§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)
in moving the rejection of the measure, said they had now arrived at the concluding stages of a very prolonged discussion of the Small Landholders (Scotland.) Bill, on which they had spent twenty-three days in Grand Committee, and, owing to circumstances over which they had no control, a very large proportion of the measure still remained undiscussed. The criticisms directed against the Bill had come from both sides of the House, the most stringent from hon. Members opposite, who, from their experience and skill in agricultural matters and public affairs generally, were calculated to give to the House a great deal of guidance on the merits of this measure. One of the first objections to the Bill related purely to its drafting. Hon. Members would realise the difficulties which faced them in Grand Committee in endeavouring to discover what the meaning of the Bill was. It referred directly to some three or four Acts of Parliament, but indirectly, when they came to deal with the various clauses, they found that they had to wade through statutes of great complexity and length, and it became impossible to understand what the scope and effect of the Bill would be. They referred back, from time to time, to no less than thirteen Acts of Parliament. He respectfully submitted that legislation by reference at any time was undesirable; but in a measure of this kind, which would have to be interpreted by men of no skill in the law, by farmers and small holders, and those concerned in the agricultural interest, it was most desirable that the measure should have borne on the face of it the various statutes to 579 which it referred. In this view he did not stand alone. He had the strongest possible opinion on his side, for during the discussion of the Agricultural Holdings Bill, in 1900, two learned Gentlemen now sitting on the Government Bench, founded their criticism of that measure solely on the fact of the aggravated form of legislation by reference which it disclosed. The Lord Advocate offered a very strong expression of opinion, and reminded them of the old lady's description of a sheep's head, that it was "very confused feeding." As very often happened, the learned Solicitor-General went one better than the Lord Advocate; he was still more stringent in his criticism, and he said what was very germane to the present subject of discussion—By the machinery of this Bill, the landlord and tenant of Scotland are to settle down to ascertain their rights at the close of a tenancy. That is the kind of Bill we should expect—a Bill that would tell its own story upon its face, which anyone who runs may read. It ought to be clear, distinct, concise, and self-contained.Anyone who read this Bill would see how well that filled in every possible particular. The hon. and learned Gentleman then went one better still, for with great self-sacrifice, he made a suggestion to the Government, which he hoped he would repeat now. So dissatisfied was he with the form in which the Bill was drafted, that he offered to devote a portion of the Easter recess, then approaching, and with the material which the Government had given, to "frame a Bill which would tell its own story on its face, so that he who runs may read." He would venture to suggest to the learned Solicitor-General that ample occupation for the Autumn holiday presented itself in the Bill now before the House, and the kindest thing which he could do to the House and country would be to redraft it in a condensed and comprehensive form so that he who ran might read; and then, if in abridged, wiser, and saner guise it were reintroduced in the succeeding session, and it proved really calculated to deal with the evils under which the rural population suffered, and set on the land a greater number of small holders, it would find no warmer sympathisers and friends than would be forthcoming on his side of the House. If the drafting of the Bill was confused, so also was the description which various Members of the Government had given 580 of its objects and intentions He would not go into the old story of the "blank denial," which was one of the original reasons brought forward for the introduction of a measure such as this, because he thought that the right hon. Gentleman who had given publicity to that phrase had perhaps somewhat modified it in subsequent speeches.
§ MR. COCHRANE
said that if the right hon. Gentleman had not modified it in subsequent speeches, at any rate the evidence on which he based his charge, as anyone who read the evidence would see, was not such as in any way supported or carried out the allegation. Another informal charge, or at least another reason for the promotion of this measure was given tentative effect by the Lord Advocate in one of his speeches, in which he said the Bill was designed to prevent arbitrary evictions. Subsequently the right hon. Gentleman modified that view, and he failed, as others failed, to produce any concrete cases in Scotland sufficient in number and importance in any way to substantiate such a grave and unfair charge. The Solicitor - General at a meeting in Perth could not contain himself any longer, and he repeated his charge there as to arbitrary evictions. He would like to challenge the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General to substantiate the charge against the landed interest in Scotland. They were told that the Bill would arrest depopulation in the rural areas, and that it was founded upon the valuable experience gained during the operation of the Act of 1886 in the crofting areas. No more amazing statement than the assertion that the Crofters Acts had arrested depopulation in the Highland districts could possibly be made. He would take two instances from the Returns, and he would take Skye as a typical instance in the Highlands. There he found that whereas the population between 1871 and 1881 decreased by 9.95 per cent., between 1881 and 1891 after the commencement of the Crofters Acts the population decreased by 6.87 per cent. After the Crofters Act had been in full operation he found that between 1891 and 1901 the rural 581 population in Skye had decreased by 12.4 per cent., which was greater than the average decrease throughout Scotland. In the county of Inverness the decrease was 16 per cent between 1891 and 1901, but when they examined it a little closer they found that the drift had been from the country districts into the towns. The towns and villages in the County of Inverness had increased during that period by 3,018, and the rural population had decreased by 3,030. When they claimed that the Crofters Acts had arrested depopulation they were resting their case upon a slender, insufficient, and inaccurate basis. The hon. Member for the Black-friars Division of Glasgow had claimed that this measure would do a great deal in the direction of remedying over-crowding in the large towns in Scotland. How was it going to prevent that? The hon. Member for Blackfriars had claimed that every Bill introduced by the Government would diminish the overcrowding evil. He made a claim of that kind in regard to the Valuation Bill for Scotland, and only the previous night he had argued that if the tramways in Glasgow were not taxed to their full value they would assist the question of the housing of the working classes. What would be the real result of this measure? He ventured to say that it would have an entirely contrary result to that anticipated by its promoters. What did the promoters of the Bill desire? Their object was to increase the number of small holdings throughout Scotland. He did not see how they would accomplish this object if they cut themselves off from that voluntary effort which had done so much to create small holdings in the past. They might create an artificial demand for small holdings, but would it be upon such a sound and safe basis as would be likely to lead to satisfactory results? The small landholders could not live upon stimulants alone; they would want some solid food as well. To create a false appetite and expect good healthy results was to proceed on thoroughly unsound lines. Sir Charles Renshaw, who had taken a deep interest in this question, had lately endeavoured by the means at his disposal and under the power conferred by the Act of 1894 to ascertain what demand there was in Renfrewshire and give effect to that demand. He said that the County Association advertised for weeks in every paper that they were prepared to sell or 582 let small holdings to any deserving or suitable tenants. After applying to every parish council to assist them, and taking every means in their power, they managed to get only three applications, and when those came to be tested two of them withdrew, and the third turned out to be an application not from a farm labourer but from a photographer who desired to have a nice little country place in which to carry on his business. They had heard a great deal about intensive cultivation, and they were all in favour of it, but if that was to include the development of photographic plates they were departing from the real objects of such legislation. What would be the position of the small holder when he was created? He was to be placed upon part of a farm presumably now being cultivated by a tenant farmer and being cultivated to the very best purpose. That farmer would find himself placed in a reduced area with the same sized farm buildings, and consequently an increased expenditure. Could it be expected that he would look upon the small landholder, who had been foisted upon him, with friendly feelings? They were now dealing with 62,000 small holdings of under fifty acres which had all been created by voluntary effort, which they would now put a stop to. Those voluntary holdings formed 70 per cent. of the entire holdings in Scotland. The landlord was now left in the position of a rent-charger, a mortgagee, and a tax-gathered, who could not choose his own tenants, and found himself, instead of being a landlord ready to be the friend and come to the assistance of his tenants, in the position more of a detective who had to watch carefully the tenant to see that he did not dilapidate and deteriorate the holding. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] At any rate that was his opinion as to what would happen. They placed the smallholder in charge of the Agricultural Commissioners, who were a corporation of whom it might be said that they had neither a soul to save nor a body to be kicked. This corporation was few in number and their duties were scattered throughout the whole of Scotland. Under those circumstances how could they assume responsibility towards each individual small landholder. In the interests of the country it was far better for a smallholder to have the warm sympathy which the landlord had always shown towards his tenants in 583 times past. One of the principal drawbacks of the Bill was the lack of responsibility, because the landlord had practically no responsibility except to collect his rents. The Agricultural Commissioners had no direct responsibility, because they were scattered about the various parts of the country. The right hon. Gentleman had refused to meet the real demand which was for the ownership of the soil, and the Government had rejected proposals for purchase. Had they really thought what the desire of all classes of persons throughout the country was in this respect? Was it not the pride of ownership, and was it not much better for them to own their own land? One element which made agricultural pursuits more attractive, was the feeling that a man was working his own land and that all the labour he put into it and the results from that labour were for himself and his family, without any tie or obligation, or any resort to Agricultural Commissioners or landlords. Under the Bill a small landholder would not be the owner, and the landlord would not be the owner in the full sense of the word. Was it likely that a man would take the same interest in a farm of which he was not the owner? Common sense led them to draw a conclusion in the opposite direction. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that purchase might be very well but they had to consider the expense. He did not think that argument would appeal to hon. Members who had sat through the debates this session. The Government endeavoured to lavish £650,000 upon Ireland, who was the spoilt child of the House of Commons, but they denied to Scotland a sum which might be sufficient to place upon the soil a thriving and contented peasantry. The plea that they had not the money was a thoroughly dishonest one. Surely the money which had been so contemptuously refused by hon. Members from Ireland might have been made available for Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman said it was cheaper to take the land in the way proposed. He ventured to say that they should take something into consideration besides cheapness. It was proposed to take the buildings and the equipment from the landlord without payment. That was dishonest. After they had deprived the landlord of ownership, he would still have the name of owner. What was the position of a 584 landowner when divorced from the responsibilities and duties of a landowner? A mere rent-charger and collector who watched that the tenant did not dilapidate his holding. The pretence of leaving him the landowner would not deceive anyone. He himself would eagerly welcome any well-devised scheme for the purpose of creating small holdings throughout Scotland, but he thought the right course to pursue was to take advice from those who were best qualified to give it, namely, the landlords. Did hon. Members pretend for a moment that the landlords of Scotland did not know their work, that they did not know the needs and demands of the different neighbourhoods, and that they were not honestly desirous of carrying out their responsible duties to the best of their power? The right hon. Gentleman would do well to co-operate with, and to enlist the sympathy of, the landlords in any scheme for the creation of small holdings. All landlords would be found to be anxious to increase the number of small holders, and they would support a measure designed to increase the number, but the condition precedent was that the attempt should be honestly, justly, and fairly made, without any wish to create an artificial demand and to sap the independence of the Scottish people. The Bill would produce a feeling of uncertainty throughout the agricultural districts, and would affect large farms and the investment of capital. It was unpopular with the existing small farmer, and with the labourer; and in the interests of the country generally he suggested that the Bill should be withdrawn and replaced by a more reasonable, workable, saner measure. He begged to move.
§ * MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON (Lanarkshire, N.W.),
in seconding the Motion, said that when the Bill was passing through Committee, the Secretary for Scotland gave various promises that certain points would be reconsidered, and various undertakings that on other points Amendments would be made at a later stage. He was only giving expression to the feeling of those on that side of the House when he said they recognised that the pledges of the right hon. Gentleman had been honourably, scrupulously, and punctiliously fulfilled. The underlying object of the measure 585 was to bring the people back to earn a profitable living on the land, and as to the desirableness of that object there was little, if any, controversy between the two sides of the House. But where the difference of view existed was as to the possibility of and the methods for achieving that end. What were the methods by which it was sought to achieve that end, and what were the reasons for adopting those methods? The answer to the first part of the question was very simple. He noticed that the Prime Minister was inclined to cavil the other day at the time which was spent on a particular part of Clause 1 the first day the guillotine resolution was in operation. He thought the right hon. Gentleman entirely failed to apprehend that it was precisely on that portion of the clause that the great weight of the opposition to this measure was rested. The words of the clause were—From and after the commencement of this Act, and subject to the provisions thereof, the Crofters Acts shall be read and construed as if the expression 'landholder' were substituted for the expression 'crofter' occurring therein, and shall have effect throughout Scotland.What was the justification for this proposal? Having listened patiently through the debates on the measure, he must admit that the question was still shrouded in mystery and obscurity. One searched vainly for evidence that the present proposal was founded on either the evidence or the recommendations of experts made after inquiry had been held. On the other hand they found not only in the opinions of practical agriculturists in Scotland, but in the Report of the Commission which was sent to Denmark to make inquiry into the system which obtained there, emphatic evidence against the proposals contained in the Bill. Inferentially, if not explicitly, the opinion of the President of the Board of Agriculture and of the First Commissioner of Works was against the Bill. What was the case for the proposal? The Lord Advocate, in his Second Reading speech, rested his case on the practical experience of the successful working of the Crofters Acts. He himself did not admit that those Acts had been a perfect panacea, but admitting for the sake of argument that they had been successful, still—and this was the essential point on which he and his friends rested their opposition—the differences 586 which obtained between the conditions in the Lowlands and the conditions in the Highlands were such as to make the Crofters Acts inapplicable to the Lowlands. In the debates in Committee the hon. Members who spoke as representing the crofting constituencies referred to these differences. Sir George Trevelyan, who was responsible for the introduction of the Crofters Act of 1886, said on the First Reading that—The proposal, if ever there was one, was based on and limited to the special and local circumstances of the districts to that which this Bill is intended to apply. It is a Bill intended strictly for the historical and local circumstances of a very peculiar district. The farms we are dealing with are farms where the landlord does nothing and the tenant does everything.He made bold to say that if such Liberals were present now they would almost indubitably vote against the proposals of the Government. That was his answer to the Lord Advocate's statement that the present measure was based on the success of the Crofters Acts. Let them see how the proposals would affect the various classes who would come within the scope of the Bill. On the Second Reading the Solicitor-General for Scotland based the case for the Bill on the existence of arbitrary eviction. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated that the Bill would provide a certain remedy for arbitrary eviction. That might be so, but they had heard that argument before. When the Land Tenure Bill was before the House last session they were told that one thing it would do would be to provide a certain cure for cases of arbitrary eviction. Practically before the Land Tenure Act had had a chance of coming into operation, they were now told that an entirely different remedy was required. He doubted the necessity for the remedy. In listening to the debates on the Bill he had heard of only one case of arbitrary eviction, and that was a case where the landlord evicted the tenant from his holding because he considered that the tenant's family contained an undue proportion of girls to boys. He did not think the maxim Ex uno disce omnes could apply to this case. Apart altogether from the restraining sanction of the statute, the restraining sanction of public opinion would prevent such cases. Even if cases did escape through the meshes of these sanctions, they 587 would necessarily be microscopic. What did they do for the small holder? They placed these men in a groove which was the weakest point in the operation of the Crofters Act. The Secretary to the Crofters Commission in giving evidence before the Departmental Committee was asked whether there were any disadvantages as well as advantages in the operation of the Crofters Act, and his answer was that no doubt the Act conferred great advantages, but it had its disadvantages, and the greatest of these was that it stereotyped the position of the crofter. That would be exactly the position of the small holder under this Bill, The small holder would be "cribbed, cabined and confined" by cast iron formulas. As to the relations between the landlord and his tenants, was it really the opinion of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that this Bill would conduce to the smoother working of the relations between these two clases? He had read a speech in which a pathetic parallel was drawn between Naboth and the small holder. But it was not Naboth with whom they were concerned. The vineyard of which it was proposed compulsorily to take possession was not Naboth's but Ahab's. By this Bill, it was proposed to put Naboth into possession of Ahab's vineyard against the will of the owner by an arbitrary and irresponsible tribunal, and then a peaceful and happy state of things was expected to result! It was idle to expect a more peaceful state of things until a position was established which would enable a man to buy his own vineyard and live under his own vine and fig tree. The proposal which the Government made in the Bill was because they were unwilling to accept the burden of financial responsibility for purchase of the small holdings. As to the position of the agricultural labourer, there had been a conflict of opinion between the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire and the hon. Member for West Fife. The former gave his opinion drawn from personal experience that the Bill was demanded by the agricultural labourers of Scotland and would be a great benefit to them. The latter declared that in his opinion the operation of the Bill would strike a very heavy blow at the position of the agricultural labourer and that it would displace agricultural labourers from their present position 588 without the opportunity of replacing them by small holders. There was some ground for the belief that where small holdings were multiplied the tendency was to decrease wages. [A laugh.] The hon. Member laughed, but he had authority for his statement. He had consulted two Returns, made to this House and to the House of Lords. The one issued in 1905 dealt with the statistics relating to agriculture and with the question of the wages of the agricultural labourers in various parts of Scotland. The other Return presented a few weeks ago gave the number of holdings above and below fifty pounds rental. In the first Return Scotland was divided by counties into five groups according to the wages paid. In the first group the wages were 20s. a week and upwards; the second, 19s. to 20s.; the third, 18s. to 19s.; the fourth, 17s. to 18s.; the fifth, 16s. to 17s.; and the sixth, 15s. and under. In Group 1 the proportion of small holdings—that was holdings of fifty pounds and under—was 49 per cent., and of big holdings 51 per cent.; in Group 2 the numbers were 62 per cent. and 38 per cent.; in Group 3, 68 per cent. and 32 per cent.; in Group 4, 74 per cent. and 26 per cent.; in Group 5, 93 per cent. and 7 per cent.; and in Group 6, 95 per cent. and 5 per cent. These figures, he contended, were some justification for the opinion that where the small holdings were multiplied there was a tendency for wages to decrease. He maintained that from the farming class there had come, almost without exception, steady opposition to this Bill. The Prime Minister had mentioned one small meeting of farmers who were in favour of the Bill, but he was informed that afterwards that resolution was upset by a larger meeting.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said he would point out that at the meeting to which he referred, the resolution against the Bill did not get a seconder, and it was moved by the agent of the largest proprietor in the locality. On the other occasion the meeting represented apparently only big farmers.
§ * MR. MITCHELL-THOMSON
said he understood that the account of the first meeting had been contradicted or criticised in other quarters. The point, however, which he wished to make was 589 not only that it was the big farmers that were opposed to the Bill, but that every man whose farm was over fifty acres had an interest against it. He would have to compete in the market in the sale of his produce with a man who was subsidised by the State, and, in addition, he would have to pay his share of the taxes which provided the subsidy. That accounted for the opposition to the Bill that came from the farmers. From the point of view of the community, as Jus hon. friend had pointed out, the great defect of the Bill was that it gave no responsible owner. The English Bill did not lay itself open to that charge. He would like to know why there was this great and vital distinction between the arrangements of the Bills for Scotland and England. The only suggestion that he could think of was that they in Scotland were too proud to borrow the English system. He was proud of Scotland and yielded to no man in love for his native land. But when they considered this question as a business proposition—and hon. Members opposite contended that it should be so regarded—they could not draw from the point of view of nationality an arbitrary line of distinction between the commercial undertakings of England and Scotland. They could not stop in the application of a principle at the Cheviots as the border between England and Scotland in commercial interests. Caithness indeed had more in common with Cornwall, and Lanarkshire with Lancashire. His other objection to the Hill was that it made no provision for placing the small holdings on an economic basis so that they could be worked at a profit. That could only be done by co-operation and organisation, and for that there was no provision in the Bill. There was a clause which said that the Agricultural Commissioners might give assistance to the small holders, and that might possibly include suggestions for co-operation and organisation, but not a penny was provided to carry that out. He and his friends had always believed, and believed now, in the principle of occupying ownership. The hon. Member for Dumfries had alluded to the state of things in Denmark, but he would point out that the agricultural prosperity of Denmark dated from the time when the farms became the property of their occupiers. The hon. Member had 590 stated that ownership had been reached through a system of tenant right. Did the hon. Member suggest that we should groan and travail at enormous expenses, as in the case of Ireland, through the Purgatory of tenant right before we reached the Elysian fields of occupying ownership? The argument of the hon. Gentleman was contrary to reason, and the experience of every other country—France, Denmark, and Ireland—had shown that occupying ownership must come. The proposals in the Bill retarded that day by the extension of circumstances which were peculiarly limited and local in their application. For these reasons he supported the Amendment of his hon. friend, and should vote for the rejection of the Bill.
To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months."—(Mr. Cochrane.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. SINCLAIR,) Forfarshire
This Bill has had a long and stormy career, and we hive now come to the last stage of it, but I do not think that the supporters of the measure have any cause to look with anything but satisfaction on its progress. It is a Bill upon which not only the judgment of the House, but of the Committee, has been taken on all important points, and I doubt whether any Bill of equal importance has passed through the House and through the Committee in regard to which so many satisfactory majorities have been recorded in favour of every single important provision. The criticisms which have been made to-day amount to this: in the first place that the Opposition are willing to view this proposal with favour. They admit the evil, and they recognise that some remedy must be found for it, but they say that this remedy will not do. Any Bill but this Bill! This Bill will not, it is said, meet the difficulty, but I am glad to see that there is an advance to-day, not only from the position taken up by the Leader of the Opposition earlier in the debate, but from that taken up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin not long ago. I am glad to see that there is some advance upon that in what the seconder of the Motion expresses as his 591 view on this subject, that there is real need for such legislation as this. The Leader of the Opposition at an earlier period of our debates cast some doubt upon the need, and expressed a fear lest the measure should have a precisely opposite effect to that intended, and not meet those evils which we all wish to meet with speed, vigor, and energy, by stopping the migration of population from the country to the towns.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood my argument. What I said was that if you desire to increase the number of the rural population from the point of view of public health, that, no doubt, might be done by any change in our system of tenure which increases that population. If this increases the number of heads of families in the country, from the hygienic point of view so much to the good. If, however, the birth-rate remains the same, the migration to the towns will be increased by that process.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
So be it, but our object is to increase the rural population. We are making an effort to do that.
§ MR A. J. BALFOUR
So far so good, but if your objection to the existing sytem is congestion in the towns, that would be increased by the increase of the normal rural population.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
I do not follow the right hon. Gentleman at all. If there are more people in the country districts there will be more population.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
But there are other influences reacting to check that. There has been too great a tendency to deny in country districts a career to people who would gladly not have gone into the towns, but would have been willingly content to seek a livelihood in country districts. I do not think that as a whole we have been sufficiently impressed by the magnitude of the drift into the towns, but I will not labor that point, because if we are agreed we are bound to seek a remedy. It is said that we are wrong in following the lines of the Crofters Act and that it has done nothing to stem depopulation. 592 That is a very difficult position to maintain, because there is one great defect in the Crofters Act; it gives no opportunity for the creation of new holdings, and in the crofting areas there are plenty of people willing to take up new holdings but there is no opportunity for them to do so. If the demand for the creation of new holdings had been satisfied ten or fifteen years ago the evil of rural depopulation which we now have to face would have been mitigated. The criticism of this Bill has proceeded on an assumption which is not justified, that we, in considering this matter, shut ourselves down to the crofter solution; but it was perfectly open for us to look at the whole field and to adopt whatever solution we deemed best under the circumstances. We were aware that labour was leaving the country districts in Scotland, and that acres and acres of land in that country were going out of arable cultivation. There was an obligation resting on the Government, therefore, to make some proposal. We need not necessarily follow the method pursued in England, but we had experiments in Scotland by which we were guided. There was evidence in Scotland as well as in England in favour of our method. Reference has been made to the Report of the Small Holdings Committee—I am dealing now with the proposition that small holdings increase the population in a district. We have no fear that labour will be displaced by the creation of small holdings. I will quote from evidence from Perthshire. A witness instanced the case of the Blairgowrie fruit districts. In the old days, before the fruit industry was started, 600 acres there did not employ more than twenty hands throughout the year. Now there are 400 employed throughout the year. The rent in the old days was £900, now it is £3,000. The farm in the old days paid £104 in local rates, now it pays £345; whilst the wages now are £10,500, as against £728 formerly. I will not pursue the subject further. The leader of the Opposition will say no doubt that that is a question of fruit-growing, and that all small holdings cannot cultivate fruit. However, I will give him particulars of a comparison between a piece of land on a large farm and small holdings at Lochmaben, in Dumfriesshire, of nearly equal size. The piece of land on the farm, which is 593 slightly smaller than the small holdings, supports three families, while the latter supports twenty - four families. The rental of the large farm twenty years ago was £378 and of the small holdings £767. Now, while the former rent has decreased 18 per cent., the latter has decreased by only 4.2 per cent. On the large farm one ploughman is employed; on the small holdings seven. As to the profits and population, I think it is indisputable that we are on the right road when we are endeavouring to create small holdings and increase their number. I have been dealing with small holdings in Scotland. Let me give smother illustration in England. Take the Vale of Evesham, where there has been a great increase of labour and profits under the system of small holdings. On twenty-four estates with a tenure very similar to that of this Bill, there are 850 tenants renting 1,800 acres. Some 3,000 cultivators of this class have sprung up in the last generation, and we think these instances justify the Government in proposing this legislation. Let mc come to the Bill itself, and point out that the most important transaction attempted under this measure is the admission of existing tenants to its privileges. These existing tenants are there by agreement between the landlords and themselves. They have survived the devastating influence of the last two generations. That is a presumption in their favour that the holdings are economically sound. It is an indispensable preliminary to the creation of new holdings by public expenditure in Scotland that we should do something to preserve existing small holders. Otherwise we should be endeavouring to run water uphill, and while public money was being spent in the creation of new holdings existing holdings would be open to influence inimical to their existence. I recognise the reluctance of the good landlords to part with their interest in their property and in their tenant's welfare. It was one of the many objections of hon. Members opposite that this interfered with the landlords' interest in their own property, but those who urged this objection have to remember that this is a national concern, and whilst there are landlords who will submit to monetary sacrifices to maintain that interest under present conditions of tenure, it is a fact that these small 594 holdings are not a paying form of property for the landlords and that over half the the rent is swallowed up in keeping them in good condition. It is the hope of the Government that under the new conditions this will be altered. We place in the hands of these tenants a right of which they cannot be deprived—namely, security of tenure. This is not a compulsory Bill in the sense that every tenant is compelled to exercise that right, but the Bill gives him an option. If the tenant chooses he can, after this Bill is passed, go on with his landlord as before, and remain under existing conditions, but he would never be deprived of the right which ultimately he might choose to exercise of having security of tenure and fair rent. Saving that, nothing prevents the small holder in Scotland remaining under present conditions. Some contend that to adopt this system is not fair. Is it fair to insist on a fair rent? Is it possible to avoid insisting on fair rent even under the alternative system of land purchase, which the Opposition has put forward, and contrasted with this measure? The landlord is not a mere rent-charger under the Bill. What about the landlord's right of feuing? The Bill simply puts tenants all round in the position in which tenants of good landlords are at the present time. We are depriving the landlords of only one right, the right of turning out tenants without reasonable cause—the right of arbitrary eviction. We give the landlords statutory protection with their property. And if we deprive the landlord of this one right of arbitrary eviction we throw on the tenant the burden of maintaining the holding. If the tenant leaves we say that he shall receive as compensation not the amount of the improvements, but the value of them to an incoming tenant. The criticism that the system set up is one of dual ownership, as in Ireland, is not accurate, and it ignores the wide difference between this and the Irish system. Under this system the landlord remains the absolute owner, and his property is more secure than before the passing of this Act, because not only does the land remain his own, but all the time, money, and labour that the tenant lays out on it. On this foundation a new rural economy in Scotland is possible. The occupiers of 50,000 holdings, including the crofter area, will be endowed with 595 the right of security of tenure, and with that there may be some hope of success for the efforts of the Agricultural Commission and other Departments to educate, develop, and organise the rural resources of the country. In reference to the machinery for creating new holdings, it is a thousand pities that this was not done in 1866. It has been said that this machinery will prevent landowners making new holdings. We do not touch the right of landlords to make new holdings under the old system, and in that case the tenants will remain outside the provisions of this Bill. There is nothing to prevent them making new holdings or selling small holdings to a purchaser. That is as open in the future as it is now, and if they do so it is all to the good. But in my humble judgment it is not likely that they will, because they will prefer to adopt the cheaper procedure provided by the Bill. In no case do the owners of land stand to lose by the Bill. The compensation provided amply secures the landlord from any possible loss. It must also be remembered that if the Bill succeeds land will rise in value, and nobody will benefit from that so much as the owners of land, the men whom, by this Bill, we leave in the enjoyment of their ownership. It is for them in future to say whether or not they choose to retain their interest which remains so far as this Bill is concerned when this principle is accepted. No one can fairly deny that the interests of the owners of land are amply safeguarded in the creation of small holdings. If a scheme of new holdings is put forward which reduces the value of the land, compensation is provided. If holdings become vacant, compensation is provided. If holdings are a failure, compensation is provided. None of these contingencies are likely to happen, but to calm apprehension and to keep on the strict line of justice, these provisions have been inserted in the Bill. It is said that we ought to have adopted the alternative method of land purchase—the Irish system of purchase. I was somewhat amazed to see that whereas the experience of more than a generation in Ireland was sufficient to convince hon. Members opposite with regard to the value of purchase, a much greater experience in Scotland is not sufficient to show the value of the Scottish system. It has been said that the method of the Bill will prevent the employment 596 of landlords' capital. Does not purchase have exactly the same effect? I do not believe in purchase in existing circumstances. There are great difficulties to face in a scheme of land purchase. Among them are the difficulties of subdivision and amalgamation of holdings. Purchase is a more rigid system. It also involves two generations before the instalments are paid off and the holding becomes the absolute possession of the holder. If hon. Members test the crofter system they will find in every part of Scotland which is under that system case after case of small crofters who have risen from the crofter status and taken large farms. I could give twenty cases from Argyllshire and twenty from Skye in which crofters have taken farms of the annual value of from £50 to £150. It has been said that the number of crofters is diminishing. One reason for that is that the Crofters Act does not provide that when the crofter gives up his holding the holding should remain under the Crofters Act. Another difficulty about the purchase scheme is its basis. What Government is going into the market for millions of money for the purpose? A generation has passed in argument. It is fifteen years since Parliament set its hand to this matter, and it has been inquiring ever since. The stage of inquiry has gone. In the last two generations every country in Europe has reorganised its agricultural system. It is the bounden duty of the present Government to bring forward these proposals Purchase being so difficult a method, the Government had to consider whether the essentials could be got by some other method, and by a method which would be as little disturbing as possible and would take the line of least resistance. This country is slow to adopt radical changes. Experience everywhere has shown that, purchase or no purchase, security of tenure is the essence of the case. It is the very least that could be offered under the circumstances. The experience of Denmark, of Europe generally, aye and of Ireland, is that the most prosperous farming districts are those in which the farmers have security of tenure. I have quoted the case of Evesham. We know too the result of the crofter system in Scotland. Half the small holdings in Scotland are already held under security of tenure. Would it have been possible for any 597 Government to adopt two conflicting systems of land tenure without leading to constant friction and confusion? Security of tenure is the essence which the Government have endeavoured to secure in this Bill, and they believe they have done it. The Government by this Bill give security of tenure. Once we adopt that position we must have fair rent and a tribunal to fix it. It is only one step further than the existing agricultural holdings legislation. The Land Court is the development of the existing system of arbitration. As farming becomes more and more scientific, and more capital and labour are expended by the tenant, it will be necessary to give wider and wider recognition to the fact of co-partnership between the landlord and the tenant. The Board of Agriculture for Scotland is an essential part of the scheme. Such a board in foreign countries has been an integral part of the work of educating, developing, and organising the industry. To do that work efficiently in Scotland the agency must be a local agency. There is nothing whatever in the argument about interference with the existing law as to preventing disease among animals. Whatever the Department, the existing laws must be administered. In connection with the great show of opposition that has been made, I would point out that the cultivated land involved in the Bill is not 15 per cent. of the cultivated area of Scotland. The opposition does not come from the future small holder. It does not come from the great body of farmers in Scotland. Some of the members of the loading agricultural societies oppose the Bill, but it is not to be assumed that the societies are against it. When a Department of Agriculture was established in Ireland, one of the severest critics of the scheme was the Royal Dublin Society. It was a case of vested interest in the present condition of things. Nobody will deny that farming opinion is not free to express itself as it might do. It is not called upon to express itself. I would like to be shown the farmer who, having the means, would reject security of tenure. The opposition to the Bill comes, in essence, from the owners of land, on a mistaken view. The Bill is not brought forward in hostility to their interests; it does not damage their interests; its success rests largely on their cooperation. 598 The opposition is an uninformed opposition, and it is by no means unanimous in spite of the great pressure of class and vested interests that has been brought to bear. There are not 2,000 landowners in Scotland who are concerned in the measure. The scheme has been derided as a scheme of the Scottish Office. Individuals matter very little, though they regret that our poor advocacy should not contribute to urge the measure as much as it might. But it is not the Bill of the Scottish Office, it is the Bill of the Government—it has the support of every Department of the Government. It has the almost unanimous support of the Scottish Liberal Members—and they number fifty-eight out of a total of seventy-two Scottish Members. It has the support of an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons. I say that the case is overwhelming, and if ever a Bill ought to be considered on its merits it is the one which is now commended to the House.
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK (Glasgow and Aberdeen University)
said he was anxious not to give a silent vote, because his attitude towards the Bill was very different from that of many of his friends. The right hon. Gentleman had defended the Bill on the ground that it could not possibly work any injustice to any class of the community. There had been certain complaints that property in land was not very equally shared at present. But was this attempt to adjust the inequalities unattended by injustice? The right hon. Gentleman had told them he had given absolute security to the landowner because provision was made to compensate him. But that was precisely one of the difficulties he found in the Bill. In one of the clauses there was a provision for the compensation of any class, of whatever position, who was in any way injured by proceedings under the Bill. Compensation was to be made by the Agricultural Commission, at the expense of the taxpayer. That was precisely one of the objections to the Bill. He was anxious not to give a silent vote, because his attitude towards the Bill was somewhat different from that of other Members more closely connected with agriculture. He was not there standing for any party or landlord. He thought that injustice was being done, and he was convinced that the landlord had a certain 599 case under the Bill, but he would find defenders more able than he. For himself he looked on the Bill in its social and economic aspect, and what he desired was that it should be founded on sound economic principles of justice, that it should raise no false hopes calculated to lead to disaster in the future, and that it should not be based on mere idle fancies and chimeras. He was reminded of two lines of the poet Pope—That not in Fancy's maze he wandered long,But stooped to Truth and moralis'd his song.The Government used their majority in the converse way from which the poet claimed to use his genius. They wandered into a maze of fanciful hypotheses and a crowd of chimeras, and declined to be humble enough to stoop to the solid foundations of economical truth or to moralise their Bills by a thread of principle and justice. They had not made a paradise or El Dorado in the Western Highlands, yet they were going to apply to the whole of Scotland a system intended only for special circumstances, and which had been applied to a small number of holdings under peculiar conditions. They granted to the people who were under those special conditions a charity, a generosity which no economical considerations could defend. They were now going to extend that system to a far wider area, and apply it not to men who were attached to the spot where they were born, and would rather stay there and make their livelihood, as did the Crofters of the Western Highlands, but to men who were among the most astute of the community commercially, and the most active and energetic cultivators of the soil that could be found anywhere in Great Britain. Did they think that they could set aside economical principles merely by passing a law or by holding vague sentiments? It was said that all were more or less Socialists, but the elements of Socialism were not in their opinions or their views, nor even in Acts of Parliament; they were immutable and fixed, and would work by immutable laws their own ends, and if we erred against them in practice, sentiment, or legislation, they would bring their own punishment as certainly as night followed day. But the Government were not only erring against the laws of political economy in this Bill, they were doing a wrong, he 600 did not say to the landlord, he did not even say to the taxpayer, but to that part of the population of Scotland who had traditions of self - reliance and independence. If there was one thing which characterised a Scotsman and had made him a useful citizen of the Empire it was that he was independent, that he worked against difficulty, and forced the world to recognise his merits by hard work, earnest endeavour, and perseverance. What ideal were they going to set up for his countrymen? Their ideal was to entice a man with hopes of a future which would not be realised. Their ideal was to bolster him up with a load of debt which was about the worst equipment with which a man could begin the work of his life. They were fixing him in a holding which the Secretary for Scotland himself said was not an economic holding and never could be profitable on ordinary economic principles. Was that the end and aim they were holding out to him? Could they think that this would be a great benefit to the people of Scotland? The greatest disaster caused by the Bill would be the introduction of a new, dangerous, and alien principle into the life of Scotland—a principle which would teach Scotsmen that they were not to depend on themselves, that they were not to start from small beginnings and advance to higher things, but that they were to be put into an artificial position with the aid of a loan from the State which would hang round them as a burden, that they were to be in the leading strings of the State, bolstered up and guided at every moment by their Land Courts and Agricultural Commissioners. That was to be the scope of their life, instead of their working with that liberty, enterprise, and energy which had distinguished their fathers and grandfathers—qualities of race which had made Scotland what she was.
§ MR. J. D. WHITE (Dumbartonshire)
said he must admit that he was a little surprised to hear the phillipics of the hon. Gentleman opposite against this Bill which had for its object, simply and precisely, to give the small holder an abiding interest in the piece of land which he cultivated. It was very singular that a gentleman like the hon. Member opposite, who was well acquainted with 601 the history of Scotland, should say that the giving of this abiding interest in the holding was alien to the law of Scotland.
§ MR. J. D. WHITE
said it was manifest that both the history and the traditions of Scotland were closely bound up with the feuing system, which was on the basis that the superior received the feuing duty. There were certain conditions under which the feuar could resume, and subject to his performing those duties the feuar had an abiding interest in the land which he cultivated, and could not be interfered on any basis whatever. That had existed in Scotland for a very long time. It had existed from the time when Scotland adopted the Roman law, and it was in harmony also with the system adopted under the Crofters Act of 1886, which had worked well. He had heard with surprise the hon. Gentleman condemn the Crofters Act, but he would ask whether Scotland would be better off to-day if there had been no Croftes Act. They did not say that the Crofters Act had made the parts which it affected a paradise, but they did say that the districts where it operated would have been a great deal worse off' had there been no such enactment. They believed in extending the principle of the Act. It had been said that these Acts were suitable to certain districts, and he would like to ask the hon. Gentleman, assuming that these Acts were suitable to Argyll, why they were not equally suitable for the Islands of Bute in which there was a number of crofters?
§ SIR HENRY CRAIK
I expressly moved an Amendment in Committee to extend these Acts to any district which might be called a crofters' district.
§ MR. J. D. WHITE
said he might take Banffshire and Morayshire: was the hon. Gentleman prepared to accept them too? He failed to see why the system should not be applied to any part of Scotland if it was desirable, and the small holders wanted it.
§ MR. YOUNGER (Ayr Burghs)
said the whole policy in Committee was to apply these Acts wherever the tenant had made his own improvements.
§ MR. J. D. WHITE
said the hon. Gentleman meant that if the tenant had made the slightest improvement?
§ MR. YOUNGER
Substantially his own improvements as the crofters do, not the slightest; that would be perfectly absurd.
§ MR. J. D. WHITE
asked why, assuming this principle to be true, should it not be applied everywhere that it was wanted I They had been told again and again on the other side that there was no demand for these holdings. If no applications were made for holdings then the Bill would become a dead letter, and there was no reason to take it so seriously as hon. Gentlemen opposite did. The fact was that there would be a very great demand for small holdings in all parts of Scotland, and he believed that the Act in that way would be most beneficial. He was very much surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman speak of their creating an artificial demand and enticing people to take small holdings. There was no enticement. The Bill would merely afford facilities to those who wanted to avail themselves of them. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of the burden of delft hung round the neck of the people. By this Bill they expressly wanted to avoid the burden of debt. There would have been a burden of debt round their neck had they adopted a system of purchase which would have loaded them down year after year. They had expressly avoided that. Instead of inviting them to purchase the land and pay a long series of instalments, they had adopted the simple principle of securing to them the land at a fair rent. They gave security of tenure. As for chimeras, an admirable specimen was afforded by the criticism levelled against the Bill on the ground that they were going to cut up the large farms which were worked well. Nothing could be further from the ideas of the promoters of the Bill. The whole series of criticisms which came from the other side were based on that idea. There was no desire to see those large farms which had been worked well cut up; they wanted to see them continue to be worked well; but they knew that a great deal of land was not worked at all. In the county which he represented, and in other counties of Scotland, there was a great deal of land 603 out of cultivation, and it was in those very districts that the people wanted to make some use of the land if they could get it at a fair price and on a satisfactory tenure. They wanted to open up these lands to the people. A great deal had been said in Committee about the deer forests which it was claimed, in certain parts, were of real economic value. He quite agreed that there were places suitable for deer forests; but the complaint was that the deer forests had been steadily going down hill, and it seemed to him that their first duty was to see that the highest use was made of the land for the benefit of the community, whether in the way of housing or of agriculture. If the land was unsuitable for farming let it be used for grazing: if it was unsuitable for grazing, let it be used for game; but he wanted to subordinate game to grazing, and grazing to farming and the direct uses of man. From the public point of view they had to see how many people could win their living from the and in independent conditions, and also to consider how the land was worked. To have an American millionaire adding mountain to mountain and moor to moor until there were left only the deer and the people who looked after them was bad for a country; but he ventured to say that if the Bill became law there would never again be there Highland clearances to make way for deer; and if in the past there had been compensation to pay for the little houses and the bits of land in cultivation those clearances would not have been made. The Bill was objected to because they proposed to allow the small holder to do other things besides cultivate his holding. Why should he not be allowed to do anything else? In Committee it had been said that those who earned their living in towns or in other ways would get small holdings and cultivate them to some extent, and thus the Government would benefit a class they did not mean to benefit. He failed to see why even the town dweller should not, if he liked, cultivate a piece of unused land, and why he should not to be facilitated in doing so. He failed to see why his fellow-countrymen should not use their energies in the best possible way. If in addition to cultivating the land they liked to do anything else he would certainly say by all means let them do it. Then all the 604 talk about the landlord becoming a mere rent charger seemed to him quite beside the mark. They had been told that not only would he become a mere rent charger, but that he would become a detective, and would go about to see if the small holder was spoiling his holding or allowing it to run to waste. He would like to ask whether the landlords of the crofters were mere rent chargers and detectives? They were nothing of the kind. He was glad to say that in a vast number of cases the personal relations between the superiors and the feuars, and also between the landlords and the crofters, were most satisfactory; and he believed that, under this Bill, those relations would be continued between the landowners and the small holders, who would have an abiding interest in and a legal right to the land they cultivated. It was all very well to talk about traditional usage and all the rest of it, but they wanted a sound business basis for the small holdings, and he believed that basis was provided by the Bill. There might be difficulty in getting people from the cities back to the land, but whatever they could do in that way would go a long way in the direction of solving the labour problem. There would always be a great amount of pressure in the labour market as long as there were more men than jobs. If there were ten men after nine jobs one of them would be out of employment, but the whole ten of them would be in a state of anxiety as to which of them was going to be that one. If they gave an increased amount of employment the effect would be to reduce that anxiety. Therefore it was most important that they should have this Bill put into operation as soon as possible, because the state of things in Scotland was very parlous. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that although the ratio of population per mile in Scotland was very small, yet the Scottish cities were more overcrowded than the cities in England. Emigration from Scotland was six times as great now as it was six years ago, and it had been increasing by leaps and bounds in recent years. They desired to secure for the Scottish people the greatest opportunities they could in their native land. They desired to give them every possible opportunity of settling on the soil and to 605 develop their native land, in order that they might improve upon the traditions of the past.
§ * MR. YOUNGER
said he did not propose to make a lengthy speech, but he wished to say a word or two to justify the vote he was about to give. He had both Highlanders and Lowlanders in his constituency, but the bulk of them were Lowlanders. A certain number of his Highland constituents took a great interest in this Bill, and many of them desired to see it pass into law. They had in those districts crofting conditions, but the line he had taken in Committee had been to show a perfect willingness to apply its principles anywhere whore the crofting conditions existed. Where the tenant had made the improvements he thought he ought to have security of tenure and all the advantages of the Bill. This measure applied those principles under circumstances of a totally different character from those existing in the Lowlands of Scotland. He doubted very much whether it applied those principles in a way which would prove to be ultimately successful. He would be the last to deny that the Secretary for Scotland believed his Bill to be just, because no one could have listened to his speeches without feeling that he had the most complete confidence in the measure, and had done what he could to protect the interests of all concerned. Nevertheless, the Bill appeared to him to be getting rid of that most important element of responsibility of ownership which was one of the most important conditions that ought to remain in our agricultural system. The Secretary for Scotland had spoken about the success of many of the small holdings which would come within the scope of the Bill, and had argued that that might be taken as a guarantee that small holdings under the Bill would be successful. Scottish landlords had spent the bulk of their income maintaining their holdings, and but for that fact many of their farms would have been derelict at this moment or would have been added to the larger holdings. He did not think the claim of the right hon. Gentleman could be accepted as any proof that the conditions of the Bill would make the plan successful. The mere fact that the Bill brought within its scope the whole of those holdings to which the right hon. Gentleman 606 had referred would certainly induce the landlord to cease that expenditure which had hitherto been the means of maintaining them. When they came to deal with small holdings in the Lowlands they were not really dealing with the land but with capital. As they had seen during the debates upstairs, there was practically no value left at all, and therefore they had to recognise that they were dealing with the owners' capital not in land but in equipment. While he would be most willing to vote for an extension of the Crofters Acts to the other districts he had mentioned, and while he thought that those Acts should be extended in many other ways, he did not feel that he could vote for a Bill which in his opinion applied a method which while perfectly satisfactory for one portion of the Kingdom, would be totally unsatisfactory for the other. After carefully considering the balance of advantage he had decided to vote against the Bill.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
said a friend from Russia recently told him how keenly the demand for land reform here was watched in Russia. He expressed the opinion that practical land reform was now outside the region of party politics, and the speech of his hon. friend who had just sat down very much bore out that view. Land reformers would not have much difficulty if they had only Tories like him to deal with, but there were others who, while loudly proclaiming their desire for reform, loudly protested, like the man who was being flogged, against any particular application. Almost every Member of the House had declared his intention of voting for land reform. Upon this measure the hon. Member for North Ayrshire had delivered a violent eulogy upon the landlords of Scotland.
§ MR. COCHRANE
said he failed to observe in his remarks any expression which could be described as violent. All he had endeavoured to do was to secure justice and repudiate an unsubstantiated charge against the landlords that they were in the habit of arbitrarily evicting their tenants.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said he hoped his phrase "violent eulogy" had not given offence to the hon. Member. Hon. Members could not judge of 607 Scottish landlords by such gentlemen as himself, and others sitting near him. They represented the best possible type, otherwise they would not be there, but there were many others whose conduct was deserving the most severe reprobation, whose policy had been to depopulate the country for their own greed or glorification. There were those whose policy had been to build great mansions and castles, and to create great farms, driving the small holders out of existence. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire had expressed the hope that this Bill would not interfere with great farms. He did not think it would be worth anything if it failed to interfere with large farms, which were the greatest trouble they had to deal with in many places.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
Supposing the whole of Scotland was turned into an agricultural farm properly worked? He was told that would be a desirable state of things, but what they wanted to do was to get as many people as possible upon the soil of the country and get them fixed there. Coming further north numberless cases were to be met with where the policy had been one of eviction in order to make room for deer forests, and the small sheep farmers were evicted for such senseless purpose. Further north again they had great mansions and castles. There they had not deer forests but endless cases where the people had been driven off the land to make way for sheep and cattle farmers. He congratulated the Secretary for Scotland on the patience and determination and continued caution which had distinguished his conduct of this Bill. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would recognise that some of them who had not always seen eye to eye with him and had looked at the matter from a practical point of view had only been actuated by a sincere desire to promote the very best possible method of carrying out land reform. They had felt the grievance in the crofting districts in regard to this point. They had felt that they had been saddled with the burden of the south, and had it not been for that they would 608 have had a better Bill, which would have been more easily carried through. There were certain other matters which they had advocated and which had been promised attention which had not been dealt with. The Lord Advocate the previous day had made an eloquent appeal to the House against preventing people doing any other small business on the land except that of agriculture. Why his advocacy had not included those most in need was difficult to understand. He could not understand the great objection made by the Leader of the Opposition against the system of hiring. In this Bill the landholder was in the position of a tenant and would remain a tenant as long as he paid his rent, and he could not be evicted. He felt sure there was a general concensus of opinion not only in the House but outside it that a big system of land purchase in Scotland would be a bad thing and would be expensive for the country at large. He thought the method which had been adopted by the Government was far more sound. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who had denounced the hiring principle seemed to have forgotten that in the great Act of the last Government, namely" the Land Act of 1903, a somewhat similar principle was applied. It contained a provision by which certain portions of the purchase money could remain in the hands of the local authority. He was not concerned so much with the question of purchase, because he thought the proposal of the Government was much better. There was another point with regard to sheep farms. Under the Congested Districts Acts thousands of pounds had been spent and the purchases made had proved very disastrous. This practice was to be carried out under the present Bill, which provided that large sums were to be paid for sheep stock. He had urged on the Government that they should consider the case of the kelp workers, and if ample money had been found and could be found for well-to-do landlords and farmers, something should have been spared for the kelp workers and their landlords. The condition of the men he had referred to was most precarious. They had to live very hard and work hard. How it could be said that the seaweed which was one of the natural products of the sea ought to be retained by the landlords as being their own special gift from God he could not imagine. He 609 hoped the Government would not think it was too late even now to remedy this state of things. He desired to thank the Government for haying removed some of the disabilities from which his constituents would have suffered under the Bill. They had spent a long time in Committee and in the House over the measure, and he hoped the Secretary for Scotland would not be discouraged by anything which might happen elsewhere. There was a demand for the Bill, and there had for a long time existed a demand for some measure of land reform. He thought this was the last occasion upon which they would have any chance of getting land reform for Scotland for a good many years. [Cries of "No, no."] He thought the time at the disposal of this Parliament was pledged to other matters, and he entreated the Government to accept any reasonable concessions and not lightly reject any compromise which did not seriously interfere with the principles of the Bill which was most earnestly demanded in Scotland. Conservatives of the best type and members of all Parties, Liberal and Labour alike, were keenly desirous of having some large scheme in the direction of land reform carried out. If this measure was rejected now, he was satisfied that it would be a considerable time before they would be in the same advantageous position again. It was all very well for the younger Members of the House to say "We want the Bill and nothing but the Bill," but the older Members wanted to have something done now. If this measure passed now, even in a modified form, the Government would deserve well of their country and generation.
§ * MR. BARNES (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
said he wished to associate himself with what had been said by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland regarding the way in which the Secretary for Scotland and the law officers of the Crown had conducted the Bill. They had shown amazing patience and unfailing courtesy, and he congratulated them on the Bill having now reaching the Third Reading stage. On the introduction of the Bill he welcomed it as one giving promise of something being done in connection with the terrible problem of rural depopulation, and on the Second Reading he offered some criticism of the measure, more particularly from the point of view of 610 the need of something being done to remedy urban congestion. He understood the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill to charge him with having spoken at large on a subject of which he knew nothing.
§ MR. COCHRANE
said that what he stated was that the hon. Member was qualified to speak on the subject of urban congestion. He said further that there was nothing in this Bill which would prevent urban congestion.
§ * MR. BARNES
said he had no objection to the hon. Member taking that line, because, as a matter of fact, he did not pose as an authority on agricultural matters. On the two previous occasions when he had taken part in the discussions he had expressly stated that he knew little of agricultural conditions, but that he had an interest in the matter, because, if the Bill arrested the stream of population to the towns, there would be an easing of the urban congestion and the competition for employment. He was going to vote for the Bill, because the more he saw of it and the more he heard of the discussions in Committee and in the House, the more he liked it. It appeared to him at first to be a curious sort of hotch-potch. He had said about the time the English Small Holdings Bill was introduced that he liked it better, because it appeared to give an instalment of what he believed must be the ultimate solution of the problem, namely, land nationalisation. When he looked into the two Bills it scorned to him that whilst theoretically the English Bill was the better one, it depended for its being put into operation on the goodwill of certain local authorities—the county councils—and would be very largely inoperative in consequence. On the other hand, the Scottish Bill, with its hotch-potch conditions setting up various things difficult to understand was, he was inclined to think, much preferable because it would get things done. As a practical man and a Scotsman he wanted to see something done. The commonsense of the Bill seemed to be that it went over the heads of the local authorities and set up a central authority equipped to a certain extent, though not so much as he would like to see, financially, and invested with considerable powers. The Bill seemed to readjust the economic relationship between the landlords and 611 the tenants of Scotland in such a way as might lead to further change in the interest of the tenants primarily, though he thought that in this, as in other matters, the tenants could not be benefited without benefit being conferred on every other class in the community. He hoped the Bill would not lead to peasant proprietorship. He did not believe in that as an ultimate solution of the problem. The hon. Member who seconded the rejection of the Bill spoke of peasant proprietorship in France and other countries, and inferred that it had been a success. He did not believe that peasant proprietorship could be a success anywhere. He was quite convinced that it could not be a success in Scotland. Peasant proprietorship would create unsound social and economic conditions. In amount land was a fixed quantity, and it ought to be in possession of the whole of the people, and this Bill might lead to the community getting possession of that which they ought to have. The new adjustment of the relations of the tenant to the landlord would be made on the basis of fixity of tenure and fair rent, and therefore when land nationalisation was put into operation it would be done on terms fair to the tenants. He had adopted a favourable attitude towards the Bill because he had noted that the people who wanted it were those whom he primarily represented. He had noted the expression of opinion which was given at the meeting held at Perth a few weeks ago; he had taken pains to get into communication with people in Scotland who knew the conditions of rural life; he had received letters from many of his own constituents; and having ascertained unmistakably that the rural population was in favour of the Bill, he looked forward hopefully and eagerly to the passing of the measure. It was said that the Bill was being opposed by the big farmers since it only applied to fifteen per cent. of the rural population. His answer to that objection was that if the good will of the big farmers was required, they ought to be included in the Bill. He was prevented from moving in Committee an Amendment of which he had given notice to delete the £50 limit of yearly rent. He was still of opinion that there were many farmers paying higher rents who ought to be brought within the scope of the 612 measure. The hon. Member for North Ayrshire had quoted figures to show that in the districts of Scotland where small farms obtained wages were lowest. The simple explanation which occurred to him was that in the places cited by the hon. Member where wages were small, the best types of the labouring class had probably saved up enough to become small holders, and had in that way removed themselves from the category of agricultural labourers. He thought that was a feasible explanation; at all events, in the absence of any other he had adopted it. There was no reason why small holdings should lead to a reduction of wages. If they did, he would not vote for their creation. Anything which tended to raise the condition of self-respecting, struggling men would tend towards the increase of wages. It was because he believed the Bill would tend in that direction that he welcomed it, and he hoped it would be treated tenderly in another place.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If I rise early in the debate to conclude it, so far as this side of the House is concerned, it is for the convenience of the House, and to meet an arrangement which, I believe, has been come to between the whips of the parties, that we should finish the Bill and the next business before us at an early hour. The hon. Member who has just sat down has given a great many hypothetical explanations of the agricultural phenomena of Scotland, and has expressed the views of himself and his urban constituents upon agricultural questions, not, if he will allow me to say so, upon the basis of fact or experience, but on the basis of certain abstract theories which find very little justification in any facts known to those who have studied this question. The hon. Gentleman has dealt, for example, with the interesting statistics brought forward by my hon friend behind me in the able speech he made to-day. It appeared conclusively from these statistics that, if you go over the areas in Scotland where different rates of agricultural wages prevail, you will find that, in proportion as the number of small holders increase, in that very proportion do the wages among farm servants, as they are called in Scotland, diminish. The fact, I take it, is undoubted. The hon. Gentleman thinks he has found an explanation. He has suggested that 613 where the low wages prevail all the abler and more efficient members of the class of agricultural labourers have provided themselves with small holdings. I do not think that is the basis of the explanation, but if it be the basis of the explanation it clearly proves that whenever a farm servant or labourer reaches a certain degree of efficiency he can thereupon find a small holding for himself under the existing system of land tenure; and leave the work of the agricultural labourer to be done by the less effective, less efficient and less educated members of the class. If that is the correct explanation it would in itself be an adequate condemnation of the Bill, because it shows that the costly, elaborate, and inconvenient machinery of this measure is not in the least required to carry out the objects which the hon. Gentleman has in view. The hon. Gentleman touched in the beginning of his speech on one point in which naturally he and his constituents are specially interested, and on which he is certainly qualified to express, on behalf of those whom he represents, an opinion in this House. That was the question of overcrowding. The hon. Gentleman, in common with the Secretary for Scotland and other defenders of the Bill, has, in the face of the plainest statistics, laid down as indubitable the propositions that this Bill, or any Bill which increases the number of small holdings, will thereby diminish the migration of the agricultural population to the towns. That argument, as I have previously shown, is opposed to all the facts either in this country, in Ireland, or on the Continent of Europe. We have now a large experience over the world of rural conditions, alike on large and small farms and small holdings. I do not care which of these kinds of land tenure you examine; in all of them it will be found that there is under modern conditions a diminution of the rural population and a proportionate temporary augmentation of the urban population, and you will find further that the migration from the country is not less, but is greater, so far as Irish experience goes, from districts in which small holdings prevail than in those in which culture in large farms is the ruling system. The average diminution of the rural population in all Scotland is about 4½ per cent., and the diminution of population in the crofter districts is greater, or certainly as great. In North 614 Antrim, which has exactly the system which the Secretary for Scotland wishes to extend to all Scotland, I find that the decrease has been at the rate of over 10 per cent. in the whole agricultural population. That is, at all events, a prima facie case for coming to the conclusion that, whether the new land system is better than the old or not, it will not cure the particular evil which hon. Gentlemen opposite desire to see cured. It will not diminish the migration from the country into the towns, it will not diminish the competition between the country-born workman and the town-born workman. Let us examine the actual working of the crofting system in the relatively restricted area where it now obtains. This Bill is primarily and fundamentally a method of extending the crofting system to all Scotland. The Secretary of Scotland has been usually content to say in the House and in the Committee upstairs that so excellent is the crofting system that you want no further argument for extending it, not over the whole island, but at all events over the whole of the rest of Scotland. It is not wise to discuss the Crofters Act of 1886. It is past, and done with. We have got to make the best of it, and we have got to reform it where we can in those particulars in which it is defective; but I absolutely deny that the Secretary for Scotland has the smallest justification for the extraordinarily brilliant colours in which he has chosen to paint the success of the Crofters Act. I incidentally discussed this matter on the Report stage, and was interrupted by the Lord Advocate when I said, without the least wish to go into details of what had come out in Committee upstairs, that I understood that in parts of the Western Islands law and order did not prevail to the extent which the right hon. and learned Gentleman described. I mentioned in particular the Island of Barra. The right hon. and learned Gentleman followed me and expressed the deepest indignation at this attack upon him. I was not thinking of him. He supposed that I was making a charge against his administration of the law. He, I have no doubt, does his best; but what I said was that if the Crofters Act found the Island of Barra in a state of disorder after twenty years experience of the working of the Act it could not have been the success it was alleged to be, and that peace and order in the Highlands and Islands did not now 615 universally prevail. Parenthetically, I I may remark that the original disorder in the Highlands and Islands was an echo of the profound social disturbance which had gone on in Ireland where a similar tenure of land prevailed. I have not the least doubt that without the Crofters Act peace would have been more or less fully restored. It has not been fully restored under the Crofters Act, but the contrary, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given a totally erroneous and misleading account of what is going on in Barra at this moment. There the landlord is notoriously generous, he has given every atom of land in the island to the crofters, and land has been sold to the Congested Districts Board for the extension of holdings in a neighbouring island. A number of crofters in Barra have chosen to go over to the neighbouring island, and, against the law, justice, and the commonest rights of individuals, have seized land which is let to another tenant, erected buildings thereon, and seized grazing, and the tenant, of course, is quite unable to pay the rent he has contracted to pay to the landlord because his farm is occupied by others. The law is openly flouted and outraged without the smallest legal or moral justification on the part of those who are defying the Lord Advocate in his administration of justice. The Lord Advocate will, I think, have still further to qualify his statement. I say that the condition of that part of the Hebrides is a scandal to law and order. I am far from attributing, either in whole or in part, that the deplorable condition of things now prevailing is due to the existence of the Crofters Act, but I do try to make my statements conform to facts. It is beyond folly to suppose that where peace prevails in the Highlands that is due to the Crofters Act. But I am ready to admit that the deplorable condition of things now existing may be due to other causes.
§ SIR J. DEWAR (Inverness)
said it was due to defects in the Act of 1886. He knew the facts of the case, Barra being in his own constituency. There was in 1900, as now, some lawlessness. It was due to the fact that the legislation of 1886 did not confer power to create new holdings. The Secretary for Scotland in 1900 bought some land, and that 616 removed the dissatisfaction and gave comparative peace. There was no provision under the present Act to provide holdings for an admittedly congested district, and that was the reason for the apparent lawlessness.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not know what the hon. Member means by apparent lawlessness. I maintain that the argument of experience breaks down so far as law and order in that portion of the Hebrides is concerned. When it is pointed out to the Secretary for Scotland that he is deprived of the argument from experience, he is driven back to the argument of what might have been if a different Bill had been passed. If you are going to rest on experience it must be experience like all other experience of what has occurred, not what might have occurred if a wholly different Act had become law. Again, I maintain that the argument from experience breaks down, at any rate so far as that part of the Hebrides is concerned. I go further. The Secretary for Scotland objected to land purchase because it would not prevent sub-division and squatting which is now so pressing an evil in certain areas of the country. Has the Crofters Act stopped that?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I say it has not checked it, but it is going on more uncontrolled when you have destroyed all influence on the part of the owner of the land than it did before. And it will increase when the landlord's interest is transferred to a Government Department. It is a great social evil in certain parts of the Western Isles, and I have looked upon it as one of the most serious and difficult which this House has to face. The Crofters Act, then, has not stopped disorder and it has not stopped sub-division; has it secured those clear, and clean, and satisfactory relations between landlord and tenant which was promised? Everybody knows there are accumulations of judicial rent unpaid in certain parts of the Highlands. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] Is that denied?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am rather surprised. I understood that what was proposed to be extended to all Scotland was that, while the landlord was to be excluded from all administrative control over his land, at all events, that the relations between him and the tenant would be fixed on the basis of fair rent, and that that rent would be paid. Is it being paid?
§ MR. AINSWORTH (Argyllshire)
said the point of the Act was that the tenant enjoyed fixity of tenure so long as he paid his rent and had not deteriorated the holding.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his information, but with all respect I can assure him that he has not answered my point. Turning to a third matter in connection with the vaunted working of the Crofters Act in the crofting districts I would point out, in the first place, that a large number of the crofters have not taken advantage of the Act. They have preferred to remain in their old relation with their landlord.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That observation receives the enthusiastic support of a Minister who is going compulsorily to extend the Act from the Highlands to the whole of the rest of Scotland. Yet in the area in which it prevails a large fraction of the tenants who might take advantage of the Act have refused to do so. I go further and say that a large number of tenants who have taken advantage of the Act of 1886 have now deliberately freed themselves from its fetters. I should have thought that with these facts staring them in the face the tenants ought to be allowed to extricate themselves from the meshes of the Act if they desire to do so. But this Government of liberty, this Government of free trade, are quite prepared, are quite determined that one kind of contract and one kind of arrangement only shall prevail between the landowner and the small tenant. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech this morning told us that it was in the power of the tenant to remain in the old relations with his landlord, and not appeal for a new rent, but it is apparently not in his power to go back to his old position with regard to 618 the landlord—the old position of free contract. If the Bill becomes law, he and his successors are bound for ever to a particular system of tenure which relieves the landlord of all duties with regard to permanent improvements, and gives the tenant in exchange, whether he likes it or not, fixity of tenure. That is what a large number of small holders in Scotland do not desire. And if I am asked on what basis I make that statement, I say that I base it, in the first place, on the experiment of the Crofters Act. A large number of crofters have deliberately freed themselves from that Act. In the second place, a large number of the existing small tenants, who are afraid this Act may pass, have actually requested their landlords to raise their rents above the £50 limit. I remember that the Secretary for Scotland challenged his opponents to show him a tenant who would prefer not to have fixity of tenure. There are countless tenants who would much rather have the advantages of the existing system of co-partnership with the landlord than the system the Government desire to thrust upon them. I should have thought that it was an elementary principle of legislation that when there is doubt whether a bargain is approved by the parties concerned, they should be allowed some liberty of choice in the matter. They have not got it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman dissents. He has apparently forgotten his Bill. It has been so little discussed. I should be glad to have from the right hon. Gentleman some elucidation of the position under the Bill of a tenant whose holding is under £50 valuation or fifty acres in extent.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
He is at liberty to make any agreement he chooses with his landlord. He cannot be deprived of that right.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman is guilty of a contradiction in terms. He says the tenant has a right to make any terms he likes with his landlord, but he cannot be turned out.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
The right hon. Gentleman is confusing the rights given 619 under the Bill with the right of an individual to make a bargain with another individual. What I say is that the qualified tenants are given rights under the Bill of which they cannot be deprived, and at the same time they are perfectly free to make any agreement they like with their landlord.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
They cannot make a bargain which deprives them of a right of which they cannot be deprived.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
That is the intention of the Bill, The intention of the Bill is to give them a right of which they cannot be deprived except by their own consent.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then I can quite believe that there may be some misapprehension, which I should like the Prime Minister to clear up if he speaks subsequently. I would put this plain question to him. Would it be in the power of any tenant under £50 to say to his landlord, "I do not like the Government Bill, I prefer the old arrangement. I do not care for fixity of tenure, and I do not want it, and I ask you to go on making the permanent improvements."
§ MR. SINCLAIR
My answer is emphatically, yes. But whatever the tenant does he remains endowed with the rights of the Bill, which he can exercise at the termination of any such agreement.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then, may I ask in what sense have the provisions of the Crofters Act been extended?
§ MR. SINCLAIR
Exactly the same thing can be done under the Crofters Act, Section 5. The question is whether under this Bill the small tenant can be endowed with rights of which he cannot be deprived without his own consent.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am quite unable to see how the Crofters Act has in this respect been amended if the right hon. Gentleman's present version of his Bill is to be accepted. I am quite sure that that is not the view of it taken in Committee or by any student of the Bill except the right hon. Gentleman. I am quite convinced that the right hon. Gentleman has for the moment for gotten the effect 620 of the provisions of his own measure. So much for supporting the basis of the Bill on the perfect success of the Crofters Act in the Highlands. I now come to the question of how we are going to deal with the agricultural labourers in the Lowlands, and their relation to small holders. We are at one that if small holdings can be increased to advantage they should be. But I confess that I do not agree with those who think that there will be an immense extension of small holdings in the Lowlands as likely to prove profitable to the small holders. What does the right hon. Gentleman tell us? I do not myself think any immense extension of small holdings in Scotland is very likely to prove popular. The right hon. Gentleman, arguing in favour of the immense wealth that would accrue to the labourer and the landlord from small holdings, read a long extract on fruit cultivation in Blairgowrie. I have no doubt that fruit culture has proved a great success in that district. But whatever success has been attained in that particular instance, surely nobody can seriously believe that fruit cultivation or vegetable cultivation can be profitably carried on except on a relatively small fraction of the cultivable soil of Scotland. What, therefore, is the use of references to the Vale of Evesham? If there is to be a large extension of small holdings in Scotland, they must, in the main, be small holdings occupied with the-same kind of agriculture as the large holdings. I am sorry it is so, but I am afraid it is so. On the argument of the Government themselves, how are these holdings going to be a success? The Secretary for Scotland has admitted that they are more expensive and that a loss is certain to occur. Then the Member for Aberdeen has stated that the farm servants of Aberdeen do not anticipate that their material circumstances will be-improved by the substitution of small holdings for their present occupations. What the hon. Member did hope for was an improvement in their social status. I do not wish to say anything derogatory to improvements of social status, though I do not know that personally I feel much interest in these social distinctions. I can understand an appeal to do something to raise the material condition of a part of the people, but an appeal to do something merely to raise what is called social status leaves me rather cold.
§ MR. MURRAY (Aberdeenshire, E.)
said that what he meant was that every man should have a home of his own and should he independent of anybody. That was the national spirit of Scotland and had made that country.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes; it has made our country under a system of big holdings, at all events in a large part of Scotland. I appeal to the hon. Member himself to say, apart from electioneering, whether there is in the world any more independent race than the farm servants of Scotland. The Scottish farm servant is the most self-sufficing and independent of human beings. He certainly has not suffered from the tyranny of either laird or farmer. He moves about at his own free will from employer to employer, and he is dependent on no man. He will not be made a more independent man than he is now if his social status was raised by making him an occupier. I cannot believe that everything is going to be changed by the substitution of small holdings for big holdings; but I do desire that they shall be extended as far as they practically can. The Secretary for Scotland says this is not my Bill; it is a Government Bill. So it is, and no one can know anything of its genesis or to whose ingenuity the House owes it. It is by adoption and grace, at all events, a Cabinet measure; and the Cabinet are in the position of dealing with the whole of the land system of Great Britain, with the crofter system in the north, and with a different system of tenure south of the Tweed. What in the circumstances of difference that prevail between the north and the south would any rational body of men do? Do the Lowland conditions resemble those in England or the conditions in the Highlands? If the Government put that question to themselves they can only give the one answer, that there is no difference between the south of Scotland and England, but that there is a fundamental difference between the south and the north of Scotland. The most minute particulars of agricultural employment and practice in Northumberland and Berwickshire show that the systems are identical; and if we compare the lowlands of Aberdeen, Fife, the Lothians, and Ayrshire with the Highlands we find that obviously by tradition, in part by language, by history, by legislation and by every circumstance according 622 to which we could draw a distinction, there is the widest difference between the two sets of conditions with which we have to deal. Yet this Government are determined upon promoting two kinds of legislation for the island and to insist that the Lowlands and the Highlands shall be bracketed together and treated in the same way, refusing to assimilate the Lowlands legislatively with the English counties with which they precisely agree. I do not believe that there ever has been so foolish a scheme. Granted that the Crofters Acts have every merit they can possess, no one pretends that crofter conditions prevail in the south of Scotland, and, therefore, we should not extend the provisions of the Bill to a part of the country which does not carry on its agriculture under the crofter system. That is a manifest and commonsense policy. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Bill will be of great pecuniary value to the landlord. That may be true, but even if the streams of Pactolus were to be poured into the pockets of the landlords, I think it would be bad in principle. I agree with those who think that what has to be considered are the prosperity and well-being of the community as a whole. But even in that case the landlord should receive justice. Whatever the pecuniary gain to the landlord may be, however is it right to take his capital and use it for a purpose that he has not intended? We have to deal with agriculture in a depressed condition, not through the system of land tenure, but through the system of foreign competition. Is it not the part of wise men in these circumstances to say that every force that can be used to bring capital, knowledge, skill, and labour to the land shall be used? My complaint against the Bill is that the Government deliberately refuse to bring together these great purposes and the forces at their disposal. I believe that the Bill will injure everybody, including the taxpayers, because the Government have deliberately deprived agriculture of some of its great motive force in the shape of permanent expenditure by the landlords. What is to be the substitute? It is to be either such capital that the small tenants have accumulated before they take their holdings or the money that is to be supplied by the taxpayers. The Government plan is that the unearned increment is to go to the big landlord; but if the land is bought the small owner will get 623 the unearned increment. But all the talk about unearned increment is based on a most foolish estimate of the tendencies of modern industry. In any case no one doubts the proof of experience that we get an amount of work out of people who own the land not to be got out of people who merely occupy the land. Fixity of tenure is no equivalent for ownership, and the Government have deliberately, avowedly, openly, and boastingly deprived themselves of what would have been the substitute of that great liberality in the shape of capital expenditure which they now extract from the large owners of land in Scotland, throwing the burden on the innocent tax papers which the landlord now bears. It is bad from every point of view, and bad unquestionably for the present farm servants. The Secretary for Scotland quotes the case of the exceptional fruit farms which now prosper at Blairgowrie; but the Government must take the ordinary farm of Fife or Berwickshire. I say that similar success is impossible if these farms are cut up into fifty-acre lots, and if they are to employ as many heads of families as they do now. If we maintain the present system of cultivation the work must be carried on with more labour and at less profit, or it must return no profit at all, the loss falling on the public, or else there must be less efficient cultivation owing to less labour; and the position of the ordinary farm servant will fall to the level of wages now prevailing over those parts of Scotland where small holdings exist. These reasons make me think that the whole scheme, as far as it affects owners in Scotland, is based on hopelessly wrong lines. How can the Government with a light heart go in for this revolution ["Oh, oh I"]—for this enormous change based on no experience either at home or abroad, but evolved entirely from the fertile imagination of some member of the Cabinet or of the Cabinet as a whole? I trust that even now, not indeed in this House—for the hours during which the House has been allowed to consider the measure are numbered—the Government will see that the only possible method of dealing with these difficult agricultural questions of balancing diverse interests and considering in equal scales the welfare of every class of the community, is by means of a well-considered measure for every part of the 624 country where the agricultural circum-stances are identical. For these reasons I shall most heartily support the hon. Gentleman who has moved the rejection of the Bill.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stirling Burghs
The right hon. Gentleman has made a great many speeches on this Bill, and I recognise in that which he has just delivered one change from some of those that came before—the right hon. Gentleman has not been so profuse in his epithets. His vaticinations of future disaster might have left us in a state of trepidation, but happily the speech of the right hon. Gentleman recalls a circumstance that otherwise might have been forgotten—that when the Crofters Act was before the House the right hon. Gentleman delivered exactly the same sort of speeches with the same arguments and the same prognostications of future disaster. The result of that Act has been, in the opinion of most people, that a part of Scotland which was in an absolutely disorderly condition now presents prosperity and contentment and everything that makes for the well-being of the people, whether they own the land or till it. But the right hon. Gentleman says that the condition of a part of the crofting area at present constitutes a scandal. He has discovered some improper or irregular proceeding on the part of certain men in the island of Barra, and on that fact he bases the charge that no improvement has been made by the Crofters Act. [Cries of "No!"] The right hon. Gentleman quoted that one instance as an answer to the assertion that law and order prevails. But what did the right hon. Gentleman say in 1886?I doubt whether in any part of Ireland at this moment you will meet with more lawlessness, although you may meet with more violence, than now prevails on the west coast of Scotland.Well, we have got rid of all that, except in the one case of Barra. Then the right hon. Gentleman says that there is another thing in the Crofters Act which deserves to be noted—that a great many of the men who held under it have applied to be relieved of the intolerable position in which they found themselves placed, so 625 that they might revert to the old patriarchal arrangement. I have made some inquiry, and I find that the instances of application for renunciation are so few as to be inappreciable. They are either the cases of very old men who wish to be rid of their responsibility, or the cases of men who, unfortunately for this country, but greatly to the benefit of the Colonies, are possessed of a desire to emigrate. The right hon. Gentleman always had the deepest distaste for the Crofters Act and he retains that opinion. He asked why the principles of that Act should be applied to the rest of Scotland, and why Scotland should not be given the inestimable advantage of the same principles as are to be applied to England. The right hon. Gentleman wishes to annex all Scotland, south of the Grampians, to England. That would be very agreeable from the English point of view and from the point of view of a man who naturally looks at things with English eyes. [Cries of "Why?"] But it would not be acceptable from the Scottish point of view. The main reason why we have introduced this Bill, and it has been framed as it has been framed, is that it represents what the Scottish people wish to have. They do not wish to purchase the soil, but they do wish to have the Continuity and security of tenure that this Bill gives. A great deal may be Said of the advantages of ownership, and the right hon. Gentleman urged that everything should be done to promote the development of agriculture and the application to the cultivation of the soil of the best resources of modern science and of human energy and ingenuity. The right hon. Gentleman's way of doing that would be to have a country covered with large farms, with benevolent landlords and flourishing tenants. But we think there is something better than the benevolence of the most benevolent landlord, and that is the interest of the cultivator in his farm as to which he has security of tenure, so that he knows that the benefits of the capital and labour that he put into it will go to himself. That is the real impulse in the good cultivation of the soil. The right hon. Gentleman bays there are advantages in having a class who has a personal satisfaction in the ownership of a great extent of land, in sport, and in the other privileges to be enjoyed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That was not my argument. I said that you got great advantages from a system of large ownership in the supply of capital, but that you may make up for that in a small proprietorship by introducing another system.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
That is our argument. Our view is that the operative motive is the sense of security. That is the whole point of difference between the two sides of the House. The right hon. Gentleman taunts us with having one Bill for England and another for Scotland. But the wishes and ideas of the people were different. The right hon. Gentleman says that he could not be sure where the genesis of the Bill is to be found, whether it is in the Scottish Office or some other department or the whole of the Government. It is in the whole of the Government, and the whole of the Government are responsible for it. But if the right hon. Gentleman has some doubt as to the genesis of the Bill, he would be able to state as well as most people what the exodus of the Bill will be. Some indication of that has already been given; and if that exodus is not of a favourable character, I can promise the right hon. Gentleman that there will be a deuteronomy. As to the principle of compulsion, which is supposed to be so injurious, why should it be wrong to apply the principle to hiring and permissible to apply it to sale? I do not see whore the difference comes in, I have never boon able to comprehend how it can be held that, when voluntary arrangement has broken down and compulsion is resorted to to meet a public need, the use of the land is to be absolutely denied to the community under the method of hiring and only to be granted under the method of sale. Seeing that hiring has worked so well in the case of the crofters, to the satisfaction of both owner an I occupier, and that it has commended itself to Scottish opinion, the Government have done their best to adopt it in a way which will prevent any injustice to the landowner owing to the depreciation of his property or to the liability of having abad tenant. A great deal has been said about the hardship to the landlord and the large farmer. But no existing contracts are to be interfered with in any way. The farmers especially have no reason for feeling nervous, because 627 it is quite obvious that large well-equipped and highly cultivated farms will not be touched. They will be the last to be selected. [Cries of "Why?"] Because it would obviously be undesirable. At the other end of the scale, no farmer with less than 150 acres can be touched. There will be a gradual application, and ultimately we shall know how far it can be extended, but at first, and for many years, there can be no grievance, no interference with any farmer interested. What is wanted is not a uniform system of large or small holdings, but a healthy variety of both. Another great benefit the farmers will derive from this Bill is the institution of a Scottish Department of Agriculture, which has long been demanded, and the advantage of which is obvious on the ground of its accessibility, on the ground of its being in touch with general feeling and also easily to be got at by individuals who wish either to obtain information or to remove grievances of which they complained. Then there is just a word or two which I wish to say as to the bogey of dual ownership, which has been trotted out pretty freely. I observe that the bogey of dual ownership always comes forth when the advocates of the patriarchal system are opposing a measure of reform. We had it last year on the Land Tenure Bill. What reason have we to be afraid of any mischief coming from that source? The case of Ireland is constantly quoted, and I have always admitted in the case of Ireland that, in the first place, they could never have had a purchase system without having a Land Court to settle rents in advance of it, and, in the second place, that the real cause of the breakdown of the agrarian system in Ireland was the establishment, side by side, of two systems, one being that under which a tenant sat with a rent fixed by a Court and paying that rent, if he could, regularly, whereas his neighbour over the road, whose landlord had been willing to agree to it, could buy his property, paying instalments and becoming the owner in fee simple after a term of years, those instalments being actually, through the use of the public credit, lighter than the annual sum paid in rent by the first man. That is a system that could not possibly be endured, and that is the reason, and no other that I am aware of, why the late Government were driven into 628 purchase in spite of their own feeling in the matter. And yet purchase is the thing which they now desire to be applied in Scotland. The objections to the Bill seem to me to be founded on ignorance, although perhaps that cannot be said of those who bestowed so much time on the Committee upstairs, and whose assiduity and attention in discharge of their duties we can but admire. The great outstanding points of the Bill are those I have mentioned, and, above all, there is the question of hiring. The great thing in this Bill is that it leaves the tenant independent of his landlord, and in possession of a secure tenure of his farm. That is the very thing which we consider the great virtue of and the great advantage gained by the Bill. We believe that, if it passes into law, and I hope it will, it will add to the prosperity of agriculture in Scotland and that it will rear up and keep in the country districts a class of men fit to take their place in the towns, if they move into them, and also admirably fitted to discharge the agricultural duties of the country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says that the more you keep the inhabitants in the country the greater will be the drifting to the towns. Of course, if you have a larger population to draw upon, those who go to the towns will be in proportion larger. That is very obvious What we wish to change is the artificial, the unfavourable, as we think, condition of things in the country that drives men unnaturally to the towns. We have no desire to stop the circulation of blood from the country into the towns. Where would the towns be without a constant influx from the country? On the other hand, we do not wish to perpetuate the system which has the effect of inducing men to go in an abnormal degree into the towns, and we believe that, if we furnish them with a reasonable opportunity of leading a healthy and useful life and with a career in which they can raise themselves, that is the very strongest inducement we can give them to stay in the country. I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman in his estimate of the Scottish farm servants. There is no better class of servants in the world. With one exception I can express my perfect confidence in their future. I do not think their future will ever be up to their performances of the past if they abandon the food on which they and the generations 629 before them have been nourished—namely, oatmeal and milk—and use the substitutes of a more or less pernicious kind which the ingenuity of modern science has brought about, If they go on as their fathers did, they will, with the opportunities which this Bill will
§ afford them, show the country that the Scottish farm servants can do in these as well as in the old days.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 63; Noes, 190. (Division List No. 397.)631
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Gooch, George Peabody||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Murray, James|
|Ambrose, Robert||Gurdon, Rt Hn. Sir W. Brampton||Nioholls, George|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncast'r|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithn'ss-sh||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Astbury, John Meir||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Harwood, George||O'Grady, J.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Haworth, Arthur A.||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Hazel, Dr. A. E.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)|
|Beale, W. P.||Hazleton, Richard||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Bell, Richard||Hedges, A. Paget||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh. Central)|
|Bellairs, Clarylon||Helme, Norval Watson||Priestley, W. E. B. (Bradford, E.|
|Benn, W. (T' w'r Hamlets, S. Geo.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Pullar, Sir Robert|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romf'rd||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Henry, Charles S.||Rees, J. D.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Higham, John Sharp||Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n|
|Black, Arthur W.||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Horniman, Emslie John||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Brace, William||Hudson, Walter||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Branch, James||Hyde, Clarendon||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd|
|Brigg, John||Idris, T. H. W.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Illingworth, Percy H.||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Jacoby, Sir James Alfred||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Jardine, Sir J.||Rose, Charles Day|
|Byles, William Pollard||Jenkins, J.||Rowlands, J.|
|Campbell-Bannerraan, Sir H.||Johnson, John (Gateshead||Russell, T. W.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Sears, J. E.|
|Causton, Rt Hn. Richard Knight||Jowett, F. W.||Seddon, J.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick||Kearley, Hudson E.||Seely, Colonel|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Kekewich, Sir George||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Kelley, George D.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Clough, William||King, Afred John (Knutsford||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Clynes, J. R.||Laidlaw, Robert||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Lambert, George||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
|Cooper, G. J.||Lamont, Norman||Snowden, P.|
|Corbett, C. H (Sussex, E. Grinst'd||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington)||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Cowan, W. H.||Lehmann, R. C.||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Cox, Harold||Levy, Sir Maurice||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemonth)||Lewis, John Herbert||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Crooks, William||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Lough, Thomas||Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk B'ghs)||Ure, Alexander|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Verney, F. W.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||M'Callum, John M.||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Walsh, Stephen|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||M'Killop, W.||Walters, John Tudor|
|Elibank, Master of||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Erskine, David C.||M'Micking, Major G.||Wardle, George J.|
|Essex, R. W.||Maddison, Frederick||Waring, Walter|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Mallet, Charles E.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Markhara, Arthur Basil||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Fenwick, Charles||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Ferens, T. R.||Mamham, F J.||Weir, James Galloway|
|Ffrench, Peter||Massie, J.||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Findlay, Alexander||Micklem, Nathaniel||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Molteno, Percy Alport||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Gibb, James (Harrow)||Montagu, E. S.|
|Gill, A. H.||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Morrell, Philip||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarth'n||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease|
|Wills, Arthur Walters||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh, N.)|
|Wilson, Hon. C. H. W. (Hull. W.)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.||Nield, Herbert|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington|
|Balfour, RtHn.A.J (City Lond.)||Du Cros, Harvey||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fell, Arthur||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Ferguson, R. C. Munro||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Forster, Henry William||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone. W.)|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk|
|Bull, Sir William James||Gordon, J.||Starkey, John R.|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staff'sh.|
|Cave, George||Helmsley, Viscount||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hn. Victor C. W.||Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)||Thomson, W. Mitehell-(Lanark)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hills, J. W.||Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Hunt, Rowland||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hn J. A. (Worc.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Younger, George|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentia.|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Moore, William|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)|
Bill read the third time, and passed.