§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I beg to move, "That this Bill be now read a second time."
If any old and experienced Member of this House came down here to-day and saw that on the last Friday available for private Members, the day before the vacation, there was so much interest in his Bill he might ask the old question—stands Scotland where it did? Scottish land stands 1356 where it did, but the difficulty is that the people are leaving it in alarming proportions. The population according to the last Census was 4,759,455, which represents an increase of 6.1 per cent., which is the lowest increase since 1861 and compares with 11 per cent. in 1901. Eighteen counties have increased and fifteen have decreased. The increases, of course, are naturally in those counties which are of an industrial character like Lanark, Fife, Dumbarton, and Renfrew, while the decreases have been in the agricultural counties. It is a striking fact that Argyll, Berwick, Perth, and Sutherland have a smaller population to-day than they had in the year 1801, 110 years ago. Taking the civil parishes, which of course include the urban areas, in only 337 of them was there an increase while there was a decrease in 532. What is called the natural increase, that is the excess of births over deaths, in the last ten years, is 542,759. But the census enumerator found in Scotland an increase of only 287,342. The balance of 255,417 had left the country. We have often heard that broad and well beaten is the road that leads to the south, while narrow and grass grown is the lane that leads back to north. In a very able article in the "Glasgow Herald" it is pointed out that two-thirds of the emigration comes from the urban population, which supplies four-fifths of the entire population of the country, while the rural population, which comprises only one-fifth of the population of the country, supplies one-third of the emigrants. I think it is not an unfair estimate to make to say that there are nearly 50,000 fewer agricultural labourers and others employed to-day on the land than there were in 1881. Taking the position to-day we find that last week there was a record emigration from the Clyde. Special boats were put on to cope with the rush of agriculturists who had been waiting until their contract services expired to leave the country, and 3,800 of Scotland's best men and women left their country to settle in other countries. There is one point I should also like to draw attention to in connection with this census. It is significant that the city increase is much smaller than was anticipated, and therefore it is no unfair deduction to make, that the cry or argument which has been so often urged that the attraction and allurements, the life and amusements of the town have drawn the people from the country is not now altogether accurate. I suggest, indeed, that the fact of the small increase in the 1357 towns shows that the country dwellers are not drawn to the towns at the same rate as they were, and that the people are leaving the country to seek rural conditions which at present they cannot find in their own land. Far be it from me to suggest that the rural case of Scotland is solely responsible for emigration. It would be foolish to put such an argument as that. There are many things which make for emigration in Scotland, there is attraction as well as repulsion, honourable ambition, historic associations, family tics, and the general service which Scotland has rendered the Empire as a whole, will never be seriously interfered with however much we may decrease in our own country. The Colonies, notably Canada, are making extraordinary efforts to attract the people from Scotland. Sir Wilfrid Laurier said the other day that Scotch emigrants were the best, and they were prepared to take the lot. That is an assertion for which, of course, we must make some allowances, but making all possible allowances I think there is absolutely common agreement throughout the country, exclusive of party, that the situation in Scotland is a really critical one.
What are the causes—the main causes of this state of things? I think one of them is the over-development of sport in Scotland. I say over-development of sport because I do not wish, and nobody on this side of the House would wish, to interfere with the legitimate exercise of sport in Scotland, but here is this extraordinary fact that there has been a very large increase in the acreage exclusively devoted to deer forests and other forms of sport during the last four or five years. Now there must be nothing less than over four millions of acres devoted to deer forests and other purposes exclusively for use in regard to sport. Then I think the excessive size of sheep farms, the lack of small holdings, and the increase of education and general political development have brought about among the dwellers in the country a mental and moral development which their physical conditions make it extremely hard to bear; they find and believe that there must be discovered for them a career out of their own country which will fit their mental and moral development. I think another deduction to be made from this increase is also this, that the consequence is that, generally speaking, the best men and women leave the country, and the country as a whole is not only losing in quan- 1358 tity, but in quality. We all agree that something must be done. What can we do? I present the Bill which is now before the House. It has been fully discussed in this House, both here and in Committee. It took up twelve days of Parliamentary time in the House and twenty-two days in Committee sittings. There have been two General Elections fought upon it, and the Liberal representation of Scotland still remains at high-water mark. These are grave facts, as a statesman said in the other House the other day in a somewhat belated recognition of the obvious.
Here is the position; you must reckon with these things. It is all very well for us to make light of them in the Lobby and in the House, but the people in the country regard this condition of things. There it stands, and I say again, here is the Bill returning once more to the House crowned with as many virtues and encrusted with as many imperfections as a Bill of this sort usually bears. What we have to do is to improve its virtues and prune away imperfections as far as we can. I would make one suggestion to hon. Members, and it is that they should read the Bill. I recommend an earnest perusal of the Bill to those who say we will have none of it, and equally to those who say we will have every line of it. Let us understand what is in the Bill, because I believe that the objections which are raised against it, and, indeed, some of the extreme positions which are taken in favour of it, may be satisfactorily dealt with by a careful and impartial study of the provisions of the Bill. May I just suggest, although it is perhaps unnecessary for me to inform the House on the Bill to any great extent, what the landlord can do under the Bill. He can sell, he can mortgage, bequeath, shoot, hunt, fish, hew, and plant fresh timber, resume possession, build and generally develop, lime, quarry, enter and inspect, and other things being equal he has the choice of the tenant who shall occupy the holding. What does the tenant get out of it? He gets a fair rent and security of tenure. We have heard a good deal of the old phrase "the magic of ownership," but it is the magic of security that we mostly seek.
The tenant must not sell, must not, dilapidate the building or deteriorate the soil. If he becomes bankrupt the case is dealt with and he must not violate the agreement entered into between himself and his landlord and approved by the 1359 Land Court. There are many other provisions. The startling development which the Bill introduced was the setting up of a Land Court and an Agricultural Commission, and I would specially ask the attention of Members of the House to Clauses 3, 4, 7 and 16 in order to see how this machine is going to operate. A careful attempt has been made as far as possible to meet objections which have been urged against the Bill and hon. Members must remember that the very first idea is that these small holdings should be settled, if possible, by agreement. Failing agreement the officials have to prepare a scheme, lay the same before the authority, give every opportunity for everybody concerned to be heard upon it, and then if in the exercise of that portion of the machinery damage is done, either to the letting value of the landlord or to the interest of the sitting tenant, ample compensation must be made.
Of course there is the absolutely necessary power we think of compulsion. I believe, from what I hear that that power being there there is much reason to believe that that common sense which distinguishes, I think, above other nationalities the dwellers beyond the Tweed will lead them to come to an agreement rather than be driven to compulsion. The very important thing is the setting up of the Agricultural Commission within the scope of the Bill. A great deal has been said about the Chamber of Agriculture and the Bill gives the power of collecting statistics and information and to deal with other subjects of that kind. It appears to me that in Committee that idea might be developed without any real additional cost to the State or the provision of posts and additions to the Civil Service staff. I am sure I speak the mind of both sides of the House in expressing the hope that this portion of the Bill will lead to very great development. I think there is common agreement also that the finance as shown by the Bill is inadequate to the problem. I can, I am sure, on behalf of those interested make an earnest appeal to the Government, that in considering this question they may see their way if this thing is to be started to give it a fair chance from a financial point of view. We want not so much to pass a mere Bill as to devise a real remedy. I do not think that in enunciation of that position I could possibly do better than quote the words of the Prime Minister in a speech at Earlston which still remains the classic 1360 utterance on this great question. What did he say?Now, I say again, if it can be shown to us that there are risks unprovided for, cases of injury and harm, pecuniary damage and loss which can be sustained by the landlord against which this scheme does not safeguard him, let those cases be produced and let them be submitted to us for consideration. I invite the representatives of the landlords to do so, and I promise them also, as I have already made a promise with regard to the sitting farmer, I promise the most fair and considerate attention the Government can give.As far as those of us who are endeavouring to do what we can to be worthy of the charge of the Bill, that is certainly the spirit in which we shall approach this great question. I want to make an appeal to the whole House and to all parties in it as to how to deal with this great question. Our country stands with her hands stretched out to us. The history of Scotland is very largely the history of the small holder, and it is for those men in actual manual contact, with the soil of their native country, that philosophers and scientists, poets and painters, captains of industry, and the finest soldiery the world has ever seen, and Prime Ministers of our Dominions-beyond-the-Seas have been bred, developed, and sent forth" to do their work. The life blood of Scotland is going from the very places where those men came from. Let us co-operate all together in one earnest endeavour to respond to this cry, and to satisfy to the very utmost of our power the urgent prayer of our native land.
In seconding the Second Reading of this Bill, I do not think it is possible to lay too much stress upon the magnitude of the disease from which rural Scotland is at the present moment suffering and upon the reasons which make it imperative that a Bill of this nature, and on these lines, should be placed on the Statute Book of this country. It is a commonplace which admits of no denial, that no country can really prosper which does not maintain a vigorous and successful agricultural community; and, furthermore, that no country is fitted to go successfully through periods of bad trade and through periods of bad harvests unless it maintains a wise equilibrium between the population of the country and the town. I think we can say that at the present moment Scotland is certainly not maintaining that equilibrium. While the population of the towns grows not so fast as it might, the population of the rural parishes throughout Scotland is steadily decreasing. There are two undeniable and indisputable facts in this connection which can 1361 be advanced. In the first place, Scotland is not now maintaining upon the land and upon the soil the population which the soil is fitted and ought to support, and in the second place, is not keeping upon the soil the population which she used to do in bygone days. That proposition is borne out by the census returns to which my hon. Friend referred. He quoted a sentence which points out that the total decennial increase according to the last census returns is less than that found in any census since the year 1861. Perhaps I may be permitted to refer to the census returns in so far as they affect the Constituency which I have the honour to represent. What do they say about Kincardineshire. It is a county which consists of nineteen parishes, one of which is included in the City of Aberdeen. The report of the census states that seventeen of those parishes show a decrease, and—If the portion of the county which lies within the burgh of Aberdeen be deducted it is found that the remainder of the county has during the decade decreased by 1,957 or 6.2 per cent.That is due to various causes. It is due to the emigration of the rural population themselves, and in no small respect to the emigration from the fishing villages along the coast towards Aberdeen, Montrose, and other towns of that description.
I should like to point out that if this Bill be passed it will, in a great sense, assist the fishermen in those small fishing villages along the north-east coast of Scotland since there is a proviso in the Bill, or rather, I should say, in the Crofters Act, which would be incorporated in the Bill, giving power to make it lawful for the Treasury to advance to the Fishery Board such sums as may from time to time be placed at their disposal by Parliament for the purpose, that those sums may be loaned out to the Fishery Board for the purpose of repair of boats, vessels, and gear for fishing purposes, etc. I venture to think that that is one of the most valuable provisions of this Bill. This Bill is put forward as an endeavour to remedy the appaling state of affairs which at present exists in some parts of Scotland, by bestowing upon small men more suitable opportunities of displaying that zeal and energy which has resulted in so much of the present cultivated area of Scotland being brought under the plough. No one asserts—I do not think any Member of the House will assert—that the creation and extension of small holdings will, in itself, immediately stop depopulation. What we believe, and what we say 1362 in putting forward this Bill, is that at any rate, it will have, or should have, a tendency in that direction. We do not put forward this Bill as a means of stemming the tide of emigration, but we sincerely hope if it is passed into law, it will go a long way to check the strength of that tide. I think that can be proved by a comparison with other countries where small holdings exist in larger numbers than they do in this country to-day.
If we take Denmark, which is a country of small holdings, we find that the rural population in Denmark has risen from 1,417,000 odd in 1881 to 1,512,000 in 1901. On the other hand, the rural population of Scotland has decreased by 174,000 during the last ten years. Then, if we take individual counties in Scotland what do they show? I have here some figures which show the difference in the number of small holdings which exist in Aberdeenshire and in three of the southern counties. Berwick-shire, Edinburgh and Roxburgh. These figures may be familiar to some Members, but I may quote them in support of my case. In Aberdeenshire there were under cultivation in the year 1907 some 630,300 acres of land, and in the three counties of Berwickshire, Edinburgh and Roxburgh there were under cultivation 505,000 acres of land. It is well known to all of us that in Aberdeenshire there exist small holdings to a greater extent than in any other county in Scotland, whilst in the three southern counties to which I have alluded larger holdings are prevalent. What are the conditions as regards the population maintained on the soil In Aberdeenshire in 1907 the total number of persons employed in the cultivation of the land and upon the soil in various ways over twenty years of age was 18,820, whilst in the three counties of Berwick, Edinburgh and Roxburgh, the total number of persons over twenty employed on the soil was 8,450. That is to say that in the county of Aberdeenshire, with a cultivated area of only 25 per cent. more than that of the three south-eastern counties to which I have alluded, there were four times the number of farmers and 50 per cent. more labourers and shepherds employed on the land; and the total number of persons employed upon the land was over twice as large and the reduction during the last forty years has been less by about one-fifth. I think these figures require very serious consideration, and I venture to say that the small holdings and the 1363 small holders in Aberdeenshire might have been more successful than they are to-clay if they had enjoyed the advantage of some of the provisions which are contained in this Bill.
What is it that has added to the stability and prosperity of agriculture in these countries where small holdings exist in large numbers and where there are maintained upon the land more people per square mile than there are in the case of Scotland? It is in one word—security of tenure. It is the security given to the landholder in his holding, his knowledge that by no caprice of the landlord can he be expelled from his holding on the termination of his lease. As my hon. Friend has pointed out in his eloquent speech to-day, security of tenure is the bed-rock of this Bill. It is security of tenure, I venture to say, coupled with the fair rent system, that has ensured the success of the Crofters Act of 1886 and succeeding acts. I know that there are various opinions concerning the success or otherwise of the Crofters Acts. I believe it is denied in some quarters that the Crofters Acts have been successful. The other day I addressed a question to the Lord Advocate relative to emigration from rural parishes in Scotland and the Noble Lord the Member for West Perth (Marquess of Tullibardine), whom I am glad to see in his place, addressed to the right lion Gentleman a supplementary question which was intended to convey—he will correct me if I am wrong—that the emigration from crofting counties in Scotland was much greater than it had been from other agricultural counties in Scotland. The Noble Lord indicates that that is a correct interpretation of his question. But even if that be so, even assuming that there has been a decrease, I ask the crofters Members who are here to-day whether I am right in my suggestion that if a decrease has taken place in the population of the crofting counties it does not necessarily follow that the Crofters Acts have failed to keep them on the land. In the crofting counties there is a large proportion of the population which does not fall in any way under the Crofters Acts and even if all these people emigrated how can it be argued that the Acts failed to keep them on the land?
I believe I am correct in stating as a matter of actual fact that where the emigration has taken place from the crofting counties it has been among the agricul- 1364 tural labourers and the cottars and fishermen to whom the Crofters Acts do not apply, and who in no way fall within the scope of the Act. We know perfectly well that there was a defect in the Crofters Acts which, under this Bill, will be remedied. That defect prevented the compulsory creation of further small holdings. My hon. Friend has referred to some objections which have been urged against this Bill. We are told that under this Bill we are seeking to "crofterise" the Lowlands of Scotland, whatever that may mean. So far as I am concerned, if by that expression it is meant that we are endeavouring to give to the small men in the Lowlands freer access to the land, to give tenants on their holdings a sense of security, and to deprive the few bad landlords of rights which the many good landlords would not dream of exercising, then I say the sooner we "crofterisc" the Lowlands the better it will be for the Lowlands and for Scotland as a whole. There are other objections urged against this Bill. If I read aright the Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Butcshire (Mr. Harry Hope), it forms the gravamen of the charge against the Bill; and that is the so-called system of dual ownership which this Bill will set up. The words "dual ownership" may well be a very terrifying spectre to the timid and uninitiated, but I am bound to say that the more one inquires into the arguments advanced in support of the objections taken on this ground the more one sees that there is in fact and in effect very little in them.
Perhaps the hon. Baronet will allow me to proceed with my argument. I was about to develop it in respect of Ireland. The hon. Baronet asks whether dual ownership has been a success in. Ireland. But there is a very clear distinction between the proposals of this Bill, and the system of land tenure which existed in Ireland. Under the Irish system there was free sale of tenant right. In the Scottish Bill there is no free sale. What is the effect of having free sale of tenant right? It is that the tenant has a realisable asset, and is therefore able to mortgage the holding, and get into the hands of the money lenders. That is the difference between dual ownership as it existed in Ireland and the so-called dual ownership which hon. Gentleman opposite say will be set up under this Bill. There 1365 was one further aspect of the Irish question which must not be forgotten. Under the Irish system it cost the tenant something like £3 or £4 to have his fair rent fixed, with probably a cost of appeal. Under this Bill the cost to the tenant will be 1s. 6d. or thereabouts. Personally I have no fear of the spectre of dual ownership which has been held up to us by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It seems to be forgotten that there is already in existence a system of divided, or dual, or limited—call it what you like—ownership, in this country, and has been since 1883.
What happened in that year? There was an Act passed which provided for a system of divided ownership in regard to manuring and other improvements of a similar nature. Previous to the Act of 1883 all improvements made by the tenant were held to be the property of the landlord at the termination of the tenancy. The Act of 1883, by putting a stop to that system, did in fact initiate a system of divided ownership in this country. The principle of divided ownership was extended by the Act of 1900. By that Act the tenant was empowered to provide for drainage operations. The principle was further extended, as we know, by the Land Tenure Act and by the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1908, under which the tenant had certain powers in respect to the maintenance of buildings. Therefore, for my part, I do not think that the expression "dual ownership" as applied to this Bill need strike any terror into our hearts. There are doubtless other objections to this Bill. Some have been dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Peebles-shire and Selkirk (Mr. Maclean). It is said that if this Bill be passed the friendly relations which have existed so long between landlord and tenant will cease—will cease to exist from the day the Act is brought into operation. I, for one, do not believe it. I do not think that an Act which has one main effect, and that is the deprivation of the right of arbitrary eviction on the part of the landlord, will destroy the relationship which exists at the present time between landlord and tenant. I would be very sorry to see the relationship which now exists between landlord and tenant in Scotland destroyed or in any way diminished.
But no progress can be made in the betterment of the conditions of the people without a certain advance into the region of vested interests. We have 1366 found that out before, and we shall find it out again. In regard to this particular objection, I, for one, fully and sincerely believe if this Bill be passed into law that the fears of hon. Gentlemen opposite in that respect will be found to be ground less. There is the objection in relation to the financial aspect of the Bill. I believe it was the Lord Advocate in the discussion on this Bill two years ago who said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer invariably presented a very rigid front towards Scottish financial demands. I do, sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, whom we are delighted to see here to-day, will endeavour to induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to present a less rigid front to Scottish demands in this respect than he has done hitherto. There are other objections against this Bill. It is said that under it we propose to confiscate the improvements made by the landlord during many past years in the lowlands of Scotland. It seems to be forgotten when that aspect of-the matter is discussed that there have been in the past many improvements made by tenants in Scotland that have been confiscated by the landlords. However, that is an aspect that I do not wish to deal with. I think the landlords' fears in that respect are groundless. Landlords will get fair rents and will have the rents based upon their improvements, as distinct from the improvements made by the tenants. At any rate, as regards this or any other objection that may be present to the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, so far as I personally am concerned, I should be willing to discuss and to give most earnest consideration when the proper time arrives to any Amendment coming from whatever quarter so long as it does not conflict with the main principles of this Bill. I venture to think the foundations upon which this Bill is built—security of tenure to the tenant, a fair rent and an impartial tribunal—are not only unshaken, but unshakable. If it be urged that the superstructure of this Bill is in any respect in need of alteration, then I, in conjunction with my hon. Friends, will only ask that the nature of the change desired by hon. Gentlemen in any quarter of the House should be indicated, for we are certain that in the words of the Prime Minister, already quoted by my hon. Friend, and in the words used by-the Lord Chancellor in another place when the Bill was last rejected upon Second Reading, if in the minds of hon. Gentlemen there is a sense of injustice or hard 1367 ship that can be remedied, the promoters of the Bill will be only too glad if such remedy can be applied.
I am not one of those who consider that small holdings by themselves could in any short space of time create miracles in agricultural Scotland. I believe once a Bill of this nature and upon these lines is passed into law it will open up for agricultural Scotland a period of new prosperity; but I think, alongside with the establishment and extension of small holdings under this Bill, there are other factors which are necessary to achieve complete success. There must be in conjunction with this Bill an extensive scheme of afforestation, in the future greater attention must be paid to agricultural research and generally to agricultural education, and I think the benefits to be derived from combination and co-operation should be inculcated more than they have been hitherto in the minds of our agricultural population in Scotland. Moreover, and not least important, there should be established along with this Bill a system of agricultural societies and credit banks throughout the country, such as was outlined for England by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education. These are all necessary adjuncts to the Small Holdings Bill now before the House, but for the moment we are confined to this Bill, and for my part it is in the belief that a Bill of this nature and upon these lines, if passed into law, will tend to retain the agricultural community of Scotland upon the land, will give the agricultural population of Scotland freer access to the land, will encourage the cultivation of the land and will open up to the thrifty and industrious of our Scottish agricultural community a brigher, fuller, and more complete career that I give it my most hearty support.
§ Mr. HARRY HOPE
moved as an Amendment, "That, while this House is of opinion that the amendment of the Crofters Acts and the general extension of small ownerships and small tenancies are eminently desirable, it refuses to sanction any measure which fails to recognise the different conditions prevailing in different parts of the country and extends the system of dual ownership, which has failed in Ireland, to the whole of Scotland."
In moving this Amendment I may say, in the first place, that we, the Unionist 1368 Members, do not approach this question from the standpoint of negation; we desire rather to join in assisting to get some measure passed into law which will do much to improve the state of affairs which I know exists in Scotland at the present time. But when we carefully consider the condition of the Scottish agriculturist at the present time and what is needed to be done, and when we think of how this Bill proposes to do it, we realise this Bill is the most imperfect instrument for attaining what we desire to see attained. This question is one of very great importance indeed. We know the effect of emigration on Scotland, and how it is draining the life-blood of our country. We know how the migration to our cities in the past has done much to injure the country districts; but when we think of all that we must recognise how completely inadequate is the opportunity we have to-day for discussing this important question. Here we are met on a half-day in circumstances such as these to consider this most important question. The hon. Member who seconded the Bill referred to the Census Returns. None of us considering this Bill to-day can fail to have the Census figures present in our minds. The hon. Member told us among the figures he gave that the population of Argyllshire had decreased in the last decade. It has decreased to the extent of 3½ per cent., but how does that decrease occur? I saw the other day an explanation of the decrease in these terms: "Oban and Dunoon, with unimportant increases, just hold their own; Campbeltown shows a decrease of 7 per cent., Lochgilphead of 11 per cent., Inverary of 18 per cent., Tobermory of 22 per cent., The decrease does not arise in the agricultural districts, and if that is so does it not clearly prove that this draining of Scottish manhood is not entirely from the rural districts, but is going on in the small towns and boroughs of Scotland. Why, is it not because the trade in these small towns and boroughs is at a stand-still? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because there is such an amount of insecurity created at the present time. Landlords are not carrying improvements; and also the Finance Act is killing the building trade, and masons, joiners, and artisans generally are leaving the country at the present time. When we think of that it ill becomes hon. Members opposite to come down to this House in a light and airy way and introduce this private Members' Bill as if it was the cure, the whole cure, and nothing 1369 but the cure for this great national evil. The hon. Member for Peebles and Selkirk (Mr. Maclean) said the landlord would have the right to shoot and fish and resume his security of tenure. If this Bill is going to be such an extremely good security, when the rent is less than £50 how are you going to give security in cases where they are paying over £50. I only desire to consider this question as it affects the condition of agriculture in Scotland. I have been brought up and bred in the farming business, and I know that the agricultural industry has passed through many vicissitudes. It has had to face falling prices and foreign competition coining from every part of the world and brought here by methods of transit never dreamt of in former times. It has stood all that in Scotland, and yet what is it at present? Agriculture in Scotland occupies the foremost position and will compare with any other country in the world; consider for a moment our Scottish stock, how we produce the very finest stock which is competed for by buyers all over the world; consider the quality of our agricultural produce which comes to the market in London and goes everywhere else and commands the higher prices; consider the amount of rent paid for agricultural land in Scotland, and I ask do you see anything in England or Ireland to equal it?
Consider another point, and that is the amount of labour employed on Scottish land. We see at the present time in Scotland the largest labour bill expended upon any agricultural land that you see anywhere in the United Kingdom. In regard to the wages, what do our agricultural labourers in Scotland get? The average wage of our agricultural labourers is from 18s. to 20s. per week and a free house. They get pay for six weeks during sickness, and I would like to know if there is any other trade in the country which treats the workmen in that way? We should have no need for the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Insurance Bill if that were so, and yet this is the one trade which hon. Members opposite come down here and tell us is a decaying industry. Let us take care that we do not damage it still further by this kind of legislation. Consider what this Bill proposes. It is claimed for it that it establishes security of tenure. It proposes that every tenant in Scotland with more than 150 acres, after his lease expires, shall be placed in an insecure position by being liable any time 1370 to have a slice cut out of it. Could there be any more detrimental action pursued than to create such a system as that.
The agricultural industry of Scotland has risen to the high standard it has attained because in the past the landlords' capital has been available to a very large extent. We have had the landlords' capital invested in holdings, and this has enabled all the tenants' capital to be, as it were, put into the business, and that has enabled the tenant to get on and place himself in a position which otherwise he would never have attained. The landlords' capital has provided housing accommodation, and this is a very important point. The landlords' capital has provided housing accommodation to such an extent that in Scotland generally, with a few exceptions, there are labourers' houses in the ratio of one workman's house for every twenty-five to fifty acres. In some parts of Scotland we have an adequate supply of farm labourers, and that has all been obtained by the landlords' capital. So far this Bill has had the effect of discouraging the spending of capital by the landlords, and that has had a very bad effect upon the agricultural industry. We recognise that in Scotland at the present time we have to provide farms. We have medium holdings, large holdings, and small holdings. I know from my practical connection with the business that a large holder can produce commercial crops better than a small holder can. I say a large holder can produce commercial crops cheaper than any small holder can do. Some hon. Members on the opposite side of the House who hold Cobdenite views may perhaps think the system which enables crops to be produced at the cheapest price and put on the market at the lowest possible price is not the very worst system. If that system is approved of, then these larger holdings in Scotland can escape some criticism. How does the large holder develop his business and how is he able to produce his crops cheaper than the small holder? It is because the large holder is always learning and adopting new methods, bringing in new improvements into his business, carrying on experiments, and, what is of such vital importance, is able to bring to bear that accurate appreciation of differences which is so essential in carrying out any improvements in the management of a business. It is because the larger holder is not on the ground doing manual labour 1371 that he is able to make more out of his business than the small holder. Still, for all that, small holdings are a valuable link in the chain of a good agricultural system.
We require small holdings to encourage men to remain on in our country districts, and to do so in the hope and confidence they will in time, by exercising thrift, get a small holding of their own and become their own masters. We recognise these small holdings are an advantage in that way and certainly should be encouraged. I have said the large holder will always beat the smaller man by producing his crops at a cheaper price, but I have no doubt, and I hold that the small holder, by dairying, by poultry keeping, and by carrying on small culture, can still make a decent living out of his holding. It is, therefore, quite right we should do something to encourage the creation of small holdings. At the present time emigration is proceeding at a melancholy pace in Scotland, but we know, no matter what facilities are given for small holdings being obtained, that our Scottish people, independent, energetic, and vigorous as they always have been, are not merely going to stay at home unless they think they are going to do as well as what they would do abroad, and, when they hear of how much can be made by taking up land in some of these newer countries, it is no wonder many of them desire to make a home for themselves across the seas. Migration from our country districts into our cities went on at an alarming pace for many years, but I think that migration from the latest figures can be shown to have ceased to a very large extent. I see by the Census figures that the population of Edinburgh in the last ten years only increased 2,700, whereas in the six decades before it increased 27,000. The figures for the last two decades show an increase of 9,000 in Glasgow, whereas in the previous decade there was an increase of 100,000. That shows migration has rather commenced to stop, but the migration which did go on was a world-wide movement. In 1860 22 per cent. of the people of Denmark lived in the towns whereas now 39 per cent. live in the towns.
We certainly need to do what we can, however, to provide small holdings, and give men a hope that by exercising thrift they can get a place for themselves near home. How are you going to do it, and does this Bill provide the wisest means for doing it? In the first place, as I have 1372 said, it puts every holder of more than 150 acres into the insecure position of being liable to have a slice cut out of his holding. I think that is the greatest blot on the Bill. The Prime Minister, in October, 1908, indicated that perhaps holdings out of lease and for which the present tenants were not offerers might be taken instead of taking slices out of larger holdings. I think that was the best suggestion put forward by anyone at that time. Admitting that is a good suggestion, this Bill takes no cognisance of the experience which we can get from every country in the world as regards small holdings. If you study what has been done in this movement in Germany, in France, and in Denmark, you find that in no instance did they proceed on the lines the Government propose to proceed on now. In Germany, small holdings amounting to three-fourths of the total area of Germany have been created. How were they created? They were created as occupying owners. In France, by the passing of the Civil Code by Napoleon about the same time small holdings were created. At the present time there are over five million small holders in France. On what conditions? They are occupying owners. Take Denmark, a country of small holdings which has often been quoted. Nine-tenths of the land in Denmark is held by occupying owners. When the Government are looking for the best possible means of solving this great question, how is it they ignore altogether the world's experience? I think we on this side of the House have a right to put this question very pointedly before the Government. What harm or what hurtful result can they trace to a system which has operated so long on the Continent, and why should they not desire to take a leaf out of the reformers' books there and do something to adopt methods which have stood the test of time. I recognise small ownership may not operate in all districts, and that small holdings would be of service, because the present proprietors might not desire to sell. I consider in these cases leasing is also needed. There, again, by taking such farms as are out of lease, and for which the present tenants are not offerers, we have the means of acquiring land for small holdings without creating that insecurity that is going to be so harmful to the whole of the agricultural industry.
Hon. Members opposite may say, "Oh, this is all very well, but you are only ex- 1373 pressing the large farmer's point of view." Sir, the farmer's point, of view is that of the industry. If you hurt the farmer, you hurt the industry; and if you hurt the industry you hurt everybody connected with it—the landlord, the tenant, the tradesmen who supply the wants of the landlord and the tenant, and everyone suffers, even the local shopkeeper. We want to do nothing to hurt the industry, and there is nothing in this Bill—and we have to judge by the Bill—to give us a safeguard upon these matters. As regards the question of dual ownership which the hon. Member for Kincardineshire (Captain Murray) referred to, does he not recognise that by placing the responsibility of making the improvements on the tenant, which in time results in the buildings being the tenant's and the land the landlord's, that creates a system of dual ownership. Has he not studied Irish history in this agrarian question sufficiently to realise this, that the fact that it had been the practice of the Irish tenants to do these improvements was the foundation-stone of the agrarian difficulty which arose in Ireland?
§ Mr. H. HOPE
Does the hon. Member for Kincardineshire not know that the Irish tenants had always been doing these improvements, and that the Royal Commission in 1843 recommended, because the improvements were clone by the tenants, that compensation was justly due to them? It took many years before any action was taken to give the tenants what was considered justice. It was not until 1860 that the Land Bill was passed recognising that the tenants were entitled to that compensation. All that procedure created what was bound to come—namely, the recognition of tenant rights, which came afterwards in 1870, and in 1881, through free sale. It was then found that the two evils of the system that had been in operation for so many years came to full maturity. We do not desire to see the same history repeated in Scotland. The hon. Member for Kincardineshire considered that because the 1883 Holdings Act was passed, which gave tenants compensation for improvements, that that was the same thing as is going to be done under this Bill.
I did not say the same thing. I said it introduced a system of limited ownership. I did not say it was the same thing as the Irish system.
§ Mr. H. HOPE
Let me draw a distinction between the working of the 1883 Act and the method proposed in this Bill. By the 1883 Agricultural Holdings Act, since consolidated, the tenants received compensation for certain kinds of improvements. There are three classes of improvements, as hon. Members know. One class of these improvements can be made without the consent of the landlord. Another class can be made by intimation to the landlord that the tenant is going to make them, and the third class is made by getting the landlord's consent. Under this Bill you put the responsibility on all those tenants who have fair rents fixed of doing these improvements, and, therefore, you bring about the same state of affairs that existed in Ireland many years ago, and which led on through various Acts to the recognition of tenant right as passed in the 1870 Act, and to free sale by the 1881 Act. We object to this extension of dual ownership to the whole of Scotland for that reason. We recognise that the agrarian history of Ireland is not one that we want to see repeated. It is not one we want, because it will result in the same policy having to be pursued in Scotland as had to be pursued in Ireland.
There is one other part of the Bill on which I may say a word or two, and that is the creation of a Department for Agriculture for Scotland. Agricultural opinion in Scotland is ripe at the present time for that proposal. We recognise that we are behind the times, especially in the spreading of technical instruction and in carrying on experimental and research work. Agricultural opinion in Scotland is in favour of the Department of Agriculture there. But how does this Bill propose to go about it? It proposes to give this Department into the hands of the Secretary for Scotland. We hold that the Scottish Office is over-weighted with work at the present moment, and we consider that this work can better be done by a Department quite independent of any English Board, but still under the presidency of the British Minister for Agriculture. We have a Minister for Agriculture in the Cabinet. We want to give him more work to do, and to make him supervise the agricul- 1375 ture both of England and of Scotland, and to make him carry on in Scotland a Department which will be entirely under Scottish control, with a council of representative men which will keep in touch with public opinion in every district. Let us have such a Department, but let it be guided by our British Minister of Agriculture. In 1908 a Member of the Government, the then Lord Advocate (Mr. Shaw), referring to this question, said, "Let that portion of the Bill be dropped." If this Bill is not approved of in all its points, why is it brought forward to the House again in its old state? We know that this Bill has had a chequered career. It has what might be called a past, but perhaps hon. Members opposite, when they think that one of the incidents of its career was that it got a kick from the House at the other end of the passage, consider that that gives it the character of respectability and super-excellence. That may perhaps explain their desire to adhere to it in its entirety, but when we can show that in each branch of this Bill improvements can be made, and when we approach this question with a desire not of opposing legislation, but of bringing about an improved Bill, would it not be better if this Bill had been dropped and that we had all met together in conference?
We know that there are other Bills. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wick Burghs has a Bill. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland has one, many Noble Lords who have a very accurate knowledge of the Scottish land system have Bills, and I myself have one in my pocket. Could we not all meet together and draft a better Bill than this is? We are told that the thing is to pass this Bill, and it goes to the Committee upstairs with all its faults. We have been asked by hon. Members opposite to do what might be described in the words— "Walk into my parlour said the spider to the fly." We are asked to go upstairs, and submit it to the tender mercies of hon. Members opposite in the form of a Bill. I do not think that is the proper way to treat this side of the House. We are as anxious as hon. Members opposite to bring about a proper and sound settlement of this question. I might refer to what was said about this Bill only three years ago, and to what was said by eighteen Liberal Members in May of 1908. Those eighteen Liberal Members signed a 1376 memorial to the Prime Minister in which they said:—The moment, then, is opportune for a serious attempt upon common ground, by judicious compromise, to pass a really satisfactory measure.Where is the compromise now? We have got the Bill, the old Bill and nothing but the old Bill before us to-day. Why has there been no alteration? Have those eighteen Members, I wonder, forgotten what they said about the Bill? I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wick Burghs has forgotten what he said about it. We have not heard whether he has. I wonder if the Member for Berwickshire has forgotten what he said about it. I remember what was said by the Member for the Constituency which I have now the honour to represent. He was one of the eighteen Liberal Members. Mr. Manning said that compromise was never pleasant, but if twelve reasonable Scottish Members entered into conference on the matter, leaving out mono-maniacs on one side and fanatics on the other, they would have little difficulty in arriving at a solution which would give widespread satisfaction. We desire to arrive at a compromise on this Bill. We are met here to-day in a new Parliament, and this Bill got a Second Reading two Parliaments ago. I say, the duty now rests upon us to consider this question carefully. I think we can draw valuable experience from all the criticisms which have been previously passed on this Bill. I believe now that the better plan would have been for us to have met together to consider what is desired on both sides of the House, and then to frame a Bill which would have been a non-party measure. You may this afternoon carry the Bill by a party majority, but I would advise very seriously that this House should take into consideration all the objections which have been raised against this measure in the past, and which time has proved to contain good advice, more especially when we show that we are anxious to exercise the principle of give and take. There are various points on which I think we have shown that we are anxious to make concessions, and when that is the case would it not be better to meet together in a friendly manner, to withdraw this Bill and bring in a better Bill based upon some of the points of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wick Burghs, some of the points of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, and some others, which may be studied 1377 and which may be proved to be valuable, and from all these points of view to bring in a Bill which will be a sound and practical measure, and which would be a good settlement of a question which requires settlement.
§ Mr. GEORGE YOUNGER
I desire to second the Amendment which has just been proposed in a very able speech by my hon. Friend. I am sure that everyone of those in the House who went through the Debates on the Bill two or three years ago will welcome very much the fresh influence which a practical and experienced farmer can bring to bear upon discussion of this question. There is no one, I should think, who is more entitled to speak on behalf of those who have so wisely managed and so greatly succeeded in carrying on large farms in Scotland than my hon. Friend and his father before him. I think that everyone, whatever his view may be about this Bill, will agree that my hon. Friend gave some very weighty reasons indeed from the tenant-farmer's point of view, for considering whether in passing a Bill of this kind without modification, we should not very gravely prejudice the interests of agriculture by creating a feeling of unrest and insecurity on the part of those who by their practical knowledge have so ably conducted in the past their agricultural pursuits. I listened with very great interest to the speeches made by the Mover and Seconder of the Bill, and, although they were comparatively cautious in what they said, I gathered, and I think I am entitled to assume, that they did not refer to this Bill as being the last word on the question. As a matter of fact, they hold out to this side of the House some encouragement to believe that alterations, designed of course to carry out the same object, though perhaps in a somewhat different way, would, at all events, be received and carefully considered. I think that the Amendment which my hon. Friend has Moved, and which I have Seconded, in no way would prevent that state of matters from coming about. The Amendment is a reasonable one; it is not a negative of the Bill; it is not intended to be a negative of the Bill. I should hope that the House will not be required to go to a Division, because we accept the position which I have just indicated, and we do not desire in any kind of way to do anything to prejudice a reasonable settlement of the question, or which would to any extent make a settlement more difficult. The hon. Member for Peebles gave us a 1378 very interesting set of Census figures on which he based his argument for this Bill. I am not going into that question in detail, though I have some very interesting figures here. As far as I can make out from such figures as are available—they are not fully available, we only have the population in districts and towns of 20,000, and not the smaller villages and towns—they go to show that while rural depopulation in Scotland has unfortunately been general, it has been as great or greater in the crofting districts than in the others. I mention that by way of arguing that the system of tenure has not had anything very much to do with the question of depopulation as it is common in both, but a little more serious in the crofting districts than in the others which I have seen the figures for. I agree that this is a very serious state of matters, and we all agree that if by any possible chance we can minimise it and keep on the land the people who are now there, and increase them, if possible, it ought to be done, but I do not think you can disregard the very important figures which the Lord Advocate gave not very long ago in connection with the large emigration from Glasgow proceeding at that time in which it was astonishing to notice the very small percentage of agricultural labourers and the large number who were industrial people, who from pressure of circumstances, energy, and one thing or another, thought they would be much better off in the Colonies than they could be at home. Less than one hundred I think, out of some three or four thousand people, were connected with the land.
The real fact of the case is this. I made an inquiry the other day about a very large number of people who had gone from one district in the last few months, and some more who were going, but I do not know that one of them would have taken a small holding if it had been offered him. They were not that class of person at all. There has been considerable emigration from that place for some time owing to circumstances which the House very well understands; owing to the want of employment. Many people who have gone out in the past have done extremely well in Canada and else-Where, and those who are left and who find employment very insecure and very intermittent have been fired with a very natural ambition to go abroad and join them, hoping to do as well as they have done. That, I think, is a sort of cult at the present moment in 1379 Scotland. There is a feverish anxiety—I am afraid it may be very seriously disappointed—to go abroad and get to a new country. I do not want to criticise the Bill, but I think a strong case exists for what we have always asked on this side, a differential treatment in view of the different conditions existing in Scotland, and it is because the Bill fails to recognise those different conditions that I think it is so very unsuitable and unsatisfactory for the purpose we have in view. I have here a letter addressed by the Patronage Secretary on 22nd April to Sir Thomas Borthwick, chairman of the Midlothian Liberal Association. After stating what his views were about security of tenure, and so on, he said:—All that is now required, as you ask me my private opinion, is to extend its scope in order the more expeditiously to deal with the varying conditions of agriculture and land tenure to be found in Scotland.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (The Master of Eli-bank)
That is not quite an accurate report.All that is now required, as you ask me my private opinion, is to extend its position and enlarge its financial scope.They are the actual words.
The MASTER of ELIBANK
The "Scotsman" itself was good enough to correct that report in a subsequent issue.
§ Mr. YOUNGER
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think there are varied conditions in different parts of Scotland?
§ Mr. YOUNGER
I at once accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement, and if the extract is not accurate I cannot found any argument upon it. But I regarded that letter, and I do not care very much what the right hon. Gentleman says, as not very far from what he really thinks, and I regard it as a very hopeful augury for the view I take of the chances of this question being settled. At all events, I think the right hon. Gentleman will consider the matter in a perfectly accommodating spirit. The first part of our Amendment to-day deals with the extension of the Crofters Act, and I happen to be in the peculiar position of representing both a Highland and a Lowland constituency. I am always between two fires, because I have a Highland constituency which is 1380 extremely anxious to have something like this Bill passed, and I have very many Lowland supporters—and they are the majority, because the Highlanders do all they can to keep me out—who entirely dislike the Bill and do not wish to have it at all. Under these circumstances, being a sensible man, I naturally, up to now, have objected to the Bill as a whole, although I am perfectly ready to apply very much this class of Bill, and so is everyone else, to the conditions which prevail in the Highlands, and which require separate treatment. I think on this side of the House we are entitled to say that we have not in the past shown any lack of interest in the crofters. It is perfectly true that the Liberal party passed the Crofters Act, but by a humorous turn of the political screw, the Unionist party came into office very soon afterwards, and every shilling which has been granted by this House to the crofting districts was granted on the recommendation and at the expense of the Unionist party, and very large sums of money indeed have been granted by this House—a very large annual grant to the Congested Districts Board, and that sort of thing—so that we can at least urge it is no new-found interest when I say, as I can with perfect confidence, that my Friends on this side are ready and anxious to see an extension and Amendment of the Crofters Act.
My hon. Friend (Mr. Harry Hope) in dealing with the general situation argued very strongly in favour of purchase as a settlement of this question, and I believe strongly myself in it; but I recognise, as anyone must, that you cannot apply a system of purchase in the crofting districts so long as you have the existing system of rating. It is quite impossible to expect that crofters would wish to purchase their holdings when they will immediately find themselves rated on the whole of the buildings, and so long as they are only rated upon the very small rents they pay it is perfectly hopeless and quite useless to talk about a system of purchase in connection with that particular part of the country. The conditions there in many cases, of course, are very extraordinary and grossly unfair. I had a letter sent me the other day from a proprietor in the north of Scotland, who had a £6 10s. croft. which was given up by one of his tenants —the rental was fixed by the Commission about 1887—and he re-let it to another tenant at the same rental. A claim has been mooted by the outgoing tenant for £449 in respect of the cost of improve- 1381 ments which he has made on the holding. That is a monstrous thing. It is seventy years' purchase of the value of the croft. Seventy years' purchase is asked for improvements, and the landholder during the tenancy has had to pay no rates on these improvements. If you are going to establish a great many small holdings on the purchase system, it is impossible to do it without, at all events, dealing with rating, otherwise you will, of course, create very great hardship and difficulty for all the other ratepayers in the district, who will have to find schools, et cetera, for these colonies, and they will be rated very much more severely than they are at the present time.
We, I think, during the Committee stage of the previous Bill, made clear our opinion as to the difference between the two kinds of holdings in Scotland, and we went so far as to say that we thought the principle of the Crofters Act could be justly applied to any part of Scotland where the conditions were the same—that is to say, where the tenant had made substantial improvements. But that is a very different thing from applying that system all over the country. When you come to deal with the Lowlands, I have a great preference for small ownership as compared with tenancy, but I quite agree that there are a great many cases where tenancy is preferable, and under these circumstances you must, and I think you ought, to provide for it. Wherever you have a system of purchase, the getting rid of the difficulty my hon. Friend has referred to in regard to the position of the landlord is, to that extent of course, an immense advantage to the wellbeing of the small holders, who have a very hard life, many ups and downs, and vicissitudes of many kinds. Undoubtedly the small holder does feel a stronger interest in remaining on a holding which is his own property than on a holding which he merely rents. What my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition calls the "magic of ownership" is a very great assistance in a scheme of this kind in getting these holdings properly developed and in keeping people on them, even if they are not making too comfortable a living in the hard times which they have very often to meet.
It seems to me a somewhat astonishing thing that you should propose a system of hiring all over Scotland which would entirely kill all responsibility of ownership. You are thereby taking away one class of responsibility and putting no other in its 1382 place. You are making an experiment, it may be on a very large scale, at the risk of the landlords. If the State is going to make an experiment of that kind, it ought to take it upon itself, and it ought also to take upon itself the risk. There is any amount of cheap land in Scotland at present. There would be no difficulty in getting it either for hire or purchase, and it would be an easy matter to carry out a scheme where voluntary agreement to purchase was the chief feature, and not a system of hiring. I quite agree that there must be some compulsory powers where laud cannot be obtained. I think we ought, as far as possible, to preserve the system of voluntary agreement, and not make that impossible, as this Bill does. I have over and over again been told by the Secretary for Scotland that there is no person debarred from making a voluntary agreement, and that anyone can make a voluntary agreement with the landlord. But if you make a voluntary agreement, you get no compensation at the end of the lease if the holding is thrown up on ac-account of bad times, or for any other reason. You get no compensation, although the occupier may have equipped the holding contrary to your ideas. It is almost essential that the agreement should he compulsorily made, even if it is only seeming compulsion. We ought to encourage these voluntary agreements, and not suppress them.
I do not think that, in regard to new tenancies there would be any difficulty whatever in so arranging that, decent security of tenure would be obtained. I do know that there are many Members of this House who lay strong stress on the necessity of dealing with existing small tenancies. That ought not to be impossible to arrange. I entirely agree that in these days, when we are very anxious to keep as many people on the land as possible, anything in the shape of arbitrary evictions should be prevented. I have never heard of arbitrary evictions. We heard a whisper of them from the hon. Member for Kincardine.
§ Mr. YOUNGER
It is highly improbable. I do not think the hon. Member would say there are arbitrary evictions, but I do believe this sort of thing exists. At the end of a small tenancy, if a holding is to be brought up to date, a good deal of expense requires to be put out on existing buildings, or new buildings, or something of that sort. The landlord is 1383 getting a small rent, and, not being a wealthy man, he does not see his way to put up buildings or to improve those that are there. He knows that, although he gets £2 or £3 more for the croft than if the land was thrown into a larger holding, still it is cheaper for him to take the smaller rent when the land is thrown into a big farm than to expend this money and to retain the small holder there. I think cases of that kind should be provided for in some way. Nor do I think we should refuse to adopt some form of arbitration, such as we have under the Agricultural Holdings Act. I do not say if we do that in the case of small holdings, that would logically compel you to admit the claim by large holders. I think my hon. Friend indicated that you have to go very much further. I think that small holdings and large holdings are two very different things. You might as well compare a small retail business with a huge manufacturing industry. The principle which you might apply in the one case might be totally inapplicable and unfair in the other.
§ Mr. YOUNGER
I am referring to the small holdings. I wish to summarise the sort of view I myself take of the situation and what I think ought to be done. It is a very rough summary, and it is my own opinion. What I think we want on this side of the House, and what I think many of us would be willing to agree to, is separate treatment for the different conditions of the Highlands and Lowlands; a branch of the Board of Agriculture established in Scotland, and Small Holdings Commissioners to be appointed by them. We also think there should be some considerable extension of the Crofters Act, and a co-ordination of authorities. We further think that in regard to small holdings there should be the nomination and the renomination by the Commissioners of local advisory bodies—not county councils or anything of that kind—who would report to the Commissioners as to the demand for small holdings and the rentals, with a view to their being able to bring the Act into operation simultaneously all over Scotland. You cannot do that under this Bill as it is now framed. The Commissioners would get valuable assistance in that way from the advisory bodies, who would be able to inquire and report to them. Then I think there must be power 1384 to hire or purchase land. These compulsory powers must apply to limited owners. There ought to be powers both to re-let or to re-sell small holdings. Of course, the cost of that must mean a charge on the State. In the case of a sub-let the rent of a renewal might be fixed by arbitration in cases of difference. Differences about equipment or alteration of holdings might be settled in. the same way. If the hired land is given up the owner ought to have some sort of compensation. I do not know whether Clause 16 gives that now. If it does of course that will go out. Then if the small holding, having been purchased, is re-sold, the former owner ought to have a right of pre-emption. As to existing small holders current leases ought to be respected. As to renewals arbitration might be resorted to. In like circumstances where current leases expire and it is not proposed to renew them, land should not be withdrawn from use as small holdings without the consent of the Commissioners, and finally the Board of Agriculture ought to have very large powers with regard to enforcing co-operation on these small holders. That is a very rough indication of what I believe many Members, indeed most of them, on my side are willing to agree to. It is not a policy of negation at all events. It is an honest attempt to meet a very great difficulty and carry out a very much needed reform. Whether it will be possible to come together in Committee, or in any other way which the Government and its supporters may think right, and to devise a joint scheme that may be embodied in this Bill or any alterations that may make the Bill suited to the conditions which I have tried to sketch, I cannot say. I can only say that I do think that although the proceedings to-day differ from the proceedings yesterday in this respect that the Debate to-day has been much more serious, and I hope it will be so to the end, than it was yesterday, as it is a serious question which we are discussing and we are not merely wasting time, I do hope that the indications given by the hon. Members who Moved and Seconded the Bill, show that there is a possibility of settling this question in such a way that it will not only advance the interests of our country in the way desired but that it will bring to an end a dispute which has lasted far too long.
§ Mr. EUGENE WASON
Speaking generally on behalf of Scottish Liberal Members I may say that so far as we are con- 1385 cerned any reasonable Amendment which may be proposed by any hon. Gentleman on the opposite side of the House, or from these Benches, provided that it does not destroy the principle of the Bill will receive a most favourable and attentive consideration. I believe that, with the exception of the right hon. Member for St. Andrews and Edinburgh University (Sir It. Finlay) I am the only Scottish Member who was in the House of Commons at the time that the Crofters Act was passed into law. The Lord Advocate of that day was my friend Mr. J. B. Balfour, whom I succeeded in the representation of Clackmannan and Kinross, and he very ably piloted that measure through the House. I remember very well the Debates and discussions which took place at that time, and I remember that in the speeches that were made hon. Members pointed out the ruin that would take place if such a measure as the Crofters Act were passed into law. I will venture to trouble the House with one small quotation which was made by the present Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) who was then the Member for Sleaford. Speaking on the Bill in March, 1886, he declared that it was a wrong and very unjust thing to endeavour to pass such a Bill, and he said that if experiments were to be made they should be made not in the Highlands and islands of Scotland, but in the fertile Lowlands, where they might have some chance of success. He said:—He had little confidence in the success of any system of small holdings in these days, whether tenancies or freeholds, in the face of the foreign competition with which they were confronted at the present time, no matter in what part of the country they might be. But if such systems were to be tried, if hon. Members carrying out their opinions were determined to try it, then he became very fervent and he said, in God's name, let the system be tried where it might have some small prospect of success. Let them not try to establish it in some parts of the Country where miserable starved crofters already existed and where, owing to the circumstances of the country, they were foredoomed to misery and destitution.In the course of this Debate the question has been asked as to whether the Crofters Act has been a success. I do not represent a crofting county, though I have been through some of them, but I can quote on this point the authority of the late Sir David Brand, who was from its inception almost to the day of his death the very able chairman of the Crofters Commission and a personal friend of my own. In conversation with me he told me that it had made a new country of the Highlands and islands where the Act had been put into operation, and it had given hope where hope did not exist. So much 1386 for the question of the small holdings. So far as my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Mr. George Younger) is concerned we are in hearty agreement on this side with a great deal of what he said. We are perfectly in agreement with the suggestion that there should be a proper department of agriculture in Scotland. There are no two opinions about that on this side of the House. We are quite determined also that we ought to have more small holders and a greater number of people back on the land than we have at the present time. The hon. Member for Bute (Mr. Harry Hope) referred to the question of large farms. I venture to tell him that unless we have a considerable body of small farmers it will be impossible for the large farmers to carry on their industry. I say that because I know myself that in Ayrshire, where our early potato crop is one of the most valuable crops we have, if it were not for the peasants from Ireland who come over to various districts to work there it would be impossible for us to harvest this crop.
I am a landlord myself, though only a very small one. I am only what is known in Scotland as a bonnet laird, but for the best part of my life I lived on a large estate. But my father in his wisdom did not think it right to leave me as an eldest son. He left his estate to be divided equally among his sons, and I never made any complaint of that- I knew every tenant on the estate and every labourer, and there were a large number of them. I remember well one of the labourers, who worked for us and had a small holding himself, saying to me that if it were not for the small piece of ground that he had he could not have earned with his two hands enough meal for his family. And this was a man who was not receiving small wages, for he received not less than 25s. a week. I think, so far as small holdings are concerned, if you give this Bill a Second Reading and send it to the Scottish Grand Committee, it will be successful. I hope it will be discussed in a very different manner to that in which the previous Bill was, and with much more agreement. People have drawn much more together on this question than they were in those days, and I think the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) will recognise that there is a limit to Debate in Grand Committees. I daresay he recalls the incident I am referring to, but I will not dwell upon it further except to say that I think we all agree that in the 1387 interests of the majority there must be some rights on their part which enable them to get a measure through either upstairs or downstairs. I may say this, however, that I have never been very violently attached to any of these methods whether it is the closure or any other. It is always a disagreeable thing to have the closure applied either upstairs or downstairs, and, speaking of upstairs, I think I may say now that I think it ought to be used as seldom and infrequently as possible. I do not want to rule out purchase altogether, but I say it ought not to be made the basis and substratum of this Bill. That is my own personal view. My old Friend, Dr. Farquharson, who sat in this House for upwards of twenty-five years and occupied the same position as I do at the present time, namely, Chairman of the unofficial Liberal Members for Scotland, also held a view on that subject which I should like to refer to.
In an admirable letter to the "Westminster Gazette," he says:—I am a determined opponent of land purchase which will hang round the farmer's neck the mill-stone of his initial outlay, cripple his resources when he domes to stock his farm, and leave him helpless and undefended when had times come and no kindly laird is at hand to give his cart wheels a shove out of the mud.Further he says of the Bill we are discussing:—But the Pentland Bill—and speak with the full responsibility of a landlord of over thirty years' standing—with many steps in the right direction, and with some practical and easily made modifications, will go far to remedy some of the worst faults of our present system by giving to the agricultural labourer the prospect of a professional career, rod making a man, with a stake in the country; of him as the Crofters Acts have done.If any hon. Member wants a good book to read during the holiday I will refer him to a book which Dr. Farquharson has just written, entitled "In and Out of Parliament." That is a view which I am sure will carry weight with a great many Members of this House who believe, as we all do, that something must be clone for Scotland. Scotland is a country in which we have had no land legislation except for the crofters. We have done nothing for the Lowlands, and it is essential, in the interests of the Lowlands, that we should get a Bill of this sort, so that we should get there proper small holdings and give to the small holders a fair rent and security of tenure. In other words, we should do by Act of Parliament what every good landlord does, of his own free will and without any compulsion what- 1388 ever. I am anxiously waiting to hear what my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate is going to say upon this subject. I am satisfied with the tone adopted both by the hon. Member for Bute and the hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs, that there is no great divergence of opinion as to the necessity of having some legislation. The only thing we have to consider is how the matter should be dealt with. This Bill has been twice before the electors of Scotland. It has been approved on both occasions, and I beg hon. Members on the other side to let it be carried unanimously and sent upstairs to the Scottish Grand Committee, where I believe we may be able to make a really good working measure of it.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I think all of us here must be very pleased indeed to see that at last the question of small holdings in Scotland is being reasonably approached by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House and that we are trying to come to some understanding about this extremely important quest ion, although I do not know whether I am in agreement with the hon. Member for Peebles that this last General Election was fought on the question of the Small Holdings Bill. It is a little difficult to say on what that election was fought, as day after day we have different accounts. First of all we were told that the election was fought upon the question of Free Trade or Tariff Reform. The next time we heard that the whole of the Members opposite were returned upon the question of Home Rule, while other Members say that it was fought upon the question of the Veto. I think, however, we may be quite content about one thing and that is that there are very few Scottish Members here who retain their seats who did not deal, especially the further north they went, with the question of the land. I approach the question with a good deal of diffidence, because I do not wish in the least to be accused of being against small holdings. I come from a property where we have done the best we can to maintain them for six or seven hundred years, and where the same families have been living in the farms for two or three hundred years. They are perfectly contented to remain as they are, and do not want to come under a system of dual tenancy. It is difficult to approach the Sinclair Bill—I apologise for calling it by its maiden name, for it has had so many bestowed upon it—it is difficult to approach it 1389 without criticisms, but I do not say they are against small holdings. I am honestly, however, opposed to many of the provisions of the Bill, and I do not think we shall get what both sides desire, to really keep the people on the land as well as to put them on the land.
When this measure was first started in the county which I come from I had not gone into politics. We were very anxious from the agricultural point of view, to know what the farmers thought about it, and I felt that if this was the Bill which the people really wanted it would be absolutely impossible to prejudge it and so we advertised an open meeting in the city of Perth for all farmers—small holders and big holders—to come in and discuss the matter. There was no question about politics at all. Between five hundred and six hunderd farmers appeared at that meeting and went most thoroughly into the Bill. The opposition against the Bill was started by a very prominent farmer and one of the greatest supporters of the late Prime Minister in his constituency. He took the lead by moving a direct amendment, which was seconded by another Liberal farmer. That shows that there was no party question about the meeting. The only people who were in favour of the Bill were led by a Gentleman who had not been a great success as a farmer himself, and who was attached more or less to a certain newspaper staff. That only shows that there is not a unanimous desire amongst the farming class for this Bill. I may also point out that in agricultural circles in Scotland, there is not one agricultural association that I know of that has said a single word in favour of this Bill. I think you ought to be very careful before you fly absolutely in the face of every agricultural interest against this Bill. You have a Chamber of Agriculture, and again and again it has been found against this Bill. Personally, I have never met in the southern or central parts of Scotland anyone really in favour of the Bill who thoroughly understood it, and while in the north there is a desire for the Bill, yet I do not think that they believe that it will do them so much good. The fact that the Bill is not brought in by the Government means either that the Government have lost faith in the Bill, or else that they are prepared to accept Amendments.
I do sincerely hope that the reason why the Bill is being brought in by a private Member, is because they are prepared to 1390 listen to reasonable suggestion and reasonable Amendments. The Prime Minister, in his speech at Eariston, gave us to understand that he did realise that there were rather some difficulties as to different districts, and that different methods might be required. As to the letter which has been referred to as having been written by the Chief Whip, I think it is a pity that he did not write it as it would have been helpful if he had done so. I am certain that he realises that if we are to get good land legislation in Scotland, it must be by consent and agreement between both parties. I quite understand where the difficulty comes in. If hon. Members opposite will excuse me for saying so, they have got the Pentland Bill hanging round their necks because they have supported it rather too strongly, while we perhaps have got it equally round our necks because we have opposed it too much. That does not seem to be any really good reason why, in order to ease the burden round our own necks, we should impose it on the people of Scotland. I suggest that it would be possible to obtain improvements out of other Bills that have been before the House, and I think we should see those other Bills and endeavour to bring in a concrete Bill possessing the good points and leaving out the bad points. I should like to examine one or two points in the Bill before us, though I am not going to pretend to criticise the Bill right through. By it you mean first of all to extend to the whole of Scotland, that part of the Kingdom which has the highest class of farming that has ever been seen in the world, the provisions of the Crofters Act, which is well known to be about the worst class of agriculture in the world. You want to bring that down to the South of Scotland. I challenge any hon. Member to say that the crofting system of agriculture is the best, system in Scotland, or that it is really a good agricultural system at all. There is no one can possibly say that.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I asked if it was a good system. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is an extremely bad system. So far as I can see, there is to be no regulation providing for good and proper cultivation of the croft. I think you would require to be a little more stringent in the small holdings which you are going to create. Incidentally, though I do not want to deal with the landlord's 1391 point of view, I think it works rather hardly when you are going to have fixity of tenure for the small holder up to £50 rent or of a fifty-acre farm. The tenant may cultivate it as he chooses. He might, for instance, try and grow raspberries, and when he goes out, the landlord is to be forced to take over the whole of the so-called improvements, and probably pay for every single raspberry, because the tenant has found that he cannot make it pay. The landlord has to take the chance of getting another tenant. I do not think that that is quite fair, and I think we had better improve the Bill a little bit on that point Of course, a good deal of interest is taken in the Bill by a certain type of individual, as is manifest from the number and size of the salaries proposed. The Bill is far more likely to benefit lawyers in Scotland than to benefit agriculturists. It puts over agricultural interests to Commissioners, and they are probably politically appointed. They need not know anything at all about agriculture; they are responsible to the Secretary of State in a sense, but they are very independent, and there is no appeal from their decision. It may be that a solicitor may be in charge, and a man of little experience, who will give us some decision on a point of law, and yet that decision cannot be carried to the Court of Session. I do not think that that is a very sound principle.
Yesterday, in a somewhat illuminating Debate which, I understood, took place here, when hon. Members opposite arranged to abuse the Secretary for Scotland, but not to divide against him, so far as I can make out they found fault with him the whole afternoon, exactly like they did on a similar occasion last year, and then they voted for the Government. They are always trying to prove, especially those in favour of Home Rule, that the hands of the Secretary for Scotland are so full that he cannot do anything else, and yet you are going to put the whole of the agriculture of Scotland into the hands of the Secretary for Scotland. You were saying yesterday that he is perfectly incapable of carrying out even the business which he is supposed to carry out at the present moment. Surely a measure of this sort ought to be under some agricultural body, and not under the Secretary for Scotland. If you had it under a branch of the Chamber of Agriculture in Scotland, you could have it then under someone who, if not an expert himself, has 1392 expert people and people accustomed to dealing with agricultural subjects. I just want to ask the hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill, does he think that the Secretary for Scotland, the present Secretary for Scotland, is absolutely the best man to deal with agricultural questions in Scotland. Everybody knows he is not, and that he does not know anything about it, and yet here we have the whole question of agriculture in Scotland put into the hands of a Minister who knows nothing about it.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
It is put into the hands of a Board, and not into the hands of the Secretary for Scotland or anybody else.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
If it is not to be under the Secretary for Scotland, but under the control of the Board, will it be in the hands of people who are not versed in agriculture? If so, it will be no better in. the hands of a Minister of Agriculture or a Board of Agriculture, unless they have had experience in dealing with agriculture. I do not want to be offensive to the Secretary for Scotland or to hon. Members, but. I think we ought to have the control of experts, that it should be in proper hands, and not simply under the control of the Secretary for Scotland or of a gentleman who is appointed for perfectly different reasons. The actual effect of the Bill will mean that not one small holder in Scotland will be left under the landlord. I take myself. I am not going to be such an idiot as to make small holdings, if the moment I make them they are going to be taken away and handed over to a Board, and the whole control taken away from me. That has already been the effect since this Bill was started; it has stopped the making of small holders. We will not go on making small holdings because we know that if we do they will be taken away from us.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
That is a reason for the Bill, but I will give you a case in point which will show that it is a great hardship. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Kincardineshire (Captain Murray), who said they wanted to do something in cases where landlords were not playing the game. But there are some who are playing the game, and I think it is a great mistake to bring in this Bill against landlords who are playing the game. And you are doing that by putting every small holding under the Bill. All descrip- 1393 tions of landlords will come under the provisions of the Bill, those who have played the game and kept small holdings, as well as those who have not. I will give a case of a glen where there is running up on one side the property of one landlord who is playing the game and losing money by it and keeping small holdings going. And on the other side there is another landlord who has not any small holdings, and right up the glen he is keeping it as a sheep farm. Now I ask which is the better land-lord of the two. I say the man who is trying to keep the people on the land, and who has these small holdings. But under the Bill he is going to lose control of these small holdings, which he may have had under him for hundreds of years, while on the other Side the man will go scot free. That is the sort of landlord I want to get at, not the landlord who has small holdings at present.
In a great many small holdings at present existing a good deal has to be done for them. We take a great deal of trouble in managing them. You say that if you start the small holdings now you will be able to do something in levelling prices, but the fact is that it is not the landlords who are keeping the rents up, and I believe they are less by 23 per cent. than they were. It is not the great difficulty of getting farms, but the difficulty of getting small holders to take them. One other point I woud like to refer to 'is that the money is perfectly inadequate under this Bill. That is not a matter which is under the control of the hon. Member, but as it stands there is only sufficient money to make two or three small holdings in one county in each year. Which are going to be the favoured counties? If the small counties cannot come in I should object to the Bill. Is Aberdeenshire going to be the favoured county, and is it going to get ten or twelve or up to twenty or thirty of these holders, and is Berwickshire not going to have any. We want to see what the system is going to be, and whether they are going to be in groups, or to serve all parts of the country. I would like to know how it is going to be done. There was another point which I think you will have to be very careful about. You are going to take all these small holders as they exist at present and put them under the Bill and the landlord is to take no further interest in the matter and he is to do nothing to help them. At present, under the law as it exists, he does help them, but as I understand the Bill the man will pay a fixed rent, and he will not 1394 be helped in any way. The landlord will just have as much interest as the Duke of Westminster has in his leases in London. I do not want to mention names, but I just want to bring out the fact that the leaseholders may come and go, and if they do not pay they can clear out. At present we do help in repairs, but under the Bill the man will get no help in repairs, he will have exactly the same rent to pay and will have to make his own repairs. which at present the landlord makes. I do not say how this is going to help the small holder. We also in some cases make arrangements that he may have an extended outrun, or something of that sort, which is a long way beyond the proper ground of the small holder. That is the kind of arrangement that we will not make in future. I do not see, again, how that is going to help him. Then, again, on the question of rates. I do think it will be a very great pity if you are going to bring this crofter system of not paying rates down from the crofters' districts into the rest of Scotland. It is all very well hon. Members opposite talking about small holdings, especially the city Members and town Members who do not know anything about small holdings, and whose constituents know nothing about them, telling them from their motor-cars that the small holders are not to pay rates. But they forget to tell them that, if that be so, the small shop-keepers and different people in the district will have to pay a higher rate in consequence. But, even apart from that question whether they will have to pay more or less, I think it is perfectly wrong that any citizen should not take his proper responsibility for paying rates. I think that has done more harm to the crofter character than anything else, this freedom to a great extent from paying rates. They have no control, and they do not mind the rates going up. It would be far better for them if they had to pay their proper due to the court, even if they had to pay less as the fair rent. I think it is only fair and right, and in that I quite agree with hon. Members opposite, to acknowledge that in some of the crofter districts these men have a certain right to the ground. I am not going into the historical aspect, but they have made improvements and erected buildings, and I think it is only reasonable that a man of that sort, even though he has only a yearly tenancy, should grumble if he is turned out. But in the rest of Scotland the improvements have been done by the landlords. They 1395 have made the whole of the improvements themselves. There are parts of Scotland, perhaps, where the landlords have been so foolish, selfish, or grasping as not to make the improvements, and have left the tenants to do it, and I think where the tenant has made all the improvements he should by all means have some fixity of tenure, but where the landlord has made the improvements it is only fair and right he should have a certain amount of control in the matter, but you are taking that away at the present.
It is very difficult to draft any Amendments to the present Bill, but I am perfectly certain that where there is a will there is a way, and that if we work together we shall be able to do something, but it is rather like grafting the carnation upon a thistle, and I think the parent stock will not be very receptive, probably, to any improvements we may have to make. I think that it will be necessary mainly to keep the whole of the party question on the outside, and try to come to some agreement so as to get something which will be of some use to the people of our land. I think hon. Members opposite ought to be ready to accept Amendments on certain broad lines. One is, I will not say really a different Bill actually for the North and South of Scotland, but there are certain portions of Scotland which differ from other portions, and one Bill cannot properly deal with the question. I think you need alternative measures in this Bill, so that it can be applied to different parts of Scotland, because if it is put to some portions I am perfectly certain it will come to grief. You ought to he ready to readjust the system of rating—but I will not go into that—certainly the system of the rating of land is throttling industry.
There is another aspect of the Bill that I should like to mention. Are you quite certain that if the Bill is passed, and even if it is a successful Bill, that it is going to make the enormous difference in the census which you really think it is going to make I am not at all certain that if it works you will get so many hundreds and thousands of people back to the land as you expect. It is not the land a man wants, it is work. What we want to day is to try and get more industries in the North. I do not think you will find these fifty-acre plots will do nearly so much as good workmen's houses, and a small outrun, so that the workmen may keep a cow, 1396 with certain facilities for wintering his livestock. Where the population is going to is not so much where there is land, but where there is work. We need industries, afforestation, and so on, which I am perfectly certain we shall hear something of in a moment. The census returns, of course, we knew would be referred to today. We have also got a mild amount of landlords' sport, and so on, which I do not believe the hon. Gentleman really meant. If he did I would like to give him a few points in regard to it. Take the matter of deer forests. There are deer forests "and" deer forests in our country. Take the old-established deer forest in the highest altitude. That is probably the only purpose to which the land can be put, and it keeps a certain number of people in the district. Where there are deer forests, the land of which can be put to better purpose, why not get those concerned to put it to a better purpose? Every Member on this side of the House will help you. But in general people must not run away with the idea that the people of this century are going to live in many parts of Scotland with the attractions of Canada and foreign countries thrown out to them. You could not keep fifty people on the land in some of these places. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is worth a trial."] Worth a trial certainly in the best cases. Try it by degrees, in the little places first, but do not put the whole of Scotland under the heel of this Bill until you are quite certain that it is going to work.
Let me come to the next point. Hon Members have spoken about the thousands and millions of acres of deer forest land which are suitable or capable of use for small holdings. If they will look over the Deer Forest Commission's Report of 1892, what will they find? I am not talking now of Aberdeenshire and some other part. They will find that in the whole of this land these vast millions of acres of deer forest land, only 2,482 acres of arable land are announced as suitable for cultivation. Where are all these square miles? They are grazing land, and I am certain that those concerned did not put the area suitable on the under side; they would put it as high as they possibly could.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I quite understand the hon. Gentleman. He is trying to take me off on a question of grazing, but I am talking of arable land. 1397 Every holding, I think, must have a certain amount of arable land. Taking twenty acres for each of these self-contained holdings, that will give you 124 crofters. There were 69,000 acres said to be available in the survey of Glenmorn, but only 900 acres were apparently suitable for cultivation and for the planting of forty-five families. You ought to be very careful in making small holdings in the Highlands that you are not going to fix a schedule the same as this which will not allow for variations. Then the small holdings have not kept the people in the crofter districts, so that I cannot quite see why they should particularly keep them in the future. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kincardineshire anticipated the answer to a question which I put to the Lord Advocate the other day. He gave me an answer. The Lord Advocate was more cautious. There is no doubt all that the greatest emigration there has been from Scotland, according to the present Census returns, has been not from those districts where there are not many small holdings. The greatest has been where there have been small holdings, and not from the southern districts where there are fewer small holdings.
I am not for one moment going to put that down to the small holdings simply. There is another reason. In the far north, in the Highlands, the people are not going to stay whether there are small holdings or not. The hon. Member for Kincardineshire said that Aberdeenshire Was an exception. Here they wanted small holdings so as to keep the fishermen. It was absolutely necessary, that was his argument, that they should have small holdings in Aberdeenshire. But the fishermen have got small holdings! He cannot have the argument both ways. As a matter of fact, if you take the north and west of the division, and Argyleshire, which are the crofting counties, you will find that something like 10,852 emigrants are left. That is eliminating all towns over 20,000 population. That shows you that it is really the agricultural population that has gone out of the crofting areas. If you look at the rest of Scotland, eliminating all towns over 20,000 inhabitants, you will find that every agricultural district in Scotland has actually decreased in population, and so you cannot say that it is because of the small holding difficulty that the population are leaving. There are others reasons which I need not touch 1398 upon, and the last upon which I desire to say a few words is tins: I asked the Secretary for the Colonies the other day a question to which he was most careful not to give me an answer. I think he understood what I meant when I asked him something about the Canadian emigration agents; I expected I might not get a satisfactory answer when I asked why are people going to Canada and other Colonies. The reason why the people are leaving is not because they cannot get small holdings, but for other reasons. When they are children in the schools they are shown the grapes growing by the emigration agents, and by some people who profess to be great Imperialists; they hear glowing accounts of the Colonies. A child is brought up in these conditions, and when it goes home to poor living and hard work it contrasts these conditions with the picture of the land of growing grapes, and ploughs with twenty horses, and so forth. These districts in Scotland are full of paid emigration agents of some sort.
Not being able to get an answer or the necessary information from the Secretary for the Colonies, who practically knew nothing about it, I took other steps. I am not objecting to emigration to Canada, in any sense, but I say you must not put down the great exodus from Scotland to the action of the landlords only when it is clue to many other causes. The Secretary for the Colonies gave me, I think, about six agents in the whole of Britain. These were the official agents—the unofficial ones might do what they liked. I think an enormous amount of harm is done by having people of that class spread all over the country. There is lots of good land in the country, and there is lots of work for people which is not touched at all at the present time. I have here a telegram from a country town in Scotland, which says:—There are two emigration agents here, they are political opponents of mine, and I would he about the last person to apply to for information Mr. Provost A. is the main one and he seems to arrange periodical lectures on Canada by various representatives of that country. Ex-Provost B. is also an emigration agent and there are shipping agents—I believe a gentleman who had a lot to do with the Small Holdings Bill, and is also interested in a scheme for taking people out to Canada. At the same timeIt is reported that A. gets from the Canadian Government a bonus of £1 per head for all agricultural labourers (whoever may come under that description), and that he gets from the Shipping Companies a commission on each ticket of anything from 10s. to £1. I understand about 130 people leave here for Canada next month, and as about one hundred are booked through "A" he appears to be making a nice thing out 1399 of it. I think it likely that domestic servants, and all who intend to take up work upon the land will come within the description of agricultural labourers, and almost everyone from here goes out with these intentions. I presume your Lordship knows that the emigration agent's business is jocularly referred to as the 'slave trade.It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite and those Liberal agents to get up and say they are in favour of small holdings and of the people settling upon the land when they are doing everything in their power to help them out of the country. Personally I would be prepared to do anything to come to an agreement with hon. Gentlemen upon this subject, so anxious am I to have the lot of the people improved. We have families living for hundreds of years upon our property, and any legislation, fair alike to the landlords and the tenants, which will help the agriculturist and stop this drain of emigration, will, I can assure hon. Gentlemen, have my fullest sympathy and support.
§ Mr. FALCONER
I desire to confine the observations which I wish to make to the practical side of this question, which, after all, is much the biggest to my mind. I agree that what we have to face is the continued process of depopulation which is going on. No doubt the people are going largely to the Colonies, and no doubt they are largely stimulated by the accounts and the advertisements circulated by the agency referred to by the Noble Lord. I do not underestimate that competition, but at the same time if we had a measure which would adequately provide means whereby these people should cultivate the land at home, they would do so. In this country you can carry on the general business of agriculture on terms more favourable than in any other country in the world. In Scotland you have throughout various parts of the country an excellent soil, and for agricultural purposes, although we do not recognise it, the best climate in the world. I have discussed that with people who made it their business to study agriculture in Canada, Australia, and Denmark, and I have discussed it with Scotch farmers who came to live with a certain amount of success in England, and I find unanimity; and for this reason, that, owing to the variety of the climate, you have a succession of sunshine and of rain which, taken all the year round, is the best for the crops—both the grain crop and the root crop and for the purposes of producing grain and cattle. I am certain the Member for Bute would agree with me that probably in no part of the world 1400 could you cultivate land more favourably than in the garden in which he lives. That being so, you have also another great advantage. The object of agriculture is not only to raise the products of the soil, but it is very important that you should have your farm near the market, and there is nowhere in the world where you can find better markets for your produce than in Scotland. People in Canada and Australia are often thousands of miles away from the markets where they wish to sell.
With these conditions in our favour, if the people could only get the land on terms such as they are able to pay, and on conditions which are suitable, I do not hesitate to say that if the House will solve the question in the right way, we shall see people who are now going to Canada and Australia, where the conditions from the social point of view are very little attractive, remaining in Scotland, where most of them desire to remain, and where they shall be of greater advantage to the country and to the Empire. I agree with the hon. Member who said that it is from that class largely spring the people who make Scotland, and that almost every successful large farmer is a man whose father or grandfather was a small landholder. It is not only the case in farming, but you will find that not the least enterprising Scotsmen are those who come from these small holdings. There is a very good reason for this. There is no training which so well fits a man to take his part in life as the training which he gets upon a small holding. I was brought up myself on a large farm surrounded by small holdings, and I say that if you take one of these cases where the farm is cultivated by a small holder, with the assistance of his wife and family, the children there from their earliest years take part in all the operations with pleasure and not as a task, and the result is that when a boy leaves school at fourteen years of age, not only has he got the ordinary schooling, but he has been trained to do everything required on a farm, and he is able to plough, sow, and handle the cattle, and he has a practical turn about him which fits him for any position to which he may have to go in after-life.
More than that, he is taught in this way the habit of industry, the most difficult thing workmen find to teach their children, because they have no opportunity of training them in industry. When they leave school they have learned everything except learning to work, but 1401 on small holdings they are taught habits of industry, prudence, and thrift, under physical conditions which produce the best class of men. They are brought up under the eye of their parents and neighbours, and under the best conditions to give them the greatest moral strength. There is no mystery about them. Anyone who knows these homes and the conditions under which these people are brought up must know that there is nowhere to be found a better breeding ground than these small holdings for the right kind of strong and healthy men and women. I should like this point to be thoroughly understood, because it has been brought into question time and again, generally by those who have not seen how small holdings work. The small holder is able to live and thrive and pay a higher rent than the big farmer. The reason he can do this is, in the first place, he has no labour bill to pay. He works the holding himself, with the assistance of his wife and children. That is an enormous advantage, because when bad times come he does not have to pay out the same big labour bill as the large farmer. That is the case in our district, and I think it is generally true. While the rents of large farms have been falling from 30 to 35 per cent., it is a fact that the rents of small holdings have not fallen a single point during all the bad times we have been experiencing. You will find on each of these small holdings almost as much of the smaller produce as you will find upon any of the big farms in the neighbourhood. Generally there are more fowls produced on a fifty-acre farm than upon a 500-acre farm, more pigs, and a greater proportion of dairy work and vegetables. All these things may appear to be small, but they mean a great deal. They mean that as a result of the system of small holdings you will get more out of the land than you will under the large holdings. In that respect my experience differs from that of the hon. Member for Bute.
I want to say a word or two with regard to the particular machinery adopted. I am not going to discuss the various suggestions which have been made, and I hope there will be an opportunity for discussing them upstairs before the Grand Committee. I desire merely to express my opinion, after careful and earnest study of the problem and a careful consideration of this measure, that by giving security of tenure at a fair rent fixed by some impartial tribunal you can secure your object and keep the people on the soil and 1402 produce people who will be of infinitive value to the country. I do not think that there is any difference in regard to the conditions in the Lowlands as compared with the Highlands except that they are better in the Lowlands in regard to the security of tenure in the small holdings than in the Highlands. What has done so much good in the Highlands in keeping the people on the crofts should be equally beneficial in the Lowlands where they will labour under better conditions, where they are nearer the market, and where there is a better climate.
If your object is to keep the people on the land I think the right way to go about it is on the lines of this measure, by giving tenants security of tenure on a small holding and then going on to a bigger one and carrying out what has been the history of agriculture in the Lowlands of Scotland under voluntary conditions. This question of buildings in the past has stopped progress, and if the Government will provide adequate funds for dealing with the question of buildings I see no possible harm that will occur to the landlord. I believe they will all be benefited by giving the tenants security of tenure so as to enable the scheme for providing the money to be carried out. I sympathise greatly with the question raised by the Noble Marquess as to the position of the Government upon this Bill. It is their Bill, and they cannot get rid of it, for they are responsible for it. I do not think the Government has any desire to get rid of the responsibility for it, and I should like to see them take possession of it. There is not a single promoter of this Bill who would not be glad to see the Government take it up, and to ensure its passage in the course of the present Session. With some of the suggestions which have been made I quite agree, although there are some which are quite inconsistent with the scheme of this Bill. Some of the suggestions I would like to see undertaken, but I will not deal with them now.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
The debt which the House owes to the hon. Member for Peebles for giving us an opportunity to discuss the Small Landholders Bill has not yet been acknowledged, but the tone of the discussion to-clay must amply recompense him for the trouble he has taken in bringing forward this measure. At all times the hon. Member has been ready to meet the views of those who disagree with him and who disapprove of some of the essential provisions of this Bill. The tone 1403 which has been taken up during this discussion is not a little due to the manner in which the whole subject has been handled by the hon. Member. I was glad to hear from the other side of the House that there is no intention of taking a division upon this Bill. I think it is far better to allow this measure to go to the Committee without a division. It was suggested that a number of other Bills should go to the same Committee, but I think those of us who went through the Committee stage of this one Bill upon the last occasion had about enough of that procedure.
I will give some hard facts which my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate will perhaps take into consideration if the Bill comes into Committee. In the exchange of views with my hon. Friends, I have never concealed the fact that we must agree to differ as to the proposal to extend the Crofter Acts to the rest of Scotland. That is a proposal which has never commended itself to my judgment, and never will. It entails a transfer of owners' capital to the extent of about £100,000,000 to those individuals who happen to be in occupation, or relegates it to the discretion of a Land Court, which assumes no responsibility for the security of that investment. The Bill renders the owner liable to pay compensation for outlays over which he has no control, made by a tenant who is free to change the form of cultivation for which his holding has been equipped, and who can either give twelve months' notice to quit or nominate a successor in his tenancy. I regard this proposal as a serious error in policy, not merely in point of equity, but because it must entail a great withdrawal of capital from agriculture. It is improbable that a sufficient supply of capital will find its way into agriculture if security for owners' investment cease. To my mind, what is required is to attract capital to agriculture, and I do not believe State aid will ever adequately replace freely invested capital. I also object to the Bill- because, after doing away with the management of the private owner, it does not replace it by responsible management on the part of the State. The Bill puts its faith in the self-interest of the occupier, for which there is no adequate incentive, and it is founded on two fallacies—first, that small holdings can only be created on a basis of inevitable loss; and, secondly, that administrative responsibility is superfluous.
1404 I do not believe those who are not engaged in agriculture really appreciate how the Bill would work, and I would just like, to give four typical instances from my own experience. Two of them are cases of small holdings in Fife I made last year. One of them was created by taking twelve acres off the outskirts of a large farm worked by a man with his own buildings. The only equipment belonging to me was the walls and the drains that happened to be in the land. There was no economic difficulty about extending the Crofter Act to a case of that kind. In the other case, as part of an estate policy intended to meet the increasing demand for milk, which entails costly equipment, and in order to house cows under healthier conditions I transferred the occupier of a byre in Kirkcaldy to a. range of old bleach works, making them into byres, piggeries, stables, fowl and milk-houses, with dwelling-houses. The old bleaching green of seven acres is the outrun, and I intend to add more land. The value of the fixtures is about £2,000. Now that capital would be transferred from the owner who invests to the occupier before the ink upon the agreement is dry. Yet the circumstances of the case do not differ from those of an ordinary town holding, and those who are familiar with urban conditions will realise what the effect would be if a land court could go to a builder, who has just put up his self-contained houses and tenements, and find tenants for him, free to make alterations upon his buildings, and to charge him with compensation on his outgoing if he had not already fled the country. My other two examples are from Ross-shire. Six months before the Crofter Act was passed, I formed a small holding out of land in my own occupation, and I gave it to a dyker in my employment. I gave him £70 in cash and material for equipment. Of course, in the natural order of things, one of his sons succeeded him. He neglected the holding, and finally went to Canada, and in his absence the croft went into weeds and the posts in the fence were utilised for domestic fuel. I called in the Crofter Commission, ejection being my only remedy. He was admonished, and made to pay up a certain portion of the arrears, but he was allowed to continue to wreak his will on my property, and his holding is a disgrace to the locality. Again, as regards population, there was a considerable number of small holdings in the district equipped by me. I spent sixteen or seventeen years' purchase on them. If I 1405 had put those tenants under the Crofter Act I do not believe half of them would be there now.
I suggest the owner should be treated rather as an ally than as, one who is unfit to be trusted, but you cannot treat him as an ally unless he can enter into an ordinary business contract. It may be sound theory that a semi-judicial court can be relied upon under all circumstances, but there have been questionable appointments made at times, even in Scotland, and the Bill makes no provision to realise its good intentions, nor is any provision being made to supply the deficiency of £2,000,000 a year which would be created by the owners ceasing to spend on farms. I gave an example of a farm where £2,000 had been spent, but in a large farm the equipment comes to somewhere nearer £10,000, and, if land can be selected under the provisions of the Bill from a large farm, no owner will spend a farthing more upon equipment than he can help. He would have no reasonable security for doing so. I am quite certain all our objects could he obtained without discouraging investments and deteriorating agriculture, but to do this we must first deal with the Parliamentary deadlock here. I think that has dealt with itself. The discussion to-day shows the nightmare of separation is a thing of the past, and we do intend to co-operate in trying to provide against depopulation in Scotland. Scotland has certainly made up her mind she must try to bring back the people to the land. The Prime Minister at Earlston made a statement which has been referred to. The Lord Chancellor made another, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. (Master of Elibank) made a somewhat more pregnant communication to his Chairman. A statement from the Lord Advocate is overdue. I cannot recollect his having been very free with his decided statements, but perhaps he has been reserving himself for today. The Government can end the deadlock by frankly affirming its intention to make good the deficiencies, and to provide safeguards against dangers latent in the Bill. The Government cannot rely entirely on Amendments being proposed from outside. It ought to take a hand in the Amendments of this Bill. There are one or two changes which I consider vital. There must be a popularly constituted Board of Agriculture under a responsible Minister with a seat in this House. Without that these proposals will but add 1406 another wheel to the clogged machinery of Dover House. You must have a properly equipped Board of Agriculture to deal with agriculture, horticulture, and sylviculture, so that it can take a comprehensive view of the whole agricultural question. You get a better social asset by putting a farm servant on a small holding, but it will not add materially to the number of the population. Horticulture and sylviculture must have their proper land and tenure. The Board of Agriculture must review the whole subject and be free to take land by purchase by feu, by lease or any other condition it pleases at any time for any kind of holding. It is in that way alone that adequate provision can be made to deal with the whole of the land question and that the lack of equilibrium, to which the hon. Member for Kincardineshire referred, between the urban and the rural population can be redressed.
I think it will be admitted that there could be no subject of greater importance than the one which we are discussing, and I think that it will be admitted further by those who have listened to this Debate, that the general considerations alluded to—I will not say developed—in this Debate are those of a far-reaching character. In these circumstances I honestly regret the, conditions under which the Government have thought fit to promote the Second Reading of this Bill. Here we are two days after the Motion for the holidays with a House, which is perhaps full, considering the circumstances, but certainly is not full considering the importance of the question. We are in a position in which a Government who yesterday appealed to the Opposition to help them to get through their business, are now producing a new Bill, and a difficult Bill, under the ægis of a private Member, and at the same time they are informing the persons who interest themselves in Woman Suffrage that they cannot have any time, and are telling those who interest themselves in the Insurance Bill that the time for that must be necessarily of a limited character. I do not think that is the manner to manage Parliamentary business. I will endeavour to mould my speech this afternoon in accordance with the necessities which the Government have themselves imposed upon me, and I will endeavour fairly to divide the time between this and five o'clock between myself and the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who I understand is to speak on behalf of the Government. A 1407 large part of the speeches we have heard this afternoon have endeavoured to rest this Bill on the question of depopulation. I am quite sure the House is on the wrong track when they deal with the question from that point of view, for this reason among others. The diminution of the population and the diminution of the birth rate are two phenomena closely intertwined and no doubt of the most profound social importance, but the idea that you can isolate the cause of that depopulation and the cause of that diminished birth rate in the manner suggested by some hon. Members who have spoken to-day seems to me to be wholly illusory. I want, as everybody wants, to make the population which can he comfortably supported on the land as large as it can be made, but I do not believe that if this is to be a progressive country we can maintain the ratio between the urban and the rural population at the same level. That is wholly impossible. Granted that all the dreams—I will not say dreams—but that all the ideas suggested by the hon. Member who has just sat down, can be carried out, granted that we can do a great deal by forestry in one part of Scotland and market gardening in another part—by intensive cultivation here and forestry there—to increase the amount of employment on the land; grant all that to the utmost you like, but if we are to be a progressive nation, if we are to find a livelihood for the population that is growing at the old rate, it must obviously be a manufacturing population. It cannot be a land population for physical reasons. When you have got to the end of your forestry, when you have planted all the trees that ought to be planted, and when you have established all the market gardens in every part of the country that will support them, you have come to the end of your possible development of agriculture. For the rest one of two things must happen. Your development must be an urban development or a development in the country of manufacturers. It is vain to suppose that we can or ought to aim at for ever maintaining the ratio between the industrial population and the agricultural population at the same level. Do not aim at that equilibrium which seems to be contrary to the fundamental laws of nature and of industry. I leave these broad considerations, and ask whether or not the existing system of land tenure is responsible for the diminution of the agricultural population. I confess I am met with the plain and 1408 obvious facts of experience as well as the plain and obvious facts of à priori reasoning, which wholly contradict that supposition. The hon. Member for Forfar (Mr. Falconer), who made an interesting and perfectly sincere speech in defence of the Bill, appears to think that it is simply or mainly the system of land tenure which has diminished the population of Scotland. I have looked at the statistics applying to his own county, which show that the diminution is in the towns and burghs and not in the rural districts. That is a calculation I have made, and I believe I am right.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman the latest statistics with regard to Forfar? Of the parishes in the county seventeen show an increase and thirty-six show a decrease; of the nine burghs in the county, four show an increase and five a decrease.
If the hon. Gentleman will look through the figures I think he will find that my statement is not inaccurate, but let us go a little further, let us take the case of Orkney; I looked down the Parliamentary Return, and I see that it has the largest diminution in Scotland. Is that due to the land system?
§ Mr. FALCONER
May I correct the right hon. Gentleman in regard to Forfar. The Parliamentary Report of the twelfth Census says:—The burghal population of the county amounts to 239,206, and is 807 or 0.4 per cent. less than in 1901. The extra-burghal population is found to be 42,213, which is 1805 or 4.1 less than in 1901.
I will not dispute the figures, but I think if the hon. Gentleman looks at them he will see that the largest decrease has been in the boroughs. I only gave that illustration, and worked out the figures steadily, or rather my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Scott has worked out the figures. The largest diminution of all in Scotland has been in the case of Orkney. Is that due to the land system of Orkney? Is it due to the absence of small holders in Orkney or to deer forests in Orkney? There are no deer forests in Orkney; the people are practically all small holders in that district. It is not worthy of this House to indulge in this sort of generalisations when considering what the real truth of the matter is. I go much further than that, and I say that the retention of the population on the land is not measured by the goodness of the land system in a country. The greatest accumulations of rural popula- 1409 tion that we have known have been under the system of Ireland, which by universal admission was the worst system which the whole of European experience can show. Yet you had a great increase of population in Ireland under that system. There is no parallel to the increase of some of the crofting populations in Scotland before the Crofters Act, and in certain places the increase was carried to a point absolutely inconsistent with the comfort, the decency, and the well-being of the population there. Nobody can contend that the system in Ireland and the system in the crofting counties in old times was otherwise than radically and essentially a bad system. Do not, therefore, be so reckless as to suppose that you can measure even approximately the excellence or the badness of a land system by the mere aggregation of population in the countries affected. We have actually contemporaneously the case of Orkney staring us in the face, and we have it almost within the memory of men now living, quite within the memory of men now living, that under the worst known land system, the population increased far beyond the power of the country to support it, both in Ireland and in the north of Scotland. We are told here that the crofting system is so admirable in its results in the areas to which it is applied that we ought to extend it. I think the hon. Member for Forfar said that he had listened to the whole of the Debate without hearing one argument indicating the excellent results which had followed from the establishment of crofting, and that the system might be established outside the present area and in every parish of the crofting counties.
§ Mr. FALCONER
My point was that the crofting tenure had retained in the Highlands people who had the crofts, but that the Crofters Act makes no provision for finding new crofts.
§ 4.0 P.M.
The broad fact remains that where you have established this exceptional tenure there you have had the greatest emigration. Mark you, a great deal of the mass of the emigration from the crofting area has probably been due to raising the standard of comfort of the population. I do most earnestly wish that hon. Gentlemen would look at these things in the dry light of facts. You cannot expect, you ought not to expect, and you ought not to desire to see a population remain where that population, from the 1410 nature of the soil and the climate, cannot keep up the standard, even the improving standard, which we desire to see established, and which is being established in other parts of the land both urban and rural. Where the climatic conditions make it impossible to maintain that standard, there you have emigration, and you ought to have emigration. We are not honest to ourselves and to those concerned unless we admit that. The argument applies only to relatively a very small part of Scotland in point of value but not of area. But for that small part do let us try and look at the facts directly as they are, and not through some sentimental mists of prejudice which are absolutely injurious, and chiefly injurious to the population whose condition we desire to raise. We are apt in this House in different debates, and at different times, to run quite inconsistent ideas. Look at the point with regard to Canada and emigration, and the export of capital. We have a debate; it may be on some fiscal or some other question, and the Government say—" How splendid to send British capital abroad. It develops the Colonies and foreign countries, and by developing them increases British trade," and so on. But you cannot send British capital to Canada, you cannot develop Canada, as Canada is being developed, without exporting something besides capital. In addition to capital you have to export men, and then when men are exported, when they seek the country which you are fertilising with your capital, you say, "What a monstrous system, our men are going to work in fields fertilised by our capital." You cannot run these two ideals in watertight compartments. You have a Debate on education, and people will say that it is most important that women should live at home and should be domesticated, that the breadwinner should be the man, the children remaining at school till they are fifteen or seventeen years of age, or whatever their age may be. You finish your Debate on education, and you turn to consider small holdings. Then you have people like the hon. Member for Forfar—who traced a vivid picture, with many of the details of which I sympathise—who say that these people flourish admirably. The wife works, and the children work, and they carry on in co-operation the great labours incident in every part of the world to small ownership, producing a most admirable and self-relying breed of men. But do not let us forget one Debate when engaging in another, nor be inconsistent 1411 when dealing with two separate aspects of great social problems which lie before us. I venture to think I shall have a majority of the House with me when I say that on the whole probably the best system that we can have adopted in Scotland, or indeed in England, for that matter, is not an exclusive system of any kind. I think most of those who have studied the question would desire to see a great increase in small occupiers, an increase which I think can only be successful under a system of ownership. But no one in his senses, no one speaking with knowledge and responsibility desires to exclude either the advantage which may be gained from the ownership of land by persons with adequate means for supplying capital or large tenant farmers and medium tenant farmers. You want a mixed system. What are you doing by this Bill? Under the guise of establishing what we all desire to establish, a large number of small owners, you are really dealing a very serious blow at two other most important elements in the agricultural life of the country. You are dealing a blow at the big farmer, because you are making the whole tenure of his farm a doubtful one, and you are dealing a most serious blow at the expenditure of capital by the landlord, because, in the first place, you are taking away from him the control of a good deal of capital which he has already expended, and you are making it very doubtful whether he can wisely expend any more upon farms which may be destroyed by the operation of this Bill. As far as small holdings are concerned you are deliberately saying, and are apparently proud of saying to him: "All your responsibilities are now going to be removed. You can regard yourself henceforth as a rent charger upon your land. You will have no responsibilities for it, and you will get the rent." I think that is all wrong.
That would be one of the difficulties of small ownership. I do not deny that. But at all events you do not relieve, as this Bill proposes to do, the 1412 ownership of the land of all responsibility for finding capital. On the contrary, the small holder will have to find capital and will be able, I believe, to do it if proper assistance is given to him by credit supported directly or indirectly by the State. What you want to do under the Bill is to say to the owner: "That is your field, but you must not consider you have any responsibility for it. We relieve you of responsibility. You need not spend a shilling upon it," or: "The only money you will have to spend upon it is that of compensating a tenant, or possibly paying money to a tenant who has very likely erected buildings for which it is quite unsuitable." That really cannot be a good way of dealing with an elaborate system of historic growth such as one has to deal with in Scotland. My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment in an admirable speech, did not really exaggerate the advantages which in parts of Scotland have come to all classes of the community from the existing system. He pointed out, and I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been here to listen to it, that under the system prevalent in the Lowlands and other parts of Scotland, at all events, you have a system of insurance against sickness far better, as I understand it, than that proposed by the Government in their own Bill. It has grown up automatically by the custom of the country. You are going to have a storm of indignation in regard to the Insurance Bill, because a man, when he is sick, can be evicted from his lodging or his house. He cannot in the Lowlands of Scotland. You are going to have great indignation, because some days must elapse before he gets sick relief. Under our system a man retains his cottage for the whole of his engagement, be it six months or a year, for nothing, and during the first six weeks of his illness if he is not able to do a stroke of work he gets full wages. That is as far as the labourer is concerned. As far as the farmer is concerned he has been able to draw upon the landlord for the expenditure of capital to an extent unequalled in any other part of the world.
It is absurd to say that is a system which has so grossly failed that you ought to substitute for it some wholly alien and different system which has never really succeeded in any part of the world where it has been tried, and that is what the Government mean to do. I cannot believe that when they come to consider the whole circumstances of the case they 1413 will not see how almost criminal it is to disturb the system in the way they propose, and really to substitute no other for it, because, observe, you only provide for establishing on the average two or three holdings a year in each county in Scotland, and for that advantage, accompanied as I believe it is by far overbalancing disadvantages, you are going to stop the landlord spending capital, and you are rendering the position of every big tenant insecure. Surely there never was so much given away to get so little. There never was so much insecurity imposed by a system with so little prospective advantage for those whose position it is intended specially to improve. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill (Captain Murray) talked as if the one thing required was to give security against caprice. How much caprice is there in this matter? My Noble Friend (Marquess of Tullibardine), in his magnificent speech a few moments ago said that the difficulty was to get people to take small holdings. But can you find cases of caprice in these parts of Scotland? I am the last person to say that you can prove a negative. There may be cases here and there which are capricious, or where it could be plausibly suggested that they are capricious, but I answer that there are uncommonly few cases. It seems to me that to destroy security, as I have shown you will destroy it, where it is wanted, in order to give security where it is not wanted, is the most reckless policy which can well be conceived. But I would suggest, as I have often ventured to suggest before, that all these arguments about security point not to an artificial system of this kind, but to a natural system of small ownership.
If you want security, make a man own his land, and if people will not sell their land, buy it compulsorily, if you think it is wanted, with fair treatment to the owner and the larger occupier, and divide it into suitable farms. But do not impose this crude system you are setting up here, which is, believe me, contradictory to the whole experience of mankind. My hon. Friend the Member for Bute (Mr. Harry Hope) alluded briefly to the great experiments and reforms made on the Continent during the past 100 years, roughly speaking. They have all been in the direction of changing what may be called in the English language a copyhold system into a freehold system. You are going to turn your system into a copyhold system. The 1414 essence of the copyhold system was that the landlord practically had no control over the copyhold, but he had certain rights of extracting dues and money in one shape or another. It was that kind of system which prevailed on the Continent largely, and it was that system which has been swept away by continental legislation. It is that system that we have done everything we can to eliminate from England, and it is that system we are spending millions of money to stop now.
Was there ever a party which at the very same time had an Irish Minister who was perpetually tearing his hair because he could not get money to turn dual owners into freeholders, and a Secretary for Scotland who was tearing his hair because he could not get a Bill passed which was to create in that part of the country where they had never existed the very class which you are trying to turn into freeholders in Ireland? The thing would hardly be believed if we did not have experience of it, and if it was not for the peculiarity to which I have referred before, which is that we forget in the course of one Debate all the principles which we have advocated and fought for in another Debate. Otherwise I do not think that any human being would ask the State to borrow vast sums to make the Irish land tenure a reasonable tenure, and then in parts of the country where undoubtedly admirable results had been produced by the ordinary free system of land tenure would try to establish the artificial system which in one shape or another all continental nations have been struggling with, and from which they are only now gradually freeing themselves. I welcome every sentence that has fallen from any hon. Gentleman on either side of the House pointing in the direction of coming to some arrangement upon this question, so vital to the interests of Scotland, but I do beg of hon. Members to approach the subject as, if I may say so, social experts. I hold no brief for landowners or large tenants or any other class of the community. I can truly say that I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to approach this subject with the single view of, in the light of human experience, establishing a sound system, and improving the existing system so far as it can be improved. But I really cannot think that when hon. Gentlemen look at all these facts, when they compare our system with the continental system, and really read the lessons of Prussia, France, Belgium, Denmark, and Norway, when they add to those 1415 lessons drawn from our continental neighbours, all the lessons of bitter experience which we surely might have learned from our own Irish experience, I cannot believe that they would occupy the time of this House with such proposals.
They would arouse passions in many classes of the community to establish in that part of the country where agriculture has been more successfully pursued than in any other a system which has been discarded by the thinkers of every nation, by the practice of every nation, by the statesmen of every nation, to put in place of the existing system a plan which had its justification, I admit in regard to crofters, and indeed had its temporary justification in Ireland as a transition from the old state of things to the new, but which is surely utterly unfit to be fixed upon the neck of a country which has shown itself more progressive and more capable of advancing the interests of scientific agriculture than any other part of this island, and, I believe, any other part of the world. I cannot believe that that would be their policy, and I do beg of the Government before they commit themselves to some things which are regarded as principles of the Bill to review the whole situation and approach the subject solely from the point of view of increasing the number of small holdings. I venture to add, if possible, the number of small freeholders without injuring any other class of the community, and without striving to lose all that capital in agriculture which is now so freely given by both owners of the land and large tenants, and the absence of which it would be vain to suppose that your Treasury, even if it was as liberal as it is illiberal in this Bill, could ever adequately supplement. I know that we cannot in this condition of the House, at this time, divide against the Bill. A Division is impassible, and very likely would not be desirable, but what is desirable is that, without prejudice, without a desire to injure a class, without obeying prejudices Lased, as I think, upon quite illusory social principles, the Government should approach what must be one of the most important subjects of consideration for any community, the best use of the land on which that community lives.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. Ure)
I look upon the Bill before the House as an old familiar friend and as an old acquaintance. The better I know it the better I 1416 like it; the more I have studied it, the higher is my opinion of it; it grows on closer acquaintance. Hon. Gentlemen opposite differ, no doubt, but I hope to be able to show before I have done that this Bill endeavours in what I believe to be the simplest, and in what I believe myself the only, way to solve the problem, the magnitude of which I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, it is impossible to exaggerate, and the urgency of which no one denies. The origin of the Bill is unimpeachable, its lineage and ancestry are more than respectable, and its history has been remarkable. The House will not forget—and this disposes of much that the right hon. Gentleman said at the outset of his speech—that this Bill first saw the light of day substantially at the end of July, 1906, when it was received with great favour by those for whom it was intended and who are most deeply interested in it. In Scotland during the year 1906 it was explained and expounded in all parts. I took a hand myself in explaining what it was, and I know what was clone. It was re-introduced in the month of March, 1907, we passed the Second Reading by the not insignificant majority of 239; it passed through the Scottish Committee in twenty-three days; it was subjected to the closest and keenest scrutiny and examination, and-after four more days in this House it received its Third Reading and went to another place, and the fate which befell it there I do not dwell upon. In the succeeding autumn the campaign was again reopened and meetings held in all parts of Scotland, and resolutions unanimously passed at those meetings in favour of the Bill. I can recollect no case in which a meeting, hostile to the Bill, was held and a resolution hostile to the Bill passed. It was expounded at great length and in minute detail and, as it so chanced, we had a succession of by-elections in Scotland, and at each one of which it cannot be denied that this Bill was the topic, and Home Rule or Tariff Reform were completely eclipsed in the minds of the Scottish people by the consideration of the land question. After all that, surely it is not fair to say that we now approach an entirely new question, which demands lengthened and elaborate debate in this House. It is really quite singular to consider the unanimity of opinion that prevails as to the main features of this Bill among all those who have closely studied its provisions, because I think much of 1417 what the right hon. Gentleman has just said rests upon an entire misconception of the true meaning and character of the Bill.
Let us see now how far we go. We are all, I suppose, agreed that the use made of the soil of Scotland is not adequate to the capacity of the soil, and we are all agreed that vast quantities of good produce might well be produced there. We are all agreed that there is an ample area of land in Scotland suitable for small farmers. We are all agreed that there is an adequate supply of fit men in Scotland to cultivate these farms, for I am fully in agreement with the hon. Member who maintained, as I maintain, that after all Scotland is still the best part of the world. We all, as I understand, deplore the great steady persistent drainage of those fit men from our countryside to foreign countries, and to our own Dominions beyond the seas, and to our own industrial centres. We all attribute that lamentable result, in varying degrees I admit, to the lack of opportunity presented to fit men to live in their own country. I pause here to say that with much of what the right hon. Gentleman said at the outset of his speech I am in entire agreement. I have never based my advocacy of this Bill upon Census figures or merely upon the depopulation of the rural districts. I think this Bill could be defended even if you found that your rural districts were not suffering from any depopulation. I think he will agree that in so far as emigration to our own Dominions beyond the seas or to congestion in our own industrial centres is due to lack of opportunity to make a living on the land, and I think we are all agreed that it is necessary to find a remedy. The remedy is to plant as many fit men as can be found on as much suitable land as can be found in Scotland. I think I have stated the problem in such a form as will commend itself to all the parties in this House. I wonder how many of my colleagues will agree with me that it is not enough to offer a man the opportunity of earning a bare living on the land if you are going effectually to stem the tide of emigration across the seas or to our industrial centres. That we must go a little further, I am satisfied. There is a natural desire on the part of men not only to get a bare living, but to make a decent profit, and we shall never with complete effect do something towards re-peopling our country-side if we merely hold out the prospect of a bare living on the land. So far we are all agreed. The only questions that remain for considera- 1418 tion are questions which this Bill is designed to solve, and they are: Under what conditions are you prepared to place fit men upon suitable land, and what is the method by which you can achieve this object? This Bill answers these questions in a way which, I think you will agree, if you consider the whole problem and review all the existing conditions, is almost inevitable. It seems to me that there are scarcely two alternatives open to us. At first sight it would be naturally supposed there were two clear and plain alternatives—ownership and tenancy. The Bill decides for tenancy. I think the Bill is right. Before I have done I think the House will have no reason to complain that I have taken any narrow view of the case. I admit that in both systems there are advantages, and in both there are disadvantages.
We have heard of the magic of ownership. What is the magic of ownership? Wherein lies that magic? What are the elements involved in ownership. Ownership, in the first place, involves the right to sell. Does anyone suppose that a man will be encouraged to devote his time and toil, and to expend his money upon the land with the knowledge merely that he has a right to sell? Ownership implies also the right to borrow on the security of the land, or to give it away, or to bequeath it to whom the owner pleases. It is difficult to believe that the knowledge that he has these rights will act as an incentive to a man to put his best toil and his money into the land. What then remains? I say the magic of ownership is found not in possession, but in the sense of security. The man can say, "This is my home; this is the place where I get my living so long as I can pay my way; I can remain where I am, and can devote my toil, energy, and money to my land and increase its value without any fear of that value going to someone else. I can receive the full value for all my toil and expenditure." Therein lies the secret of the magic of ownership. It is in the sense of security; it is not in the sense that a man has a right to sell the land or give it away. In the sense of safety and security the magic of ownership lies. That must be got at all hazards, and it is the conspicuous merit of the Bill that it does that. I do not dwell on the disadvantages of ownership for one moment. A time may come when there are bad seasons, a falling off in the market value of produce, and the small owner finds himself ill embarrassed circumstances. He 1419 must raise money. He cannot borrow without security. He has no security to offer but the land. He borrows on the security of the land, and the time of repayment comes and he is unable to pay, and he gets into the hands of creditors. There is no sorrier spectacle than that of the small owner in the hands of creditors; his security on the land is ended and his security of tenure is gone.
§ Mr. URE
The right. hon. Gentleman is anticipating a little. I have not lost sight of that. The cardinal advantage in tenancy is a sense of security. It is no encouragement to a man to improve his land by the employment of his toil and money if in the end all the increased value goes into another man's pocket.
§ Mr. URE
He knows that if he increases the value of his land that increase will have the effect of raising his rent. It is no encouragement to a man to know that when he had made a home for himself, and has expended his energy on his land and brought up his children there, that he may be at any moment turned out, not by a capricious, arbitrary, and tyrannical landlord—I know none, therefore I never use that argument—but by a man exercising, quite rightly and legitimately, his right of ownership. But surely the hardship to the man who is turned out is the same whether it is done by an owner who really wants his land back, or by a man who wants to put in another tenant—by art owner who is exercising his right in an arbitrary, tyrannical, and capricious manlier. It is apparent that you must cut clean out of this problem the sense of insecurity.
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman quite understood me in the interruption that I made. I wanted to know what happens to the tenant under this Bill who has got fixity of tenure when a succession of bad seasons come to which he has referred.
§ Mr. URE
My answer is that the difficulty to the tenant is infinitely less. The tenant is in the hands, almost always in Scotland, of a good landlord, who is working in partnership with him. I pointed 1420 out the cardinal disadvantage of a tenancy is the sense of insecurity, and that you must at all hazards get rid of that. If I were asked to say in precise, perfectly plain, commonplace language what it is this Bill does, it is this: It puts every tenant in Scotland, the person who is in a small farm, on exactly the same footing as the tenant now stands who has the good fortune to hold land under a good land-lord. If this Bill were the law of the land to-morrow, every landlord in Scotland would enjoy every right which he at present enjoys, and the right to exercise it, except the right of arbitrary eviction; and every tenant in Scotland would be under exactly the same liability as a tenant lies under to-day, except the liability to arbitrary eviction. To my mind, the conspicuous merit of the Bill is this: We have in existence a certain system, to wit, tenancies, a system which the right hon. Gentleman will not deny is still almost universally prevalent in Scotland amongst small farmers—I admit there is a proportion of men who are owners, and I will say a word about them in a moment—but I think it will be generally admitted the prevailing system in Scotland is the tenancy which seems to be in accordance with the sentiments, customs, and habits of our people.
We find no demand for small ownership, but we find a great demand for small holdings. When we find a system which has grown steadily up amongst us is it not a wise thing to accept the system which has taken root in the land and to which the people are accustomed; which the people like and to which they are attached and cut clean out of it the one disadvantage; then leave it as it is, and encourage it. That is precisely the object of this Bill, the very substance of this Bill. It is very cheering to me, who have stood in the fighting line for so long in this campaign to observe the altered tone and temper of this House. If anybody had told me three years, or even three months ago, that there was a likelihood of this Bill receiving a Second Reading without a Division, I should have been lost in admiration at the thought, but I should have thought very little of my Friend's wisdom or knowledge of our Parliamentary system and ways. When we remember the vehemence of the attacks that were made upon the proposal of this Bill three years ago, few would have expected that it would receive such a calm reception as it has received to-day. I am the last man in 1421 the world to speculate upon the motives of this alteration. I welcome it far too gladly without hunting for a cause. I rejoice to think that we are to-day much nearer to an agreement than ever before. I heard with interest the summary of proposals read out by the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs. With many of them I agreed, most of them, let me say, are to be found in this Bill, and others of them are fair topics for discussion. None of them strike at the root of this measure, for let me repeat, the essence of this Bill is to give security of tenure to the tenants; it deprives the landlord of no other right except the right to put the tenant out of his holding for no good reason. And let me tell my hon. Friend in so far as I follow the recommendations which were evidently carefully written down, and which he read out, they shall receive the most favourable attention—I think I can speak on behalf of the promoters of the Bill—from the promoters of the Bill. I do not profess to have followed with minute accuracy the various propositions he read out, but as I heard them there are very few of them with which I should not fully agree, but they are all Committee points, which would form the subject of consideration upstairs.
I have dealt with the main outlines of the objections offered to this Bill. It is said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that we are introducing an alien system into Scotland. We are not, we are doing exactly the opposite, we are introducing a system of tenancy almost universally prevalent in the Lowlands of Scotland except that we are depriving the landlord of the right of arbitrary eviction. Do not let the House labour under any misapprehension. If you are going to give the tenants security of tenure you must fix, first, a fair rent, and second, statutory conditions. These are essential. You cannot give security of tenure without fair rent courts. If you have no man or body of men to whom the landlord or tenant unable to agree could appeal to, the landlord who desired to get rid of his tenant would have only to fix a rent which it was impossible for the tenant to pay, and when the tenant failed to pay he could put him out. The House must also clearly understand you must fix statutory conditions, otherwise you leave the landlord to fix any conditions he pleases, and when a tenant fails to conform he is ejected and put out, and his career conies to an end. Therefore you cannot have security of tenure without (1) a fair rent court, and (2) 1422 statutory conditions. Then the right hon. Gentleman said, and he was supported by Members on his own side of the House, the effects of the Bill would be to transfer the capital of the landlord to the tenant. The Bill does exactly the opposite. It leaves the whole of the landlord's property in the landlord's possession as full owner, and the Bill goes so far as this that, if a tenant makes improvement on the property and allows them to fall into dilapidation and decay, the landlord is entitled to turn him out. The right of the landlord is left entirely as it was. The Member for Leith Burghs said you are depriving the landlord of the right to manage his property. The landlord may desire to impose exceptional conditions in exceptional cases, and you are depriving him of the right to do so. You are laying down a rigid set of statutory conditions which the landlord Must perform. We are doing exactly the opposite. In the Bill there is a provision which entitles the landlord and the tenant to fix in writing special conditions applicable to special property, and when it receives the approval of the Commissioners it is binding on both parties. What proof is there of that? The landlord regains the full right and management of his own property, and when this Bill becomes law the one thing which this Bill will deprive him of is the right to turn out his tenant for any reason or no reason at all.
§ Mr. YERBURGH
If security of tenure is necessary to the man to induce him to make the best of the farming of the land why do you put in a limit of fifty acres?
§ Mr. URE
Because it is thought that the small farmers alone desired to have this benefit. I readily admit that there is no logical defence for not extending this benefit, and whenever the large farmers intimate their desire to have security of tenure at fair rents they shall have it, and the House could not deny it. It has been further suggested that you should not impose an exclusive system and that you should give an opportunity to the men who desire rather to become proprietors than tenants. I quite agree that it would be well to introduce that alternative, and if I understand my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs aright that is his proposal. I agree that we should not confine ourselves to one particular system, but do not let us have a rigid and exclusive system of tenancy alone. The hon. Member says you are giving power to take the land compulsorily. We must give compulsory 1423 powers or the Bill will fail. I think a provision of the kind suggested might be well introduced, and I see no reason to preclude a man who desires rather to become a proprietor than a tenant from having the same advantage. Do not let us confine ourselves to one particular system, and let those who desire one system have it and those who desire another let them have it also.
The hon. Member agrees that you must have compulsory power. Let me say on behalf of the Government that we not only welcome this Bill, and we shall place no obstacles in the way of it, but as a Government we shall give every assistance to the promoters of the Bill to secure its passage into law. Such aid and help as I can give personally, I shall gladly and heartily place at the disposal of the Scottish Committee. In the march of events circumstances will no doubt arise in which it will become desirable, if not necessary, that the Government should resume parental control of this sometime rejected offspring. It is certain that at a very early date in the progress of the measure it will be necessary for the Government to intervene in order to give life-blood to the Bill by making a financial proposal. I observe that this Bill, following the example of the former Government Bill, puts the figure at £100,000 a year. That is a substantial sum, but it is my duty to recollect that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite poured contempt upon that proposal and spoke of its niggardliness, and even hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House were loud in their protests at the parsimony shown, which they said was sufficient to wreck the whole scheme. Our answer was that being characteristic Scots we preferred to ca' cannie. We must proceed with due deliberation and care. Subsequent inquiry, consideration and experience on this side of the border, I am bound to say, has convinced us that we erred rather on the side of caution. We are prepared to take a holder flight. Hon. Gentlemen who had the privilege of hearing read the letter of my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary will not be altogether unprepared for the announcement I am about to make. My right hon. Friend said that, if his private opinion was asked, it was to extend the provisions of the Bill and to enlarge its financial scope in order, expeditiously and efficaciously, to deal with the varied conditions 1424 of agriculture and land tenure found in Scotland. I rejoice to say I am authorised to announce to the House that when the time comes for moving the Financial Resolution in Committee we shall ask for a substantially larger sum than the figure mentioned in the Bill. That, I believe, will show to the House and to the country that this is no lukewarmness on the part of the Government in support of this Bill, and it will be an earnest of sincerity which will not be misunderstood, believe me, in Scotland. I rejoiced to hear the friendly and conciliatory attitude maintained by both the Mover and Seconder of the proposal that this Bill should be read a Second time to-day. I warmly welcome the way in which that friendly and conciliatory attitude was received by my hon. Friends opposite. I think the whole House feels strongly inclined to settle this question now. We are in a judicial frame of mind. We have learned a good deal during the last few years. I think we are in a position to meet one another on fair and even friendly terms. I hope the promoters of this Bill will not dwell unduly upon the new heaven and new earth that we sometimes hear predicted of land measures. I hope they will rather confine themselves to claiming that this Bill will give hope, will give encouragement, and will give substantial assistance to a class of men in increasing whose numbers, and in whose contentment and happiness all sensible men agree largely depends the stability and security of the State.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed.