§ * MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the charge on the Exchequer, arising out of the Small Holdings Bill in the year 1907–8, is to be £100,000 for the quarter ending 31st March, 1908; whether it is contemplated that the charge arising in future years will be, for the four quarters, £400,000 a year; and whether this annual charge will be deducted from the nucleus available for old-age pensions.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fifeshire, E.
The expenditure in connection with the Small Holdings Bill during the current financial year will be very small, as the Bill will not come into operation until the 1st January next. The sum of £100,000 is, as was stated by my right hon. friend in introducing the Bill, a contribution from Public Funds to the Small Holdings Account for the first year. Whether any, and if so what, further contribution will be required in future years is a question which can be considered when necessity arises.
§ * MR. WEDGWOOD
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that during the passage of the Small Holdings Bill through Committee upstairs a clause was added such as that any loss arising out of action under the Bill may be charged against the National Exchequer instead of against the county council making the loss, that this clause was added by the Committee against the wishes of the Government, that in spite of the numerical strength of the agricultural interest on the Committee no attempt is being made in the House to restore the Bill on Report to its original condition; and whether, in view of the fact that no private Amendment to this clause can be reached under the scheme of closure by compartments, he will represent to the Board of Agriculture the advisability of putting down an official Amendment to prevent this application of public funds.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The attitude of the Government in regard to this matter will be fully explained, should the occasion arise, by my right hon. friend in charge of the Bill.