§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th June], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.1618
§ *MR. GEORGE ROBERTS (Norwich)
expressed his pleasure at being permitted to consider such an important problem as that of the land question. To whatever school of social reformers hon. Members might be attached they were all agreed that land legislation must form an integral part of any genuine scheme of social reform. His chief criticism of the Bill was that it was not sufficiently comprehensive and wide-reaching. He was of opinion that a great mistake was made in submitting small measures for the consideration of the House when they had large problems to deal with. It should be recognised that small measures caused as much opposition as large and comprehensive schemes. It was often said that the Government would alarm people by bringing forward broad proposals, but his experience was in the opposite direction. What the people complained of was that so little was done and so much time and effort wasted. He felt that if any of the parties in the State desired to secure an abiding hold on the attachment of the people they would have to set their hands to larger, bolder, and more heroic schemes than had hitherto characterised their policies. Social reform was undoubtedly the great question agitating the people throughout the length and breadth of the land. He welcomed this measure because he believed it to be established on right principles and that it would take them a small step in the right direction. He felt, however, that a Valuation Bill and a Bill for the registration of titles should have preceded it. He was apprehensive that the absence of a Valuation Bill might have the effect of causing the prices of land to be inflated with the result that the rate would have to be fixed at such a high figure as would place the economic working of allotments and small holdings at a great disadvantage. A great deal might be done towards the solution of social problems if the Government were to go thoroughly into the question of the ownership of land. It was an undoubted fact that large tracts of common land hitherto in the possession and use of the common people had at various periods in the history of the country been appropriated by private individuals without any right whatever, and he was desirous of seeing their title to that land investigated in order 1619 to ascertain whether there was any possibility of that land being passed back again to the people to whom it rightly belonged. He thought the attention of the Government should be particularly drawn to all these aspects of the question, and he could assure the House that references to the subject on any platform in the country always secured a good deal of consideration and attention, and people were being induced to inquire why it was that common land had been taken from them. During the 120 years from 1760 to 1880 10,000,000 acres of land were enclosed in Great Britain, and Enclosure Acts had been passed helping to legalise the appropriations thus committed. If in the past it was possible for a privileged class monopolising political power to pass this land to themselves from the common people, surely in a democratic Parliament it should be perfectly easy to pass that land back again to the people. He submitted to the Government that a thorough investigation into the Enclosure Acts was necessary and would bring to light some most important information on the matter. If it could be justly shown that this land ought to be restored to the common people it would help them a great deal in their desire to place the land of the country under the control of the people. The plea of the landlord class who appropriated the land was that it was not properly cultivated, and that therefore it was in the best interests of the nation that they should take control of it. All those who were aware of the condition of the land of the country at the present time knew that the interests of the people had simply been played with, because the land had not been effectively cultivated; in many places it had simply been used to extend the pleasure ground of the rich and the well-to-do classes, and the chief uses of the land to-day seemed to be to produce rabbits and game. He hoped that this measure was only a portion of a larger policy, and that the Government had set out to thoroughly reform the land system. He did not think a more practical step in that direction could be taken than that of attempting to restore to the people the land to which they had a just and equitable title. At the present time one of the great disadvantages of our 1620 land system was the maintenance of too large holdings, so large that it was impossible for people with small capital effectually to work them. When the price of wheat was £5 per quarter farmers found it profitable to cultivate the land, and that was when the farmer was able to make a profit, but even then the landlord managed to reap the greatest advantage. Naturally the landlords preferred the larger holdings. Under those conditions the farmer naturally desired to secure as large holdings as possible; but now the conditions of agriculture had changed and the price of wheat had fallen from 100s. to about 30s. per quarter. Notwithstanding that fact large holdings still obtained, with the inevitable result that the farmers had been very largely denuded of their capital. There were in some of the western portions of the country large farms extending to between 500 and 600 acres upon which not more than five or six labourers were employed. He believed that this Bill would have a tendency in the direction of bringing the people back to those large holdings which ought to be divided up into more reasonable proportions. In that way the Bill would assist the better cultivation of the land and help to promote the stability of the nation. He observed that one of the chief objections urged against the Bill was that it was based on an occupying tenancy rather than on ownership. Speaking on behalf of his colleagues he thought that principle was the most presentable and most acceptable feature of the measure, because he did not believe the people of the country were desirous of boasting that they held a small portion of land. What they desired, however, was free access to and the secured use of land in order that they might enjoy the fruits of their own labour, which unfortunately was so largely denied to them at the present time. The last fifteen years experience of small holdings showed that the tenants displayed no great ability to purchase and no strong desire to do so. In support of that fact he only needed to remind the House that the whole result of the last fifteen years operation of the Act of 1892 had been that ten county councils were induced to take advantage of the powers 1621 of that Bill, and only about 812 acres had been disposed of under those powers. They had been treated to quite a number of beautiful epigrams and they had been reminded about "the magic of ownership." He thought they were all able to appreciate the fact that the day of the principle of private ownership in industrial undertakings had largely become a thing of the past. The man who worked to-day under the control of a company or a trust could not claim that he had any private or personal portion of the property of that particular trust. They might as well argue that the printer could only exert himself to the utmost when he owned the machine to which he applied his labour. After all, what the people wanted was security for their livelihood, and that was secured quite as well under the principle established in this Bill as it could be under a system of private ownership. They had been told that the county council was liable to be capricious. He had yet to learn that the landlord class had been entirely free from that charge. At any rate, there had been painful experience that in some portions of the country landlords for political or theological reasons had arbitrarily exercised their power, and it did not become anybody to urge that a county council was liable to be more capricious than landlords had been in the past. Under the county council the occupying tenants would have security of tenure, for that body was elected on a wide electoral franchise; its members were always susceptible to public opinion, and if they were found wanting, public interest and civic spirit would always result in righting anything that might transpire. He was glad the Government had embodied in the Bill the principle of compulsion, and he trusted that the measure was but one step in a consistent policy of restoring the whole of the land of the country to the control of the people. There was one point on which he and his friends desired a little more information. He understood that it was the intention that land once purchased should never more be alienated. That was one of the most attractive and certainly one of the soundest features of the Bill. He would like the First Commissioner of Works to give an 1622 assurance that he was perfectly certain the provisions of the Bill would secure this as far as it was possible to do so. There was a measure of hope in the Bill for the agricultural population. They had been told that there was no great demand on the part of the agricultural population for more land. Although it might be that the demand had not been definitely articulate, nevertheless there was no denying the fact that land hunger was famishing the land, and the fact that there was not a more articulate demand was due to the crushing conditions which existed to-day; but if the agricultural labourer were given a sense of independence and liberty, perfect freedom to express his views and his hopes, in the course of a few years the nation would be astonished by the great progress which the agricultural population would make. It had been urged that it was an arbitrary provision to insist that the Commissioners appointed under the Bill should help in creating a demand for the land. He was one of those who regarded that as one of the best features of the Bill. The land problem was of vital import to the whole nation, and certainly they were all desirous of seeing the land better cultivated, not merely from the personal standpoint, but more particularly from the standpoint of the interest of the nation as a whole. Even if the people had not shown so great a desire for the land as some could have wished, they all knew nevertheless that in their own interest and in the interest of the nation as a whole they sadly needed it. The slum denizen did not always desire a better house, but if they could promote that desire, and if they could make him understand that it was better for him and those associated with him that he should have a better house, they did something not only for the benefit of the man and his family, but for the health of the nation as a whole. He could not subscribe to the feeling that the agricultural labourer would not work so well as an occupying tenant as he would do if he owned the land himself. The implication was a slander upon the agricultural population; because of all classes of the community, they might very well say that the agricultural labourer had almost to work his life out 1623 in order to keep a little life in. He himself was born in a small agricultural village, and he knew from his early experience the conditions of the agricultural labourer's life. Having realised that their conditions might be alleviated by political action, agricultural labourers were found at the last general election associating with the artisan section of the community in turning out of this House the territorial representatives and electing other men as a protest against their degrading toil and the subjection in which they had been kept. A new light illuminated their minds, and they were beginning to ask that some of the good things of life should be shared by them and those dear to them. He and his friends would, as he had said, have preferred a bolder scheme, but at the same time they heartily accepted this measure in the hope that it was part of the Government's larger policy. It was based on sound principles, and they were glad to know that progress was being made. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would make it perfectly clear whether there was any power for the alienation of the land once it was purchased. He hoped that the Board of Agriculture would be careful in the selection of the Commissioners, because he thought that with a sympathetic attitude on the part of the Board, and a thorough knowledge of agricultural conditions on the part of the Commissioners, a great deal of good might be accomplished, and that much could be done, perhaps not altogether in bringing people back to the land—although he was one of those who believed that it was still possible to return to the land some of our surplus population—but in arresting the flow of the rural population into the cities and towns. It was necessary that other measures should be enacted besides that now before the House. The housing question was an integral part of the problem of rural depopulation, and he would like the right hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that the Government intended to deal with that question. He had had several instances brought to his knowledge where agricultural labourers had displayed tenacity in clinging to the land, but had been compelled to leave it because of the impossibility of securing decent 1624 and suitable housing in their districts. He thought the Government might take into consideration the whole of the land problem. They knew that in the agricultural districts the price of land had fallen to a low figure. It was quite popular in some quarters to allege that that was all due to our fiscal policy, and to say also that, even if our system of free trade was good, the value of agricultural land had been depreciated in consequence of it. Let them not lose sight of the fact that under that system the value of urban land had enormously appreciated. He and his friends were not to be lured away from what they understood to be a sound principle and a logical objective, simply by the obtrusion of the fiscal policy into these matters. He was one of those who believed that in course of time even agricultural land would be in greater demand and that the price once more would rise. They found that in the world's development there were even among continental countries conditions not dissimilar to those existing here. The exporting nations would necessarily follow the example of other nations which imported produce. They would have to go into the world's markets to buy wheat, and the chances were that the prices of agricultural produce in this country would once more be so profitable as to induce the people to undertake wheat cultivation. Of course, he knew that it was quite the right thing to say that we should place profound reliance upon our Colonies. He had never yet learned that Colonial merchants were different from any other merchants. They would sell their produce where the largest profit was to be secured. It was popular to say "Blood is thicker than water," but he had yet to learn that blood was thicker than profit. The nation would be doing the right thing in taking the land into its own possession, so that it might be used for the interest of the nation as a whole. He was a land nationaliser, and he was glad to know that he was not alone in the House in that respect. He believed that there were thirty-seven hon. Members sitting on the Ministerial Benches who were also Vice-Presidents of the Land Nationalisation Society. He regarded any land measure from the 1625 standpoint of how far it would take them in the direction of the realisation of their aims. He knew that their complete realisation would not be easily attained, and that the object which they desired would only be gained by degrees But he saw in the provisions of this Bill the probability of a partial realisation of their aims. Therefore, in a general way they gave their approval to it. While he and his friends held themselves perfectly free to submit Amendments which they thought were calculated to strengthen and extend the provisions of the Bill, nevertheless the right hon. Gentleman might rely upon receiving no warmer-hearted support for the measure than that which would be given by those who sat on the Labour Benches. It was sometimes said that their opposition was unreasonable. He submitted that their opposition was never of a factious character. They never hesitated to oppose where they thought opposition was necessary, but in regard to the main provisions of this Bill the Government would receive from them warm approval, and they would give no assent to the wasting of time in the discussions on the measure. People in the country did not understand how difficult it was to get legislation through Parliament. It was no good telling them of the existence of a small and factious Opposition and that time was often wasted in their deliberations on Bills. The reply they received to that statement was that the Government had a large majority in the House, and that they expected their representatives to overcome the Opposition so that some tangible measures might be passed for the purpose of bringing about social reforms. On behalf of those with whom he sat he said that they would do all that they could to facilitate the passage of this Bill through the House, because they believed that it was founded on sound principles and would help to make the agricultural population better women and men; that it would promote their welfare and make this country truly free and great.
§ *SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derbyshire, Ilkeston)
said that he agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken in estimating this Bill as a very moder- 1626 ate measure, but it carried out the principles they had fought for in the Select Committee of 1890. The right hon. Member for Wimbledon had said that the Bill might be made a remedy for a grave national evil—the depopulation of the rural districts. But the depopulation of the rural districts was closely connected with another grave evil—the physical deterioration of the population. If we wanted to maintain our position as a great, powerful—and what was so often in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite—an Imperial race, it was essential to have a large resident agricultural population connected with the land. The old Greek fable said that the giant wrestler Ant æus received new strength from his mother earth as often as he touched the ground. That was true to-day of our rural population, and he hoped that this Bill would be the means of getting the people in close and permanent contact with the land so that they might renew their strength. The right hon. Member for Wimbledon had said that he could not understand why the Act of 1892 had been described as a failure. An Act which had only succeeded in obtaining 812 acres for small holdings in the course of fifteen years must necessarily be written down as a failure. It certainly had not succeeded to the extent which its promoters anticipated when it was introduced. It embodied a policy which the Liberal Party contested at the time, viz., that if there was a desire for small holdings it would be gratified voluntarily by the landowners. It had often been said that there was a great need for the more equal distribution of the wealth of the nation; but he believed that there was even a greater need for a more equal distribution of the land. It was only in this country that we kept hold to the old feudal laws which tied up the land and prevented its distribution. In every other great country in Europe an opposite course had been pursued. This Bill would alter all that. The Bill proceeded in the direction of the creation of tenancies instead of ownership of small holdings and it was on that account that the Bill had received the most pungent criticism from the Opposition Benches. But the principles of the Bill, which was to be allowed to go to a Second Reading, 1627 were no new principles. The plan of ownership under the Act of 1892 was encumbered by the provision that a man was to pay one-fourth of the value of his holding before entering into possession. Such a provision was enough to cripple him at the very outset of his ownership. Some means should be taken to modify that hardship even when a man wanted to purchase his holding. The returns presented to Parliament showed that the Act of 1892 had been a failure. The Return of 1895 showed that there had been made only thirty-seven owners of small holdings, and 115 tenants of land under the Act. In 1903 the owners still remained at thirty-seven while the tenants had increased to 166. These returns showing no increase in owners but an increase in tenants were an argument in favour of increasing tenancies. In the Local Government Act of 1894 certain clauses were included connected with the acquisition of land by parish councils either by compulsory purchase or leasing. The old Allotments Act of 1887 contained no such power, and consequently was also a failure. Returns showed that after seven years only 2,249 acres were obtained for allotments under the Act of 1887; but the Act of 1894 was a success because in two-and-a-half years 14,872 acres were obtained under it for allotments. The right hon. Member for Bordesley held that the allotments had been increased by voluntary effort, but he was speaking only of allotments obtained under the Acts of Parliament. The right hon. Member for Wimbledon said that the Act of 1894. spoiled his Act of 1892. Why was that? Because it contained two things—compulsion and leasing, which were also in the Bill now before the House. But there was a third Act from which they learned a lesson. The Sale of Glebe Lands Act of 1888 was introduced by Lord Salisbury's Government with the avowed intention of enabling agricultural labourers and others to get small holdings. Mr. Stanhope in commending the Bill to the House of Commons said—The Government desired that these glebes should be sold in small plots, and he had no hesitation in saying that he believed the measure in many parts of the country would not only 1628 enable them to be sold as small plots, but would lead to their being acquired by labourers.What was the result? By 1891 fifty-seven glebes had been sold, and of these no fewer than forty-five were sold in single lots. There was no chance for the small holdings being created under those conditions, and not a single labourer was put on a small holding by the sale of all those glebes. As he was informed, there had been from 300 to 400 glebes sold up to the present. Of those none so far as he knew had gone to labouring people. After that, surely the course of the present Government was clear. They must create opportunities for men to go on the soil as tenants, with security of tenure, which he believed they would have from the local authority. After all, tenancy was often better than ownership, because under stress of circumstances the small holdings often became greatly burdened. The magic of property was after overcome by the misery of mortgage. As regards compulsion, Lord Onslow's Committee desired that compulsory powers should be granted, but they limited them to the central authority. He would rather see such powers operated by the local authorities. If localities would take up and carry out schemes with such powers it would be of great benefit, and would prevent much friction between them and the central authority. There had been a good deal of dread expressed as to the Commissioners' authority. He believed that the Commissioners would have very useful work to do, but he believed also that their advisory powers would be better than the compulsory. Compulsion, he was sure, would not often be exercised, and in any case it would much more often be exercised by the local than by the central authority. The fact, however, of there being compulsory powers in the background would enable both the local and the central authorities to bring land more easily into cultivation by the people who would otherwise never get it, and, moreover, it would enable that land to be secured under better conditions than would otherwise be the case. It was necessary to secure land for the purpose at a fair market price, and the powers contained in the measure would do much to effect that most [useful and beneficent 1629 object. He believed that the compulsory powers would be much more often exercised by the local authorities than by the central authority. At all events he hoped that would be the result of the working of the Act, but the very fact that they had in the background strong powers for the local, as well as for the central authority would bring land into the occupation of these landless serfs which would never otherwise be obtained. It would also enable the land to be acquired under better conditions. When there was no compulsion, allotment land had to be acquired sometimes at a cost of £90 an acre, in order that poor agricultural labourers might have a chance of growing a little food for themselves and their families. That was robbing the poor in a ruthless fashion, and they did not want such a condition of things repeated. Therefore they desired to have these compulsory powers in the background, and an opportunity afforded of obtaining the land at a fair price, without robbing either the rich or the poor. He believed that the compulsory powers would do much to effect that beneficial and useful reform, and they welcomed the Bill as carrying out what they had struggled to get placed on the Statute Book for nearly twenty years. By this measure they would enable the agricultural labourer to have more hope in his lot and more chance on the land. It would make the population of the country a more healthy race, and would prove a blessing to the whole nation by creating a stronger and a sturdier race.
§ MR. ABEL SMITH (Hertfordshire, Hertford)
said the right hon. Gentleman, as many of them were aware, had worked for many years to improve the conditions under which the rural population lived, but he thought that he was under a slight misapprehension as to the attitude which they on that side of the House took with regard to the question of ownership and occupation under this Bill. They did not at all say that every small holder who was created under the Bill was to be made a freeholder, but regarding the question as between the present owner and the local authority, they did say that if land was to be taken compulsorily for the purpose of the Bill or 1630 any other public purpose the owner ought to be paid a fair price for it. Therefore they said that if the county or the central authority put the compulsory power given by the Bill into force it ought to be used by way of purchase and not by way of compulsory leasing. He had listened with great interest to the whole of the debate and had paid especial attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, and he thought he might fairly say that they need not take much exception to what he said, so long as he was talking about the Bill under discussion; but when he dived into the history of the Small Holdings Act of 1892 and the circumstances under which it was passed, and talked about bait for a general election, he could not help wondering whether in any possible combination of circumstances, even in the near future, the present Bill might not be used for a similar purpose. When, too, he referred to another measure before Parliament to which he (Mr. Smith), as a member of the Scottish Grand Committee, had paid very special attention, the right hon. Gentleman said it would be wise if he only made one remark and did not give any further explanation; and when he heard that one remark he confessed he fully agreed with him that he was wise in abstaining from any further discussion on that subject. He wished to deal as shortly as he could more with the general principles which were embodied in the Bill than with its details though there were a few of the details which he felt bound to criticise. He wished so far as he could, to look at the Bill from the point of view of one who had some practical experience of the agricultural matters with which this measure sought to deal. He was rather glad to hear the hon. Member for Norwich refer to the historical aspect of the question, and he wished to correct the impression, which he thought was entertained in some quarters, that the decrease of small holdings in the country, which they all deplored, had been due to autocratic or selfish action on the part of the present or past generations of landlords. He thought it was very easy to show that it had in the main been due to economic causes. As the hon. Member for Norwich had said, 1631 during any period up to about 130 years ago an enormous amount of land was occupied and cultivated under the open-field system, and it was a fact, which no one could deny, that under that system improved methods were perfectly impossible, and the policy of enclosure was adopted, under which, as the hon. Member had said, many millions of acres of land were enclosed. That, from the national point of view, was a wise policy; indeed it was an absolutely necessary policy. By those enclosures it had been estimated that something like 4,500,000 acres of land were added to the cultivated area of the country. He maintained that by that policy the landlords, farmers, and, indeed, the whole nation at the time, gained, with the exception of one particular class, and that was the small open-field farmer, who when enclosure came became, in many cases, a hired labourer at a very inadequate rate of wages. It would have been absolutely impossible, if the old open-field system had been allowed to continue, for this nation, in time of war, to get its food supply at all, and it was on that ground that that policy was thought to be absolutely necessary. As manufactures grew up, and as the population of the manufacturing cities increased by leaps and bounds, it became absolutely necessary, especially under the fiscal system which then prevailed, that the food of the people should be grown at home. The day of the self-sufficing farmer was over, and the farmer whose chief care hitherto had been to provide food and clothing for his family found that the populations of the great manufacturing cities were clamouring for food. At that time the small holdings on the open fields were broken up, and large corn-growing farms became the order of the day. During the nineteenth century agriculture had many ups and downs, but, on the whole, corn-growing remained a profitable industry up to the time when the great fall in prices took place, which began in 1877, and then corn-growing began to go down, and the agricultural interest passed through a very severe crisis. Since that time the crisis had gradually been passing away—things, so to speak, had been finding their level. The high 1632 rents of the old days had gone, probably for ever, and in some parts of the country, at any rate, land was readily let, and comparatively low rents were cheerfully paid. But there was one great evil which still remained, and that was the greatly decreased population in the rural districts. Low prices caused agricultural depression, and at the same time improved machinery came into vogue, and, together with the necessity that farmers were under to reduce the cost of production to the lowest possible level, helped to accentuate the tendency, which existed in all civilised countries, of the people to drift from the country districts towards the great centres of population. The consequence was that they had this great national evil to contend against. The evil was recognised by his right hon. friend who now represented Wimbledon, when he introduced his Small Holdings Bill of 1892. It had been said that that Act had been to a great extent a failure, and they must admit that it had not been made much use of. He thought its action was retarded to a very great extent and the local authorities were prevented from making use of it by the extremely low prices which prevailed for the few years after it passed into law, and also to a very great extent by the ignorance of the people whom it was sought to benefit—ignorance for which they were in no way to blame, because they had lost, in two or three generations, during the prosperity of the corn-growing industry, a knowledge of the lesser agricultural industries. Since the attention of the public had been directed to these special problems of depopulation in the rural districts and the pressure of population in the great cities and the want of employment there, their attention had also been directed to these minor agricultural industries, and a vast amount of fruit and dairy produce was now produced, and although those commodities were not so profitable as corn-growing they were still worth producing under favourable conditions, and rendered it possible for a man to support himself and his family comfortably. It had been sometimes said that it was impossible to get the people back upon the land because no land was available. He believed that to be a great mistake. It was almost impossible to look at the advertisement 1633 sheet of a provincial paper without finding agricultural land advertised for sale. From a return, which he had obtained from an auctioneer of his acquaintance, of the land put into his hands for sale in the year 1906, he found that the land put up for auction by that one firm amounted to 23,000 acres, and was situated in seven different counties. Of that land 13,500 acres were sold at prices varying from £7 to, in exceptional cases, £100 an acre, and 9,000 acres remained unsold, although in many cases the reserve put upon it was not large. A very large proportion of that land was put up in lots of less than fifty acres, and the conclusion at which he had arrived from that return, and from other facts which had come to his knowledge, was that there was a large amount of land on the market. What was wanted was some organisation to bring the buyer and seller together. Of course, a man who wanted to purchase or hire a small piece of land could not always expect to find it over the next hedge. If people wanted land, or anything else, they must go where it was for sale. It was not expected that they could always acquire it at the place where they lived. He quite admitted that further facilities than those given by the Act of 1892 were required, and though he objected to some of its details he was glad a Bill that encouraged small holdings had been introduced, and he would not offer any objection to its Second Reading. He also welcomed very cordially the encouragement given by the Bill to co-operative societies and organisations of that kind which would enable buyers and sellers to come together. Cheaper loans was a matter of great importance and one to which his attention had been directed when serving on the Housing Committee. That was also a portion of the Bill with which he cordially agreed, and he hoped the clause dealing with it would make these matters much easier than before. He was glad to see that the Government had elected to proceed by giving further powers to the local authorities. He had no objection to the county councils having compulsory powers, so long as they were powers for compulsory purchase, and not for compulsory leasing, and he welcomed the powers by which the central body would be able to under- 1634 take special schemes which it might not be wise for a local authority to undertake. It would also have the further advantage that if those schemes were of an experimental nature, and were not a success, the loss would fall upon the Exchequer, and not upon the district concerned. What he objected to most strongly was the power given to the central authority to override the wishes of the local authority. The local authority was a popularly elected body, and therefore it must be assumed that they would give proper consideration to a scheme, if an appeal was made to them for small holdings. If they deliberately considered the petition, and came to the conclusion that it was not desirable to interfere in the matter, it was, in his opinion, most outrageous and unconstitutional that their wishes should be overridden by the central authority. He believed the Government would find it impossible to put that clause into operation if the Bill were passed, as he hoped it would be. It should also be remembered that the greater part of the agricultural land of the country was already let to those who cultivated it, and in some counties it was almost impossible to get any large amount of land without displacing the present occupiers. That would be, perhaps, a little difficult to do in the face of the Agricultural Holdings Act of last year. One clause of that Act secured compensation to any agricultural occupier who was removed from his farm unreasonably, and, if the present occupiers were to be ejected to bring about small holdings, he would like to know how, and on what scale, compensation was to be provided for the present tenant. One technical objection to the Bill was that, as it stood, it contained no provision for making advances to the present owners of land. He knew in the present House there was some prejudice against such a thing as that, but as one who was earnestly and sincerely anxious to see the number of small holdings increased, he would like to say there were many cases in which it would be the easiest and most satisfactory way to carry out the object in view. There were many owners who would be very glad to cut up their farms and divide them into small holdings, but it was 1635 impossible for them to contemplate any such action owing to the expense involved. It would be the easiest and cheapest way to allow the landowners to carry out this scheme on their own account, and to have the necessary money at a reasonable rate of interest, The whole of the success of the Bill depended on good administration, and he rejoiced at the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill with reference to that. There must be no hurry and no pressure; but he really believed that if the organisation of the rural population was improved. and their education in these technical matters encouraged, as it had been during the past few years, a good work would be done in that direction.
§ *MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
said this Bill ran directly counter to the principle which they on that side were returned to maintain—he meant the principle of free trade. Most hon. Members on that side of the House had protested against the payment of shipping bounties to encourage trade with Canada, on the ground that the whole community would have to pay but only the privileged few would benefit. On that identical ground he protested against bolstering up one favoured industry, the small holdings industry, at the expense of the whole body of rate and taxpayers. Both were attempts, by squandering public money, to alter the natural economic development of trade and industry, and both were, therefore, contrary to free trade. It would be said, of course, that they were only spending £100,000 as the price of this protected industry. He should like to point out that that £100,000 was by no means the sum total of our public benevolence. We were also to lend cheap money on poor security. The State was to do that which no business firm would undertake at the price, and no landlord. All the risk of failures and some failures there must be—and their number would not be lessened by the artificial enhancing of the price of land—would fall upon the rates. The community might count itself lucky if it got off with four or five times that £100,000. He thought they 1636 were all apt, on a subject such as this, to legislate rather from the heart than from the head. They were all oppressed by seeing the obvious depopulation of the country-side and the hopeless position of the agricultural labourer. They felt that the community ought not to refuse any assistance which could help to put the agricultural labourer into an independent position; that if there were to be subsidies, no subsidy could be more justifiable. But his charge against that subsidy was that the agricultural labourer would not get it. This £100,000 or £500,000 which they piously believed was going to benefit the agricultural labourer, was going, instead, into the pockets of the landlords. ["No."] He would try and make himself clear. There were subsidies and subsidies. Some were comparatively harmless, others were bad, but this subsidy on the purchase of land had fewer merits than any other. Let them compare, for instance, a subsidy on the purchase of boots. Suppose the State were to give 6d. a-piece to everybody who bought a pair of boots. Of course the demand for boots would increase and the bootmakers would make larger profits for a time. Those larger profits would attract more capital into the boot industry, and the supply of boots would rise to meet the demand. Under free competition those abnormal profits that the bootmakers were making would be cut down and become normal once more, and the 6d. a-piece would revert to the purchaser and user of the boots. But boots and land were very different, and a subsidy on the purchase of land would have a very different result to the subsidy on the purchase of boots. For this reason: There was no limit to the possible supply of boots, but the supply of land was limited at the creation. Every increase in the demand for land would increase not the supply but the price of that limited commodity, and this subsidy, instead of going to the land user, would remain with the landowner, not only for a few years, as in the case of boots, but permanently; it would not revert, as in the case of boots, to the user of the land. But he thought that apart from that somewhat abstruse piece of reasoning, one could 1637 see that any increase in the demand for land must raise its price. If the Government entered the market for the first time as the purchaser of land, the price of land everywhere was bound to go up. He remembered in the days when one used to buy Consols, one was always advised by one's brokers to buy Consols, because there was a limited supply, and because the State was in the market and the price was bound to rise; and so it did. Exactly the same thing happened when the deplorable Irish Land Bill was passed. As soon as the Government entered the market for the purchase of Irish land its price everywhere rose by six or eight years purchase. The passing of that Act, and the entering of the Government into the market for the buying of land, raised the price of land in Ireland by 25 per cent., and that not only where the Government were buying, but throughout the whole of Ireland. The entry of the Government as a purchaser pushed up the price of land. Therefore, the result of this subsidy to small holders would not be to benefit the agricultural labourer, whom they all earnestly wished to help, but it would go instead into the pockets of the landlords. Probably most Members recognised that this increase in the value of land must result from the passing of the measure and did deplore it. But they would say, and with some show of plausibility: "Yes, but if the expenditure of this money means that more people will live on the land and fewer drift to the towns, then, whatever be the cash results in raising land values it is worth it; for the health of the community, the physical and moral stamina and well-being of the nation are worth purchasing even if we have to buy them from the landlords." That would be a very plausible argument if the way proposed in this Bill were the only possible way of getting people back on the land and making it more productive. But it was not the only way, nor was it the best way; he doubted whether it was a way at all of attaining that end. It ignored absolutely and entirely the best way of bringing the land to the people. They sought to create small holdings and intensive cultivation by increasing the demand for land; by 1638 taking the tenant by the hand and leading him up to the landlord and helping him to ask for land. Why did they not, instead, set the supply of land free an dflowing? Make it unprofitable to withhold land from use whether for purposes of pleasure or privacy, for sport or speculation. They could do that by taxing land values. By basing the rates on the capital unimproved value of the land they would increase the available supply of land and the demand would follow as a natural consequence. That way would cost them nothing. That wav would not enhance the land values. A land Bill, to be really successful, must allow for the free play of spontaneous demand, for a clear and open market between buyer and the seller, between landlord and tenant. What was, above all wanted was to do away with the uneconomic friction that existed between the owner and user—to break down the dykes and barriers that our theories of irresponsible ownership had built up and which were strengthened by our unsound rating system, and let the waters of commerce flow at their natural level. Without some such scheme as a basis to work upon any small holdings Bill such as that under discussion was mere philanthropic tinkering. The philanthropy that put "dear people" where they did not want to be—that planted out the tame "working classes" like cabbages—no, not like cabbages, that would be too businesslike and orderly: they were going to be planted here and there artistically, clothed in smock frocks so that the non-working classes might have pleasure in the contemplation of their handiwork. What they wanted was to take a very small step forward towards a far more important change. Could they not alter the relations which at present existed between the owner of the land, the man who had the right to dictate exactly how the land should be used, and the people at large, who had to use the land or die? The balance was unfairly weighted in this struggle for existence. It should be made easier to claim the land for use—more difficult to refuse. The right remedy, not only for getting small holdings but for the housing problem also, was to begin by changing the basis of our 1639 rating system; to base rates everywhere and only, in town and country alike, on the unimproved value of land, whether the land was used or not, whether it was well treated or badly treated by its landlord, whether much capital was invested on it or not. To quote once more the words of the Select Committee on the Taxation of Land Values (Scotland) Bill—All local taxation should be transferred from the present valuations to the valuations of land value; thus substituting local taxation of land value for all the present local taxation of landed property.And again—We consider the benefits of the proposed system lie, not in tapping a new source of revenue, but in the economic benefits which would result from a fundamental reform of the system of taxation.That was the Report of a Liberal Committee. In that way they would make it to the landowners' interest to bring their undeveloped land (which at present they were encouraged to leave idle) into the best possible use. That would increase the available and ready supply of land. That was the way, and the only sound way, to induce intensive cultivation and maintain the people on the land. If that were done difficulties of detail would vanish. One person now asked whether a small holding would pay seven miles from a railway station. If they taxed land values they would find out. Another wanted to know whether three acres were sufficient, or should it be ten or fifty; let them tax land values and they would find out; others asked whether tenancy or ownership was the right solution; again let them tax land values and they would find out; for the right things would spring up wherever they would pay. If they procured free play for economic conditions, they would get a sound economic result. It was, he thought, so great a student of law as Prof. Albert Dicey who had said somewhere that—An essential point of any good law is that it should be as universal in its application as possible, and that it should have the automatic regularity of a law of nature.He maintained that this Bill violated both those principles. It resembled in its accidental and arbitrary nature some sumptuary law of the crudest age of English law-making. It left it to various 1640 individuals to decide whether any particular person was to be given a right to any particular piece of land, and at what particular rent; whether any particular individual was to be called upon to part with any particular piece of land and at what particular price. Could a less universal or automatic law be imagined! If the absolute ownership of land was of the nature of a social injustice, the remedy should lie in a fundamental reform, applicable in all cases, and applying itself automatically. Nothing less could be satisfactory. Nothing less was even equitable. If it was not in the nature of a social injustice, what act could be more tyrannical than to force selected individuals to part with what they rightly owned, even though every stone were paid for in solid gold? Those two methods of attaining the same end—this Bill and freeing the land—were whole poles apart. One was protection, the other was free trade; one started by increasing demand, the other by increasing supply; one laboriously brought the tenant to the landlord, the other sent the landlord to the tenant; one was State interference with economic laws, the other did away with all that was now artificially restraining economic laws; one was what they might expect from a good Conservative Government, the other was what they hoped to get from a Liberal Government. The whole tragedy of the situation was that this Government, with both plans to choose from, had deliberately—he hoped not finally—chosen the worse. He begged to move, "That no legislation requiring the expenditure of public moneys in order to encourage one particular industry is desirable, and that small holdings and intensive cultivation can best be secured by basing the rates on unimproved land value, thus forcing land into the most profitable use."
§ The Amendment was not seconded.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
I am sure the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down need not have apologised to the House for the fact that the opinions which he holds, and which he has just expressed in his speech so ably, find no great support on this side of the House or the other. 1641 For my own part I am always glad to hear anyone with the courage of eccentric opinions expressing those opinions clearly, and standing by them with courage. He deserves that amount of praise, and I am glad to give it. I will go further and say that with one of the two propositions around which his speech centred I entirely agree. I concur with him in saying that this is a Bill wholly inconsistent with free trade as free trade used to be understood by the older economists and theorists, that it is a deliberate attempt to divert the course which the particular industry is taking and if left to itself will take, and is therefore undoubtedly inconsistent with one of the many meanings to which the term free trade has been applied. But the hon. Member went on to tell us that the way to get out of these difficulties was to tax ground values, to make perfectly impossible the arbitrary separation between the value of the unimproved land and the value of the improved land, and that we should at once learn who it was wanted land, how the land should be distributed, how it should be cultivated, and how it would at once produce that natural flow of industry which he desires. There, I confess, I fail to follow him. It would not be appropriate or fitting on this occasion to do what undoubtedly we shall have to do later on—discuss the theory of the hon. Gentleman and others with regard to the taxation of ground values. But whether the taxation of ground values is just or unjust, whether Parliament adopts it or rejects it, I think the hon. Gentleman on reflection will see that in no case could the remedy for the evils of which he complains have a tendency to divert or prevent the stream of migration from the country to the towns. It could not carry out any of the objects which the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill has at heart, and in which I believe he has the general sympathy of hon. Members on both sides of the House. I desire to speak with all respect of the efforts which the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill is making to improve our land system. A colleague of his brought in another Bill dealing with another portion of these Islands, with regard to which it was impossible even for the politest critic to speak with the smallest 1642 touch of respect. It is wholly inconsistent with current experience, and absolutely inconsistent with the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, and still more inconsistent with the views of the present Irish Secretary and, I believe, of everybody else in the House who has considered the proper way of treating land in Ireland. I do not think that any Government before has been in the singular position of having so much variety of opinion within its ranks, and so little power of co-ordination that it could at the same moment advocate and attempt to carry out three wholly inconsistent policies with regard to three separate portions of a not very largely or very economically separated community. The Chief Secretary for Ireland in a speech he made the other day, in introducing another measure, expressed the pious hope that nothing would interfere with purchase by the Irish tenant of his holding, while his colleagues disapproves of purchase by tenants of their holdings. He says that tenancy is the right system and purchase the wrong system. The object of purchasing holdings in Ireland is to get rid of dual ownership. The Secretary for Scotland desired to establish dual ownership. Therefore you have in the Cabinet one Minister expressing his desire to see perfect possession of the freehold by the occupiers and dual ownership brought to an end, while at the same time his colleague in Scotland is establishing an elaborate dual ownership where it does not now exist; and you have a third colleague saying he objects to dual ownership and peasant proprietorship and has a scheme of his own. I do not think such a spectacle as that has ever before been presented in one Government. I do not say there has not been inconsistency among members of the same Party, whether they sit on this side of the House or on the other; no doubt there has been; but I never yet heard although a Party may change its opinions—I know a Party has changed its opinions in twenty-four hours—for instance in the case of Home Rule—I am far from criticising any change of opinion in a Party, but I have never yet heard of a Party which expressed three different opinions at the same time through its organised Government. Of the three 1643 plans, I frankly admit the one I prefer is that which commends itself to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, but of the plan now before us I desire to speak with a respect far greater than I could command when dealing with the Scottish Bill. But, after all, respect is only relative, and there are some points in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman which, much as I admire and sympathise with their objects, he will perhaps allow me to criticise, not in a hostile way but, I hope, in a clear and unmistakable fashion. Just before I come to the details of the Bill the House will perhaps allow me to say one word upon certain arguments by which this Bill has been advocated and to try to deal with the fundamental ideas, sometimes expressed and sometimes unexpressed, which lie at the root of the movement to which this Bill gives expression. We have heard several hon. Members say that they desire to see this Bill passed, or something like it, because it will prevent migration from the country to the towns. When agriculture is in a state of equilibrium, migration from the country to the towns depends really upon two things—namely, the birth-rate and the magnitude of the country population. I cannot see how that argument can be answered. It is not so much an argument as a self-evident proposition. The right hon. Gentleman brought forward another argument of which we have heard a great deal, and of which I do not wish to minimise the force, and which I wish to emphasise to the House. He says you must keep the population in the country, not because that would diminish the migration, but because it is absolutely necessary to have a great country population if we mean to maintain the physique of our race. The right hon. Gentleman is in a position of distinction, and he has devoted much attention to the problems of public health, but is this House going to acquiesce in the doctrine which the right hon. Gentleman has stated? Is it really true that we depend for the maintenance of our race upon that population, as to which an hon. Gentleman below the gangway, who spoke this afternoon, told us the whole condition of their occupation was degrading? It is a lamentable fact, if it be a fact, that the whole future 1644 physique of our race depends, upon the agricultural labourer, who, we are told, is working under degrading conditions. If we are going to acquiesce in giving up the problem of having an urban population, which problem we have to solve, if we cannot deal with the health of the population of our great towns so as to prevent them from being, as we are told, sources of hereditary diseases, then, indeed, the resources of British civilisation are bankrupt, and I think it would be the first duty of this House to check the growth of big towns and artificially to stimulate the population of the country by laws deliberately intended to be protective, and deliberately intended to keep the population there at whatever cost to the community at large. But I cannot admit this bankruptcy. I cannot admit this bankruptcy of our civic life. I do not think it wise for hon. or right hon. Gentlemen to make these appeals to us about the physique of the race unless they are prepared to prove that urban life is inconsistent with the maintenance of that physique; or if they come to that conclusion, that urban life is inconsistent with that, then let them take their courage in their hands and say that our forefathers were wrong when they took the view that Britain, henceforth, in the main must be a manufacturing country, and that we must, at whatever cost, preserve our most valuable heritage, even if it should involve a great and almost overwhelming public cost. I do not accept the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman; but if I accepted it, I do not know what further conclusion, I except that which I have stated, could be accepted either by me or any other Member of the House. I have said that if agriculture is at an equilibrium, you have a constant flow, dependent on the size of the population, from the country to the towns; but I admit that it is not at an equilibrium now; that it has been and is still going through a transition period, and that there has been a great diminution of the country population, which, for reasons alien to those I have indicated, I deeply regret. To my mind the causes of the diminution of the rural population are absolutely plain; there is no mystery about them. They depend wholly on the fact that the prices of the great staples of industry have 1645 diminished, owing to the opening up of virgin soil, to the great improvements in transport, and to the great development of machinery. These three causes together are amply sufficient, and, in my opinion, are alone responsible for the diminution of the population. I do not believe myself that if you are going to attempt on your small holdings to deal with such things as the growing of corn and the growing of wheat you can hope to have prosperous small holders in most parts of the country unless you condemn them to a life of anxious toil, which is an inseparable accompaniment of small holdings in many parts of the world, and which I believe will be the inseparable accompaniment of small holdings in this country unless the small holders are exceptionally favourably situated or devote themselves to the growth of other things than those great staple products which can only be economically developed by the aid of great capital and the most advanced machinery. If we accept those plain statements of fact, how are we to alter the present state of things with advantage to anybody? In the first place let me point out to the House that there is a great deal of confusion of thought, in my judgment, in the minds of some hon. Members in regard to the size of holdings. There are many people who believe that the fact that land exists in this country largely in the shape of big estates is due to what they vaguely call feudalism. Although I do not agree with the statement, I do not argue against it at the present time, because it has nothing whatever to do with the size of holdings. Granting that estates have been a prejudicial factor by tradition, law, and custom, that does not affect the question of the size of holdings. What has determined the size of holdings? The size of holdings has been determined largely, I believe entirely, by economic causes—by the view taken by those most competent to decide at the particular time what size the holdings should be; and you find the greatest variety in the size of holdings in different parts of the country, corresponding to the economic, or what was the economic condition of the various districts at the time the holdings were parcelled out. Therefore, do not carry away the idea that when 1646 you are dealing with the holdings of England you are dealing with an unnatural growth; you are not; you are dealing with a natural growth, an economic growth. That again is a matter which cannot be forgotten when we are attempting to alter the size of holdings. It is an attempt which I do not think inconsistent with free trade in the older acception of the word, and it is an attempt, nevertheless, which this House may well make. But I do not believe it can be made successfully unless in the first place you vary the crops, unless you deal with a different industry from that which now exists, unless your small holders grow something different from what is grown by the bigger farmers. That I take to be the first condition of a very large extension of holdings. The second condition I believe to be that you must organise your small holdings. You cannot leave them as isolated units. You must work them up into some coherent and well-contrived whole, and in that way do much to mitigate the inevitable evils which small holdings generally carry with them. The great farmer hardly requires this organisation of his industry, because he can organise within the limits of his own farm, and he may get on; but the small holder who refuses to come into some organisation is, in my opinion, predestined to be squeezed out in the economic competition which is being forced upon us now, and which will not be less forced upon us in the future. But if you do those two things, if you alter the crops and if you organise, then I think Parliament may well come in to get us over the difficulty of the transition period which is due to the fact that the industry is now organised on another plan. You cannot alter that system without cost. You have no right to throw the cost upon the landlord. If you want to bring about this new state of things, and it is economic when carried out, then it is fair to go to the necessary expense for establishing it. But you would be foolish indeed if, having gone to the expense, the state of things which you have established is not one which can live by itself and fit in with the economic conditions of the world as we find them. There is one more condition we ought to bear in mind, namely, the condition of the small holder. 1647 Unless he be very happily circumstanced, his position must be a difficult one. It is your business to give him every motive, and although I do not lay it down as a dogmatic proposition that every small holder should be a freeholder, I think that by making him a freeholder you give him a set of motives for that arduous toil which in many cases is the sole condition of his prosperity and success. The House has listened very patiently while I have ventured to lay down some of the broad principles, and perhaps I may now be allowed to consider their application to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman has undertaken a task which is inherently difficult because it consists of artificially modifying the natural course of an industry. It is a problem which is exceedingly difficult. When you are dealing with a problem which is exceedingly difficult, ought you not to avoid every impediment you can, and make inevitable obstacles as little formidable as possible? The amount of opposition you raise should be as slight, as un-embittered, and as easily surmounted as may be. The right hon. Gentleman has, I think quite unnecessarily, made his Bill repugnant to a very large number of people who will either have to work it or perhaps take advantage of it. I do not mean to dwell on certain aspects of it which I think very unfair to the landlord, such, for example, as the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman proposes, under the name of allotments, to have five acres of arable land taken, it may be, from a farm in a small parish, by the majority of the inhabitants, by which the farm may be destroyed—allotments which may ultimately fail, in which case the locality will then come down upon a solitary ratepayer to bear all the expense, that ratepayer being the man who was injured by the original arrangement. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will cure that while the Bill is going through the House. He has told us, I am sure, with all sincerity, that he does not mean this Bill to be one for the spoliation of anybody; I accept that statement, though I do not think it is wholly carried out in the Bill. I trust to the Committee stage for remedy, and I am not going to argue the question; from the point of view of the interests 1648 of the landlord. There are other interests. I think it is a very gross violation of principle compulsorily to hire from any owner the land you are going to use for another purpose. Of course, in one sense it may not, and ought not, to be described as spoliation if the rent given be sufficient and be adequately secured. But I think it is thoroughly bad in principle and perfectly unnecessary. The hon. Gentleman who spoke from below the gangway on this side, and some other Gentlemen opposite, hold the view that there is a great unearned increment in land, a great source of value not put into the land by the owner of the land; and that is one of their reasons why they desire that land should not be sold to small holders, but retained by the community so that the community itself may profit by the unearned increment, which they think will accrue. We are all familiar with the argument. Then apply the argument. Why is the community not to get the unearned increment of the land you are compulsorily hiring? Buy it compulsorily if you want it, get the unearned increment; do not do what you propose to do, to compel a man, not merely, mark you, to let the original unimproved soil, but to let also the improvements which he and his predecessors have put into the soil. This compulsory hiring, remember, is not compulsory hiring of unimproved land, it is compulsory hiring of capital. I do not believe that is a sound principle, nor one that would be tolerated in any other industry; and I cannot see that it is consistent with the views of those who think that land has got an inherent spontaneous power of augmenting its value, which the community ought to possess. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, while he is running counter to the prejudices of Gentlemen on his own side of the House who hold these views about the unearned increment, he is equally running counter to those on this side who think a man's land should be either taken or left—who think that if you want to buy it you should buy it outright, and if you want to lease it, you should only lease it if he is prepared to let it. Why introduce this obstacle in your Bill; why raise these unnecessary prejudices? What do you get by it? We are all prepared 1649 —I am—to say that if you can show the necessity for the acquisition of land, that necessity should be met by compulsion if it can be met by no other means. But then buy it, treat the land as if you wanted it for a railway, a post-office, or some other great public object; do not carry out an entirely novel principle, wholly inconsistent, so far as I can see, both with the views entertained on this side and with what are called the advanced views of Gentlemen on the other. The third difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman has put in the way of his Bill I have already referred to. He has laid it down that his Bill is not to increase the number of peasant proprietors. Why has he put that limitation on his measure? Why has he deprived it elaborately, deliberately, and gratuitously of the flexibility which surely any sensible statesman would have aimed at in framing such a measure? I am ready for my own part to grant that there may be cases in which it is more desirable and in accordance with the wishes of the community that small holdings should be in the shape of tenancies and not ownership. But does, or can, anybody deny that there is a demand for ownership, that ownership has immense attractions for the very class you want to keep on the land, and that ownership carries with it motives which tenancy never carries with it? In addition, by giving ownership you relieve your local authority or your Board of Agriculture of the most difficult and delicate duties which the task of landlordism inevitably carries with it. Look at tenancies first from the point of view of the tenants. A great many have said that people prefer to be tenants; it may be true in some cases. But suppose a tenancy created when times are good, and suppose times become bad, what is the tenant to do if he be the tenant of a public body? If he be the tenant of a landlord and the landlord think him an eligible tenant, almost always there is some accommodation and arrangement come to between the two; it may be a permanent reduction of rent, it may be temporary assistance, the rent may be allowed to stand over for a shorter or a longer time. Is a public authority going to do all that? Is a public authority going to consider 1650 whether Mr. A. or Mr. B. is a man to whom some relaxation of his public engagement is to be given or not? I think you either inflict a very great relative hardship on the tenant if you insist that the terms shall be carried out absolutely to the letter, or you throw a most invidious task on the county or parish council, as the case may be, when you say that those terms may be and ought to be in certain cases, relaxed. You would have to say that the position of peasant proprietor is just as bad—no, it is not just as bad, for the peasant proprietor can, at all events, borrow temporarily to get over the difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill has an inveterate objection to borrowing upon land, but there is no industry in the world which gets on without borrowing. The power to raise money to deal either with temporary requirements or temporary difficulties is one which must be, I think, part of the freedom which you allow to every healthy and self-sufficing industry. In the case of a small tenant the difficulty is got over by the assistance of the landlord; I do not say he necessarily borrows from his landlord, but the payment of his rent is relaxed if he is a good tenant, which is equivalent to borrowing. But you are going to allow these tenants to have no security on which they can borrow; your first object is to prevent them borrowing. Whatever a man may put into his holding, however much he may improve it, you are not going to allow him to borrow on the security of what he has done. Is not that the policy of the Government? It is very important, and I should be grateful for a reply. I do not press for it; but the right hon. Gentleman would help me if he would inform me whether he contemplates these tenants being allowed to borrow on their improvements or not.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then you do not keep out the moneylender. I think the hon. Gentleman must have omitted to listen to that part of the speech of the Minister in charge of the 1651 Bill in which at great length he explained that his object was to keep out the lender altogether, whether in the case of tenants or owners. If that be so, I do not see how the small tenant is to tide over. From his point of view, I conceive that ownership is far more advantageous than tenancy. But, if you turn round to the other side, if you consider the position of the county council with regard to their tenants, are not you throwing on that unfortunate body a duty almost impossible for them effectively to perform? You have already asked them to manage your Army, they already manage your education, they already manage, of course, your roads and police, and now you are going to compel them to undertake all the difficult and delicate duties connected with the ownership of land. I cannot believe that is right. I cannot believe that, at all events, you might not leave a discretion, allow elasticity, and in those parts of the country—I believe far the larger parts—where ownership and not tenancy is desired, allow county councils to agree to ownership and not tenancy in the case of those who wish it. [An HON. MEMBER: They can.] There is no power of compulsion to buy the land in the Bill. Your whole argument, a rather ungenerous argument, is that the Act of 1892 is a failure. My right hon. friend's work in the direction which we are all desiring now to pursue cannot be over-rated; although the Act has not been largely taken advantage of, the value of his pioneer work cannot be over-rated, and I think it has been treated with scanty generosity on the other side. But, at all events, your argument is that the Act has totally failed. If that be so, put into the Bill, which you say is going to be a success, that elasticity which would, at all events, promote the possibility of its use for the acquisition of freeholds as well as for the creation of tenancies. There is a still greater gratuitous difficulty which hon. Gentlemen put in the way of carrying out their policy. Let the House observe the extraordinary departure which the Bill proposes to make in local government. We are all acquainted with the expedient of forcing a local authority to carry out a duty which has been entrusted to 1652 them by Parliament. But the Government go much further than that. They take the initiative out of the hands of the county council altogether. They send down an official who has no statutory instructions, who is the nominee, necessarily, of a party Minister. He is not required to consult with the county council, with those from whom the land is to be taken, or with those to whom the land is to be let. In fact, this irresponsible gentleman may even tell the county council that they are to prepare a scheme to carry out his ideas and recommendations. He is first to create the demand for small holdings, then to say how that demand is to be supplied, and then he is to give orders to the county council to carry his scheme out. That is a wholly novel procedure. What is worse, I think it is a disastrous procedure. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill tried to hunt up precedents for his proposal, but he totally failed to find them. He gave up to Hansard what was meant for mankind. But why did he not consider the matter on its merits, and give attention to controversies we have had on analogous subjects in this House? I remember when hon. Gentlemen opposite spent night after night on our Education Bill declaring that if we did not leave the county council absolutely to its own devices in the spending of money that was not its own, or even mainly its own, but the money of the taxpayers, we were mistrusting the people; and now right hon. Gentlemen opposite come forward and, without giving a sixpence from the Exchequer, propose to coerce the county council to carry out costly schemes to which the county council may object. And there is here a distinction of fundamental importance to be kept in mind. You may coerce, or try to coerce, with more or less success, a county council to carry out a plain direction. For instance, you may say that every child is to be vaccinated. That is a plain and simple direction, and you can know exactly whether or not it is carried out. The same is true of schemes of sewerage and water supply. There is no discretion in the matter. Selection and doubt are out of place. But when you are deciding whether small holdings will succeed in this or that locality, how much land 1653 should be bought, and what price should be paid for it, how big the holdings should be, and what arrangement should be made in regard to letting, is there not an immense latitude for differences of opinion, and for the exercise of discretion, judgment, and doubt? And, should the county council in these matters of discretion, judgment, and doubt differ from the nominee of the central Government, are we really to be told that the central Government will ever succeed in thrusting their views for the settlement of the difficulty down the throats of the county council? The thing is preposterous. It cannot be done. One instance of a controversy between the central Government and a local authority has been mentioned in the debate. The local authority won. It was a vestry. The central Government were beaten by a vestry. Are they going to win against a county council elected on the most democratic franchise? Remember what we had to do in the case of the Welsh county councils and the Education Act. We are all agreed that where there is a plain question of policy the local authority is bound to carry out the views of Parliament. In the case of the Education Act the question was of the simplest character. It was that the Welsh councils should treat the voluntary schools on the same scale of liberality as the provided schools in the distribution of the money provided for education, not by the ratepayers, but by the National Exchequer. Yet we felt we could not trust to the remedy of a mandamus in dealing with the difficulty, and we had to propose a special remedy, which was violently opposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who then took the view that it was the duty of the county councils to refuse to carry out the provisions of the Education Act. In this case no remedy of that kind is possible. You do not propose to give the county councils any of the money necessary to provide small holdings; and it is only through money voted by Parliament that you can have any hold on the county councils. To put them into prison is no good. Can you conceive a county council being put into prison because in the doubtful experiment of providing small holdings they think the Government inspector is wrong and they are right? Remember that. 1654 this is an economic experiment. The right hon. Gentleman tells us he does not want any one to lose by it. But if the experiment is a failure some one must lose. And who ought to lose? The Government who forces the experiment on the unwilling county council or the unwilling county council? If the experiment fails the county council will say, "You forced us compulsorily to buy land and to parcel it out; we always foresaw that in this district small holdings would be a failure; and now that it is a failure you tell us, who unwillingly undertook the experiment, who warned you that it would be a failure, that we have got to pay the cost. "You cannot impose the cost in such a case. It is evident that if the Government want their plan to succeed they must be far more liberal as regards money, and they must make friends and not enemies of the great public bodies which arc to administer it. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill told us that his measure is intended to effect a great public object. If that be so let the public pay. At all events, let the public bear part of the burden. If the public outside the county are determined to force on the county an experiment which the local authority do not wish to try, at least let the outside public engage to pay the whole or the greater part of its cost. If you are really sincere in your desire to see this difficult and costly experiment tried to the best advantage, you must not throw the cost upon the unwilling ratepayer; you must bring in the aid of the National Exchequer, otherwise you will be but adding one more to the previous failures of which you complain, and you will be discrediting the cause you desire to promote, the cause of increasing the number of small holders of land in this country. If the Government really desire to have this experiment tried under circumstances best calculated to bring it success, I beg of them to remember three cardinal points— first, allow the creation of small ownerships as well as small tenancies; secondly, do not violate all the principles of justice by insisting upon the compulsory hiring of the land; and, thirdly — which is perhaps the most important— make the county councils your friends, and help them in the financing of these operations which you insist they shall 1655 undertake. I admit that the changes which I have ventured to advocate touch important parts of the Bill, but they do not touch its vital principles. The Bill may yet be made a really useful measure, passed with the consent of both sides of the House and offering every possible hope of successfully carrying out an object which has the approval of all parties. But if the Government are obstinately determined to stick, not merely to the general principles underlying their Bill, but to every detail of it, then I think its course through the House cannot but be troubled, and its effect on the country will not only be less than they anticipate, but it may put back for an indefinite period the cause which they and we have equally at heart.
§ *MR. ELLIS (Nottinghamshire, Rushcliffe)
said there were only two points in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to which he proposed to address himself. The right hon. Gentleman made great play in the earlier part of his speech with what he called the extraordinary attitude of the Government and the diversity of voice with which they spoke. What a spectacle, said the right hon. Gentleman. They had the Chief Secretary for Ireland rising one week and recommending one proposal, the Secretary for Scotland rising another week with quite different proposals, and finally they had the First Commissioner rising with a third set of proposals. But in his opinion it was the great merit of the Government that it spoke for different parts of the kingdom according to their wishes. He was a convinced Home Ruler, and he certainly thought that Irishmen should have the control of their own land system The right hon. Gentleman was a Scotsman, and if the right hon. Gentleman told him that this or that particular did not commend itself to his mind as applicable to his country he would listen to him with respect. There was no reason, so far as he could see, why different land laws should not be made for different parts of the kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman had given the House an interesting dissertation upon what he called the transition period of agriculture, and had said that everybody knew that it was the fall in the price of agricultural 1656 products that had caused the depopulation in the rural districts which the House now so much deplored. The right hon. Member for Wimbledon yesterday quoted a sentence to the same affect from the Report of the Royal Commission appointed some years ago. He quite agreed that the fall in the price of agricultural products was most serious, but he also believed that the evil effects had arisen because those who cultivated the land had not been quick enough to adapt themselves to the changed circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman was a great breeder of stock, and he knew perfectly well that though there might be a fall in prices, the altered conditions could be met in firming by increased output. There was land where it was possible to grow wheat at 30s. a quarter and make a better profit by improved farming than from the same land at 35s. if more wheat per acre was produced. Again, if a man had a herd of cattle and took care to breed so that the production of milk rose year by year, while at the same time care was taken that the expenditure did not rise in ratio to the output, he could lower the price of his milk or butter or whatever the product was that he sold. Therefore, price was only one element. What had not been recognised was that what was wanted to meet the altered conditions was improved methods of cultivation, greater freedom on the part of the tenant, and more capital. The other points of the right hon. Gentleman's speech were no doubt important and would be answered by others. But he ventured to say that those two points — the necessity for variety in dealing with different parts of the United Kingdom, and of price being the only element in rural depopulation would not bear examination. The right hon. Gentleman had gone on to say that the First Commissioner had set himself the difficult task of artificially modifying and forcing an industry. Well, all the Acts relating to land from what was called by the Whigs the glorious revolution of 1688 to the present time, were all Acts modifying an industry. It was because the Government had recognised that in this matter the clock must be put back to a certain extent and the conditions made more nearly what they were before those Acts were passed that they brought 1657 in this Bill. Speaking broadly and generally he welcomed the Bill. It was an honest attempt to effect a great public reform. All would admit that any system that was put forward by a Bill of this kind must be based on sound economic principles. He was not one of those who wished to stimulate artificially by legislation— it could not be done for that matter— the production of the soil. He was not for a moment in favour of what might be called philanthropic fads in dealing with land. Land was a thing which must be dealt with on strictly business principles, and he was not in favour of finding men money except on the strictest business principles. By this Bill they not only added to the product per acre, which was a great blessing to the community itself, but in it they had a Bill which touched the character of those who would live on the holdings. If he had to choose between the town and the country dwellers as to the ripeness of their judgment on the affairs of life, he would choose the men of the country. They were of better physique, mentally and bodily, and were not subject to those fits of panic, or even of enthusiasm, which they saw in the miserable townspeople. They lived a less articulate life, so far as speech went, but they were none the worse for that. Let a committee sit around a table, and everybody knew that the opinion most worth having was the opinion of the men least ready to speak. From that point of view he preferred the countrymen. The countryman was in community with all that was called nature, whatever might be meant by that term, and in all respects he. had a practical acquaintance with the affairs of life, which went a very long way. He rather regretted that the hon. Member for Norwich had spoken as he had of the degradation of it. He himself did not think there was any real degradation. They desired to see the lot of the labourer in many parts of the country improved, but they must be very careful how they adopted some of the ways that had been proposed to do it. He welcomed the clause of the Bill, baling these holdings on tenancies rather than ownership. Although he represented an electorate of 18,000, several thousand of whom were freeholders and cultivated their own land, he thought, in 1658 this matter, they should try to have variety, and he welcomed variety. He listened, he had almost said with amusement, to the lurid picture drawn by the right hon. Gentleman of what would happen if the Bill became law, and he traced again what he had noticed in the right hon. Gentleman when dealing with the Education Bill of 1902, namely, the absence of any practical experience of the working of a local authority. Everyone knew perfectly well that what he anticipated would never take place, and that although it was true that the central authority intermeddled sometimes with the local authorities very little notice was taken of that. He was also very glad to sec the provision for compulsion, and that his right hon. friend had inserted a clause limiting the effect of the Lands Clauses Acts. He well remembered an interesting discussion that took place two years previously in the Grand Committee on light railways. That Grand Committee debated for two hours the limitation of the Lands Clauses Acts, and they came to an even vote, and he, as regards compensation, as Chairman had to give a casting vote. He was perfectly imparrtial on the matter, and he gave it against the application of the 10 percent. for compulsory purchase from owners on the ground that their property had been improved by the making of the light railway. He was very glad, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman had embodied that principle in his Bill. Another provision to which the right hon. Member for Wimbledon had taken exception was that which swept away the limitations on buildings contained in the old Act. He welcomed that provision, for what was required in different parts of the country was more buildings per acre. Speaking for himself, he regarded the Bill as the irreducible minimum. The Leader of the Opposition had used some rather an biguous phrases to which they must attach some importance, since although his following in this House was small the right hon. Gentleman held another place in the hollow of his hand. From that point of view he would like to be quite sure where they were in regard to what the right hon. Gentleman had said, for he had stated that the principle of the Bill might be accepted, but there 1659 were three or four points which "must be amended." He thought the right hon. Gentleman used the word "must."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I said if the Government showed no desire to make concessions on those points, which did not seem to me to be vital to the principle of the Bill, the progress of the measure in this House would be thorny.
§ *MR. ELLIS
said he would not carry the point further; but he hoped the Government would not concede anything which, in their opinion, would touch any vital principle of the Bill. It was to be the irreducible minimum; they thought it would effect a great social reform, and they welcomed the Bill on that ground.
§ MR. LAMBTON (Durham, S.E.)
said the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the irreducible minimum, and the First Commission or of Works had stated that he did not intend to accept any Amendments. The Leader of the Opposition had referred to the unnecessary powers contained in the Bill for the coercion of county councils, but they could not expect much tenderness towards county councils from hon. Gentlemen opposite. He did not think that a case for the Bill had been made out, and the arguments used in the House were different from those used outside. The reason given for the Bill was rural depopulation. In 1881 there were 983,000 agricultural labourers in the country, and in 1901 there were 689,000— a reduction of 30 per cent. But in conjunction with that statement he would point out that, according to the Report of the Commission on agricultural depression, in 1875 the average rental of land was 33s. 10½d., and in 1894 it was 20s. O½d. — a reduction of 40 per cent. Therefore it would be seen that along with rural depopulation they had the decreased rental received by the landlords. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies had said that the justification for the Bill was that land was the great monopoly of a small and privileged class. He did not know what the privilege of the landowners was, except it was that they paid income-tax on gross income, while everybody else paid on what they put 1660 into their pockets. He had sought to find out something about this monopoly, and had applied to the Board of Agriculture to ascertain what land had been sold in this country publicly or privately. He received the courteous answer that there were no such statistics in the office, but they referred him to the House and Property and Public Estates Gazette to get his information. He there learned that in 1906 there were 92,000 acres of land publicly sold. There was no record of what was privately sold, and he thought it was most disgraceful to the Government of the country that sales of land were not registered. But putting the sales of land effected privately at a similar figure, they had a total of about 200,000 acres of land sold in 1906, and very probably about a million acres of land had been sold publicly and privately in five years. He did not believe that to be an excessive figure, and he could not conceive, on those figures, where the land monopoly existed. There were large estates sold, and there were ample opportunities for acquiring land for small holdings. He had an Amendment on the Paper that the Bill be read that day three months, but he did not intend to move it in the circumstances, though he would prefer to see it read on September 12th. There was also the Scottish Land Bill going on, and the Government were trying to rush two Land Bills through the House at once. They were trying to ride two horses, though they had not been particularly secure in the saddle in regard to one of their Bills. He was not one of those who believed small holdings were going to be a success spread all over the country. In certain circumstances they would be successful. He believed that if the landlords were properly approached by the county councils there would be no difficulty in obtaining land. The county councils were going to lease land from the landowners; why should they not purchase the land, and, If necessary, lease it again to the small holders? What he objected to was compulsory hiring from the landowner. If the county council wanted land, and to become a landowner, lot it buy the land, but not become a leaseholder. And he would ask the Solicitor-General 1661 whether the provisions of the Bill really guarded the county council against excessive demands for compensation for improvements from small holders if they left their holdings. The Bill did great injustice to landlords and, although some of its provisions might do good, it ought not to be passed in such a hurry. The demand for small holdings was rather fictitious. It was a popular cry at the present moment, he admitted; but he was perfectly convinced that under the existing economic condition of agriculture men could not, in most parts of the country, get a living on such land. The more people were able to live on the land, the better, of course, it would be for the land, but Bills of this sort brought forward in a hurry, Bills of compulsion that were going to force county councils, who ought to know the needs of their own areas, to do things which they believed to be economically unsound, would only throw back agriculture, and not advance it.
§ *SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER (Wiltshire, Chippenham)
said he would like to express his approval of the intention and objects of this measure, and also of the machinery which it set up to attain those objects He was not without hope that in years to come it would be looked upon as one of the great Acts of the Libera Parliament. He hoped they might be assured of the passage of the Bill through both Houses of Parliament without too much delay or bitterness. He noticed that those who had spoken on the subject, and more especially the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, had spoken in a critical mood, although they had not displayed any really active hostility to the main principles of the Bill. Those who had been a long time in Parliament understood, and realised more than those who had not had so much experience, that it was the duty of an Opposition to oppose and underrate everything proposed by the Government, and the present Opposition were doing their best in that direction. There was a very serious evil confronting them in the rural districts in the abnormal annual withdrawal of the population, which had become what he might call a grave national catastrophe.
1662 There was a real demand for land in certain districts, which had not, up to the present, been satisfactorily met, and which, if satisfied, would, to a large extent, mitigate the evil to which he had referred. Rural depopulation had been dealt with by previous speakers. It was manifest that the causes of rural depopulation came from many sources. Those which had been dealt with by the Leader of the Opposition might be characterised as social and economic causes, and could not be mitigated or prevented by any form of legislation. There were, however, others which he believed could be mitigated by legislation, and they might be characterised under three heads. Two of them were dealt with in the measure before the House. One was not actually dealt with by the Bill, but it was of so kindred a character that he would venture to allude to it. One of the main causes of rural depopulation was the deplorable insanitary condition of cottage property in the country districts. That state of things was largely due to the negligence of the local authorities in administering the housing and sanitary Acts. He hoped that at the earliest date next session the Government would be able to see their way to introduce a Bill to strengthen and stimulate local authorities to carry out their primary duties in that respect, and thereby mitigate the evil of the insanitary condition of cottages property. The second point he wished to raise, and it had a close bearing on the Bill, was that it was difficult for landlords, whether loyal authorities or individuals, to build cottage property with any hope of a reasonable return for the capital outlay. The result was that in many villages there was to-day a serious lack of cottage accommodation. The Bill would materially affect that state of things, because one of the provisions was that small holdings and allotments up to five acres should be established with full equipment upon them, which would include the dwellings where the occupants would live. Then there was the difficulty of finding a sufficient quantity of land in certain districts where there was a great demand for small holdings and allotments. It had been said that the demand for land was of a somewhat spurious character, and that there really was no demand for this 1663 legislation. A Return showing the demand for land had been taken hold of by the critics of the Bill, and they had pointed out that the statistics, instead of proving the demand, showed just the reverse. He was not there to defend the Return which had been submitted to the House by the President of the Board of Agriculture, but, as one who presided over a Select Committee last year, he was prepared to say that in the course of a long and exhaustive examination of the housing problem in rural districts, which brought in the whole of the land question, witnesses drawn from all parts of the country, representing local authorities, public bodies and many others who had devoted their lives to work in rural districts, without a solitary exception declared that there was in the different districts of England a very serious demand for land which was not satisfied. Those who had read the evidence given before Lord Onslow's Committee would be ready to confirm what he said. During the last forty years, looking back to the innumerable inquiries made by Royal Commissions, Select Committees, and Departmental Committees, they would find an overwhelming mass of evidence showing that there had been in many districts a demand for land which had not been satisfied, and that demand had been accentuated as years went by. Therefore he thought they might dismiss from their minds the argument that there was no demand for land. The Bill proposed to grapple with the difficulty in a practical and sensible way. It gave an opportunity to local authorities to buy, either by agreement or by compulsion if necessary, land up to fifty acres. It appeared to him to meet the demand of the three main classes who required land, and who were they? First, there was the labourer in regular employment who required an allotment; secondly, the independent labourer in intermittent employment who wanted more land; and thirdly, the independent small man who desired to devote the whole of his time to the career of a small farmer. It had been said by the right hon. Member for Wimbledon that allotments had been provided in many districts, that the people were getting tired of them, and that they were being handed back in a derelict state. 1664 One would gather from the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks that the desire on the part of labourers for allotments was dying out and was no longer in existence in many parts of the country. He would like to have the opportunity of analysing the reasons why the allotments referred to by the right hon. Gentleman had fallen into a state of desuetude. Of course, allotments miles away from a man's house would naturally become unattractive. In many instances they were in unsuitable positions, or the land was not of a character to make them profitable. The Bill, however, gave parish councils power to arrange allotments in suitable places, within reasonable distance of the holders' houses. Then there was the want of larger allotments for the labourer in intermittent work, a man who was indispensable to the large farmer at certain portions of the year. It had always been a difficult problem how to retain these men in the villages. In many districts the conditions of certain industries made work intermittent. The quarry industry, for example, was liable to violent fluctuations. In the last year there had been in that industry a violent downward fluctuation, with the result that many men had had to leave the district altogether. He had known many instances in which men had left districts where they would have remained if they had been able to get some land to work upon. An allotment of something like five acres would enable such men to tide over bad times, and so keep them in the villages. Another important aspect of the problem was the question of buildings. It was difficult under present arrangements to induce anybody to build a cottage, because the return was so small. A cottage without land was as useless in most cases as land without a cottage. When they put alongside a cottage a certain piece of land, they would be able to offer sufficient attraction to capitalists, whether the local authority or individuals, to develop districts in that direction. He believed that a cottage could be built for £165 or £170, and let at a rent of about £5 a year. That was a very small inducement to build cottages. In saying that, he spoke from his own experience and on the authority of the evidence given before the Select Committee. If they attached to the cottage 1665 a certain amount of land they would be able to ask a sufficient rent to pay an adequate interest on the capital laid out. The third point was that they wanted to see small farmers multiplied throughout the country. Some of his hon. friends opposite were apt to look with scepticism on the development of that class. He was of a more sanguine disposition. He believed that that class, with proper support and encouragement, could not only be multiplied, but developed into a very useful and prosperous element in the community. He was strongly in favour of the hiring of land as against purchase, because he looked on small holdings as one of the rungs of the agricultural social ladder. He wanted to see men move from small holdings into larger ones. He had on his own estate a tenant who admirably farmed a holding of 250 or 300 acres. He had been on the estate for forty-five years; he started as a labourer, afterwards became an allotment holder, and now he was one of the best farmers on the estate. They wanted to see such men multiplied all over the country. The Bill would enable men of that class, as never before, to start life under those circumstances. Some hon. Members opposite seemed to think that it would cost £1,000 to develop a small holding. Those who had had practical experience in the matter could not accept that estimate. He thought they could, generally speaking, be developed and equipped at the rate of about £7 or £8 an acre, so that a holding of 50 acres would cost about £400, and there was no reason why the rent obtainable for it should not afford an adequate return. He laid great stress on the establishment of the co-operative system wherever there was a group of small holdings, so as to secure for the holders a reliable market; and he would be glad to see the establishment of some machinery which would enable societies to take over land in order that their members might become small holders. Those societies or associations should be established wherever any appreciable group of small holdings could be created. The success which had attended the co-partnership system in connection with housing showed what could be done by co-operation, and there was no reason 1666 why the same principle should not be applied in regard to small holdings.
§ *SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER
said that in connection with compulsory purchase the less expensive process of a single arbitrator would conduce to economy. There was not the slightest doubt that one of the reasons why in the past compulsory purchase; had not been acted upon by local authorities had been the expense. Rather than put their compulsory powers of purchase in force, local authorities had negotiated with landowners and eventually paid far above the market value, because they found it cheaper in the end to do so. The present system of purchase and conveyance was most expensive, and he believed that as the scheme developed it would be found desirable to provide a more rapid and less expensive method. They had heard a great deal of land being disturbed by the operation of the Bill. He had no great apprehensions on that score. Hon. Gentlemen opposite always suggested that the members of local authorities were a lot of arbitrary and stupid people. His experience was that county councils were composed of sensible, practical men. The gentlemen appointed to be Commissioners would be very carefully selected, and they would perform their duties, as public officials always did, with judgment. The Commissioners would serve as a useful stimulus to apathetic and reluctant county council, and the enabling powers of the councils would serve in their turn as a, useful stimulus to landlords who hitherto had not turned their attention to small holdings. For some reason best known to themselves, the land agents had been very strenuous opponents of small holdings. If the county councils had this stimulant, the result would be that many more small holdings would be created, either by the county council or by the Commissioners. He believed that the Bill was a practical and progressive attempt to grapple with the land question. But he urged most earnestly on his right hon. friend to use his influence with 1667 his colleagues to introduce next year a Bill dealing with the housing of the people in rural districts. The one measure would be the complement of the other, with the State acting as a stimulant to the local authorities to adopt sanitary inspection, which would gradually go on and convert the country districts into a more prosperous state, multiply small holdings, and mitigate and diminish the evils of the slums of our great towns.
§ *MR. HILLS (Durham)
said that if the cost of land transfer were made cheaper it would go a very long way towards the solution of the land question. That would not be easy of accomplishment, but it was quite worth trying, because it was a subject, of great importance all over the country. The present position in regard to small holdings was most deplorable; and many hon. Members had pointed out the grave evils which existed and demanded a remedy. No doubt something was wrong with the present position and something should be done to put it right. There were four well-known facts apparent. In the first place the value of land during the last twenty years was said to have fallen by £500,000,000. In the second place, over the whole country economic rent had disappeared. All that was paid as rent was interest on the money sunk by the landlord and his predecessors on roads, buildings, drains, and other improvements, and very small interest it was. In the third place, the land produced less. And in the fourth place, the number of people employed on the land had very largely fallen. He would be a very bold man who ventured to dispute that if these facts were true the landed and agricultural interest was in a very bad way indeed. His complaint against the Bill was that it was only an attempt to deal with a very small part of the question, and that not in the right way. It did not attempt to deal with the industry of agriculture as a whole or to benefit that industry and make it more profitable, but only to better the condition of the people engaged in that industry. He agreed that the latter was a very good thing even in 1668 the narrow limits of the Bill. But the measure stereotyped the existing system instead of going for some defensible change in the system. It only went in for some small modification of the existing lines. It created a new class of landlords and a new class of tenants; but it left the existing condition of the farmers and labourers untouched. If land purchase was the ideal to be attained then it was farther off than ever. If the Bill succeeded all the land in the country would pass into the hands of a body who would not sell and could not die. The land would pass into a sort of perpetual mortmain. It was hard to see why the Government had put aside all question of purchase. If the existing system was all right and if the tenancy system was the best way of working land it was hard to see why it should be attacked at all. The public authority could not deal with any question which the private landlord could not settle. In fact all the advantages were in favour of the private landlord. It was quite clear that the public authority could not let the land any more cheaply. All compulsory powers of purchase or hiring led to higher prices. The tenant could not even get fixity of tenure; for if he had a saleable right in his lease the principle of dual ownership was introduced. It was said that holding under the county council would be a great panacea against capricious eviction, that any popularly elected body would treat tenants with decency and leniency, and would not turn tenants out of their holdings. But all public bodies were capricious in their action, and a strong demand might be made in the county councils under certain circum stances for raising the rents of the tenants. Again, he was not sure whether the Government saw that it was essential that any land reform must carry with it a large amount of State assistance in the way of providing capital to the small holders. Could the Government give that assistance on the same easy terms as the private landlord? He spoke from personal experience on this matter because he had seen the accounts of a very large number of large estates, and he knew that the landlord only got 1669 a return of between 1 and 2 per cent. on capital sunk in new buildings, roads, drains, etc.
§ MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)
asked what was the income of the landlords from the tenants after spending the money on their estates?
§ *MR. HILLS
said that the net income which a landlord obtained was something like 2 per cent on the selling value of the estate. The gross income varied very much.
§ *MR. HILLS
said that in England there were people who were ready to invest their money in land at a very low rate of interest. He was not sure that the Government quite realised the large change which a system of small holdings would mean. It meant that the part played by the landlord in the economy of the country would be taken by the State, and all the assistance in past times given to the tenant by the landlord the State would be obliged to render. It seemed to him that all this was a very strong argument for purchase against the solution which the Government had adopted, namely, that of a system of leasehold occupancy. The Government had however stated that they would refuse to extend the Bill so as to include purchase. It was very hard to see the reason for that decision. The whole system of small holdings was largely an experimental system, and when the House passed an experimental Bill it seemed desirable it should draw its net as widely as possible and give itself as many chances as possible. Surely all the chances were on the side of ownership. The First Commissioner of Works in his able defence had given reasons why he considered his own system was the best. The first was that purchase was not wanted; he (Mr. Hills) thought that was a matter of opinion. He considered that there were certain people in the House and in the country by whom purchase was wanted, and if they gave the man the land or a chance of getting it, they called into operation all sorts of influences which they did not invoke 1670 when they only allowed him to hold it under a lease from the county council. In a great many cases the landlord was perfectly ready to sell, and it would be a great advantage to small holders if they were put in a position to purchase their holdings. No doubt the landlord wanted his price, but very often it was a very low price, and if the State were to step in and buy the land and allow the tenant to re-buy it from them by easy instalments it would be a far greater step in the direction of land reform than the present Bill would be. Of course there must be certain instalments and the State must see that those instalments were paid and future obligations secured. They would also have to see that the land was not divorced from the use for which it was intended but was always kept as a small holding. He thought there was some confusion in some hon. Gentlemen's minds about the taxation of land values. He did not think there was very much natural value in agricultural land in England, and it seemed to him the profits which now came from land took the form of interest on capital. Therefore if hon. Gentlemen had the idea that by taxing land values they would have a large source of wealth he thought they were mistaken. It was very hard to say where the advantages of tenancy would come in when contrasted with the system of ownership, and if hon. Members thought the result of their system would be to force up the price of land he did not think the amount which the county councils would buy would affect it. Under the Bill of the right hon. Member for Bordesley each tenant would acquire his holding for the same amount as the rent which he would pay, and at the end of sixty or eighty years the land which he occupied would become his freehold, so that to talk about the tenant not having the capital to work the land was fallacious. The real argument for small holdings was that they wanted the business of agriculture made more profitable to the people engaged. They wanted to build up a ladder from the bottom to the top, and to give some chance to the labourer of rising to be a farmer and landowner, and surely a system under which the land was said and transferred as cheaply as stocks and shares were sold, 1671 by some simple expedient of registering the title, so that a man could sell his land or buy land and add to his holding by means of easy instalments— surely that was a far better ladder and gave the labourer a much better chance of rising than a system under which all the land available for allotments or small holdings was held by the county councils, and all that the labourer got was the right to apply for a small portion which he held at a yearly rent, and from which he could be turned out very easily.
§ *SIR F. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
said in the last speech and in one or two other speeches they had been carried off rather to the metaphysical aspects of the question, and away from the practical issues which the House was debating. The issues raised by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme especially went far beyond the plain and practical matters they had to discuss, issues which he thought it was alike needless and unwise to raise in this debate. In the few remarks which he had to make, he wished to offer some, he hoped, useful comments on the practical issues raised by the Bill. In the first place, however, he should like warmly to congratulate his right hon. friend on the success of his first venture in the larger field of social politics, and on his admirable handling of a subject bound up with many memories of the great services of one of the greatest Parliamentarians whom some of them had ever known. Land reformers had always looked upon the handling of the land question by the late Sir William Harcourt, his clear insight and close, just analysis of the supreme issues which it involved, with the deepest gratitude. He had listened with interest to those who had spoken from the Front. Opposition Bench, and wished to join in the welcome which had been given to one of their oldest friends, the right hon. Member for Wimbledon, on his return once more to that House. With a large portion of his remarks he was in full agreement, though, as the right hon. Gentleman was aware, on some other topics there was a vast chasm of difference of opinion between them. He was delighted, however, to hear in his speech, and also in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, a spirit of conciliation, and 1672 a readiness to handle this subject in a temper by which they could arrive at a common understanding. If he might touch for a moment upon the interesting; and also important speech of the Leader of the Opposition, he would like to offer one or two criticisms on one statement which the right hon. Gentleman made. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Government as advocating three systems of land reform, but it seemed to him that the present Government was not concerned with the system which was being carried out in Ireland. He had always supposed that the land purchase system in Ireland, through State credit, was a special achievement of the Unionist Government, and of his right hon. friend the Member for Dover. Then the right hon. Gentleman thought the Government were riding two horses in opposite directions in the Bill of his right hon. friend and the Scottish Bill. To say I that Ministers had spoken in different directions was, to his mind, a complete I misrepresentation. As to the differences which were said to exist between the present Bill and the Scottish Bill, he did not hesitate to say that the central principle of each was identical. There was a slight inversion in the duties of the central body, and he confessed that in that respect he preferred the independent Commission of the Scottish Bill; but taking the report of Lord Onslow's Committee and the two Bills, there was in all three the same principle of a central body and compulsory powers. The differences were in degree or method. He affirmed that without the slightest hesitation. What fell from the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the thorough co-operative organisation of the small holding development which they wished to see carried out throughout the United Kingdom was absolutely essential to success, and he associated himself with the right hon. Gentleman's demand that the question should be treated on an absolutely economic basis. Small holdings should be started not as a matter of philanthropy or sentiment, but with knowledge and on definite business and economic lines. The reason which caused him most heartily to support the Bill was that it was based distinctly upon an economic basis and economic methods. He contended that under the Bill there would be no risk to the ratepayers or anybody concerned, because no scheme would 1673 be put through unless economic success was really in reach. Hon. Members opposite had dwelt on the desirability of purchasing the land and making the small holders freeholders in every case, but surely hon. and right hon. Gentlemen would see how inconsistent that was with the economic basis they insisted on. If they insisted that small holders should be freeholders, what they really insisted upon was that a larger portion of the capital which should go to the working of the holding should be absorbed by the process of purchase. They would therefore diminish the working assets which the small holder had for the land and diminish the probability of his making the holding a success. He thought one portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech showed a lack of personal acquaintance with the subject, which gave him some surprise. The right hon. Gentleman had said the Bill gave no help to the local authorities from the State to carry out its proposals. He contended that the whole cheapening of the costs of arbitration and the cheapening of the procedure which gave to the Board of Agriculture and its Commissioners power to pay a portion of the actual expenses of the county council or other local authority in acquiring the land, and, furthermore, the great concession of giving eighty years as the limit for the repayment of loans advanced to the county councils, was an enormous subvention and pecuniary aid and relief to the county councils in carrying out the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had also complained that small holders were not allowed to charge their holdings under the Bill, and seemed to think it would be absolutely and entirely impossible for them to obtain money except by the process of mortgaging their holdings. He invited the right hon. Gentleman to consult the various sources of information in regard to the credit banks which were at present working all over the continent. Banks of this type were being promoted by the Agricultural Organisation Society, which had already established a number of them in England, while Sir Horace Plunkett's society had established still more in Ireland. Everybody knew there was no mortgaging in these credit banks. A co-operative credit society was formed among the people themselves. It was governed and controlled by a committee. That committee offered loans to the 1674 members of the society to carry out various agricultural operations, and all the loans were made on direct personal security and not upon mortgage. The Bill, as it seemed to him, was admirably adapted to meet many of the obvious difficulties which those interested in the question had found it so exceedingly hard to overcome in the past. He had already alluded to the financial difficulty so admirably surmounted by the Bill. Some of the criticisms addressed yesterday to the Bill were directed to points upon which he certainly hoped his right hon. friend would see there was some reason for the criticism. He did not think those criticisms were based on natural defects in the drafting or the intentions of the Bill, but he thought its passage would be facilitated if provisions were introduced which would make those intentions clearer and more definite. It was said that in the case of hiring land compulsorily by the county councils or the Commissioners there was no guarantee to the landlord as to good cultivation, and that the land would be returned to the landlord at the expiry of the hiring in a well-cultivated and satisfactory condition. He would suggest that the Government would be well advised if they would accept from one of the several Bills which he had laid before the House the specific guarantee which he had there inserted in the case of compulsory hiring of land. He thought that such a provision was perfectly fair and that this Bill contemplated it, and he thought the Government would be well advised if they put a provision of that kind into their Bill. It would be as well if a similar provision were put in for the adequate compensation of the tenant farmers who were dispossessed in order to create small holdings on their farms. The schedule of the Bill provided for compensation for the severance from the landowner, and also an allowance to the tenant who had been dispossessed for the proportion of the rent in respect to the land taken away from him, and he did not think that the Bill would be in any sense weakened if such a provision as he suggested were inserted. The possible unpopularity of the Bill with the tenant farmers of the country would be enormously diminished if there was some definite guarantee that a farmer who was dispossessed should have full and complete compensation not only for improvements, 1675 but also for the loss he sustained by having a portion of his land taken from him. He himself had always insisted upon that. He remembered years ago he started a co-operative society to take a portion of a farm from one of the tenants of Lord Want age in his own village in Northants, and he insisted upon the fullest compensation being paid for crops and everything else, and he found that that course was fully appreciated by the labourers who were placed upon the land. He did not in the least disguise his own very decided preference for the procedure of the Scottish Bill especially in the form adapted to English conditions in which he had himself drafted the Bill which stood in the name of the hon. Member for Stowmarket. The Scottish Bill included in its provisions the principle of loans to landlords, and, though many of his friends did not agree with him, he heartily supported that principle. He knew, from many communications constantly reaching him, that many landlords were most eager to carry out a policy of small holdings if it were made financially possible. A great deal of evidence had been taken by the Committee on Small Holdings, of which he was a member, on this point. He commended to the attention of hon. Members the evidence of Lord Harrowby, who was carrying out an admirable system of small holdings on his estates in Staffordshire and Gloucester, since it would entirely relieve their doubts on the question, and they would also see the reason which enabled him, a Liberal, most warmly to support the principle of loans to landlords for the promotion of small holdings. Lord Harrowby said that many of the small holders were perfectly ready to pay for land, previously let to farmers for 30s. an acre, as much as 50s. or even 70s. an acre; they paid those rents regularly and there were no arrears, and he said he could expand the system still further if financially enabled to carry out that purpose. He would like to state frankly to the House the grounds on which the Committee arrived at their conclusions unanimously. He himself had supported the Chairman in his proposals that advances should be made to landowners, but he had insisted that they should have, as a condition of State advances, guarantees that the land thus aided should be ear-marked and maintained in the shape of small holdings. 1676 They signed a Report unanimously in that sense, that the money should be advanced at a low rate to the landowner to carry out that policy, but that he on his own side should not be legally enabled to pocket any result of that advance of public money, but that he should remain under the obligation to keep the land in small holdings, and, further, that he should so keep it under conditions which would imply fair play to the tenant, at such a rent, and on such conditions, as would give a fair chance of making a reasonable profit. He much preferred the idea of an independent Commission. He had, while on the Agriculture Commission twelve years ago, and last year on the Small Holdings Committee, heard all the evidence given in Scotland. The striking success of the Crofters Commission gave him the strongest possible opinion in favour of a Commission which would not be in the position of the Commissioners under the present Bill of having, first of all, to bring about the action of the local authority. He preferred a scheme for the promotion of small holdings by a strong body of men responsible to Parliament, who would be able to carry out their policy under that responsibility with a free hand and with public money to promote small holdings in this country. But falling short of that, he thought that the plan of the Bill was the most admirable that possibly could be developed. He believed that the financial difficulties and the administrative difficulties in connection with the county councils would be found to be infinitesimal and practically non-existent. The whole thing, as he had said at first, depended on starting the holdings and working the whole business on economic lines and with the practical certainty of economic success. There was one point on which he wished to urge one or two considerations. That clause of the Bill which dealt with co-operation seemed to be admirable in intention and did much to carry out what was so strongly urged by the Leader of the Opposition in his remarks about the necessity of efficient co-operative organisation if these small holdings were to succeed, and by the hon. Member for Wiltshire, in his admirable speech. Both the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for the Chippenham Division agreed that efficient co-operative organisation of small holdings would afford the best 1677 chance of making them an economic success. The hon. Member for the Chippenham Division did not seem to be quite aware that they had really solved this question in a way in Northamptonshire, both as regarded the purchase of the freehold and also with regard to the creation of small holders who were tenants, in a very admirable way. He did not think more could be learned in any other part of the country than in two or three of the towns and villages in Northamptonshire, where they had been thoroughly successful for many years. Rents were regularly paid, the land was well cultivated, and practical fixity of tenure secured. The points which he had to criticise were points of drafting rather than intention. Clause 33, which dealt with co-operative societies and credit banks did not seem to him sufficiently defined as to the sort of co-operative society and sort of credit bank which was to be encouraged and aided. It was imperative that the societies should be such as would do their work in a thorough and businesslike way, and they must be formed and composed, and operate, on definite and ascertained lines. Some speakers had referred to benevolent but inexperienced landlords and others who had initiated rash and reckless experiments. Similarly on a county council there might be some feather-headed but influential member who took great interest in this subject, but with a bee in his bonnet, who might pledge the credit of the rates for ventures and to aid in speculative and theoretical schemes which might be wholly unsound. It seemed to him that they wanted a little more definition in the matter. It might bean advantage if the Agricultural Organisation Society, who had taken a very active part in carrying out credit banks and co-operative societies and who thereby understood the practical methods that must be pursued and the standard that these societies must reach in order to be really effective, could with advantage be consulted. Why should not the Board of Agriculture practically associate with itself the Agricultural Organisation Society in dealing with these questions? In the Bills which he had himself introduced he had tried to furnish a precise definition of what societies should be recognised and aided. He ventured to think that it would be well if they insisted that these societies 1678 should be registered, that their rules should be ascertained, that they should require the punctual payment of rent; and they should also give full power to the Committee to turn out tenants who farmed their land badly, and should generally put themselves in order. The financial status of these societies should be thoroughly tested by the Local Government Board and by the Registrar of Friendly Societies. The whole of their rules should be thoroughly tested in order to see if they were satisfactory. As one who had given great attention to this subject as a former director of Lord Wantage's Land Company for some years, on which he had learned to distrust attempts to acquire blocks of land and to attract all and sundry to come and take the land, he thought that this whole subject had made an immense advance. The whole conception of the machinery indicated by the Bill, and the whole of the practical organisation now treated as essential by the Leader of the Opposition and the Member for the Chippenham Division pointed to this fact, that they had got far beyond the stage of rash ventures and speculative experiments in which land was to be taken and offered to anybody who might choose to apply. They had realised the fact that to make a real success of small holdings they must acquire the right land and put upon it the right men, and start them by right methods and under the right conditions to ensure success. It was because he believed this Bill went altogether in the right direction, that he gave it his most hearty support.
§ *MR. BRIDGEMAN (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said he found himself in no difficulty in supporting the Second Reading of this Bill, because he had always, and the Party to which he belonged had always, been in favour of doing anything possible to increase the number of small holdings for the people. He thought that the Bill might have an effect by creating a certain number of small holdings in favoured districts, where the conditions were especially favourable to this particular kind of agriculture. But when he had said that, he was afraid that he had said nearly all that he had to say in favour of the Bill. He welcomed it for one other reason, that when they 1679 had got it to work it would become increasingly evident if they desired to do something really to benefit the agricultural industry it would be necessary to take measures very much more far-reaching, very much wider than anything contemplated in this Bill. When he said contemplated, he referred to the Bill itself, and not to the very extraordinary and magnificent utterances which had been made in respect of the Bill on platforms and elsewhere. There were, of course, a number of provisions of the Bill which seemed to him objectionable, but he thought that they were details which might be dealt with in Committee, and if the Government treated the matter in a fair and not in a partisan spirit, there was every reason to suppose that the difficulties might be got over. The first objection he had was to the provisions with respect to compulsory hiring. They wanted to increase small holdings either by lease or by purchase, and if compulsion was to be introduced at all, those who owned the land should have the option either of letting or selling to the county councils; then the county councils could either let or sell to the would-be smallholder. It seemed to him a most extraordinary thing that the Government should tie themselves down so strictly to the one method of dealing with the question. Hon. Members opposite realised as much as he did that there were many people to whom ownership was a distinctly attractive feature, and that it ought to be provided for. He did not want to force anyone who did not want to purchase to do so, but the county council should be obliged to deal fairly with the owner, and give him the option of either selling or letting, and then to make whatever arrangements they thought fit with the tenant. He did not think that the Government would be so unreasonable as to refuse to make an alteration of that kind. No argument had been more insisted upon than that the Bill would give security to the small tenant, but surely ownership was a greater security than hiring. Another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill and the hon. Member for Devizes was that if they had a large system of purchase there would be no chance of promotion. As far as he could tell from experience, if a man took up a small holding it would be some considerable time before he was 1680 in a position to require promotion to a larger holding, and even if a man did desire to purchase and enlarge his borders, he would probably wish to retain the ownership of his small holding and hire another farm and perhaps put one of his sons upon it. He objected to the proposal that the Commissioners should be able to override the popularly elected county councils and charge them with the expense of small holdings which they thought were undesirable. He was not afraid of the Commissioners exercising their powers unduly, but it was a matter of principle that if the Bill was advocated on the grounds of a national policy, in order to carry out something which was required by the nation as a whole, if the Commissioners chose to override the county council, then the public purse and not the local rates should be taxed with the cost of the experiment. Another provision which had been very much blessed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and which had not been opposed as much as he thought it should have been by the Opposition, was the proposal to extend the period for the repayment of the loans raised by the county councils to eighty years. He objected very much to vote-catching legislation at the expense of generations to come. They had never before gone so far as eighty years in the case of these loans, and they were now proposing to charge the third generation with the extremely doubtful experiments they were making in order to justify the cry "Back to the land." The First Commissioner of Works had assumed that at the end of eighty years, if it was a question of purchase, the county council would step into a property very much enhanced in value. What right had the right hon. Gentleman to assume that the property would be enhanced in value in eighty years? He saw no prospects in the future of agricultural land being enhanced in value, and he thought it was very bad finance indeed to extend the limit of repayment for loans to eighty years, and to put upon people yet unborn a great deal of the risk of experiments made in this generation. He objected to the hope which had been raised in regard to the number of small holdings which were likely to be created under the Bill. Hon. Members opposite appeared to be proceeding on the assumption that there had been no small holdings and allotments except those 1681 which had been brought about by legislation in this direction. [Cries of "No."] Most of the arguments for the Bill proceeded on the assumption that whatever had been the action of private owners in the past nothing had been clone except what had been carried through under the provisions of the Allotments Acts and other legislation dealing with small holdings. That was not the criterion by which the question could be judged. Those Acts might have accomplished much or little, but a large number of small holdings and allotments had boon created outside those Acts. He had that day been furnished with some figures relating to a large agricultural property in his own constituency, and they showed that 78 percent. of the tenants had holdings of less than thirty acres. He did not think that hon. Members opposite realised the great amount of good work which had been going on outside the operation of those Acts. The right hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division had told the House that this Bill was the irreducible minimum. He could not but agree in feeling that the measure was so small and inadequate, and as it was possible that it might stand in the way of some larger and more comprehensive measure in the future which would benefit not one class of holders, but agriculture as a whole, he sometimes felt a little doubt whether he should vote for the Second Heading at all. The Bill was being supported on the ground that it was going to deal with rural depopulation, and that was the main reason why it had been introduced. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had told him that he did not expect the measure to lead to an immense erection of bricks and mortar in various parts of the country. In the instances quoted by the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk, a great authority on the question, there had been very little building at all. The estate which the hon. Member for Newmarket had taken up was one on which he had not built a single cottage. Everyone apparently admitted that the Bill might perhaps lead to more land being attached to the cottages now existing, and perhaps to some extra buildings being provided, but no one seemed to believe that it was going to lead to more dwelling-houses being built. The right hon. Gentleman 1682 in charge of the Bill did not think so, for he had said so yesterday. Not a single Member had got up to argue that the Bill was likely to lead to a very large addition to the number of dwelling-houses in rural districts. Therefore he did not see how they were going to bring back people to the land if they were not going to provide dwellings. They might keep a certain number of people in the country who were there now, but that was all, and he only wished that the Bill would do all that hon. Members opposite seemed to think it would. The right hon. Gentleman in introducing the Bill said that he had dealt with the matter by hard thinking rather than by high talking. He himself had tried very hard to master the provisions of the Bill, and he could not find any trace whatever of hard thinking on the economic side of the question. There had been a great deal of high talking, a great deal of cry about bringing people back to the land, and about the charter of freedom for labourers. These were all admirable cries in which he should cordially join, but he was not going to adopt them in favour of a Bill which he did not believe would produce those results. He could only support the Bill because he thought it went a little way in the right direction. He supported it on the principle that he would rather have 2d. in the £ than nothing at all. He deprecated the idea that it was going to do all that hon. Members said it was in the way of bringing people back to the land and retaining those who were there. He wished that there had been more hard thinking on the economic side of the question. He should have thought that everyone would have realised that the reason why rural depopulation had been going on was simply that there were many other ways of investing money which produced a much larger return than investing it in land. That was at the bottom of the whole question. He defied any hon. Member to prove that that was not so. He defied any hon. Member to prove that an investment in agricultural land returned anything like what could be got in almost anything else they liked to put their money in. He was glad to think that there was someone sanguine enough to take the opposite view, and he hoped he would be able to convince 1683 others that they were wrong. He should say that the main reason why they could not get people to stay on the land, whether as owners or occupiers, was because the land was not sufficiently worth living upon. Those owners who were able to make land pay must have an exceptional kind of land— he was afraid that he was not in that position himself— or else they must charge rents very much in excess of what the land was worth. In the diagnosis of the exodus from the country there had been no hard thinking at all on the part of those who had drafted the Bill. Did they imagine that these small holdings were going to pay or not? [An HON. MEMBER: They are going to pay.] If they were going to pay, he failed to understand why it was that landlords, in the natural selfish pursuit of their own interest they were always supposed to be engaged in, could not be expected to do for themselves what was going to pay them.
§ *MR. BRIDGEMAN
said he was glad to think that landlords were such an unselfish class. The case that had been quoted more than any other, perhaps, was that of the noble Lord the President of the Board of Agriculture, who had invested some trust money for which he was getting 3 percent. in a scheme for small holdings which returned rather over 4 per cent., which was more than he could get in other trust securities Did hon. Members suppose that landlords were so altruistic as to refuse, if they had the chance, to invest their money in a way which would yield more than 1 percent. above what they could get otherwise. He did not think that the noble Lord claimed any credit for philanthropy in the matter. He regarded it as a business transaction. Was he the only man who had got his eyes open, or had he his eyes open wider than other landlords? The Prime Minister had property in Scotland not far distant from a very successful experiment made at Blairgowrie in small holdings. The right hon. Gentleman apparently did not think it would be an economic success to cut up his property into small holdings. He was informed that the Prime Minister's property was let to only two tenants. He gave the 1684 right hon. Gentleman full credit for doing what he thought right with this property in the same way as the noble Lord the President of the Board of Agriculture had done. If they were to have evidence adduced in regard to what one had done, they must also have the evidence in regard to the other. And they must know why the conditions in the part of the country where the Prime Minister had his estate were unfavourable to the experiment which he was fond of pressing upon everybody else. The proposals now made by the Government seemed to be entirely foreign to their own professions of free trade. They were proposals to interfere with the ordinary course of a particular industry. They should have gone to the root of the matter instead of merely touching the fringe. He did not believe there was the slightest chance of really benefiting agriculture until they went very much deeper into the question than the Government were now attempting to do, or were likely to do. There were three things which ought to have been included in this measure. One was the simplification of the system of land transfer. He believed that an immense amount of land ready to be bought and sold was perpetually being stopped because of the extraordinary legal difficulties. He should have thought the first step to be taken was the simplification of transfer. He could not expect the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (the Solicitor - General) in his own interest to take any step in that direction. [Cries of "Oh!"] He had not said anything in the least offensive. He was sure that in his public capacity the hon. and learned Gentleman would consider the advisability of introducing a reform of that sort, and that he would not allow his own interest as u member of the legal profession to stand in the way. Nor did he think that the other members of the legal profession would allow their own particular interest to stand in the way of what he believed to be a great national reform.
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL (SIR W. ROBSON, South Shields)
said he hoped they would have the support of the hon. Member in Committee in maintaining the provisions in the schedule of the Bill for securing simplicity of procedure.
§ *MR. BRIDGEMAN
said that anything that secured simplicity of procedure in connection with land transfer would have his most cordial support, and especially anything that might be proposed with regard to land registration. In the second place, he thought something should be done to advance and assist cooperation. The Government, if they had their heart in the matter, would, he thought, have embarked something in excess of the paltry £100,000 provided for under the Bill, in order to initiate cooperative societies, which would really have done something to make small holdings more likely to pay. The third point which had been omitted was in regard to the most unfair system of taxation, both local and general, which bore upon the agricultural industry. There was no attempt to deal with that question, and he believed it to be a far more serious evil than hon. Gentlemen opposite were willing to admit. The Local Taxation Commission, which reported some years ago, came to the conclusion that the sum of £2,500,000 was duo in relief of local rates. The local rates had increased very much since then, and he should say that the sum of £3,000,000 was now required to make the system fair with regard to the people who made their living out of agricultural land. Nothing in his opinion would ever be satisfactory in the direction of land reform which did not recognise the duty of allowing people who lived upon the land to pay not upon what was supposed to be their incomes but upon their actual incomes. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were always pointing to Denmark as the example for this country to copy. Might he be allowed to say that after reading the last diplomatic and consular Report, he found that in recent years a great deal had been done in Denmark in the way of relieving landowners from unfair taxation? Further, in the last few years much had been done in that country to mitigate the hardships which still fell upon the people who occupied land in this country. The Bill could not be regarded as at all a satisfactory solution of the difficulty; it was merely a tinkering with a great question and postponing the real solution. The First Commissioner of Works had given them on the previous day a quotation from Horace wrenched like most of the Government quotations on this subject from its 1686 context. Surely the proper quotation should have been—Vivendi recte qui prorogat horam, Rusticus expectat dum defluat amnis,at ille Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis ævum.In other words, the man who put off the hour of reforming his life was like the rustic who waited for something which it was impossible for him to have. If the right hon. Gentleman put off the hour for dealing fully and properly with this land question, he was like the rustic who was expecting to achieve something which was quite impossible of achievement; so long as he put off that hour the people in this country would not have an opportunity of going back to the land and living prosperously upon it.
§ MR. ROWLANDS (Kent, Dartford)
said he had listened with very much interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Oswestry. Up to the last speech or two his right hon. friend who introduced the Bill had been congratulated on the way in which the measure had been received; but now, at last, the House found that this poor unfortunate measure was so small and so inadequate that nothing could be expected from it ! It had been said that they had only got from the Government a half measure; then it fell to a quarter measure; and he really thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite were going down to vulgar fractions. He did not think that most hon. Members took the same pessimistic view which the hon. Gentleman had just done all through his speech. He thought that the hon. Gentleman was actually going to put before the House some grand scheme which the First Commissioner of Works could adopt so as to bring the measure up to his standard for the solution of the land question. But his hopes were disappointed. He regretted that the hon. Member for Oswestry and his friends did not introduce such a grand scheme in the days gone by, when they were in office for so many years. They were all in favour of cheapening the cost of land transfer. They on the Liberal side had been preaching that doctrine for years, both inside and outside the House. So was it also in regard to rural housing. He believed that there was very great scope in this country for small holdings. Everyone seemed agreed that there was a demand for such small holdings, and 1687 the only difference was as to the conditions upon which these small holdings should be held. It might be right to supply them under the conditions approved by the right hon. Member for Bordesley or under the conditions of this Bill; but he believed that there was a great demand for them.
§ *MR. BRIDGEMAN
I never said that there was not a demand for small holdings; I have always recognised that there was.
§ MR. ROWLANDS
said he would accept the statement of the hon. Gentleman; but the question was, how was the demand to be supplied? They had always accepted with gratitude what had been done either by voluntary effort or by legislation. He had had as much correspondence on this question as a good many people. He had been responsible for calling non-political conferences in different parts of the country, followed by public meetings, to discuss the matter; and he had found that there was the strongest possible desire for small holdings, and, what was more, that there was no opposition to the idea that the people should get the opportunity of going on the land either by purchase or by hire. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had become very enthusiastic over the difference between letting and selling land to the people. Some hon. Members on that side of the House had had the idea that people should obtain the right of getting the fee simple of their property in towns, but except from the late Lord Randolph Churchill they did not get any support from hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Town Holdings Committee, of which he had been a member, agreed with the opinion that the letting of land on the leasehold system possessed considerable advantages and conveniences. The one great argument for leasing instead of purchasing property was that it released the tenant's capital to be used for other purposes. That was true of hiring land under this Bill. The hon. Member for Oswestry had said that if the county council took over the land they would relieve the landowners of much responsibility so that compulsion was not necessary. Let them take on the other hand the case of hiring— and the case of a man who had no capital to commence to purchase— a man who could not put down even the one- 1688 eighth which would be required if they altered the Bill of 1892 according to the ideas of the right hon. Member for Bordesley. That man, however, had something which was known in his locality, and which to him was as valuable as capital. He was known to be a man of good moral character, and a sober and a steady man. That could be stated by the farmer who had employed him. Under this Bill he was face to face with no responsibility for payment towards purchase money. All he had to do was to meet his rent. He would not have, as under the purchase system to have recourse to the credit banks which were in existence in this country. What they had to do was not only to bring small holdings into existence, but to organise them, and under this system instead of a man having to pay an instalment they left everything clear for him, and he would go into the holding and get to work under the best possible conditions, his only liability being to meet the rent. The hon. Member for Oswestry was very much afraid that they were going to lend money under conditions which would not be beneficial, but the House had found money for many other purposes which benefited other classes. He believed that the land owners had benefited in this regard by money advanced by the Public Works Loans Commission. The money advanced was to be lent by that body at the minimum rate of interest allowed. The hon. Member for Oswestry also criticised the fact that eighty years was taken for repayment. He forgot the exact time in which under the last Amendment of the Housing Act passed by the late Government repayment was arranged for, but it was a very long period, and he thought that it should be extended over a longer period in the case of land than in the case of houses. For himself he was pleased that the Government had taken eighty years in regard to land. They started with an eighty years limit, and every repayment was so much towards the sinking fund, and every year the capitalised value of that would become more and more valuable to the locality, so that the security of the locality would be continually increasing if the repayments were maintained.
§ SIR F. BANBURY (City of London)
thought that the eighty years was not only applicable for the purposes of the 1689 land, but for the purposes of any buildings which the county council thought fit to erect on it.
§ MR. ROWLANDS
said as he read the Bill the period related to the land alone. Perhaps the Solicitor-General would clear up the point and satisfy them upon it, but he did not want to go into it in detail now. He thought Parliament might give a much longer period for repayment in the case of land than in the case of houses, and there were some people who thought that in regard to the former a hundred years might safely be given. They were told that the period should be the period allowed under the Local Loans Fund.
*MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (MR. CALDWELL)
said the points to which the hon. Gentleman was alluding were matters of detail which should be raised not upon the Second Reading of the Bill but in Committee. As there were a number of other Members who were anxious to speak he hoped the hon. Member would not prolong the debate on the Second Reading by referring to points of detail.
§ MR. ROWLANDS
said he would leave the subject where it was. He only wanted to call the attention of the Government in the question of loans, and he would not have gone into the question but for the observations made on the other side of the House. As to the central body he could not see the reason for the opposition to the appointment of Commissioners. He believed that in order to get the work done thoroughly they must have a direct touch between the House and the local authority. He therefore did not see any objection to a proposal which gave that direct touch to the Minister of Agriculture. One other point he wished to refer to was that of co-operation in regard to small holdings. Wherever they found that small holdings in Europe had been a great success they would find that that result had been achieved by the system of co-operative distribution. He believed that such cooperative efforts were the mainstay of the system of small holdings in Denmark and other countries. The Staffordshire Farmers' Co-operative Society founded in 1897 had created a milk trade which had tended to the prosperity of the farmers. Then there was the Hereford Co-operative 1690 Fruit Trading Society which sent the fruit produced by the farmers, graded, into the market, and that had been a great means of giving work to the labourers. The same sort of movement had been going on in every direction, and all experience tended to show that the associated effort by means of which the farmers sent their produce through the best possible channels was a system we should have to adopt if we were to compete with other parts of the world. Another reason for the adoption of the system arose in connection with railway rates, because such a system would force the railway companies to reduce their charges. He ventured to say in conclusion that they had before them a very useful and practical measure indeed. It might be strengthened in Committee, but he was sure that it would tend to bring about a great amount of prosperity which they all desired. He was sure also that everyone would welcome the effort of his right hon. friend, and he hoped the measure would speedily be placed on the Statute-book.
§ *MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
agreed with the last remark of the hon. Member for Dartford as to the advantage of co-operation, but pointed out that co-operation under tenancies never succeeded except under great difficulties and under the patronage, not so much of the co-operators themselves as of private gentlemen and others; it never succeeded except in countries where ownership was the predominant feature. If they wanted co-operation to nourish nationally they must have ownership. He was glad that they were all agreed as to the benefit of small holdings. They differed only as to methods. On the one side was the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, who had set his face against ownership. The right hon. Gentleman was setting up a barrier against any agricultural labourer ever becoming the owner of an inch of the soil he cultivated.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (MR. HARCOURT, Lancashire, Rossendale)
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. I leave the whole of the Act of 1892, passed by the friends of the right hon. Gentleman, in operation.
§ *MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said that, at any rate, tenancy was the basis of the Bill. On the other side were those who supported the principle of ownership, among whom he believed were several of the supporters of the Government. One would have imagined from the utterances of the Prime Minister that the Bill was going to be a wonderful measure—We are enabling the peasantry,said the right hon. Gentleman— he meant the labourers, of course, for there were no peasantry—''to lift up their heads and call their souls their own; to obtain a footing; to be no longer tied men, but freed.It was "the mountain in labour," and the Bill before the House had been the result. The right hon. Gentleman knew that not one man in ten would ever study the Bill, but would take that description as being the Bill itself. Dealing with allotments, he showed that the Act of 1887 had not been interfered with by the Parish Councils Act, 1894; the name was simply changed from the Poor Law and Sanitary Authority to the District Council, and up to to-day any six labourers might apply to the district council to be provided with allotments. To his own knowledge that Act had been very useful to the labourers, who would rather apply to large district councils composed of representatives of many parishes than to the council of the particular parish to which they belonged. He wanted to know whether the present measure abolished the power of applying to the district council and made the parish council the sole arbiter for the obtaining of allotments. That was a very important question, because if that right to apply to the district council for allotments was abolished it was a retrograde step The allotment of this Bill was, however, of small importance, but the right hon. Gentleman in one of his statements made the Act of 1887 to appear of no use whatever. The principle of that Act was to provide allotments by voluntary arrangement, and in default of that by aid of the district council. The right hon. Gentleman ignored altogether the thousands of allotments which were secured by voluntary arrangement under the Act. If he read the Report published three years after the Act was passed he would find that in those three years 92,000 allotments had been 1692 obtained. By the administration of the Act, at any rate, the number of allotments had increased four or five fold since it came into operation, and the presumption was that that vast increase was due to the passing of the Act of 1887 and that comparatively few allotments were obtained compulsorily. He protested therefore against that Act being so misrepresented. The small holdings part of the measure was the important part from the point of view of the labourers. Speaking from the labourer's point of view he would ask what had they got. To this he asked the attention of those who were against all sweated labour. If they wanted a Bill for sweating it was the Bill before the House. He would take a concrete case. A local authority purchased £5,000 worth of land and divided it into small holdings. Everybody knew that corporation management was always costly, and therefore the expenses of management under the local authority would be very high, and that heavy expenditure would be included in the rent which the small holder had to pay, and the sinking fund was another charge. The one fact certain was that the men would buy the land and pay for it; but they would not get it, the local authority would get it.
§ *MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said the small holders in the county would be a very-small minority compared with the millions of other people. The small tenants would buy the land and pay for it and the community would have it, and eventually it would go to benefit the ratepayers. What the Bill said to these poor fellows was that they should labour and buy the land which should go eventually into the pockets of men many of whom were rich, but that the labourers should not have one inch of the soil which their money and toil had bought. He did not see how the right hon. Gentleman was to get out of that. 1693 He could find no answer to it. Therefore the process was a sweating one. Under the purchase system, on the other hand, all the expenses of management and repairs and so forth were not incurred, they were avoided and the rent consequently was lower. Of course, the men had to pay interest and sinking fund, but nothing else, and the land would be their own, and that made all the difference. He hoped his hon. friends representing labour would remember that. Then there was the compulsory hiring. But without some explanation from the right hon. Gentleman that seemed to him absolutely unworkable. Small holdings required homesteads unless they were near a village. Who was going to put them up, and at the end of the term to whom would they belong? The landlord or the local authority? He said there was a clause for compensation for cropping on the market garden scale, but if hon. Members read the Report of the Fruit Industries Committee they would find the compensation given was very small. Of course, they got anything they planted and unexhausted manure in the soil. But the real value of the peasants' work was put into the land and was not perceptible. They knew that the incessant toil which was put into the land added to its value by 20 per cent. Who had all the result of that?. He did not get it: he simply got a little compensation on the market garden scale, which was hardly worth considering. His right hon. friend the Member for Wimbledon had dealt in his speech with the question of mortgage. His right hon. friend represented an urban constituency and this was a town question just as much as it was a rural question. His right hon. friend could enlighten the people of Wimbledon just as he could enlighten the people of Birmingham and other places on this very important subject. The financial ramifications connected with the land were so great that they affected all classes, and the working classes perhaps more than any other. There were the clubs and building societies, the benefit societies, and the thousand and one associations of workmen to be considered, and he thought that the friendly societies alone at this moment had invested in land and buildings on the land not less than between twenty and thirty millions ster- 1694 ling. Were they prepared to vote for a scheme that would assuredly knock down such securities and damage them considerably? He did not advance this point in any Party spirit, but only in the interests of the working classes. Under purchase, all that was different, because when a man was sold out the mortgagee would get no more than his money and therefore there could be the least possible loss. Some spirited words were used by his right hon. friend about fixity of tenure. It was a pretty phrase, useful on the platform, like "bring back the men to the land," "depopulation," and half-a-dozen phrases of that sort. Nobody knew what fixity of tenure was, and nobody could give it except by ownership, and to talk of fixity of tenure was to talk about something that this Bill could not give. The tenant would have to rely on the tender mercies of the local authority. They might take it as an axiom in all matters connected with land that those who commanded rent commanded the whole position. Under the Bill the local authority had full command over the rent. But the county councils had other interests to attend to; in some cases they had nearly a million people to preside over; they had the general body of the ratepayers, the shopkeepers, and others under them; and there might be among the community those who would say, as political economists, that the local authority should raise the rents of the small holdings in order to reduce the rates; and the reduction of the rates was a very fascinating thing for every voter, as they knew by the London County Council election. There was nothing to prevent the raising of rents on small holders, as they were very likely to do. Therefore this security, depending on popular landlordism, was not at all a good one. The next point he had to make was one which he hoped that the Liberalism of his right hon. friend would lead him to alter at once— he referred to the coercion of the local authority. It was the ratepayers who should make the local authority do what was wanted. When a candidate came forward for election as member of a local authority it was the ratepayers who told him what they wanted done. That was the democratic method, and there was no other method reconcilable with democracy. But under this Bill they had the monstrous proposition that commissioners 1695 should go down and settle schemes running, perhaps, into thousands of pounds, and the ratepayers would be called upon to pay the bill. They could not do it; they could not put the local authority in prison. He wondered that his right hon. friend the Member for Wolverhampton, after pissing the Act of 1904 putting the franchise on the widest basis short of universal suffrage, could swallow such a scheme. Why not do away with local government altogether and govern by an authority in London? They were dispensing with the local authorities in this case. This was modern democracy ! They seemed to be overriding Parliament by preventing discussion, and now they were overriding the local authorities— and they were not in Russia. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would remember that, especially after he had said that the men who would deal with the matters relating to small holdings would know the details, they would have an accurate knowledge of the wants of the villages, the capabilities of the land, the fitness of applicants, and so on.
§ *MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said it did not matter what the authority was— it was local; and that brought him to his other point. The parish councils were to have powers under this Bill— powers of hiring and purchasing land, but he thought that was subject to the county council. Was he right in that? Supposing the county council did not agree; were the Commissioners to override in this case as well? He should be glad if his right hon. friend would answer that. He trusted that he would take the matter seriously. [Laughter.] This was their form of democracy, and they laughed at the destruction of our local institutions. It was this to-day, it must be something else to-morrow. He came to the Act of 1892, the statements with regard to which were not true. The right hon. Gentleman had said that that Act was a pathetic and huge mistake; and that under its proposals the occupier would not become owner under less than sixty years. What was the reply? The man became owner the moment he paid his first instalment. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite knew that there were a number of free- 1696 holds which were subject to annual payments, and subject to permanent annual payments, while under the Act of 1892 the instalments were for a certain number of years, and then ceased. The other objection to the Act of 1892 was that the rights of sale were limited. His reply was that the rights of sale were unlimited to other cultivating owners, but they had not the right to sell to a neighbouring landlord so that the holding should be absorbed into a large holding. With regard to what had been said about the money-lender, he would not be likely to advance money when he knew that the land had already been given as security to the State for the money advanced, and the interest could never be raised, and so the argument about the money-lender fell to the ground. The objections taken to the Bill of 1892 would not hold water; but his right hon. friend got as near as he could to a sneer at the magic of owner ship. If the principle of the magic of ownership was not admitted, if it was not believed that a man by the possession of land, or anything else, had all that was best in him brought out, all his powers disclosed, and his energies revealed in a manner that no tenancy could bring about, then the right hon. Gentleman must have a wrong apprehension of what the power of ownership meant. The history of the Act of 1892 would dispel the imputation that it was introduced with political motives on the eve of an election; it was a Bill considered by a Committee in the previous year and introduced by himself previously, in 1886. A Select Committee, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was Chairman, was appointed, and that Committee approved of the Bill with some alterations. That measure was promoted as the present Bill was promoted, with a sincere desire to establish small holdings, though he did not believe that it would bring a single man back to the land or do much to keep a man there. Let the Government improve on the proposals of fifteen years ago, let them remove the 20 percent. barrier which the labourer was asked to pay down. His own Bill, introduced a few weeks ago, would remove that difficulty. That measure had not been allowed to make any progress on account of the position of the Government. Last Wednesday they opposed it, on the ground that they were bringing in a Bill of their own. He 1697 was addressing a meeting that night in the country, and when he read a telegram stating that the Bill had been blocked again the people were almost as angry as he was himself. He would like to see the peasant class restored to the land. Their divorce from the land was completed in 1850, and from that time there had been no peasants in England, as that term was formerly understood. He remembered that in the villages songs of a pathetic character were sung in regard to that change. The refrain of one was—No spot of hind do I possess,A poor wayfaring man.He believed the expenses of the Commissioners would represent money which might as well be thrown into the sea at once. He would suggest that the money to be spent on them should be given to the local authorities to aid them pro rata, according to the expense they incurred, in creating small holdings. In his Minority Report he recommended the making of grants of money for that purpose, in the same way as grants were made to the Congested Districts Board. He hoped his right hon. friend would consider that suggestion. Reference had been made to the Act of 1892 as a ludicrous failure. He pointed to the results of the experiment at Catshill as showing that small holdings could be worked on economic lines. That settlement was an all round success. There were no arrears, the men were thrifty, sober, and industrious, and the women were, if anything better than the men. Many people talked about emigration, but let them look at the state of our rural districts. In the rural districts of forty-two of our counties there were less than 200 people to the square mile, in twelve less than 100 to the square mile, and in three less than fifty. Why! it was a desert. Instead of taking money to emigrate the best of our labourers, why could they not, at no cost except a loan, which was in variably repaid, put those men into colonies on those desert lands. The issue was clear; ownership was going to win, no matter how great the opposition to it was. Look at the results of the elections at Brigg and at Rutland. The voters there would not listen to tenancy. Before sitting down ho wished to refer to one other point. He had been trying for years in his own humble way to 1698 show that agriculture was the basis of our prosperity, nay, of our actual existence. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he; should not make any proposal for forcing an industry which could not stand alone without State aid. His hon. friend the Member for Windsor had on the previous day referred to a French book on agriculture. In the concluding paragraph of that book, the author stated that public prosperity was like a tree. Agriculture was the root, industry and commerce were the branches and the leaves; and if the root suffered, the leaves dropped, the branches fell away, and the tree died. He would recommend that statement, not only to his right hon. friend, but to all who had the welfare of the country at heart. There was no instance in ancient or modern times where a nation, however rich or luxurious, remained in the front rank after its agriculture was destroyed, and its rural population decayed.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said the right hon. Member for Bordesley in the course of his very interesting speech had asked whether it was a fact that under this Bill the powers of district councils were, in respect of allotments, transferred to parish councils, and he intimated that if that were the case the Bill took a very retrograde step. That was the case, and as to whether it was a retrograde step or not, one might perhaps refer to the amount of work district councils had done in the matter of allotments, as compared with that done by parish councils. The rural sanitary and district authorities had under the Acts of 1887, 1890, and 1892, purchased by agreement about 375 acres, and they had hired by agreement about 1,700 acres.
§ *MR. JESSE COLLINGS
Can you give us the amount of acreage and the number of allotments which have been acquired by agreement under the voluntary clauses of that Act? They probably amount to 200,000.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley suggests that 200,000 allotments have been acquired outside the Acts, but he has not told us where he got that figure from.
§ SIR W. ROBSON
said he was giving what had been acquired under the Act. He had searched through a good many Reports for those 200,000 allotments, and he had not succeeded in finding them. He was assured that the right hon. Gentleman must have taken into account every case where in the suburbs of a town there was a house with a garden patch. The figure was ludicrous, and he hoped it would not go forward as a figure to be seriously dealt with in the controversy. The parish councils, operating over a shorter period, had purchased by agreement twenty-six acres, hired compulsorily 252 acres, and by agreement 15,265 acres, and they had placed on the land thus acquired over 30,000 persons. Was there any comparison between the spontaneous activity of the parish councils as evidenced by these figures and the activity of the district councils? When those figures were compared, it was not fair to the parish council or to the Bill to say the transfer of the powers of the district council to the parish council was a retrogade step. The strongest objection which appeared to be taken to the Bill was founded upon the provisions conferring upon the Board of Agriculture power to supersede, if need be, the action of county councils in default. He thought the terms in which those powers had been condemned were exaggerated. He could understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite should demand that those provisions should be justified by very strong arguments and evidence. But they had treated the matter as one of constitutional magnitude, and condemned the principle in terms which apparently implied that it ought not to be applied at any time or in any circumstances. That was going too far. They had heard a great deal about overruling a representative assembly. In that House they had the greatest representative assembly in the world, and they wore accustomed to be overruled. It was an almost daily occurrence nowadays to find their deliberate decisions, springing from the people, mutilated and rejected, at the instance of the right hon. Gentleman who now stood as the champion of representative assemblies. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would lay equal stress on the sanctity which ought to attach to the decisions of representative assemblies at a later stage of the 1700 session, and particularly on 24th June. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of an Education Act, which he would have done well to keep in the background, because it afforded abundant precedent — not one that he should like to see followed, but one which stopped the right hon. Gentleman from complaining of this Bill. He referred to the Defaulting Authorities Act of the last Parliament. Under the principal Act of 1902, privately appointed individuals had been empowered to incur expenditure which fell upon the rates, and when the county councils objected to that remarkable proceeding the right hon. Gentleman brought in a Bill to supersede them. The Board of Education was enabled in all cases of that kind to step in to exercise the powers of the county council against the will of the county council and at the expense of the county council. Therefore, if one wanted a procedent— which one scarcely required— there was abundant precedent in the legislation of the last Government. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out one difficulty which had no doubt impressed the House. He had laid stress upon the difficulty of coercing a county council. There he was right. He could assure the House that the difficulties attending that course wore present to the minds of those concerned in drafting the Bill, and if the Leader of the Opposition had given a little closer attention to some of the provisions of the Bill which he himself had thought would excite more attention and curiosity generally, he would have seen that the Government had met his difficulties in a very fair and reasonable way. A county council, if it thought small holdings did not pay, would no doubt give strong reasons for that conclusion, and the reasons which appealed to the county council, if they were good, would also appeal to the Commissioner. But supposing the Commissioner took a different view, then, asked the right hon. Gentleman, what was to happen? The right hon. Gentleman had overlooked for this purpose one very important provision of the Bill. The Bill contained a clause enabling the Commissioners to undertake small holdings for the purpose of demonstrating their feasibility at the charge of the Board, falling upon the small holdings fund. Therefore, if the county council said they could not establish small holdings and the Commissioners said they 1701 could, they would back their opinion at the expense of the Exchequer. That was an excellent provision for bringing the county councils and the Commissioners into accord by means of actual experiment. He hoped they would act together in a reasonable spirit. In criticising a Bill it was easy to assume that each Party would act in the most unreasonable spirit. In the last resort the sum which the Commissioners desired to charge against the county was to be treated as a debt duo to the fund to be recovered by civil proceedings, if civil proceedings became necessary, and not by mandamus. The Crown had adopted ample methods for the collecting of its debts, and he doubted very much whether the local authorities would be in a hurry to contest the payment of any sum definitely stated to be a debt from it to the Crown. The merits of any scheme of this kind must be judged, not by any abstract consideration, but by the circumstances of each individual case. In the debate there were two propositions which had come to be practically undisputed. The first was that provision for the increase of small holdings was a very fit object for public policy and State action. That was now universally agreed. The next proposition was that the Act of 1892 had completely miscarried in regard to adequately meeting the demand for small holdings. The Small Holdings Act of 1892 has been used rather for the purpose of getting allotments than for the purpose of small holdings. In the Local Government Board returns for small holdings he found an instance where 100 acres had been distributed amongst 139 persons, so that they should have been described as allotments rather than small holdings. The Act of 1892 had not only not achieved its object, it had scarcely even approached its object. All the land that it had affected was equal to about a moderate-sized farm, and all the persons it had affected were about sufficient to fill a small village Was that an adequate outcome of a legislative attempt to meet a grave and admitted national evil? Clearly it was not. Therefore they stood in the position of being bound to meet that state of things with some remedy. He was ready to listen to any suggestion on the part of hon. Members opposite to deal, otherwise than by this proposal, 1702 with the apathy of local authorities in the matter. Some had suggested ignoring the local authorities altogether, but that would be very difficult indeed if they desired small holdings to succeed. By what means did hon. Members opposite propose to stimulate and inspire the local authorities, whose apathy was applicable just as much to purchase as to compulsory hiring? The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had referred to his Bill as an alternative I method; but it was no remedy for that apathy. They had to complain that the county councils had not used the powers they had got, had not made advances, and had not borrowed money where they might have done so. What was the right hon. Gentleman's remedy? To enable them to borrow more money and make more advances. They did not get any assistance on that point from the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. A suggestion had been made by the Committee whose Report was before them with regard to loans to landlords for the purpose of equipping small holdings. Hon. Members opposite had not urged that as an alternative proposal, however, doubtless because, if loans were made to landlords on any scale, there would be no alternative to some general measure of compulsion. Not all the landlords wanted money. Where they were dealing with impecunious landlords, advances for purposes of equipment might be of substantial service. Hut there was a vast area of English land which was scarcely farmed for profit at all. Considerations of sport and pleasure might in some cases override questions of profit, and he did not see anything wrong in that. So far as personal kindness was concerned, many landlords were most generous to their tenants, nevertheless they were against increasing the number of their tenants; and though they were most considerate persons, yet their estate policy encouraged large rather than small tenancies. The Government made no attack on the landlords, so far as their personal character was concerned, because of their objection to facilitate the creation of small holdings. He believed there was no great class of land proprietors in the world among whom considerations of personal property were more often subordinated to kindly personal 1703 considerations than among the landowners of England. But that was not inconsistent with an estate policy which, in its wider national aspect, might be most mischievous to the community as a whole. The landlords who took up larger tenancies were not likely to make smaller ones which required equipment. So far from its being a want of money, there were some landlords who might honestly think the Bill bad, but who yet spent a good deal of money among the people. But another point which they had also to consider was how far the county councils were exactly representative in the matter of small holdings. The number of persons desirous of small holdings in any electoral area must necessarily be few, and the number of persons in the same area desirous of withholding them — it might be for perfectly proper motives — were often largo and even powerful, especially when apprehensions of a rise in the rates influenced them. It therefore happened that those who looked for small holdings, being few and unorganised, were lost sight of in local elections which might turn on purely local questions regarded from a purely local standpoint; and it was the national and not the local point of view which must prevail in this matter. Another great point was the controversy between purchase and hiring. Nobody doubted the earnestness of the right hon. Member for Bordesley on this point, and nobody doubted the earnestness and sincerity of those who sat on the benches behind him; but he wondered whether they who championed the proposals for purchase had really considered what they were. He imagined that the landlords did not object to compulsory hire so long as they did not take away the land altogether, and left him his sporting rights. He doubted whether the landlords of the country generally adopted the view which was urged on their behalf by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The universal agreement which prevailed in the House as to the necessity for small holdings was due to the fact that in the House the question was regarded, not from a local, but from a national standpoint; and it was from the national and not from the local standpoint that the question must be determined. He could understand a landlord raising no objection to letting, so long as he was allowed his sporting rights, but objecting strongly to be expropriated in patches. Of course, 1704 everybody would rather own a piece of land, but would everybody rather pay for it? Everybody would rather buy it than hire it; purchase was an excellent thing, especially for some, but it had the initial disadvantage of requiring a good deal of money. In the case of a large number of persons the consideration presented itself that if they bought their holdings they would have nothing left for equipment and for working the land. There could be no doubt about the legitimate inference to be drawn from the figures he had quoted earlier in his speech. Where they had 200 or 300 purchases by a parish council and 15,000 acres hired, what inference could any reasonable man draw but that hiring was more popular than purchase? There was one point with regard to purchase which had not been mentioned in the debate, but to which he desired to call the attention of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley, he thought, had overlooked it, and certainly the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition had overlooked it, for he said—Why not buy instead of hire, and thus acquire the unearned increment on the land?Small holdings were most successful in the immediate neighbourhood of towns, because they got an excellent market for their produce. But in the places where they would be most successful there the price might be almost prohibitive, because the land in the neighbourhood of good markets was very valuable. The Government had considered that problem, and they gave to the landlord the power of resumption in cases where building value was imminent in regard to a piece of land taken for small holdings; that was to say, as soon as the adjacent population became so great that the land had a building value, the landlord would be entitled, on paying compensation to the small holder, to soil the land. But if at the outset purchase was insisted on in such cases the price of the land with this prospective building value would be prohibitive for the purposes of small holdings; or if that policy were carried out, and the small holders obtained and cultivated the land, the result would be to impede and restrict the development of the adjacent town, the expansion of which was perhaps more important than the establishment of small holdings 1705 in that particular case. Other hon. Members had complained about the application of compulsion to land. He could not understand any landlord denying that the State had always assumed to exercise a special interest and right in landed property, and had put land on a different basis from any other property. There had been as many as twenty-three Acts passed in which provision was made for loans to the landlord. Something like six millions of money had been advanced to landlords under various Acts of Parliament. That meant that the State had a special obligation and duty in relation to landed property— an obligation and a duty to the cultivators of the soil and the community and not merely to the owner. But now, after all, the real, paramount, and urgent necessity for the proposal which the Government had made was to be found in the fact which nobody denied— namely, the rural depopulation. Ho was not going to dwell upon the economic aspect of that great exodus of over 300,000 persons concerned in agricultural work during the last twenty years. The figures which had been quoted showing the extent of the depopulation were few, simple, and appalling. He had no doubt whatever that economic reasons were the principal cause of the agricultural depression, and it had caused great economic loss to the country. But there was another consideration than the economic one which ought to be paramount in the mind of the House, and that was the health and virility of the race. He confessed he was rather at a loss to understand the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in answer to his hon. friend the Member for Norwich, who pointed out the discomfort
§ of a purely urban life. He should think himself there could be no doubt at all as to the enormous physical advantages of those who lived in the country as compared with those who lived in the towns. The wholesome life of the farm or the garden, the daily work in pure air, the natural life away from smoke and the din of factories, maintained an element of our population which was worth preserving. He hoped the day would come, when in the progress of things, factories and industries would be spread over wider areas instead of being closely concentrated in confined spots. But there was little sign at present of such a dispersal over larger areas taking place. We had generation after generation growing up under conditions which made for the physical decadence of the race. In industry and in war we must rely on the physical efficiency of the people; and, those who would be most responsible for the evil results of physical decadence would be those who obstinately adhered to a landed system under which the cultivators of the soil could make neither a subsistence nor a decent career. These were the considerations which had induced the Government to bring forward this Bill and enabled them to commend it with confidence to the attention of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House."— (Mr. Balfour.)
§ The House divided:— Ayes, 107; Noes, 330. (Division List No. 231.)1707
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Carlile, E. Hildred||Craig, Charles Curtis(Antrim, S.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Carson, Kt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Craig, Captain James(Down,E.)|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Castlereagh, Viscount||Craik, Sir Henry|
|Balcarres, Lord||Cave, George||Dalrymple, Viscount|
|Balfour, Rt Hn. A.J.(City Lond.)||Cavendish, Rt. Hon. Victor C. W.||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George.||Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Du Cros, Harvey|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Duncan, Robert(Lanark, Govan)|
|Baring, Capt. Hn. G (Winchester||Chamberlain, Rt Hn. J. A. (Worc.||Faber, George Denison (York)|
|Beach, Hn. Michael Hugh Hicks||Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Clark, George Smith(Belfast, N.)||Fell, Arthur|
|Bertram, Julius||Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham||Forster, Henry William|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)|
|Bowles, G. Stewart||Collings, Rt. Hn. J.(Birmingh'm)||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Gordon, J.|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Gretton, John|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. H. M.||Cowan, W. H.||Haddock, George R.|
|Hamilton, Marquess of||Magnus, Sir Philip||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Hardy, Laurence( Kent, Ashford||Marks, H. H. (Kent)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.|
|Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)|
|Helmsley, Viscount||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Hervey, F. W. F. (BuryS Ed m'ds)||Moore, William||Starkey, John R.|
|Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)||Morpeth, Viscount||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Hills, J. W.||Muntz, Sir Philip A.||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J.G.(Oxf'd Univ.)|
|Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hon. Col. W.||Nield, Herbert||Walker, Col. W.H. (Lancashire)|
|Keswick, William||Pease, Herbert Pike( Darlington)||Walrond, Hon. Lionell|
|Kimber, Sir Henry||Percy, Earl||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Lamb, EdmundG. (Leominster)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Williams. Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Randles, Sir John Scurrah||Willoughby de Eresby. Lord|
|Lane-Fox, G. R||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Renton, Major Leslie||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C.B. Stuart)|
|Liddell, Henry||Ridsdale, E. A.||Wyndham. Rt. Hon. George|
|Lockwood, Rt. Hn. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Roberts, S.(Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Younger, George|
|Long, Rt, Hn. Walter(Dublin, S. )||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|M'Calmont, Colonel. James||Salter, Arthur Clavell||Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|M'lver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh. W||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Viscount Valentia.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Cameron, Robert||Findlay, Alexander|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Agnew, George William||Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight||Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Cawley, Sir Frederick||Fuller, John Michael F.|
|Alden, Percy||Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Gardner, Col. Alan (Hereford, S.)|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Cheetham, John Frederick||Gibb, James (Harrow)|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Gill, A. H.|
|Armitage, R.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Armstrong, W. C. Heaton||Cleland, J. W.||Gooch, George. Peabody|
|Astbury, John Meir||Clough, William||Grant, Corrie|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Collins, Sir Wm. J (S. Pancras, W.||Griffith, Ellis J.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Cooper, G. J.||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill|
|Barker, John||Corbett, CH(Sussex, E. Grinst'd)||Gulland, John W.|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Cory. Clifford John||Gurdon. Sir W. Brampton|
|Barnes, G. N.||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Cox, Harold||Haldane. Rt. Hon. Richard B.|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Hall, Frederick|
|Beale, W. P.||Crean, Eugene||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis|
|Beauchamp, E||Cremer, William Randal||Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Crooks, William||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)|
|Bell, Richard||Crosfield, A. H.||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithn'ss-sh|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Crossley, William J.||Harrington, Timothy|
|Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R.||Dalziel, James Henry||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Bonn. T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Harvey, W. K. (Derbyshire, N. E.|
|Bennett. E. N.||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Halsam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.( Essex, Romf'rd||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Bothell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Billson, Alfred||Dickinson, W.H. (St. Pancras, N.||Hazleton. Richard|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Hedges. A. Paget|
|Black, Arthur W.||Dobson, Thomas W.||Helme, Norval Watson|
|Boland, John||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Hemmerde, Edward George|
|Bottomley. Horatio||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Dunne, Major E. Martin(Walsall||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Henry, Charles S.|
|Branch, James||Edwards, Frank (Radnor)||Herbert, Colonel Ivor (Mon., S.)|
|Brigg, John||Elibank, Master of||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)|
|Bright, J. A.||Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||Higham, John Sharp|
|Brodie, H. C.||Erskine, David C.||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.|
|Brooke, Stopford||Essex, R. W.||Hodge, John|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Esslemont, George Birnie||Hogan, Michael|
|Brunner, Rt Hn Sir J. T(Cheshire)||Evans, Samuel T.||Holden. E. Hopkinson|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Fenwick, Charles||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Ferens, T. R.||Hope, W. Bateman(Somerset, N.|
|Burke, E. Haviland||Ferguson, R. C. Munro||Horniman, Emslie John|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Ffrench, Peter||Horridge, Thomas Gardner|
|Byles, William Pollard||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Hudson, Walter||Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim.S.)|
|Hutton, Alfred Eddison||Nicholls, George||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Hyde, (Clarendon||Nicholson, CharlesN.( Doncast'r||Soares, Ernest,J.|
|Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Nolan, Joseph||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Jackson, R. S.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Stanger, H. Y.|
|Jacoby, Sir James Alfred||Nuttall, Harry||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph(Chesh.)|
|Jenkins, J.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Steadman, W. C.|
|Jones, SirD. Brynmor (Swansea)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Jones, Leif (Appleby)||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||Straus, B.S. (Mile End)|
|Jones, William(Carnarvonshire)||O'Dowd, John||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Jowett, F. W.||O'Grady, J.||Stuart, James (Sunderland)|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Malley, William||Summerbell, T.|
|Kekewich, Sir George||Parker, James (Halifax)||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Kelley, George D.||Partington, Oswald||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Kilbride, Denis||Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Kincaid-Smith, Captain||Pearson, Sir W. D. (Colchester)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Kitson, Rt. Hon. Sir James||Pearson, W. H.M.(Suffolk, Eye)||Tennant, SirEdward(Salisbury)|
|Laidlaw, Robert||Philipps, Col Ivor (S'thampton)||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Lambert, George||Philipps, J Wynford (Pembroke)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen,E.)|
|Lamont, Norman||Philipps, OwenC. (Pembroke)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan,E.)|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Thomas, David Alfred(Merthyr)|
|Leese, Sir JosephF.(Accrington)||Pirie, Duncan V.||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Lehmann, R. C.||Pollard, Dr.||Thompson, J. W. H.(Somerset, E.|
|Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich||Power, Patrick Joseph||Tomkinson, James|
|Levy, Maurice||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)||Toulmin. George|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Price, Robert John(Norfolk, E.)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)||Ure, Alexander|
|Lough, Thomas||Radford, G. H.||Verney, F. W.|
|Lundon, W.||Rainy, A. Rolland||Vivian, Henry|
|Lupton, Arnold||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Lynch. H. B.||Redmond, William (Clare)||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent)|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Rees, J. D.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southamptn)|
|Macdonald, J. M.(Falkirk B'ghs)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wardle, George J.|
|Mackarness, Frederic C.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Waring, Walter|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|MacVeigh, Jeremiah (Down, S.)||Robertson, Rt, Hn. E (Dundee)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.)||Robertson, SirGScott( Bradford||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|M'Callum, John M.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|M'Crae. George||Robinson, S.||Watt, Henry A.|
|M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Weir, James Galloway|
|M'Micking, Major G.||Roche, John (Galway, East)||Whitbread, Howard|
|Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Roe, Sir Thomas||Whitehead. Rowland|
|Marnham, F. J.||Rogers, F. E. Newman||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Massie, J.||Rose, Charles Day||Wiles, Thomas|
|Meagher, Michael||Rowlands, J.||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Meehan, Patrick A.||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Williamson, A.|
|Menzies, Walter||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||Wilson, Hn. C. H. W.(Hull, W.)|
|Micklem, Nathaniel||Scarisbrick, T. T. L.||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Schwannm, Sir C. E. (Manchester)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Mond, A.||Scott, A. H.(Ashton under Lyne||Wilson. J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Seaverns, J. H.||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Montagu, E. S.||Seely, Major J. B.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Mooney, J. J.||Shackleton, David James||Winfrey, R.|
|Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)||Wodehouse, Lord|
|Morrell, Philip||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Sheehy, David||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Murnaghan, George||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Murphy, John||Shipman, Dr. John G.||TELLERS FOR THE Noes—|
|Murray, James||Silcock, Thomas Ball||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Myer, Horatio||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Nannetti. Joseph P.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John|
|Napier, T. B.||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie|
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.
*MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. EMMOTT)
said that two instructions on 1710 the Paper, standing in the names of the hon. Member for the Leith Burghs and the hon. Member for the Reigate Division of Surrey, were not in order. The first was unnecessary, as the Committee would 1711 be able to deal with the subject matter of the instruction. The second was mandatory. ††The proposed instructions were as follows:—
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill that they have power to make provision to apply the Bill to Scotland.
§ MR. BRODIE
That it be an Instruction to the Committee to provide that the powers conferred on parish councils in regard to allotments under Part II. of the Bill shall be enlarged by the elimination of all reference to county councils, and by arranging that no other authority shall intervene between parish councils and the Commissioners in the exercise of the powers proposed to be conferred by the Bill.