HC Deb 17 November 1911 vol 31 cc750-4

(1) In this Act—

The expression "Act of 1886" means the Crofters Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1886:

The expression "Act of 1887" means the Crofters Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1887:

The expression "Act of 1891" means the Crofters Common Grazings Regulation Act, 1891:

The expression "Act of 1908" means the Crofters Common Grazings Regulation Act, 1908:

The expression "Crofters Acts" means the Act of 1886, the Act of 1887, the Act of 1891, and the Act of 1908:

The expression "statutory successor" means any person who in terms of the Landholders Acts as the case may be has succeeded or may succeed to a holding whether as heir-at-law or legatee of his immediate predecessor being a crofter or landholder in occupation of the holding:

The expression "termination of the lease" means the expiration of the lease through the running out of the stipulated term of endurance or through the parties, or either of them, exercising their right to take advantage of a break stipulated for in the lease.

(2) In the Crofters Acts, the Agricultural Rates, Congested Districts, and Burgh Land Tax Relief (Scotland) Act, 1896, and the Congested Districts (Scotland) Act, 1897, the expression "holding" shall be substituted for the expression "croft," and the expression "crofting parish" shall be construed as meaning a parish to which the Crofters Acts applied at the commencement of this Act.

(3) In the Act of 1886 (except in the case of references to the passing or the title thereof and except in Section thirty-two thereof) the expression "this Act" or "the Act" shall be construed as meaning the Landholders Acts.

(4) In Section two of the Act of 1887 the expression "principal Act" where first occurring shall be construed as meaning the Landholders Acts, and the expression "the Crofters Holdings Act, 1886," shall be construed as meaning the Act of 1886 or this Act, as the case may be.

(5) If not inconsistent with the context, references in any Act of Parliament to a crofter shall be construed as references to a landholder within the meaning of this Act.

Amendment made: In Sub-section (1), at the end insert the words "or through any agreement between the parties being made, or other circumstances arising whereby the lease is terminated."—[Mr. Ure.]


I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (4) to insert, (5) Notwithstanding anything contained in this or any other Act the expression "lessee," in Section four of The Lands Valuation (Scotland) Amendment Act, 1895, shall include a landholder in the same way and to the same effect as if a landholder was a lessee holding under a lease or agreement the stipulated duration of which is twenty-one years or under from the date of entry under the same.


I propose to accept this Amendment. Hon. Members will probably be aware that under the existing practice the crofter is not rated upon his improvements. It is now an open question and exceedingly doubtful. The effect of it will be to make quite clear that crofters in the proper sense of the word shall enjoy the security of tenure, and be placed in exactly the same position as the tenant farmer occupies under lease of less than twenty-one years' duration and be liberated from obligations upon improvements which they have effected on their holdings for agricultural purposes.


I think this is a very important Amendment, because it brings in at a very late stage of the Bill an Amendment of the rating system, a matter which, I think, deserves very careful consideration. I agree with what has been said as to there being some doubt as to the absolute certainty of the practice which now exists as to the crofter being rated on improvements which he has effected. At the same time, that practice has continued for something like thirty years, and has never been seriously challenged. I doubt whether it could be effectively challenged. There is a question whether the crofter is under the 1895 Valuation Act or not, and that question is to be decided against him. There has been some talk of agricultural improvements. What are agricultural improvements? If by agricultural improvements we mean that sort of improvements which are covered by the term "cultivation" in Clause 10, I should certainly support the Amendment. If, on the other hand, it is not meant to cover that form of cultivation, a very serious difficulty arises. We understand that under this measure intensive cultivation may be developed by small holders. Assume that a crofter in the neighbourhood of a town, in order to cultivate fruit and vegetables, puts up a glass-house. At present he is not rated on that. Is that an agricultural improvement? In ordinary language it would be called a horticultural, and not an agricultural, improvement. It was to avoid that very difficulty that in Clause 10 the word "cultivation" was used, and it was expressly provided that "the expression 'cultivate' in this Section shall include the use of a holding for horticulture or for any purpose of husbandry, inclusive of the keeping or breeding of livestock, poultry, or bees, and the growth of fruit, vegetables, and the like." The crofter at present is not rated on these things, and following the analogy of existing practice, which has never been challenged, I hold that he should not be rated on them, after the passing of this Bill. I hope, therefore, the right hon. and learned Member will be willing to agree to an Amendment which I shall subsequently move, "and the expression 'agricultural purposes' in that Section shall include the purposes of cultivation specified in Section ten of this Act." Incidentally I may refer to a point raised by the hon. Baronet opposite. This certainly seems to me a rating change. It seems to bring under the provisions of the 1895 Act people who are not there already. That is a further reason why I am sorry it was not brought forward at an earlier stage. Whether the House accepts this Amendment or not should turn on the question of what is meant by agricultural purposes, and whether "agricultural purposes" is to have the same meaning as the purposes of cultivation referred to in Clause 10.


I think we ought to be told by the Lord Advocate whether this Amendment, if carried, will in any way affect existing assessments. If so, it will be very unfair that it should be sprung upon us at the last moment without our being able to consult our constituents. The object may be to increase the assessments of everybody and to get them into trouble as far as possible. If this Amendment becomes law, what will be the exact position of existing crofters and future landholders?


made an observation which was inaudible in the Press Gallery.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, after the words last added, to insert the words "and the expression 'agricultural purposes' in that Section shall include the purposes of cultivation specified in Section ten of this Act." I have already given the reasons for this Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment.


This Amendment, if effective, would certainly alter the Valuation Law and the rating. Accordingly, it is impossible for me to accept it.

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.