HC Deb 17 November 1911 vol 31 cc741-50

(1) For the purposes of the Landholders Acts a holding shall be deemed to include any right in pasture or grazing land held or to be held by the tenant or landholder whether alone or in common with others, and the site of any dwelling-house erected or to be erected on the holding or held or to be held therewith, and of any offices or other conveniences connected with such dwelling-house.

(2) A person shall not be held an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder or be admissible to registration as a new holder under this Act in respect of land belonging to more than one landlord or in respect of more than one holding unless such land or holdings, in the case of an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder, have been worked as one holding.

(3) A person shall not be held an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder under this Act in respect of—

  1. (a) Any land the present rent of which within the meaning of this Act exceeds fifty pounds in money, unless such land (exclusive of any common pasture, or grazing land, held or to be held therewith) does not exceed fifty acres (but without prejudice to the power of the Land Court, in determining from time to time a fair rent, to fix a rent exceeding fifty pounds); or
  2. (b) Any land being garden ground only, appurtenant to a house; or
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  4. (c) Any land within the Parliamentary, police, or municipal boundary of any burgh or police burgh, except a burgh or police burgh containing any existing crofters within any such boundary; or
  5. (d) Any land being a market garden within the meaning of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1908; or
  6. (e) Any land being or forming part of any glebe, or any small holding under the Small Holdings Act, 1892, or any allotment under the Allotments (Scotland) Act, 1892, or the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1894; or
  7. (f) Any land that is not a holding within the meaning of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1908; or
  8. (g) Any land being woodland, or being or forming part of the home farm of any estate, or of any policy or park, or of any pleasure ground or other land used for the amenity or convenience of any residence or farm-steading; or being permanent grass park held for the purposes of a business or calling not primarily agricultural or pastoral, including that of butcher, cattle-dealer, and the like; or
  9. (h) Any land bonâ fide held and used for purposes of public recreation; or
  10. (i) Any land acquired whether compulsorily or by agreement for any undertaking of a public nature, under the authority of any Act of Parliament or any order having the force of an Act of Parliament.

(4) A person shall not be admissible to registration as a new holder under this Act in respect of any land referred to in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d), or (e), or, except by agreement, in respect of any land referred to in paragraphs (f), (g), (h), or (i) of the immediately preceding Sub-section.

(5) Nothing in this Act shall operate to prevent the registration of a new holder or the enlargement of a holding (whether by agreement or otherwise in either case) in respect of land comprised in a deer forest or otherwise kept or preserved mainly or exclusively for sporting purposes, but subject always to the provisions of Section seven of this Act.

(6) Notwithstanding anything contained in Sub-section one of this Section, the holding of any existing yearly tenant or qualified leaseholder within the meaning of this Act shall not for the purposes of the Landholders Acts be deemed to include any lands or heritages at the commencement of this Act forming part of such holding and occupied by a sub-tenant of such existing yearly tenant or qualified leaseholder, whether paying rent or not.

(7) A person shall not be held an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder under this Act in respect of a holding referred to in Section thirty-three of the Act of 1886, but nothing in that Section shall operate to prevent the registration of a new holder by agreement in respect of a holding referred to therein, or the application of the Landholders Acts to such new holder and his statutory successors in respect of the holding. For the word "nor" where last occurring in that Section the word "or" is hereby substituted.

(8) The provisions of Section two of this Act shall extend to and include joint tenants being existing crofters, existing yearly tenants, or qualified leaseholders; but not more than one person shall be registered as a new holder in respect of any holding, and (without prejudice to the continuance of a joint tenancy through statutory successors) where at any time after the commencement of this Act a holding is held by a single landholder, or a holding which has been held in joint tenancy ceases to be so held, it shall not be competent for more than one person to be a landholder in respect of such holding.

(9) Except so far as may be inconsistent with any express provision of this Act the tenancy of a landholder under the Landholders Acts shall, in the case of every existing crofter, be deemed to be in all respects a continuance of his tenancy as a crofter under the Crofters Acts, and all contracts and other deeds and documents shall be read and construed accordingly.

(10) The provisions of this Section shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in Section two of this Act.

(11) Notwithstanding anything contained in Section two of this Act a person shall not in terms of that Section be subject to the provisions of this Act regarding statutory small tenants who in terms of this Section would be disqualified from being an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder.

Amendments made: In Sub-section (2), leave out the words "be held an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder or,"

Leave out the words "unless such land or holdings in the case of an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder," and insert instead thereof the words "and shall not be held an existing yearly tenant or a qualified leaseholder in respect thereof unless such land or holdings."—[Mr. Ure.]


I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), after the words "under this Act in respect of," to insert the words "or in the case of a new holder, can, in the opinion of the Land Court, be properly worked as one holding."

Amendment not seconded.

Amendment made: In Sub-section (3), paragraph (a), leave out the word "land" ["common pasture or grazing land"].—[Mr. Ure.]


I beg to move, in the same paragraph, to leave out the word "fifty" ["does not exceed fifty acres"], and to insert instead thereof the word "hundred."


I am afraid I cannot accept that Amendment.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), to leave out paragraph (c).


On a point of Order. It is a well-known rule of this House that no hon. Member is permitted on the Report stage of a Bill to move any Amendment which involves a new charge on somebody who has not been charged at a previous stage of the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman succeeds in deleting paragraph (c) he will place a new charge on a very large number of people. In the case of any existing small holding inside the Parliamentary or borough boundary there will immediately arise the right to registration of separate small holders, and very large demands for compensation when the land is resumed for fueing purposes. There may be in the case of the area between Rosyth and Dunfermline, where thousands of acres came in last year, groups of small holdings, formed in the burgh within the municipal boundary, involving a totally different system of rating; and the ratepayers will be required to pay for the education and sanitary and medical inspection of these new holders, so that really quite a very large rate will be charged upon those in the burgh paying on the composite value, while the new holder will only pay on the basis of his new holding. The one involves an immediate new charge on the landlord, and the other involves a prospective new charge on the ratepayers in the burgh. I submit that the right hon. Gentleman cannot move the Amendment without recommitting the Bill.


I should like to hear what the Lord Advocate has to say first.


I do not think the Amendment I propose would effect any change in the rating. The Amendment is to make land within a Parliamentary burgh boundary available for small holdings. Suppose that some land inside a Parliamentary burgh boundary was taken and a small holder or a small farmer settled down there, his land would be rated, and he would not be rated upon structures or improvements made upon his land for agricultural purposes if he were a man who held his land under a lease of under twenty-one years. I am going to accept an Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for the Central Division of Glasgow (Mr. Scott Dickson) later on, which puts the rating of the small holder under this Bill on exactly the same footing as the rating of a farmer in Scotland who holds under a lease of twenty-one years or under. I am accepting that for the purpose of making no change whatsoever in the rating system that at present exists. I do not see how the embracing of land within a Parliamentary burgh boundary would alter the system of rating.


I did not raise that point at all. Recently thousands of acres of land at Rosyth were taken into Dunfermline. A lot of that land can be taken compulsorily. I have no doubt that that will be done. Does the Lord Advocate suggest that if 200 or 300 small holders are put on that land that the effect of doing so will not be to place an extra charge upon the remaining ratepayers in Dunfermline? I say unquestionably it must do so.


Take this case of small holdings which are at present existing within the boundaries of boroughs and for which the landowners, not landholder, is entitled to take pieces in for fencing. He has, however, to compensate the holder of the small holding. At present that holder has only a limited right. He may have a five or ten years' lease. Under this Bill he will have a permanent right and there will be a much larger burden on the landowner to compensate him, because he will be a permanent holder entitled to get renewal for all time, and accordingly he will get compensation, not as though he were the holder for five or ten years, but the holder with a perpetual right to renew, which will largely add to the amount of compensation which the landowner will have to pay.


I think the Amendment as proposed will not of itself increase the rates. On the contrary, it will rather diminish them. The contention of the hon. Gentleman was that the effect of it would be that it would increase the rates upon other people. The objection is rather too remote. The Amendments as it stands by itself as now proposed, will not of itself alter the rating or increase the charge of rating. What the ultimate effect of it may be upon other people I do not think I can properly consider. An Act of Parliament very often has very different results from what one expects.


Will you rule on the other point, about the landlord becoming responsible immediately for heavy compensation in respect of land which is at present exempted? That is an absolute charge on an existing person.


That is not rates, nor is it a tax. It is a liability. We impose many liabilities in the Report stage.


My proposal is that land inside the Parliamentary boundaries of boroughs should be available for small holdings. I own frankly that my opinion has wavered upon this subject. In the Bill, as originally introduced, the exception was clear; then in Committee we qualified it to this extent to limit it to the case where there were crofters inside the Parliamentary boundaries. Subsequent inquiries have shown, however, that there are, within the Parliamentary boundary of some small boroughs, large tracts of land which are quite suitable for small holdings, amounting to some hundreds. Having regard to the fact that no Land Court having to face the payment of compensation would ever dream of taking land inside a Parliamentary borough, with the large sum of compensation that would obviously have to be paid, you will quite see that the striking of this paragraph out of the Bill would enable people in the neighbourhood of small burghs to have small holdings on lands which are eminently suitable for that object, and in all respects the best adapted land in the country for the purpose.


I am afraid I do not at all agree with the Lord Advocate with regard to this particular Amendment. I thought the right hon. Gentleman agreed entirely with us on this occasion. The fact is that in the towns you are going to put small holders who will not pay rates, and when they get into the towns the dwellings which have been put up may be used as lodgings. They will be able to get the use of the lighting, paving, and the sanitary arrangements of the whole town without paying a single halfpenny, and that itself must be a burden on the other ratepayers. That is what the argument of my hon. Friend amounted to. I know that there is a great deal of opposition to this in the towns. In some ways I do not regret that the Clause has been altered. A country gentleman said to me not long ago, "I do hope the towns will get a taste of this Bill. They will hate it as much as we do when they get people who do not pay rates."


I think the Noble Lord opposite will find his consolation in the fact that if half of the evils he foretells should occur within the burgh boundaries, the town councils will know how to protect themselves. I am glad the Lord Advocate has accepted this proposal.


I do not intend to oppose the proposal of the Lord Advocate, because I can see that there may be circumstances in which there should be an opportunity for creating small holdings within burgh boundaries, especially as there is a tendency at present to extend burgh boundaries. At the same time it is a very serious question. I do not want to accuse the right hon. Gentleman of any Machiavellian intention in proposing the Amendment, but I would remind the Committee that he has been prominently going about telling the people of Scotland that the existing rating system of Scotland will not survive the passing of this Bill. I do not accuse him of supporting this Bill with the intention of advancing his views in regard to rating, but it is a very serious matter to create an injustice for the purpose of compelling the passing of legislation in the direction which he desires with respect to a subject on which, if he will pardon me for saying it, he has an obsession. We are giving the opportunity for the creation of a large number of small holdings in such a district as that between Rosyth and Dunfermline and of placing a very large number of people there. The Government are going to advance a large sum for equipment and building on which these people will not pay, and you will in that way cause an acute feeling of injustice and unfairness to arise. It is a serious matter, and one not sufficiently dealt with by the Amendment of my hon. Friend which the right hon. Gentleman says he is willing to accept. It is not anything like a cure, and we ought really to understand what we are actually doing in this respect.


The speech of the hon. Baronet who has just sat down is rather that of one who is willing to wound but yet afraid to strike. I understand that while he spoke against the Amendment, he is going to vote in favour of it. It has been suggested that this Amendment is not desired in the boroughs of Scotland. That must be a matter of opinion to a large extent, but I am personally aware that it is desired in a number of small boroughs in the north of Scotland, particularly in a number of boroughs that I have the honour to represent in this House, and that for the very obvious reason that within those boroughs is a large amount of agricultural land entirely suitable for the purposes to which land is put under this Bill. In the town of Wick I am informed that there are 500 acres available for the purposes of this Bill, in Tain there are 300 acres, and in Kirkwall 200 acres. There is no logical reason why land within borough boundaries should be excluded from the operation of this Bill. Under this Amendment the Land Court is merely empowered to consider the suitability of such land. Of course, if the land is not suitable or is too dear it will not be utilised. Under the Crofters Act, which is to be read with this Act, there is no exclusion similar to that which is imposed by Clause (c) as it at present stands, and as the working of the Crofters Act has caused no injustice there is no reason why there should be this exclusion under this Bill. Leaseholders found themselves excluded from the operation of the Crofters Act because they were leaseholders, but under this Act leaseholders are not excluded as such, but it is proposed to have them excluded for the wholly adventitious reason that they are within the borough boundary limits. That is an absurd restriction, and the Lord Advocate has only conformed to the wishes of the inhabitants of these boroughs by this Amendment. Some of the land most suitable for this purpose is to be found within the boroughs, for the simple reason that it is in close proximity to the market. This has always been regarded as one of the best reasons for supporting this Amendment, and I do not think that it has ever been answered. For the reasons given, I submit that there is no reason against, and that every reason of logic and good sense is in favour of the Amendment, and I will therefore support it.


Are the communications which the hon. Member received from ratepayers who are going to have their rates increased or from the small holders who are not going to have their rates increased?


The communications to which I referred were from highly responsible persons whom I asked for the information.


This concerns a number of my Constituents who were accidentally left out of the benefits of the Bill because they happened to be just inside the municipal boundary, a boundary which has been extended, when there is no real reason why there should be any difference. The Crofters Act made no difference between those in and out of boroughs, and all I desire now is to thank the Lord Advocate for agreeing to do justice to these people, who have as good a right as any others to come under the Land Act.


As the Bill originally stood, Sub-section (c) relating to land within the borough was discussed in Committee, and the form which was adopted was a sort of compromise. We are now going a long way further back than the original Bill, and making a great change in respect to small holdings.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in Subsection (3), paragraph (d), after the word "glebe" ["forming part of any glebe or any small holding"], to insert the words "except where such glebe lands are let to small holders."

We have some cases in Sutherland itself, and I daresay in other counties where portions of the glebe are let out to small landowners as yearly tenants, or who, perhaps, in many cases have no fixity of tenure. I have been requested to ask the House to let them be included in the Bill just as are people outside the glebe. I cannot understand why there should be any difference between glebe lands and the lands of other owners. I remember reading once that the celebrated Bishop of Oxford said that he found no difference between potatoes grown in consecrated ground and potatoes grown in unconsecrated ground. Whether glebes are consecrated or not does not matter. In my opinion there ought to be no difference in dealing with the land, whether that land be glebe land or land belonging to other landlords.


I beg to second the Amendment.


I do not see my way to put the glebe lands in any different category from the land under the Small Holdings Act, or the Allotments Act of 1892, or the Local Government Act (Scotland), 1894. It seems to me that there is no substantial difference between these various categories.


I am sorry the Lord Advocate does not see his way to do justice to a number of tenants in the county of Sutherland. I do not wish to divide the House at this time of the day, and in the circumstances I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Further Amendments made: Leave out Sub-section (10).

In Sub-section (11) leave out the words "notwithstanding anything contained in Section (2) of this Act."

Leave out the words "in terms of that Section" ["shall not in terms of that Section be subject"].—[Mr. Ure.]

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