, in Lincolnshire there was mostly a yearly tenure, in Scotland as a rule they had the nineteen years lease tenure, and in the Highlands the permanent form of tenure. They had to adopt the kind of tenure which was suitable to the locality before they could put the tenants on a basis which was likely to succeed. In agriculture there was great need of object lessons, especially in regard to experiments in equipment. He believed that land could be equipped cheaper for small than it was now equipped for large farms, but until more experiments were made upon that point it would remain a matter of opinion. He noticed that there was no money provided for such experiments under the Bill, and consequently the essentials to make the scheme a success would be starved, because all the money under the Bill was ear-marked for the equipment of small holdings. The smallholder had very few enemies as yet, but he thought that he would find a good many enemies created for him under the Bill. The machinery required for England and Scotland was practically identical. There were three agencies available: (1) The agency of the State; (2) the agency of the local authority; and (3) that of the individual. He drew attention to the land programme as outlined by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies at Drury Lane, and stated his belief that the trend of opinion, whether in the Highlands or elsewhere, was entirelyin the direction of small holdings. It was very important that the House should see the English Bill before they went into Committee on the Scottish Bill. If purchase was a sound principle in the one case, it would not be unsound in the other. It would be of infinite advantage to both countries to know what principle they were definitely embarking upon. After all, though the Cheviots formed the dividing line between the two countries, they did not divide two systems of agriculture, except that to the north equipment was mere costly, and tenure was more methodically arranged. The application by a central authority of its own powers, or of its pressure upon local authorities and private owners, to meet any genuine demand for small holdings was the pivot of the settlement of this question. The speech of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies had made it clear that the 553 English Bill was to be on a purchase basis. The right hon. Gentleman said—They wished to pay a fair market price for land which was taken for public purposes. Private person would imitate the State and initiate small holdings. Land acquired by the State by the use of its credit and authority could never be alienated again. Nothing could be accepted that would obstruct public ownership. No scheme could have a chance which did not combine individual incentive with collectivist apparatus.That was a perfectly sound policy, it clearly indicated a purchase basis and responsible ownership of the land. By responsible ownership he did not mean ownership entirely in the hands of the individual, but ownership by the State or the local authority or the individual. With an English Bill on these lines they should get to work immediately. They got the requisite flexibility of tenure because that was assured under responsible ownership, and they would use the owner to the full, for he would desire to avoid expropriation. There was no reason why the £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 a year now spent on equipment by British landowners should not be spent just as readily on small holdings as on large. But that expenditure must necessarily cease under any system of divided ownership. This Bill would provide £65,000 a year I to be spent in equipment, and would I risk the loss of the £2,000,000 a year that was now spent by the owners, who would no longer invest under divided ownership. He was merely talking of what an ordinary business man in Scotland, or anywhere else, would do under divided ownership; they could not expect the present landowners to go on with this expenditure. With divided ownership it was more difficult to borrow money for improvements, and the value of the property was depreciated. That had been seen in one or two cases which had lately been tried. If a small holder made money on his little farm, or failed, he would wish to leave or to take more land in order to make more money. Then; the owner was resurrected in order to take over the new equipment and add it to the old one left on his own hand. The State was to make gifts and advance loans in a way which made the Bill far more complicated than anything in the Irish Land Act. If a small tenant failed, he remained attached to 554 the land until he could pay up his debt. He could hardly conceive a more complicated system. In fact, it was unworkable. It would set up a body judicial in form, but not judicial in character—an exotic authority having no place in the permanent institutions of the country. It would not be of a judicial character, because it would represent an interested party, and all claims would be settled by it. It would come under the lash of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for any loss, or it would come under the lash of the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty if it did not take up enough land. In case of failure the loss would have to fall on somebody. The Land Court proposed tinder the Bill would not be accepted as a judicial authoiity—it had some of the characteristics of the Star Chamber and some of the attributes of Paul Pry. Its business was to make the thing pay at any cost, and therefore it could not be accepted as impartial. Co-operation would be withheld. In most of the clauses there was an unlimited opening for litigation—an opening which was lacking in last year's Bill. He was dealing with people who, taking land under economic conditions, were anxious to make money. He believed that the costs of a Land Court would be a very serious matter indeed. As to the framework of the Bill, it was repudiated by the agriculturists of Scotland. It had been repudiated by the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture almost unanimously at a meeting at which over 200 members were present. He confessed that he would like to see a special branch of the Board of Agriculture in Scotland, not another dead branchof the dry administrative tree, but an organisation which would have the authority and knowledge of the Agricultural Department in London. The Bill professed that its object was to attract people to the soil; but he maintained that it would not. It was intended to raise the status of those who were on the soil. That was doubtful, because a small holder would find it very difficult to rise under the conditions of the Bill. They gave him no facilities to rise. Free sale would have to be given, so that he might get rid of his equipment and be able to go on to another farm. Why should he forfeit all protection under valued rent when he took a larger farm? He believed that free sale was an essential 555 provision, under ordinary economic conditions, of any scheme of security of tenure under divided ownership. The Secretary for Scotland, in Roxburghshire, recognised that there must be co-operation amongst small farmers and held that this was impracticable without security of tenure; but it was just as much in the interests of the landlords to co-operate as it was to the tenants. If a central creamery or depot were put up the landlords would save enormously by not having to provide separate milk and cheese rooms for each tenant. He believed that if in Scotland they set up divided ownership with valued rents it would lend itself to bad farming, for the farm would often be run down out of condition before the valuation was fixed. It would be the Irish failure over again. The Highland tenure worked well because the people there were fixed on the soil. Suppose crofters wanted to emigrate to Canada, the Crofter Act would break down unless there was free sale. There was a real distinction between the Highland and the Lowland line. On the one side the tenant made the permanent improvements, and on the other side the landlord made the permanent improvements. He believed that divided ownership was impossible outside the crofter area. Before the Small Holdings Inquiry there was no shred of evidence in favour of dividing large farms into small holdings by compulsory leasing. Mr. Miller, who was a leader of the Land League in Caithness, like other witnesses before the inquiry, was in favour of purchase. On that principle all difficulty disappeared. If an Agricultural Commission and Land Court were set up no man would be ever able to get through the work of the Agricultural Commissioner. All holdings of under fifty acres would have to be dealt with. He would have to supervise not only the control of all holdings under fifty acres, and to have the responsibility of sub-dividing all holdings over 150 acres, but also to provide a fresh equipment by way of loan or gift. One of the leading defects of the Bill was that the land within urban areas would be outside its scope, whether holdings were large or small. He would like to see something like what they had in France, intensive cultivation within a wide radius of populous centres. Under the provisions of the Bill 556 farms would be excluded from its operation in Scotland until the leases fell out. The restriction affecting a farm between £50 and £150 leaving the authority of the owner over it absolute, was either hostile to the main object or a mere paper restriction. If fixity of tenure was a good thing for farms below £50, was it a bad thing above £50?He thought that all these restrictions ought to be swept away out of the Bill, because they would never have appeared except for the vicious principle of divided ownership upon which the Bill was founded. The influence of divided ownership was over the whole scheme, and he did not see how the landlord could be expected to keep up the equipment whether farms came under the Act or whether they did not. He believed. that free sale was the inevitable consequence of the provisions of the Bill in order to provide efficient equipment. Money must be found somehow in Scotland for this equipment. If the owners did not find it itmust be found by the occupiers, who would not readily find it, and did not want to do so, and therefore it must be found by the State. If the money was to be provided by the State it would not be £65,000, but ten or twenty times that sum. The Scottish farmer was very much of the same opinion as the Scottish owner. They held that divided ownership could not be a permanent system. The promoters of this Bill had never faced the difficulty of equipment, but, like the perplexed minister, having looked the difficulty firmly in the face, they had passed it by on the other side. The finance of the Bill, moreover, deserved, he thought, the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer because some innocent successor of the present occupant of the office would some day have to find another hundred millions necessary to produce order out of chaos, and once more establish responsible ownership in some shape or another by the State, the community, or the individual. It was said that "all depended upon the members of the Land Board and the Coin-mission," and no doubt a good deal did depend upon them. Too much. He did not think that any such power as that proposed could be given to any Department. He was not sure whether, even if the promoters of the Bill were to appoint themselves on the 557 Commission and the Land Court, the operation of the Bill would be freed from peril. If they were going to nationalize land, by all means let thorn do so; let them do so by some thoroughgoing and states-manlike scheme; but he did object to the policy of abolishing responsible owner-ship. He was one of a small minority in the House who were perhaps better at working on the land than at talking about it. He had tried to make his views plain, and had asked some plain questions, to which, he had no doubt, he would get perfectly plain answers. He wanted to know why the system of purchase had been set aside, and whether the substance of the English Bill would be known before they went into Committee on this Bill.
§ * MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
said he regretted that, and in that case he thought the Bill ought to be considered in Committtee of the Whole House, Strongly as he was in favour of the Scottish Committee, he had always said that there were certain conditions under which Bills should be considered by a Committee of the Whole House, or one representative of the Whole House.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
pointed out that he was not responsible in the least for the English Bill. The hon. Member knew the arrangement in regard to this debate, which was that it should be taken to-night and to morrow night, and that no other business should be taken, and that then the Bill should automatically go to the Standing Scottish Committee upstairs.
§ * MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
thought that they ought to know definitely what the form of the English Bill would be before this Bill wentupstairs. He was convinced that the limitation and machinery of the Bill would circumscribe the very small relative area available for small farms. At best that area was very small and if unnecessarily restricted he thought it would be impossible to give them a fair chance. The first draft of the Bill did not provide for the Land Court, and he would like to know for what reason it was introduced. No doubt most owners desired to co-operate in small holdings, but he 558 did not see how they could, and if they did not find it possible, how were the two or three millions a year necessary for equipment and development to be found? It would also be desirable to know on what principle the gifts or loans of the Government were to be distributed, and why the local authorities were not to have compulsory powers of purchasing land at a fair market value assessed by official valuers. Again, how was the owner to be assured of his existing rent whether it was high or whether it was low, and after the seven fat years he was to enjoy, how was he to fare during the succeeding lean years? How was the money to be got for groups of small experimental farms, and how were the Government going to face the expenditure upon afforestation? On what ground was it proposed to withdraw agricultural interests from the Board of Agriculture and set up another Board in Edinburgh? One would also like to know, if fixity of tenure was good in itself, why it was to be limited to the cases of holdings below £50? And why should free sale be denied when it was really wanted if the small tenant was really to obtain facilities to rise? All the limitations in regard to the taking of land should be dropped and compulsory leasing should be abandoned in favour of purchase, while town and county councils should be utilised and a Forest Department should undertake sylviculrure. Although he did not look at it as the sole solution, still he had great sympathy with the occupying ownership scheme of his right hon. friend the Member for Bordesley, because he thought if they were going to attract people from the towns on to the soil again it was only a system of ownership which would do it. He could not blame anyone for voting against this Bill as it stood, because he should vote against it himself. It was not, he might point out, always the landlord who suffered by a badly drafted Bill, but often the tenant. When the Land Tenure Bill was before the House they had a discussion which ended in the landlords getting all the Amendments in their favour inserted and in the tenants losing all the Amendments which wore put down in their interest. He urged, therefore, that this Bill should be put upon a sound basis of responsible ownership, 559 and that the limitations which it contained, and which were necessitated by its vicious principle, should be left out of it. He begged to move.
§ * SIRE. TENNANT (Salisbury)
in seconding the Amendment, said the delicacy and importance of the Bill now before the House had drawn him from a seclusion which had hitherto remained unbroken. They had authority for saying that the position of small holders was not ideal. In France especially there were 6,000,000 of small holders who were in receipt of pauper assistance. They wished to see small holdings adopted in this country, but in order that they should be adopted they must be on an economic basis. The question arose, therefore, how that could be done. Scotland was not a new country like Tasmania, where it could be easily accomplished. In Scotland they had an ancient land tenure that was understood and which was characteristic of the Scottish nation. It must be provided in the first place that these holdings should be put on a business footing. The second condition was that there should be no element that could alienate any class; and the third that a fair return or capital should be reasonably expected. How were those conditions borne out in the Bill? The Government proposed to take good land from possibly a good landlord, who might be a poor landlord, while the bad landlord in the same neighbourhood might not suffer at all. It must be remembered the land in Scotland was not looked upon merely as capital from which interest alone might be extracted. It was regarded as a sacred heritage. The applicant for a small holding might be an inexperienced man; the Land Commissioners might erect buildings for him, and he might make a start. He could quite imagine a few bad years, and want of knowledge of the conditions of the country would leave him bankrupt. If such a man left his holding what became of the improvements? He supposed the Land Commissioners would endeavour to get their value from the landlord, and leave him with improvements which he did not want. The Bill not only transgressed the ordinary canons of commercial life, but very nearly transgressed the Ten Commandments. They used to look for protection from the Government, but compared with this Bill the nationalisa 560 tion of land became a reasonable proposal. It was one thing to redistribute the land as national property, but quite another thing for the Government to redistribute land in this manner, and take the land of large owners of property without taking financial responsibility. If the demand for small holdings was not artificial there was plenty of good land in Scotland to-day which might be had by voluntary purchase. His hon. friend had shown what land had been excluded from this Bill, yet that land, surburban land, was the very land where this experiment might have been tried with the greatest success. In the neighbourhood of towns was to be found a ready market, handy railway communication, and every advantage to make small holdings a success, and with regard to intensive agriculture in the future he had the greatest hope for that form of agriculture where co-operation was possible. If the Government desired to give small holdings in Scotland they should have avoided the interminable confusion which these questions would raise when tenancies came to an end. When rights of landwore taken away they should surely be paid for. He seconded the Amendment.
To leave out from the word 'that' to the end of the Question, in order to insert the words, 'this House welcomes State action to promote small holdings; but supporting the principle of responsible ownership in land, it believes that the Government policy should be based on purchase, and deprecates the extension of an extreme form of divided ownership to districts beyond those crofter areas where the occupier provides equipment.' "—(Mr. Munro Ferguson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ * THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. URE, Linlithgowshire)
said the House had listened to an interesting although some what discursive homily on agriculture in general, and intensive cultivation and small holdings in particular. With a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman had said he entirely agreed, but it did not seem to him that it was militated against in the slightest degree by the present Bill. The House would, however, agree that they had not heard from his hon. friend any reasoned attack on the principle of the 561 Bill, and still less any reasoned defence of the Amendment which was proposed. He was emboldened to rise at once and make some reply to the challenge of his hon. friend upon the method, not the aim of the Bill, because the Amendment did not encroach on the question of husbandry, but was confined exclusively to a question on which he did not feel himself quite at sea. His hon. friend had commented on the absence from the Bill of what he called responsible ownership, but he would endeavour to show that although responsible ownership in the form understood by his hon. friend was absent the valuable element to a small holder of responsible ownership was present. The hon. Gentleman had also complained of the presence in the Bill of what he called divided ownership. He (Mr. Ure) hoped to satisfy the House that there was not a shred of divided ownership in the Bill. His hon. friend had put forward as a complete solution of the problem which confronted the House a scheme of State aided land purchase, of which all that need be said was that it was a system contrary to the genius and customs of the Scottish people.
§ * MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
said he did not contemplate a general system of land purchase. Ho only advocated land purchase for groups of experimental farms as a preliminary step.
§ * MR. URE
said that limited the Amendment to a very narrow area. He was, however, afraid that as he understood it there was no other alternative to the scheme. A scheme for acquiring small holdings by purchase would cost millions of money and would, in the opinion of the Government, need to be forced on those for whoso benefit it was intended, and further it afforded no guarantee against inefficient cultivation of the land. He congratulated his hon. friend on his phraseology. He had abandoned dual ownership. Dual ownership was a vile phrase—a phrase which found no place in our system of Scottish jurisprudence. "Joint ownership" they knew, but joint ownership was not in this Bill. Joint ownership meant that without agreement or without recourse to the law courts the joint owners were paralytic on their own property. But he denied the existence of joint ownership in this 562 measure. He did not propose to split straws or chop logic, but to inquire what were the rights of which the landlord would be shorn and what were the rights which the tenant would obtain if the Bill became law tomorrow. What could the landlord do to-day which be would not be able to do when the Bill became law of the land? The House would agree that that was a fair way to state the case. He said without hesitation that t the only change which the Bill made in the land tenure of Scotland, in the law which regulated the relationship between landlord and tenant, was that it deprived the landlord of the right which he at present possessed, without giving, or indeed having, any good reason whatever, to remove a tenant; and it endowed the tenant with the right, which he did not at present possess, of remaining on in his holding unless there was some good cause to remove him. He said deliberately that that was the sole change which was made in the law of landlord and tenant in Scotland by the Bill. He was not for a moment forgetting the existence in the Bill of the provisions for enabling an impartial and skilled tribunal to fix a fair rent between landlord and tenant. As the House very well knew, the fair rent court was the inevitable consequence of the introduction of fixed tenure. Fixed tenure, as the House knew quite well, was an impossibility without a fair-rent court. It was perfectly obvious that if the landlord was eager to get rid of a disagreeable tenant he had only to fix an exorbitant rent, and when the tenant could not pay he turned him out. Therefore the House could not say that such a. change was not abolishing the right of arbitrary eviction on the part of the landlord. The Bill carried the matter a step further than the Act of last session. The Act of last session, the House would remember, left the landlord's right of arbitrary eviction untouched, but compelled him to pay compensation for the exercise of it. This Bill, on the other hand, abolished the right altogether, and correctly so; because let the House never forget that the measure dealt exclusively with the holdings which were men's homes, and out of which they had to make their living. A man's right of tenancy was absolutely destroyed, if he ceased to live upon and to cultivate his holding. He did not for a single moment underrate the magnitude of this 563 change, which provided that a tenant should no longer, without good and valid reasons, be removed from his holding. It might be said that the objection to the change was sentimental. Let it he so. Sentiment was the most powerful motive which actuated mankind. Man died for sentiment. But then, although a sentimental objection did not yield to logic, it vanished away before the soothing influence of time. Although he had often heard hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen opposite threaten what the landlords would do if certain Bills were passed, he had never heard one hon. Gentleman or right hon. Gentleman say that they would do those things themselves. He rather thought they did the landlords an injustice. For his part, he declined absolutely to believe that if the Bill became law the landlords of Scotland would refrain from following that fair and just policy which they had almost universally pursued in the case of their tenants, Members opposite might say why then did the Government propose to destroy the landlords' prestige. His answer was, "Sentiment," and sentiment was just as strong in the tenant as in the landlord. It was a sentiment which produced in the tenant that sense of security which enabled a man to say, "This is my house in which my wife and family may continue as long as I cultivate the land and conform to the reasonable conditions of my tenancy." The sense of security was the most powerful stimulus to the cultivation of the land. Why did ownership give that sense of security? Was it because the owner knew he had power to sell? Certainly not. Was it because the owner had power to let or to borrow? Certainly not. It was because the owner knew that he could remain on his holding, no one daring to bid him go. That sense of security was given by this Bill without establishing ownership, and if that was so, the Government had achieved the maximum of gain with the minimum of change. If the Bill became law the landlord would still be able to sell his land, to let it, to borrow on it, to clear it of tenants for a good reason, and to bequeath in his will. He would ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite if they could really say that a man who had all these rights left to him was deprived of the rights of ownership? Could they really say that a tenant who 564 had none of these rights had a shred of ownership in the land? Was it not an abuse of language to speak of divided ownership as between a man who possessed all these rights, and the man who possessed not a single one of them? He went further. In spite of the presence of the tenant on the land, the landlord had the right under the Bill to enter on the land at all reasonable times; to cross the land if he had occasion to make roads; to enter upon his land for the purpose of mining and quarrying, cutting timber and cutting peat, unless the timber was grown by the tenant, or peat required for the tenant's fire. The landlord had the right to shoot, hunt, fish, and kill game, game under sixteen different categories, beginning with deer and ending with widgeon and teal. Under the Bill, if a tenant obstructed the landlord in any of these rights the penalty was forfeiture of the tenancy. He doubted whether hon. Members opposite knew of any rights which a landlord who had let his land to a tenant, possessed higher than those he had enumerated, but if hon. Members could suggest any other right which the land land ought to possess, then he undertook, on the part of the Government, that it should receive most favourable consideration.
§ * MR. URE
said he did not understand the hon. Gentleman. The interruption was hopelessly irrelevant. For the hon. Gentleman and his friends made it the head and front of their attack upon the Bill that it left the landlord with his rent and nothing more. It might be said that the landlord was deprived of his power of resumption of the land. Nothing of the kind. If the landlord had any reasonable cause for resuming his land connected with the advantage of the estate, he was entitled to resume it. If he intended to farm the land, to erect buildings upon it, to plant it, to use it for any purpose for the advantage of the estate, he was entitled to resume his land. Was it not a travesty to say that a landlord endowed with all these rights was a mere rent charger or rent receiver? What other rights than those he had named could they endow the landlord with? [An HON. MEMBER: The right to fix fair rents.] His hon. friend had 565 surely not observed what he had said, that it was impossible for the Government to give the security proposed without having a fair rent court, He repeated that it was a travesty of the Bill to say that it reduced the landlord to a mere rent charger or receiver. It was no serious contribution to the debate to speak of the landlord as a mere rent receiver. Fixity of tenure was the object which they had in view, and fixity and security of tenure was the object which they believed would be achieved by the Bill. From the many things he had read and some he had heard he was bound to say that the phrase "fixity of tenure" seemed to belamentably misunderstood. Many appeared to believe that fixity of tenure was some method by which bad tenants were irremovably attached to good landlords. Had hon. Members really examined the safeguards which were set out in the Bill, or had they considered all the conditions which were imposed upon the tenant in case he failed to carry out his agreement? If he failed to pay his rent, if he did not live on and cultivate the holding, if he deteriorated the soil, if he dilapidated the buildings which he himself might have erected from money borrowed from the Agricultural Commissioners or supplied by himself, if he broke any of the conditions imposed on him by the Land Court, if he sub-let or assigned or sub-divided his holding, if he opened a public-house upon it or if he became bankrupt, in all those events the tenant would forfeit his tenancy. Could hon. or right hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest any other conditions which ought to be imposed? He could conceive none. If hon. Gentlemen opposite could suggest any other conditions which might reasonably be laid on the tenant, they would be favourably received. That was the position and those were the rights of the landlords upon the question. He now turned to the rights and the position of the tenant under the Bill. The tenant could not sell or let or bequeath the holding, and he could not borrow money and burden his holding. He could not sub-let it, he could not exclude the landlord from the holding nor cease to cultivate it, and if he borrowed money for the purpose of erecting buildings he could not move or sell those buildings, and he would be compelled to leave them on the holding, receiving for 566 them when he left only such compensation as represented their value to an incoming tenant. Under those circumstances he thought the House would agree that it was incorrect to speak of a divided ownership between the two either in theextreme sense suggested by his hon. friends or in any sense at all. He might be asked why he had laboured at such length to demonstrate that there was neither dual or divided ownership in the Bill. He scarcely knew why he had done so, except for the reason that the tenants had always represented that dual ownership carried in its train all those disasters which had dogged the footsteps of land reform in Ireland. He had never heard the reason why oven if this Bill reeked with dual ownership the disasters which were said to have followed land reform in Ireland should concern them in Scotland. He saw in his place the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, who possessed an unrivalled knowledge of agriculture, and a very large experience in Irish land administration. Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell them when he intervened what relation there was between dual ownership in Ireland and the disasters which had followed Irish land reform? There were some ex-Chief Secretaries for Ireland in the House, and they were told the other night what a valuable asset they were. He would welcome their intervention in the debate. If the Government denied to a tenant the right to sell under this Bill or the right to burden his holding, then they had fixed a great gulf wide, deep and impassable between the lrish and the Scottish system of land tenure. There was another feature in which the system set up by this Bill differed from the Irish, the importance of which, in the eyes of those who like himself had some knowledge of legal procedure and the expenses it involved could not possibly be exaggerated. They had provided that there should be no appeal whatsoever from the Land Court and that the procedure in that Court should be of the cheapest and most expeditious order. The Irish Land Court had cost £133,000 and it had taken twenty-five years to fix the first and second statutory terms of 300,000 holdings. In order to reduce the rents it cost the wretched tenants in legal expenses not less than the advantage they would gain for a 567 whole year. He need say no more upon that point to convince the House how it was that Irish land reform had suffered so desperately under this colossal weight, expense, and delay. But he had never yet heard any man state in this House to what the alleged failure of the Irish Land Act was due, and panting for information he turned to the Report of the Select Committee presided over by the Secretary of State for India, when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1894, upon the working of the Irish Land Acts. Ho did not think he would be far wrong if he said that failure could be traced directly to two causes. In the first place the interpretation of the Acts by the Land Court, whether right or wrong, absolutely defeated the intention of Parliament and saddled tenants with rents fixed upon their own improvements, runts which by universal admittance they were hopelessly unable to pay. In the second place, there was the absolutely appalling weight of legal expense which was increased enormously by the delay in legal proceedings. Those, he thought, were the two main reasons why Irish land reform had proved a failure. If he had stated those reasons aright then the supporters of this Bill had nothing to fear from the Irish example. He observed that a great English, Irish and Scottish landowner, the noble Marquess who led the Opposition in the House of Lords, speaking in Scotland not many months ago used these very remarkable words—I am connected with a country which should be an object lesson to land reformers— I mean Ireland. We have had land Bills enough to paper the walls of this room. We have tribunals costing hundreds of thousands of pounds a year; we have Courts which may be perfectly honest, and doing work to the best of their ability, but which are distrusted by both parties, and now the last Government has added another and found a very large sum of money in order to extract us from our hopeless condition by means of an expensive scheme of land purchase.Those striking sentences did not need any comment, for they stated clearly the reasons for the so-called failure of the Irish Land Acts. Scotsmen had no reason whatever to fear from this comparison. He had been asked why the Government preferred their own scheme to the alternative of land purchase. There seemed to be overwhelming reasons in favour of the Government scheme. First of all, it appeared to them that the method chosen 568 involved the smallest change in the existing law compatible with the achievement of the objects they had in view. In the second place, and not less important, they had experience to guide them, for they had the valuable experience gained by the working of the Crofters Acts. It had been universally admitted that those Acts had produced admirable results. In the third place, the Government believed that under that scheme they had a bettor guarantee for the efficient cultivation of the land. And lastly, there was the cost. Millions of money would have been required to accomplish their object by the method suggested by his hon. friend, and those who knew the rigid front which the Treasury always offered to the pecuniary demands of Scotland would realise what a formidable objection was in their way. He was well aware that the experience gained under the Crofters Act was considered by hon. Members opposite as being valueless, when applied to the scheme of the present Bill. Why was it that a scheme which had succeeded in crofting parishes should prove unsuccessful in the lowland parishes? He would probably be told the reason was that in the lowland parishes it had been the practice and the custom for the landlord and not the tenant to erect the buildings and make the improvements. Assuming that was the case, why should a man be deprived of security of tenure and the incentive to good cultivation which that gave him, merely because his landlord had made the improvements upon the property? The Government lived in no fool's paradise in embarking on this project of land reform and they were the victims of no sort of delusion, for they had studied carefully the statistics of rural depopulation. It was no new phenomenon. He found that in the reign of Henry IV. an Act of Parliament was passed from which it appeared that the fields in this country were deserted, and that many people were seriously impoverished, because of the rush of labouring men seeking apprenticeships in the towns. They would all be agreed that in 1405 England was an agricultural community, primarily at all events. For generations back they had deliberately resolved that they should be not an agricultural community, but an industrial and manufacturing community, and hence the rush from the 569 country districts to the towns had increased. They shared the opinion expressed by the Leader of the Opposition at an earlier stage of this Bill, that it was impossible to stem the tide that brought men from the country to the town, but the Government believed it was possible to check the strength of its flow. They believed that by this Bill they would do something in that direction. They did not expect miracles. They did not expect that men who had secured remunerative employment in the towns, and who had been bitten by the glare and glamour of city life, would be drawn back to the country, at all events, not in large numbers, if they could be drawn back at all. It would only be those who at some earlier period of their career had had experience and training in country life who would be induced to return. They did not expect that the wastrel would go to the country, but they very much agreed with the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords who said the other day that they should never lose sight of the fact that agriculture was a business, and that it must be carried on on business-like lines. Although they did not expect that tradesmen and artificers would be swept back by this Bill to the cultivation of the soil, they did believe that men would be kept on the soil who were there already, and that enterprising and enlightened agricultural labourers would have a career opened up to them. The Government believed, at all events so far as the labourers were concerned, that the Bill would stop that pouring in from the country to the town which they all deplored and which in all quarters of the House they were anxious to prevent, because it might be assumed that there would be no difference of opinion that the more contented people were got to settle down on the land, the more people they could induce to make their homos on the land and to make their living there, the better it would be for the stability and for the safety of the State. The Goverment were modest in their recommendations, as might be seen by the financial provisions of the Bill. They only proposed to place at the disposal of the Commissioners £65,000 a year, a sum which had called forth somewhat contemptuous comments from the other side of the House. With a modesty character- 570 istic of Scotsmen the Government were only providing that sum to be devoted to the purposes of the Bill. A learned friend of his own who had made a careful investigation on this subject had pointed out that for the equipment of a holding of fifty acres a sum of £600 was required. He thought £400 was the figure which the Agricultural Commissioners had placed upon it, but assuming that his learned friend's figures were correct, and assuming also what he was by no means certain of that the Agricultural Commissioners would give to the small holder a sum sufficient to equip his holding, that sum would only represent 110 holders in the year. The Government had kept carefully in view in all these matters the homely Scottish maxim "Ye maun creep before ye gang." They had not forgotten that this was an experiment, and that if their expectations wore fulfilled, and if the Bill proved a success, as they believed it would do, then he, for his part, did not despair of the importunity of his colleagues in attacking the battlements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of their securing larger grants for this most laudable object. Nor did the Government believe that by the passing of this Kill Scotland would be transformed as by the stroke of a magician's wand into an arcadia. They did not picture to themselves the land-owner sitting with folded arms under his own vineand fig tree, listening to the humming of the bees, and watching the growth of his own tomatoes. Under their skies and on their soil success only followed strenuous, unremitting and un-lightened toil—a hard lot some of them might think, and so perhaps it was. So it had been always. Some of his colleagues in the House might remember the pathetic words in which more than 100 years ago Robert Burns described his experience in Lochlea— "the cheerless gloom of the hermit, and the ceaseless moil of the galley slave.'' Most hon. Members who were accustomed to the stir and bustle, the excitement and the whirl of city life, might think that Burns did not overstate altogether the monotonous gloom of the agriculturists' life, but he was not so sure that they did not sometimes exaggerate his conditions. They were inclined sometimes to smile perhaps at the simple joys which filled up to its brim the agriculturist's cup of happiness. But, at all events, 571 let it never be forgotten that in congenial toil pursued under reasonably comfortable conditions the intensest satisfaction was to be found. He thought that Members of the House would agree that the honey of life, its most fascinating pleasures, and its profoundest happiness, were not for the idler and the dilettante, but for the man who, whatsoever his hand found to do, did it with his might.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
The hon. and learned Gentleman has defended the measure in such a way that he has left hon. Members on this side of the House, and 1 suspect a few on the other side of the House also, asking themselves what, in the name of fortune, the Bill proposes to do; what is all the excitement about in connection with it. The hon. and learned Gentleman has told us that there was no reasoned attack made by my hon. friend the Member for the Leith Boroughs and my hon. friend the Member for Salisbury on the principle of the measure. Well, I do not pretend to know what the hon. and learned Gentleman calls a reasoned attack, but certainly both of my hon. friends condemned the proposals of the Bill as they stand root and branch. It appeared to me that they gave very sound reasons for the views they hold. The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that there was no shred of that vile phrase "dual ownership" in the Bill. I do not know about the phrase being vile. but I am quite sure about the thing being vile. I will endeavour to show that the defence of the hon. and learned Gentleman has not really covered the ground or removed the apprehensions held—as he suggested—only by Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House. I do not care, for my part, whether the thing is called "divided ownership" or "dual ownership." What we say is that there is a division of ownership which is now held in one hand, and that that division is not wisely arranged in our judgment and does not make wise provision for the future. It is a remarkable fact that this charge about dual ownership is not only not limited to this side of the House, but has been made on more than one occasion at gatherings of the ablest and keenest men amongst Scottish agriculturists. Lord Carrington was himself present at a meeting of the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture and allowed an 572 amendment affirming the principle of dual ownership to be moved.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has suggested that the dual ownership charge belongs to this side of the House alone—in other words, that it belongs to the Party with which I have the honour to act. I do not think the Secretary for Scotland can have listened to the speech of his colleague. I am going to show the undoubted fact that in all the debates on this Bill— and they have been numerous—it has been held by critics who do not hold our political views that this Bill does involve a division of ownership as it now exists. The defence of the measure by the Solicitor General has convinced me, and, I think, many others, that the Bill is even worse than we thought it to be when we first examined it. We have to look at this question from the compulsory system of hiring point of view, and that is one of the reasons why we believe that the Bill proceeds on entirely wrong principles. The Solicitor-General was very eloquent about the security of tenure the Bill would give to the tenant, and the better treatment the land would get in consequence. The hon. Gentleman knows his Scotland better than I do, but as most of the land in Scotland is under better cultivation than any other land in the world, the Government are setting themselves a very hard task in seeking to improve it. The Government believe that some little good may be effected by this Bill; but they are wiser than they were in 1894, when they were passing not a Land Tenure Bill, but a Parish Councils Bill, and when the Government of that day said that they were going to make the land gold with corn. Those of us who were in Parliament in 1881 know that the same kind of argument as that put forward by the Solicitor-General for Scotland in regard to setting up tenant-right was used to allay our fears. It was then said, "What right are you taking away from the landlord which he now enjoys? and the Solicitor-General said that if any right was taken away from the landlord the Government would take that into consideration, such as the rights of shooting and fishing. The Solicitor-General 573 has failed altogether to realise what is not only the most valuable, but the most important right the owner possesses, namely, the power by the right of ownership to make the best use he can of the land for himself and for those connected with him. That right is taken away by this Bill. If not, what is the meaning of Clause 7, which says that—It shall be lawful for the landlord of any land and any other person to agree that in respect of such land such person may apply to the Land Court to be registered as a new holder under the Act.But if that agreement breaks down then comes in the compulsory powers of the Commissioners of Small Holdings—To report from time to time to the Agricultural Commissioners what demand for new holdings exists in any district and what suitable land (if any) is available to meet that demand.The necessity for this I cannot perceive. I do not wish to suggest that the object of the Government is to attack the landlords. I fully believe the Government honestly desire to advance the cause of land occupation in order that peoplemay be brought back to the land. But the Government are using compulsion in the wrong way, and in a way which will bring trouble to them in the future. They say they are imposing strict limitations upon the tenant; but surely they do not think that by setting up a Commission they will restore agriculture to a better condition or encourage people to take holdings if strict conditions are placed upon them. If the Government were going to select particular parts of the country to carry out their proposals, then the injury done to existing owners would be limited. But they are doing nothing of the kind. They have forgotten to recognise what every landlord who has tried to develop the principle of small holdings would admit, that it is a most difficult task to carry out. The subject seems to be talked about as if it were a sudden discovery—a new patent entirely the Government's own—but it has been tried in all parts of the country, and it is only with the utmost caution and care in the selection of the men and with equal care in the selection of the land that you can possibly hope to start small holdings successfully. It is incumbent upon the Government to proceed with the utmost possible caution because it is extremely difficult to do any 574 good in connection with land reform. It is, on the other hand, very easy by ill-considered legislation to do immense harm. The Government may make this experiment and get whatever popularity they may from it; but if it fails—if the man put on the land fails to make a living of it and the quality of the land deteriorates—it will not be the Government nor the State nor Parliament who will pay for it, but the unfortunate owners of the land. Under the Bill the owners will be left with the land if it is injured, and they will have to pay the cost of the measure. The Committee ably presided over by Lord Onslow carefully considered the question, and they approved of the powers for acquiring land by purchase, and did not approve of the compulsory powers of hiring land, because they thought they would be unfair both to landlords and to tenants, and would involve a system of tenant-right in which the power over the land would be divided between two people. That must be the result of this Bill. The Solicitor General did not contest it, and I doubt if anybody can from the legal point of view. On the other hand, I doubt if it can be disputed that in Clause 7 there will be a reduction of rights which the landlords regard as most important. There is, and must be, a general interference between the owner of the land and the tenants, not merely in regard to the selection of the land for particular purposes, but in regard to the future occupation of the holding by the tenant. The Solicitor-General has said it is hopeless to battle over phrases, and I do not wish to do so, but I would ask the House to remember that in dealing with the land problem they are dealing with one of the most complicated and difficult problems with which they are confronted. The Solicitor-General appealed to us about the Irish Land Act. It is a most remarkable fact that the whole of the Irish Land Bills recognised the existing tenant-right. The new Scottish legislation originated in the croft, and we were told that this kind of legislation ought to be limited to the crofter. Now, however, the limitation is moved from £30 to £50. In the general application of the principles and the history of the legislation in Ireland and Scotland the one followed the other in a remarkable way. The Solicitor-General has said that 575 the only reason land legislation in Ireland has been followed by such disastrous results is solely owing to the question of fixing the rent. Thirty years ago, when in opposition, we were told that there was nothing in the legislation to deprive the landlord of any right he then enjoyed. I remember Mr. Gladstone telling the House emphatically that the Opposition were wrong in arguing that the landlord would be deprived of his rights. Now there is being given to-day a repetition of the argument. The land legislation which began thirty years ago ended in consequences which have cost this country a great deal of money. By what possible argument can it be contended that the Scottish land legislation is not being put on the same incline and will not end in the same way? We are supporting the Amendment of my hon. friend because we believe that he has indicated a better course and that the Government will be well advised in supporting it. I object to the Bill in its present form and support heartily the Amendment, not in the interests of the landlords, though I think the measure will do great injustice to them, but in the interests of all. It surely must be admitted that the Irish land legislation has divorced the landlord from the soil, deprived him of any possible interest in his estate and made him a mere rent charger. This is the direction in which the present Bill will lead us. Apparently the Government are learning nothing from the experience of the past. If the land question has to be dealt with in Scotland, it should be by a system of purchase and not of compulsory hiring. I have read through the Prime Minister's return containing the so-called justification for this step. Of what does this "official" account, in which I find nothing official, consist but the views of certain gentlemen some of whom are supporters of the Government? What is there to lead us to believe that the tenant we are going to create will be in any way better than the tenant under the existing law. I do not think this Bill is going to be beneficial to anything like the degree that you tell us. There are many parts of the country where the landlord has done his best to set up small holdings, even at great cost to himself, for which he has received little return. Would it not be wiser to encourage landlords to go on with this work 576 and induce them to run the risk rather than let it be done by the State, who, if this Bill is carried, will have to bear the risk which will ultimately fall upon the landlords? It is for these reasons that we support the Amendment of my hon. friend, believing that it is in this direction that land reform of this kind should go. The Solicitor-General said something about privileges being reserved to the landlord. For instance, it was said that he could still charge his land. I do not know that a power to charge his land is one which a landlord will look upon with great pleasure.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Well, the right is reserved. I listened to that remark with great interest because I believe that it may turn out to be of greater importance than the Solicitor-General realises at the moment, but the Solicitor-General knows that the question of the effect upon agricultural estates of legislation like that for which the Government is now responsible is forming the subject of grave and anxious inquiry at the present time. It may be true that the right to charge remains, but suppose the property which remains is of nothing like the same value? If you bring in commissions between owners and their land, and allow central authorities to speculate with other men's property, does anybody suppose that that property will retain its value or that people will in future advance the same money on the estate as they would in the past? I think you are taking a great risk and interfering seriously with the future value of the land. If you do that you will make it harder for many landlords, who already find it hard enough, to make proper provision for their estates. It is because we believe that this is an undue interference with the rights of property in the land, and that it will not only interfere with the landlord but with the large farmers in many places; that they will be interfered with not by the landlord who knows the property, not by the local authority who knows what the position is, but by a central authority with no knowledge of the local circumstances—it is because we believe this experiment has not been well considered and that it will be attended with the greatest risk that we shall certainly support the hon. Member's 577 Amendment. We shall support it because we believe that in wisdom and justice it is on the lines of that Amendment that this Bill should proceed.
§ * MR. MURRAY (Aberdeenshire, E.)
said he desired to lay before the House the reason why he considered the Bill should become law. He did so not only because he represented a large agricultural constituency, but also because ever since his boyhood and youth spent on his father's farm, agricultural and rural affairs had had a deep and abiding interest for him. In speaking on this occasion he trusted his inexperience in Parliamentary debate would not be allowed to prejudice the case he desired to put forward. The Bill, as presented, proposed to deal with that class of small farmers known as crofters, but if passed into law, it would also affect the condition of the cottar and farm servant. The existing conditions of rural life in Scotland as regarded the crofter, the cottar, and farm servant were such as, in the opinion of all thinking men who had any knowledge of the subject, required amelioration and that speedily. He would take the case of the crofter first, as the class more immediately affected by the Bill. In the constituency that ho represented there were no fewer than 3,922 crofts-some held from year to year and some on lease for a longer period. The rents paid ranged from £10 to £30 for holdings of from seven to twenty-five acres. In numerous cases the present tenants or their predecessors had reclaimed the land; had built their own houses and byres and had eked out a hare livelihood through the medium of the croft and such labour as the adjoining farms could provide, or through the special knowledge of some handicraft which they exercised in their neighbourhood. From this class had been drawn the cottar and the agricultural labourer—the backbone and mainstay of the larger agricultural community. Adverse conditions, however, had been operating against this class during the last thirty or more years, which had brought about the necessity of considering what should be done to overcome them. The conditions to which he referred were the constant and regular absorption of small holdings into larger upon the dilapidation of the buildings and 578 the desire of the landowner to refrain from further capital expenditure on such holdings, or his inability to provide therefor. In one parish alone in his constituency there had disappeared no fewer than forty-four small holdings, through their having been added to the adjoining farms. The effect of such a policyor state of matters was to diminish the rural population and to increase that of largo cities. For years past the rush of people from country life to large towns had been a source of much thought and disquiet to many minds, both inside and outside the House. Many people had pondered over this migration from the country to the town; the huddling together of human beings, especially of children—the fathers and mothers of the generation to follow—in the slums of many of the big cities, where the environment was such that inevitable disaster and distress must: arise to the once healthy offspring of a rural race. On the other hand, the labourer in the city found from this cause that the number of his competitors was being increased by those sometimes too ill-fitted to bear the conditions and hardships of city life, with the result that both suffered and the ranks of the unemployed were unnecessarily increased. Philanthropic workers and those engaged in the administration of the work of distress committees could bear testimony to this. Hasty measures had to be passed by Parliament to remedy by artificial and very ineffective means the situation thus created. If the present state of matters was continued there could not be the slightest doubt that the situation would become worse instead of better. The agricultural worker maintained that he must remain either a mere laborer upon a farm or go city ward. The gradual disappearance of small holdings—mainly by annexation to larger ones—during the past twenty to thirty-five years had enhanced the value of those that remained to such an extent that to occupy them with profit to himself and his family was a financial impossibility. This over-competition had raised the rent of the crofts or small holdings in many cases far beyond the amount per acre paid for adjacent farms of similar quality of land, and had thereby made it impossible for the farm labourer to look forward to a time when he might by stern economy and 579 hard living save sufficient means to raise himself in the social scale by having a holding of his own. It was not because of a desire to enter town life, but because he was driven to do so that they found such a man migrating from the district of his birth. His surroundings, his education, his training as a farm hand, all tended to retain him upon the soil, but the operating causes already mentioned compelled him to a course he would never otherwise have followed. Many hon. Members must be aware of the fatal effects on human nature when once it came to hold the belief that it was engaged in a hopeless struggle, surrounded and crushed by impossible conditions; loath at first to believe that the ideals of a lifetime could not be attained; loath to believe that the goal exhibited to boyhood and early manhood was beyond reach; what could follow but complete abandonment of the object aimed at? And so in this case the sturdiest and fittest men drifted from the soil to cities or to foreign lands. These men were as thorough practical farmers as any in our midst, toiling early and late upon the farm. They were the progenitors of large families—families that were recognised as producing the best outdoor and indoor servants to be found in any community—veritable nurseries of the finest peasantry to be found in any country. Surely it was to the advantage of the nation to retain this class upon the soil, and such he understood was the aim and scope of this Bill. It was an honest endeavour to check migration from the country; to retain upon the soil the people best fitted for the soil; to encourage the crofter to become the farmer, the cottar and farm servant to become the crofter; to encourage industry and thrift and improvement of agriculture by providing fixity of tenure, fair rents, compensation for permanent improvements, and the right to renounce the tenancy. What reasons were adduced by the Opposition against such a remedial measure of national importance? It was alleged that the Bill unduly interfered between the landlord and his tenant. Surely this was not the case. The landlord and tenant might still agree to contract as hitherto and to regulate the rights flowing from such contract as before, and landlords whose holdings were held on fair terms need not fear that any evil 580 results would follow as far as they were concerned. But in the case of those who had rack-rented their tenants, whether through the exigencies of their own requirements or the desire to exact as much for the holding as they could in a market where the competitors far out numbered the holdings, these could not complain if the rent of the subject let was reduced to its fair value. What did the landlord give? Simply the use of the land to be operated upon by the skill, labour, and capital of others; and if, as atpresent, land was practically a monopoly in the hands of a few, it was but fair in the interests of the nation t lint the skill, labour, and capital of the tenant should receive an adequate return, at the same time, also, that the landlord should receive a fair rent for giving the use of that which by succession or purchase he had acquired. Was it to be maintained that the Commissioners to be appointed when this Bill became law would not deal fairly between both, parties? As he understood it, the Land Commission fixed the rent after hearing; the parties and considering all the circumstances of the case, holding, and district, and particularly after taking into consideration any permanent or unexhausted improvements on the holding, and suitable thereto, which had been executed or paid for by the landlord or by his predecessor. Was it to be maintained by hon. Members opposite that a landowner was entitled to more than that? They could not maintain that a landowner had a right to obtain a rent upon an improvement he had not effected; and surely they would not allege that Commissioners appointed by this House would act otherwise than in a fair and reasonable manner. He knew that it had been maintained that the Bill would create a dual ownership in a holding. That he denied. It only gave a landholder fixity of tenure and compensation for permanent improvements effected upon his holding. Besides, it was nothing new in Scotland for a tenant to take over the buildings and fences from the landlord under the obligation to leave them in like good order at the termination of his tenancy, paying for any defects, but not receiving payment for any amelioration. Such a state of matterexisted years ago without complaint. Why should the landlord object if the position was altered only so as to secure to a tenant that which was his own? It 581 was further alleged that the provisions of the Bill would entail hardship upon the landlord because he was obliged to pay a capital sum at the termination of a tenancy for buildings erected without his consent. To him it seemed that it would be a relief to landowners to be saved the necessity of expending capital sums upon small holdings at the commencement of a tenancy, as at present the expenditure of such sums was given as the reason for the absorption of small holdings into large farms. When relieved of this at the commencement of a new holding what did they pay? And when did they pay? They only paid at the termination of a tenancy which, if this measure answered the expectation of its supporters, might be at a very distant date, and then only the then value of the improvements effected. It was said that there was no demand for small holdings which was not met under the present system. That was not the experience in his constituency. In touring through East Aberdeenshire he had had occasion to meet all classes of men connected with agriculture, and the farm servants assured him emphatically that the agricultural labourers of Aberdeenshire could save enough money in ten or fifteen years to take a small holding, on which, they said, any man who knew his business could obtain a bettor livelihood than he could as a farm labourer. The crofts or small holdings most favoured by the farm servants were those of ten acres and thirty-five acres, respectively—the ten acre croft situated on the neuk of a farm, the small holder working on the farm and getting the farmer to cultivate his croft, and the thirty-five acre holding one on which the small holder could do verywell when joining forces with a neighbouring crofter in cultivating the land and reaping the crops. It was impossible to meet the demands for small holdings in East Aberdeenshire under the present arrangements, and, therefore, speaking for the farm servants and smaller tenants of East Aberdeenshire, he asked the House to pass this measure into law. It seemed to him that landowners should welcome the Bill in the patriotic spirit in which it was conceived. If the Government were prepared to subsidise small holdings in the national interest upon bold and enlightened lines it could not but follow that all interested in or con- 582 nected with those holdings must participate beneficially in consequence thereof.
said he had listened to the speech of the Solicitor-General for Scotland, and nothing could be more delightful than a sentimental Scotsman. The hon. and learned Gentleman had told them how the Bill was full of sentiment, and, in regard to the measure, he had himself been pretty well aware of what the representative of the Government was going to say before he got up. He spent his Easter holidays in Scotland, and on the 5th April, while he was there, he read a long speech by the Solicitor-General, who seemed to be agitated about some remarks by Lord Rosebery a few days before. The hon. and learned Gentleman had told thorn that the Bill was well thought out, that nobody need be in the least afraid that it was a Socialistic measure, and that the Bill was also a Scotch Bill. As the House knew, they had a Scotch Government in that House; most of the Members of the Cabinet were either Scotsmen, or descended from Scotsmen; and, therefore, a Bill like this was the highest possible achievement of the Government, and should be considered as of the greatest importance, though it would automatically go upstairs to the Scotch Committee. He apologised if he used the word "Scotch" in the wrong sense. Hon. gentlemen from Scotland were susceptiblo about the word Scotch, and he did not know whether it should be "Scots," "Scottish," or "Scotch." They had the Scottish inhabitants of Scotland, they had the Scottish corps of Volunteers, but he had never hoard whisky called Scottish. Perhaps that was because it was less observed in the letter than in the spirit. He would remind hon. Members that when this Bill was first introduced they wore told that it would not necessarily be confined to Scotland and would be extended to England. He lived in Northumberland, and his homo was at Flodden Field; he could look on that blessed spot from his window. He had also a small property in Roxburghshire, which came under the Bill. Therefore, he looked on the question with more or less personal interest Having some knowledge of the condition and interests of the Borders, for the life of him he could not understand why a Bill of this kind had been introduced to 583 deal with agriculture in the south of Scotland. The hon. and learned Gentleman had asked what rights the landlord had lost under the Bill which he possessed at present, and he had interpolated the word "rent." The hon. and learned Gentleman had said he could not possibly understand that. He was not ashamed that landlords got rents; they ought to have rents. He did not know that that was the view of the Government. The land policy of the Government had been announced at the Holborn Restaurant, and the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, at Drury Lane, had made a direct attack on the principle of private owning of land in this country. The provisions of the Bill surely carried out that policy. Hon. Members below the gangway were opposed to private ownership of land, but they, at least, were open foes. But what could be said of hon. Members opposite? Theirs was very like the courage of camp followers; at the same time they had the predatory instincts of camp followers. Anyone who read the Bill would see what was proposed to be done. He did not like to use the word, but it was sought to accomplish by a side wind what hon. Members below the gangway would do openly. The arrangement proposed by the Bill was neither more nor less than confiscation of the landlords' property in Scotland. He would read a remark or two of the hon. and learned Gentleman when he spoke in Scotland. The Solicitor-General for Scotland said—If the landowner did not see his way to let out the ground for small holdings, the Agricultural Commissioners gave notice to the landlord that they were going to the Land Court to get the holdings marked off and the rent fixed and the other terms arranged, so I hat the men who wanted to cultivate might be able to do so. The Land Court then inquired into the facts, heard everybody who had an interest to be beard, and, if they thought right, marked off the ground, fixed the rent, and other terms, and the thing was done.If there was to be a Land Court, he would ask the Member for Northwich why should there not be a Commercial Court to look into such questions, say, as the profits on alkali works, and see what profits were proper to be divided among the men who produced that profit. When he looked at the Benches opposite, crowded with Liberal plutocrats, he thought there ought to be Commercial Courts. "Cleanliness was 584 next to godliness," and why should not a Commercial Court inquire into the profits of soap boilers, so that the community might receive a share of the profit, and also those who helped to produce the profit? No doubt hon. Members below the gangway would be able to enlarge upon that point better than he would himself. There were to be five members of this land Court— one paid, £2,000 a year, and the others £1,000 a year each. They were to be five skilled persons. One was a barrister of ten years experience. Was he a skilled person in agriculture? Another had a knowledge of Gaelic; and these five persons were to go about the country picking out the most suitable pieces of land in anybody's estate, and do things which in his opinion were absolutely tyrannous. The financial clauses of the Bill he thought would remain in the House. The only generous part of the measure was in relation to the Land Court and the salaries of £2,000 to one and £1,000 each to the others. They were to be appointed by the Secretary for Scotland, and therefore these officers would be political. Were these gentlemen likely to perform their duties in the interests of the landlords or in the interests of the tenants? Most of them knew what political pressure put on persons meant; and it stood to common sense that in talking about a fair rent being fixed by the Land Court, these Commissioners, any one of them, if their office depended on a political secretary, would fix the rent which they thought would be most popular. Every tenant of a small holding whose rent was fixed would make objection to one or other of these Commissioners, and the only consequence would be—they were dealing with human nature—that they would in their own interest fix the rent as low as they possibly could. That was the strong objection he had to these powers. There were various other things which he need hardly go through. The House would have to consider these clauses very carefully one by one. His experience of Grand Committees upstairs was that they did not get through much work. He happened to be on the Grand Committee which considered the Miners (Eight Hours)Bill, and the Home Secretary sent that Bill back to the House before it had been discussed. The Secretary for Scotland performed the same operation with 585 another Bill; and they had no security under the new rules that Bills would be properly discussed upstairs. He hopod the hon. Member for the City of London and other Members would carefully consider this Bill. Anyone who looked into it saw the powers which were given to the Land Court. That was the way in which landlords were to lose control over their land, and it was to be done in a way which was not straightforward or above board. To expropriate landlords would not be a good policy for the country, and certainly would not increase its credit; but if the country wished to expropriate them, it was rich enough to pay for it. It was because he was opposed to Socialism and all its works that he should vote against this Bill.
§ * MR. BARNES (Blackfriars, Glasgow)
said that, in intervening for a few minutes in the debate, he was conscious that be should be playing a somewhat unaccustomed role, and some might think that the task he had undertaken ought to have been left to someone with a more detailed knowledge of agriculture than he possessed. He hoped, however, that it would not be thought presumptuous on his pare if he offered a few observations upon the Bill, although he could not claim, nor could any of his colleagues claim, that they represented agricultural interests or agricultural constituences. They did, however, represent congested urban areas, many of whose inhabitants, having been driven by landlordism out of the country districts, had a substantial interest in this matter. They wanted to: arrest the stream from the country to the town, and, if possible, make country life sufficiently attractive and remunerative, even to reverse the flow of the stream from the towns back to the healthy and wholesome life of the country. He desired to give to the House a figure in order to impress hon. Members with the magnitude of the problem they had got to face, and then it would be seen that, after all, this Bill, good as it was so far as it went, only touched the fringe of the immense problem which surrounded it. In Scotch towns there were 135,864 families living in one-room tenements and 287,000 families living in two-roomed tenements; in other words, one-fourth of the population of Scotland lived in one and two-room tenements. That 586 was a fact which they ought seriously to consider. They should endeavour to ascertain the real cause of this immense shifting of population and the congestion of urban areas. The Leader of the Opposition had said that this was due to free trade, but he would remind him that the depopulation of the rural districts was a phenomenon which was not confined to this country, but was to be found in all parts of the world. In protectionist countries like France and Germany the crowding of the people in towns was much greater than in Holland and Denmark, which were practically free trade countries. Moreover rural depopulation had been going on in our own country before Cobden and Bright were born. Even 150 years ago, or there-abouts, Goldsmith had deplored—The land to hastening ills a prey Where wealth accumulates and men decay.And, with unerring instinct he had put his finger on the cause. The cause was that, under our present competitive and owning system, increase of wealth, and of wealth-producing capacity, instead of leading to increased wages and a diffusion of the annuities of life as they should leave done, had resulted in heaping up wealth into too few hands, and this enabled the possessors of that wealth to get possession of the land, which they used as deer runs and pleasure grounds instead of allowing it to be used for maintaining a rural population and raising food for the people. Another cause was to be found in the ordinary development of social life. People were no longer content with the ordinary essentials or simple things of life. The working man for instance was no longer content with his porridge or his brose every day in the week and to don his marriage coat wherein to go to Church as long as he lived. He wanted to know something about books and things which only the town could give. The problem they had to solve was partly economic, partly social, and partly human. Members of the Opposition talked about a tax of 10 per cent, on imported food, but the net result of that would be to lower the margin of cultivation in this country and increase rents. Those who were putting this proposal forward knew what it meant. It might mean an increase in the rural population, but it would only place more people at the beck and call of the landlords. 587 This Bill was certainly a good deal more hopeful, and the Labour Party were going to give it their support on the whole, while thinking it was open to certain objections, which they would probably raise in Committee. Fixity of tenure, the fundamental idea of the Bill, was a good one. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin had said that he did not see how it would improve things or make the tenant a better farmer. He (Mr. Barnes) could not, however, see how an arrangement which placed the tenant at the mercy of the landlord was going to result in the greatest productivity of the farm. He would give a case which had come under his notice since the introduction of this Bill. When making inquiries into the question of small holdings he came across an old man nearing sixty years of age who had a short lease of a farm of about eighty-seven acres. He had four years of his lease to run, but was it likely that he was going to work that farm to the best advantage of the community for the remaining four years of his lease when there was a prospect at the end of his lease of his landlord coming down upon him for an increased rent? He thought, however, that the limitation of £50 annual value was a weak point in the measure; there should be some elasticity in that respect. It seemed to him that the man of small means would be likely to suffer under the Bill. The main principle of the Bill was to apply to farms of such a size as could be worked by a man and his family. It seemed to him that the limit ought to vary according to varying circumstances, and he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that an Amendment of that character and giving discretionary powers to the Land Court should be inserted in the Bill. He now came to the financial aspects of the Bill, and said that the Bill was more than fair to the land lords, whose estates would be improved by monies of the State, whose gross rents would be turned into net rents. The landlords were opposing the Bill because they did not know a good thing when they saw it. He believed, not in bribing the landlords, but in the old policy of ransom put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in his palmy days. He wanted to direct attention to the method in which the money was to be spent. So far as he understood £35,000 was to be 588 spent for the purposes of the Congested Board Act of 1897, and the remaining £65,000 of the £100.000 annually voted for the purpose of the Bill was to be applied under the Consolidated Act. Sections 5 and 6 of the Congested Board Act gave power to the Board to set up peasant proprietors, and already 230 of these had been set up. He objected for his own part to the setting up of peasant proprietorships. He did not believe in peasant proprietorship. He did not believe in private landlordism at all, and, therefore, he did not believe in any legislation which, by multiplying the number of private landlords, Was going to make it more difficult for the State at some time or another to resume possession of what he could not help regarding as its own. His mind went back only a fortnight ago to the Holborn Restaurant meeting and to the Drury Lane Theatre demonstration held later, when the principle was put forward that the State once having acquired possession of land should never let it go. He hoped that theGovernment would give effect to that principle. As to who was going to be the landlord under this Bill he really did not know. He had heard the speech of the Solicitor-General for Scotland about the joint ownership in contradistinction to divided ownership, and yet he could not understand it. It seemed to him that the Bill set up a sort of trinity, three in one and one in three, the State finding the money, the landholder or tenant finding the labour, and the landlord carrying off the "swag." The landholder or tenant, at all events, got the benefit of fixity of tenure and fair rent as the hon. and learned Gentleman had explained, and that, so far as it went, was good, but he thought that the landholder or tenant got a little more and something to which he was not entitled. Under Section 7 of the Bill public moneys were to be given at the discretion of the Commissioners—given, not lent—to the small holder who was set up under the provisions of this measure, and pro tanto that man was also made landlord as he understood. If he was wrong in his interpretation perhaps the Secretary for Scotland would explain the matter. He objected to this, first of all on theground that they were going to differentiate treatment as between that man and another man. Let them take the case of a trader in a village who failed in his business. 589 He drifted into the ranks of the unemployed in a town. What did the State do for him? So far as he knew they sent him off to Canada under the Unemployed Workmen Act. But the treatment meted out to the tenant by giving him money was altogether different. He suggested that that was more than fair to the small holder. He objected in the second place to the setting up of more landlords, or part landlords. That was why he objected to public money being used in that way. He believed the Bill only touched the fringe of the question, because after all it would not enable the small man in Scotland to get a footing upon the land in any considerable number. When he said the small man, he meant grieves and superior ploughmen. They were told that the Bill was going to do something in the way of improving the chances of those already on the land. It would improve the chances in life of the man who was able to stock a farm. It took, however, about £10 per acre to stock a farm and there was not one man in a hundred in Scotland who was now hungering for I land, and who wanted to make himself a little more independent, who would be able to get the advantage of the Bill, simply because he had not the money to stock a farm. Why not face the problem as a whole, and set up those small holders as tenants of the State in some shape or form, and so put them on their mettle? He thought a far better result would be achieved in that way. The Secretary for Scotland, in introducing the Bill, deprecated this because the State was a bad bargainer. The right hon. Gentle-man stated that the State was open to political pressure. Well, there might be political pressure, but the State, after all, was a bettor bargainer than a poor man under pressure of poverty, who was competing for the tenancy or ownership of a farm in competition with other people whom he had never seen. Only recently when he was in Scotland he inquired how the rents of small holdings were fixed. One man after another told him the same tale. When they wanted to get into farms they had to bid for the farms, and they did not know whom they were bidding against. When they wore called upon ultimately to enter into occupation, they never knew how many had been competing for a farm, although they had understood that there had been a large 590 number. Under these circumstances rents were far too high, as experience had proved. The hon. Member for Durham spoke, he supposed, from the point of view of the landlord when he objected to Land Courts on the ground that they would reduce rents. Had not experience proved in Scotland that under the operation of the Crofters Act rents had been reduced 25 to 30 per cent., and that there was reason for the Land Court making the reductions? There had been the same experience wherever judicial rents had been tried. Under the operation of the ordinary law of supply and demand rents had been fixed too high by the landlords. It seemed to him that they would have to come, sooner or later, to State ownership, and in conjunction with the acquirement of land by the State they would also have to set up some form of land banks whereby small men should be enabled to stock their farms and become tenants of the State. He had stated these views somewhat crudely. This was a matter which the Labour Party had not yet given great attention to. They were going to support the Government on this Bill, reserving to themselves the right to do what they could to amend it in Committee. They trusted that it would go through, and that it would result in the fixing of a much larger number of people on the soil in Scotland than had hitherto got a living there, and that it might to some extent enable the House to gain experience as to how they coulddeal with the subject in England. It might be said that what he had suggested was too large a scheme. Well, the evil was largo, and it called for large and oven heroic remedies. The time would come, whether under this Government or not, when the credit of the State would have to be used to fix people upon the soil in much larger numbers than this Bill promised to.
§ CAPTAIN WARING (Banffshire)
said that, in venturing to criticise the Bill, he was actuated by no hostile spirit, his only desire being to voice the opinions of the constituents whom he had the honour to represent. They would welcome the Bill, even should it pass in its present form, although, having regard to the well-known opinions of the Secretary for Scotland and the Lord Advocate, they had hoped for something more than 591 a re-draft of the Act of 1886—something more final, more drastic, and more complete in the nature of land reform. Before he became connected with his constituency the Liberal Association of the County of Banff—which included a large number of well-known and able agriculturists, many of whom were small holders of the crofting class, and possessed a knowledge of the land question as extensive and full as their knowledge of farming—meeting in August last, passed a resolution to the following effect—That while welcoming the Government measure of 1906 (which is practically similar to the measure now before the House) and cordially supporting the object and general principles of the Bill, they would suggest that the Government provide facilities whereby tenants may become occupying owners of their holdings, while the Government retains the superiority of the land.He was in hearty agreement with that resolution, expressing, as it did, a desire for land purchase in the place of the present proposal of compulsory leases, and he had discovered that his constituents were unanimous in that desire. He must admit that he listened with astonishment to the statement of the learned Solicitor-General for Scotland that the desire to become owners of the soil was alien to the genius of the Scottish race. He agreed that a complete scheme of land purchase for Scotland must be a large measure, and must of necessity entail a great expenditure, even when the land was valued at its fair and proper price and not at any fancy sum, or with the addition of any mysterious bonus to bribe individuals to enter into a patriotic and genuine scheme for the improvement of the agricultural industry of the country. He was also aware that he belonged in that House to a section renowned for its unswerving loyalty to the Government, and there was one thing that even his brief and limited experience of politics had taught him, namely, that it was often necessary to frame one's demands in inverse proportion to the extent of one's loyalty. Therefore he did not suggest a complete scheme of purchase at the present juncture. It had been said that the value of the land could not be accurately ascertained until a sufficient period of time had elapsed to permit of fair rents having been fixed. He thought that if it was possible to fix a fair rent it was also possible to fix a fair value, and that at 592 the present time a gradual system of purchase might be instituted which would not entail a very great annual expenditure, and would be the means eventually of peopling Scotland with a community of peasant proprietors looking to one superior only, and that superior the State. If, then, the Government could see their way to giving greater elasticity to the Bill and to providing facilities for a gradual development of that description, they would produce a measure more in accord with the great bulk of opinion in Scotland, than the Bill as it at present stood. Turning to another point—he desired, if possible, to emphasise the position of the agricultural labourer under the Bill. Everyone knew what excellent labour was provided by the croft, and how greatly the loss of that labour had been deplored by the larger farmers in districts where crofts have disappeared. But in the south-east of Scotland crofters were practically unknown, and not only in the south-east, but in all parts of Scotland, there existed representatives of that excellent and worthy, though rapidly dwindling, class— the agricultural labourer. Under this Bill—and he regretted that in this he differed from his hon. friend the Member for East Aberdeen, though he could agree with the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow'—there was nothing, or practicallynothing, done for that class, since to benefit under the Bill a man must be able to satisfy the Commissioners that he had the experience and the capital necessary to equip a small holding. In his judgment it was almost imperative to provide land for the farm labourer, if ho was to bekept on the land at all. Only a few acres would be necessary, but the possession of these would enable him to gain experience and put aside money, which would eventually place him into a position to enter into a bigger holding, possibly a pair-horse farm. He would quote an instance that had come under his notice: A farmabourer occupied a holding of twelve acres, which was wrought for him by the farmer in consideration of the former receiving from the latter £32 in wagesinstead of £36. The man occupied that twelve-acre holding for nine years, at the end of which period, and as a direct result of his occupation of the holding, he was enabled to take a thirty-acre croft at a rental of £15. He might 593 say in passing that when the individual moved into his thirty-acre croft, the labourer who had been driving the second pair on this same farm took up with alacrity the twelve-acrecroft which had been vacated by his colleague. That he believed to be a most desirable arrangement, and he thought that some clause might be introduced whereby a farm labourer could be placed in a position to obtain both the experience and the funds necessary under this Bill for him to enter into a larger holding. Then with regard to Clause 16 of the Bill, the resumption of holdings by the landlord. He was aware that hard cases made bad laws, but he was going to put forward a case which was a hard one, and he thought entitled to some consideration from the right hon. Gentleman. Clause 16, or rather Clause 2 of the Crofters Act of 1886, permitted the landlord to resume the holding at the expiration of the lease for certain very laudable purposes. But it did not provide for the landlord resuming possession in order to himself, with his family, occupy the dwelling house and farm the lands. In Banffshire a very large estate, consisting almost exclusively of small holdings within the meaning of this Bill, was offered for sale at a very proper and reasonable price. The existing tenants however, in most cases, refused to purchase though given the refusal, and the holdings were purchased by others of the crofting class, who became rent receivers for the time being, intending as the leases fell out to occupy the holdings themselves. The majority of these leases would terminate in five to seven years time. But should this Bill become law the existing tenants could apply for fixity of tenure, and these other crofters belonging to the same class, the very class the Bill was intended to benefit—individuals worthy of all praise, for they were solvent since they purchased, thrifty since they were solvent, and eminently desirable as occupiers of the land, since they had actually purchased their holdings out and out without the assistance of the Treasury or of an Act of Parliament—these crofters would never be able to occupy the holdings which they intended to make their homos. He thought that that case was worthy of attention and that Clause 16 should include a provision that the desire to occupy and farm a holding should be deemed a reasonable ground for resump- 594 tion by the owner. Hecould only say that in the parts of Scotland with which he had been and was now connected, land reform would be thankfully received, and they welcomed this Bill in spite of its limitations, because it inculcated the principle that when any man desired land for the purpose of cultivation, he could obtain it and would no longer meet with that obstruction of insane prejudice which had been the ruin of the agricultural industry of this country.
§ * SIRHENRY CRAIK (Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities)
said he wished to congratulate the Government upon the approval which the Bill had received from the hon. Member for Glasgow and the hon. Member for Banffshire, and other Socialistic supporters. He also congratulated the Government upon the logical result of the arguments of the hon. Members for Glasgow and East Aberdeen-shire, that the proposals in the Bill would lead to, not only dual ownership, at the suggestion of which the Solicitor-General was very indignant, but a trinity of ownership—the Land Court, the owner who was to be left with a remnant of his interest, and the occupying tenant. There were many Members on the Ministerial side of the House as distinctly opposed to Socialism as they on the Opposition side were. For instance, the hon. Member for Midlothian had gone on a campaign against Socialism. Were these hon. Membersprepared to see Socialistic views carried as far as was proposed by the hon. Member for Glasgow and the hon. Member for Banffshire? He held no brief for the landowners of the country. No one was less connected with land than he was, and no one related to him had ever been the owner of twelve acres of land. His interest in the land question was that only of a student of the economical development of the country, and, in that aspect, these proposals were of the groatest importance. Two hundred years ago, at the time of the Union, the population of Scotland was only one million, and it was almost entirely rural. In his own time he had seen the marvellous transference of the population from the country to the town; but at the time of the Union not more than 100,000 people lived in towns of over a population of 4,000. But what was the condition of that overflowing 595 rural population? Was it really nourished in any decent conditions by the land? He recalled some statistics given by no less sapient a statesman than the Baillie Nicol Jarvis, whose words were put in his mouth by a brain which understood Scotland, and interpreted by an imagination which could realise, as few could, the actual facts. The Baillie's calculation was that the population of the Highlands was 230,000, of whom he said by no human possibility could more than half earn an honestlivelihood, and the rest he asserted without fear of contradiction were little else than thieves-picturesque and romantic thieves, no doubt—but all the same living on plunder. But he rather respected them, because they were not ashamed of their profession, and although occasionally they took cattle which was not their own, they did not describe it as thieving, but called themselves "gentlemen drovers." That proved that during the 18th century, in regard to which they had comparatively few statistics, they had a very populous country, and an immense leeway to make up in regard to town population. The vast increase of manufactures, by which after all Scotland had to gain her wealth, because her country was not one which could have brought her to be a leader among agricultural countries, was concomitant of the necessary advance in urban population. This state of things went on till 1800, when he calculated that the rural population was something like 1,200,000, against an urban population of something like 400,000. In the middle of the last century it had grown until the population was something like 3,000,000, an increase of 60per cent, over that of the first part of the last century, and that was accompanied by a growth of population in the eight large towns to 750,000. As the result of the development of the commercial undertakings of the country, the population in these large towns had now grown to 1,700,000 out of a total of 4,500,000. In that Scotland had not differed from the other countries of the world, because this sort of change had been going on everywhere. Theincreased population in towns, therefore, was not due to any wickedness on the part of the landlords, or to any niggardliness on their part. In the latter part of the last century the movement was due to causes which were absolutely 596 patent to everybody who cared to take note of them. The hon. Member for Glasgow looked askance upon the new efforts at colonisation which had been made, but he was prepared to say that a large part of the youth of Scotland, especially the most ambitious youth of Scotland, would always find a home in our Colonies greatly to the advantage of the Colonies, their own country, and themselves. That was inevitable when one considered the advances which mankind hadmade together with the enormous amount of labour-saving apparatus now employed in agriculture. These causes not only naturally but necessarily led to the vast shifting of the population between 1851 and 1901. The shifting of the labour population in Scotland, however, had not been so large in recent years as it had been in years gone by. No doubt some counties had suffered a small diminution of population, but the diminution in those counties where it had most taken place was in total numbers during the last fifty, sixty, or seventy years something under 100,000. That was not a very great diminution when one was dealing with a population of 4,500,000, and it had not been a universal diminution or one which had prevented the rural population of Scotland as a whole increasing during that period. What was the proposal of the Government to deal with this change? The Opposition were as anxious as the Government to stimulate residence in the country, to relieve the pressure upon great towns, and to do something to stem that physical deterioration which necessarily came from the conditions of town life. He did not believe, however, that these results would follow from the establishment under the Bill of a few holdings of which no one would be the owner, and in whicheach partner would feel himself fettered by restrictions. The restrictions would only lead to friction and recourse to the Land Courts. That was not the way in which the peasantry of Scotland had grown up, and it would not give them a new peasantry now. It was not the way in which new relations between landlord and tenant would have to be set up in country districts, and it would not tend to the establishment of that form of Socialism which all regarded as distinct from the Socialism which rested 597 upon abstract political ideas—that form of Socialism under which the community was knit together by ties of mutual interest and a desire to help each other. The Bill would destroy alike the influence of the tiller of the soil and the influence of the landlord. If the influence of the latter were injured it would mean that the good work he had done, which even hon. Members opposite acknowlodged, would cease, and in the case of the tenant the Bill would mean that he would lose the first instinct of mean-kind, which was to have a sense of self-respect, increasing when he could call his home his own, and when he knew that what he had spent on it would remain his property. The Bill would create a set of occupiers who were to be held to the soil under Land Courts by means of payments, and the landlord would have no more interest in the land than the money lender or the mortgagee. It was to that position that the Government would reduce the landlords of Scotland, and although they all agreed that they should hold to the soil as many as the soil could maintain and should attract people back from the large towns, the Bill touched the mere fringe of the question and would destroy far more than it created by undermining the interest of the proprietors of the soil. The Solicitor General had said that the landlord was deprived of no rights whatever except the fixing of the rent; that he still retained the inestimable privilege of raising money on his land. But it was not now possible to raise money on the security of the land so easily as before. These proposals had not only reduced the power but the responsibiliy of landlords in cases where a new tenancy might be set up. They undermined the whole of that which was the landlord's property quite as much as a mill was the property of a manufacturer. Not only would these proposals do that, but they would introduce absolute insecurity. The landlord would never know whether, or when, any of his larger tenants might have their holdings cut up. How could these men carry on in any sense of security the farming of the larger holdings when they know they were subject at any moment to have their land divided into miserable pieces? He believed the Government would have 598 done better and done more for the rural population of Scotland if they had by some means or other improved the housing and sanitary conditions of the festering masses which were herded together in the midst of the towns. What was proposed by this measure was at best a small and ineffectual remedy for an evil of vast extent. Did the Government suppose that by allowing a few; rents to be fixed on a few holdings they would relieve the pressure of the towns? The emptiness of the country was no doubt partly caused by vast aggregations in towns. If they wished to palliate the evils of town life they must do so by attacking those evils at their centre, and not by starting an artificial system of land tenure in the rural districts of Scotland. Let them consider for a moment what the climate and conditions of Scotland were. Out of 19,000,000 acres of land in Scotland only 4,500,000 were under cultivation, or something like one acre per head of the total population, or two acres per head of the agricultural population of the country. Did they really think that by a mere "Mrs. Partington's" mop of this sort they would stem the tide of colonistion, and check the energy and the zeal which carried the young men of Scotland out to the Colonies, to the veldt, or to the virgin prairies to make two blades of grass grow where one had grown before It was the smallest, the most insignificant, the most ridiculous attempt that had ever been made to provide for the great and growing youth of Scotland, whose ambition was not to be circumscribed by the boundaries of a small holding measured out to them by a Land Court under fixed conditions. Did the Government think that was a good substitute for all that they were doing all over the world? There was another aspect of the question. They had been taunted with being tarred with the brush of Protection. He did not know, and therefore was not prepared to say, whether there were not on both sides of politics peopletarred with that brush. His withers were unwrung, because he made his position perfectly clear at the time of his election; but he asked who would make most proselytes for Protection—the Unionist Party, or the Government that established a doubtful system of small holdings, that planted a few persons of its own choosing on small 599 holdings, contrary to the conditions of the market, fixing what rent they had to pay by an arbitrary Commissioner, making them strive to earn a livelihood out of those small holdings under conditions which necessarily could not pay in competition with the more productive larger holdings, and without that great capital with which alone the vicissitudes of agriculture could be met in a climate which was not fitted to compete with the more genial climate of other countries? The climate of Scotland might develope scientific horticulturists, but it was not one which would permit of largo profits in agriculture. Were not the Government likely, if their proposals were carried out, to make out of every one of the now tenants put upon the land not only hardened but bigoted Protectionists, because only out of Protection of the severest kind could they ever gain their livelihood? He believed that this measure could only produce an infinitesimal amount of good in relieving the congestion in the great cities, and for that problematical advantage they were sacrificing the rights, interests, and duties of the landlord. He quite agreed with one hon. Member who spoke, that they were fully justified in expropriating by compulsory purchase a landlord who was an evil to the country, but every body would admit that this Bill propounded a scheme that would shake the foundations of our social system.
And, it being a quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.