§ Mr. STANIER
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Address, at the end, to add the words:—But humbly regret that no mention is made in the Gracious Speech of an intention on the part of His Majesty's Government to develop a system of small ownership of land, with practical opportunity for existing tenants to acquire their holdings on the basis of voluntary sale and purchase.I rise to move this Amendment with the knowledge of the grave responsibility which it entails. From different remarks that have been made, I judge that there is a little difficulty in the minds of some hon. Members as to what I mean by this Amendment, but it is absolutely clear that what I want to bring up is the question of the small ownership of land. This is no new subject in this House. It has been brought before this House on a great many occasions. There have been no less than two Departmental Committees appointed to go into the whole subject. Both of them have been very well worked, and they have been very clear in what they have advocated. The one in 1906 clearly defined itself, and the one in 1912 has even more amply defined itself. Both have advocated that purchase should be the object in view. The terms of reference of this Departmental Committee are the clearest that have ever been put before any Departmental Committee appointed by any Government. I should like to read to the House the terms of reference. They were:—To inquire into the position of tenant farmers in England and Wales on the occasion of any change in 889 ownership of their holdings, whether by reason of the death of the landlord, the sale of the land, or otherwise, and to consider whether any legislation on the subject is desirable.I need not go through the whole of that Departmental Committee's Report, but I will pass straight away to the findings, which were as clear as the terms of reference. You will see that the Committee are satisfied that there was an abnormal number of estates being broken up, and there still is at the present time. The Committee were informed that agricultural land to the value of £1,500,000 was disposed of during 1910 and 1911, the value of the agricultural land sold exceeded £2,000,000, and moreover there seems every indication that the tendency to break up large estates is likely to continue. It is continuing, and it is an ever-increasing quantity. I had the honour of speaking to a very eminent auctioneer only last week, and he informed me that he had 400,000 acres of land, chiefly agricultural, for sale at the present moment, and I have been told by many others that they have also got very large amounts in their hands ready to put on the auction market in the summer of this year. In many districts there are also very large estates and a large quantity of land being put into the public market, and I could take you to villages where to-day the whole trade of the village is stagnant through the landlords announcing to their tenants that they are selling their land in the summer of this year. It is an undoubted fact that the farmers are the chief losers when these great sales take place. They are not like the other traders of this country, who can move their shop or their works from one end of the street to the other, and thereby not lose trade. If they have to give up their farms, if they are milk traders they generally lose their milk walk. If they have herds or flocks they lose a great quantity of their trade through the migration from one farm to another, even if they are lucky enough to be able to gain another suitable farm, because it is well known that there are a great many farms where the owners' herds are not known by the name of the owner so much as by the name of the farm itself. Also, there are, and have to be, special farms for each class of farm. You cannot take a herd from one class of farm and put it on to another. You cannot take a fruit farm and put it on a farm where they previously had stock, and even if you can be lucky enough to find a suitable farm for that tenant undoubtedly by 890 the moving he loses the men who are used to that particular class of farm. We often hear of unemployment, but it is an undoubted fact that it is a very hard thing in the agricultural world to get a labouring man absolutely suitable for the class of work on a farm. Therefore the farmer suffers more than the trader. There are many varieties of farm. Each has its own speciality, and it is therefore often serious to move, because you have to alter the whole speciality of the farming interest which the farmer has in hand.
I will go back again to this report, the last Departmental one, issued in this year. The reason is given of these great sales which are taking place. The pith of it is to the effect that a feeling of apprehension as to the probable tendency of legislation and taxation in regard to land is the reason that this calamity is befalling the community. It gives suggested ameliorations on several minor points, and paragraph 60 states that:Of all the remedies which were advanced by witnesses who came before the Committee to alleviate the grievances under which the tenant farmer was alleged to be suffering, none were advocated so strongly as the scheme by which the tenant should be enabled to purchase the farm by the advance of money by the State. It is clear from the evidence that the main tiling which the tenant farmers desire is to be able to remain on their farms, and it is usual when the farmer is unable to remain as a tenant owing to the breaking up of estates, that he desires to become the occupying owner.I do not think you can have anything clearer than that. The report brings forward a scheme of Sir Edward Holden's. He proposes to start a bank which is to lend out money at 3¼ per cent. or 3¾ per cent. for sinking fund and management, and the whole pith of the thing is that only four-fifths of the value of the farm is to be lent. We ought to give the farmer better terms than that. The report ends by recommending that there should be State-aided purchase. But, after we have had all this, we find nothing on the subject in His Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne. I told you that consternation reigned in many parts of the country at the great break-up of these estates. But when it was found that no mention of any legislation was made in the King's Speech their consternation was further increased. I think it would only have been right that after so much had been said in this country that some mention ought to have been made of it. To-day I move this Amendment, because I ask for the tenant farmers of this country legislation to enable them to acquire their holdings on the basis of voluntary sale and purchase.
891 If I may be allowed, I should like to touch upon the question of why I think this is such a serious matter. I contend that the land is a great national asset, that it must be realised that the soil is part of our great national assets, that it cannot be diverted from good economic use without great national detriment, that we must have stability and permanence, and that the land must be made the most of for the production of food for the people of this country. It is of vital importance—nay, I say more, it may be of the greatest national importance, even for our own national existence. It was only the other day I was reading an old book, which was written by an eminent agriculturist. I refer to the first President of the Board of Agriculture, Mr. Arthur Young, who stated that:—The tiller of the land will always be confronted by difficulties and hardships which nothing will so easily enable him to meet as the magic of ownership.What was true then is true to-day, and I will try to prove the statement I have made. I ask the House whether it is not a fact that the farmers are of the greatest importance to this country. They are large in number, they are great ratepayers, and, more important than that, they are the producers of food in this country. Now we have at last seen the farmers of this country absolutely unanimous in asking for the legislation which I am asking for to-day. Never before, I suppose, have the farmers of this country been unanimous. If you will go through the records of the resolutions passed by societies and clubs, you will find that practically every club, every association, every society, every farmers' union, and every chamber of agriculture have passed resolutions in favour of legislation in this direction. And, what is more, they have passed resolutions in favour of the legislation proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division (Mr. Jesse Collings), who will second this Amendment, and who for years has advocated the great land policy which bears his name. I am glad to see the Minister for Agriculture in his place to-day. If he will ask at the Board of Agriculture, he will find that they must have received some hundreds of letters from farmers and farmers' clubs, together with resolutions asking for this legislation. The Prime Minister and many of the other Ministers will also find, if they look into the records of their Departments, that similar letters have been received. But for the last few years, 892 though the voice has been loud in asking for it, there has been nothing but silence from the Departments which ought to have instituted legislation.
The great question of ownership is one that can be argued so that there is no answer left to those who oppose it, because, I contend, ownership gives freedom of cultivation greater than any other scheme. It gives security for outlay. It gives an incentive for industry, energy, and enterprise that no tenancy argument could give. An ownership allows the owner to devise his holding to whom he likes. Rents would remain and could not be raised. Farming would be better, the output of food more, and national advantage would be thereby gained. If you go back to the history of farming, you will find that the yeomen farmers of the past made the agriculture of this country famous not only for our herds, but also for our crops. The herds of this country are famous all over the world. There is no country in the world which has not got to come back to this country to obtain fresh blood to replenish their herds. We have also preeminence in the crops we grow. But it was the yeoman farmers, the old occupiers of this country, who founded our agriculture and made it famous. Some of them have lately passed away, and we want to replace them by means of the legislation we are now advocating. If you wanted examples of the advantages of ownership as against tenancy, I could show you examples in different parts of the country. I could take you to Worcestershire, where I used myself to be a tenant farmer, and I could take you to farms in Shropshire, where I could show you farms which would prove every word I say up to the hilt. There are farms in these counties which were in the hands of tenants, and are to-day in the hands of owners, where in days past few men were employed, while to-day there are five men working for every one in the past. The produce of these farms is twenty times more than it was, and the turnover is in consequence twenty times more. The trade of the neighbourhood also is thereby increased.
We are often told that the great object of politicians ought to be to get people back to the land. I will ask those who advocate tenancies why have they left the land? One great reason is the want of opportunity for advancement. We also acknowledge that there are want of suitable rural education, want of employment, 893 and scarcity of cottages in the rural districts. But I think it easy to prove that if you got legislation for ownership it would deal with those points. Just as many people have left the rural districts of England and Wales and Scotland as have left the rural districts of Ireland. But owing to the legislation which has been passed for Ireland the people are now remaining there. In proof of that I may refer to the Returns of Agricultural Labourers, Command Paper No. 6,019. It starts off with the remarkable statement that the number of Irish migratory agricultural labourers is showing a steady tendency to decrease. It goes on to show that, while there were 18,500 labourers who went for temporary employment in 1910, there were 20,500 who went in 1909; and I am informed that the number in 1911 has shown a further decrease as compared with 1910. If the farmer owns his land he will do more to develop it, he will have more labour in consequence, and there will be more work in the district and more produce in the country. If we give more suitable rural education we shall be adding to the sense of farmers and teaching them to develop their holdings. If you want more employment you must develop, and if he will not do more developing you much teach him, because it has been proved over and over again that the better the farming the more work is put into the holding, and the worse the farming the less work is put into the holding, and the labourers suffer accordingly.
As regards cottages, what better example could we have than in the Emerald Isle? I am informed that about 40,000 cottages have been built or are building there. Thirty-six per cent. of the cost is a free Grant from the Government, and these rural cottages are allowed to be rented at from 8d. to 1s. 6d. per week. All those are points in favour of the occupier, and are points that must not be forgotten. But the proof of success of ownership can be gathered very definitely from countries that are near at hand. In Germany there are many peasant proprietors, and large sums have been spent there on education; and labour is plentiful where there are peasant proprietors and it is scarce where there are not so many peasant proprietors, and from many books and reports you can see that the peasant proprietors are a successful community. I need not take you to Ireland, because we all know what is going on there. But if it is not a success in Ireland, how is it that in to-day's Parliamentary 894 Papers, as far as I can make out the figures, there is in the Supplementary Estimates, which will be before this-House next week, a sum of £10,000,000 for the ownership propaganda. If you look across to France you can find there what real ownership is. It was started in 1791, and has been increasing ever since that day. The savings of the peasant proprietors in that country constitute its financial power, and we cannot forget that in the time of France's greatest disaster, in the time of the great war, it was the peasants of France who came to their country's aid. But, more important than all that, we find that one-fourth of that country is under crops, while here there is only one-tenth of the country under crops. That cannot be for the good of this country. If you want any further proof, where is it that State tenancies have been tried and found wanting? Russia tried tenancies on a very large scale and the whole thing broke down, and now they have the tenants peasant proprietors, and according to the latest figures which I have been able to collect, there is an ever-increasing number of about 100,000 per annum. In one of our own Colonies (New Zealand) the State proclaimed itself to be the universal landlord and the whole system broke down, and they turned back again to freehold. In the most democratic and socialist Colony of our Empire at was tried and found wanting.
I know that I shall be followed by those who argue against what I have said with the argument that purchase locks up capital. This scheme obviates this, and, as I have tried to show, ownership creates, development. Development creates trade to the benefit of this country. Again, let us take the next argument: Can we invest money better in commerce? I should like you to ask practical farmers that question, and you would very soon be told "No." Then it may be argued that farmers as tenants can expand their farming better than when they are the owners. My experience as a tenant farmer, and later as an owner of land, has taught me that it is not so. I can take you to a farm where, under ownership, the expansion of farming has been greater than it ever could be under tenant farming. Why is it that in all the countries of Europe ownership should have been adopted, while our benighted country is left without any scheme? I am against State tenancies, because I think that the farmers would not enjoy the same protection under State 895 tenancy that they would get under the system which I and others advocate. Under State tenancy the farmer cannot have the same latitude, and rents would be higher, as proved by county council management to-day. What is more, rents might be raised, as some have been raised, and no arrears of rent would be allowed even in bad times such as we have been passing through this autumn. Further, on no account could there be any abatement made to a struggling tenant to enable him to tide over a disastrous season, which is the act of God, and has nothing to do with the farmer. If you look at some of the Government Papers you will find that the management expenses of State tenancy, through the county councils, has been 15 per cent. That is for management alone, and it has nothing to do with rent, sinking fund, or capital expenditure. If you take the average estates of this country worked by private owners, you will find that the management expenses are much nearer 5 per cent. What the farmers dread more than anything else is the great question of officialism. Officialism is not practicable in farming, if it is practicable anywhere else. Rents under the county councils have been between 4½ per cent. to 5 per cent. on the outlay, and that is one of the reasons why at the present moment many good farms cannot be worked profitably.
You have given £100,000 towards small holdings. To-day I am asking for a larger outlay on holdings. Why cannot you help the farmer who, from no fault of his own, has to leave his farm because of the breaking up of estates? I am told by the Secretary for the Irish Board of Agriculture that Ireland is a transformed country. That is proved. Ireland is prosperous, its produce is ever increasing, more land is under tillage, and all that is the result of there being 260,000 occupying owners who were previously rent payers. Will the Government not do something for England and Wales when it has done so much for the Sister Isle? I am not going to dictate the terms on which you should carry out this proposal. You have plenty of schemes in front of you. You have that of the experts of your Department; but I must say, as I have always said on many platforms, that I advocate the Land Purchase Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings). We cannot expect the terms that have been given to Ireland for political reasons. I know that the argument will be brought forward 896 that Ireland is different from this country, and that the Irish work on repairing leases, whereas in England the tenants chiefly work on annual tenancies. What I do ask for is equitable treatment. Is it not a fact that while Rome is burning the different Departments who are interested are merely fiddling? Your legislation has made this grievance, according to your own report. Where there is a willing buyer and a willing seller, I ask, on behalf of the agriculturists of this country, for legislation which will enable tenants to acquire their holdings. I will only conclude by saying that I think it is only just, fair, and equitable that you should do so when you have done so much for the agricultural community in the Sister Isle. If my opinion that it is being done for political purposes is not correct, you can easily remedy the matter by bringing forward legislation to show us you are in earnest.
§ Mr. JESSE COLLINGS
I beg to second the Motion.
In the able speech to which we have just listened, it has been said, in reference to the case for ownership, that there could be no valid reason or argument against the adoption of that principle. I wish that the arrangement of the Debate had been such as to allow the President of the Board of Agriculture to follow my hon. Friend, because no doubt we should have heard the reasons which he will doubtless bring forward against the principle of ownership. That, however, not being possible, I think we must anticipate a little a few of the cognate points which will be raised against us. First of all, I have no doubt that the stock argument will be brought forward to the effect that farmers do not wish for ownership, and that they would rather be tenants. The Report of the Committee states, I admit, that the tenant under a good landlord would like to continue a tenant under a good landlord. But that has nothing to do with the case we have in hand, because the tenant has no choice. Tenants are faced with a change which they neither sought nor desired, but the effects of which they have to bear. They have, as a rule, when those changes take place, no money to purchase, except in rare cases, and the only option open to them is to mortgage or to borrow at high rates. I admit that under such burdening conditions as that ownership to the farmer would be a millstone hung round his neck. If those tenants had been in Ireland the 897 State, as a matter of course, would have stepped in and advanced the whole of the purchase money to enable the tenants to purchase. Too much stress is laid on the statement that the conditions of Ireland are different from those in. England. I need not go into that question at length, but I would simply say that the State lends money in Ireland to purchase all that the landlord possesses, and that is all we ask that the State should do in England. What is the remedy? My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment stated that the evil was a great one and an increasing one. I find that in one week, in June of 1910, there were for sale in thirty counties in England no less than 17,600 acres of land. That is about 113 square miles of agricultural land, and that is leaving out of account all the sales that took place, and they were many, by private contract. Therefore, the number of farmers obliged to leave their farms is immense through the change of ownerships. There is a pathetic side to it, a sentimental side to it, and sentiment fortunately after all guides the affairs of the world more than anything else. Many of those men, and their fathers before them, have tilled their farms for one, two, and, in some cases, three hundred years, and now they are called upon to quit the homes in which they were reared. I have received scores of letters from tenant farmers setting forth these hardships and asking for a remedy. My hon. Friend (Mr. Stanier) referred to the Bill for the purchase of land which has been before this House for several Sessions, and which will be again introduced. They say that their demands and wishes are embodied in that measure. The measure is a very simple one. It is that where farms are sold over the heads of the tenants that the whole of the purchase money should be advanced by the State on the lowest possible terms—I will not mention the terms—that the State could afford; the principal with interest and sinking fund to be repayable during a certain number of years, after which the payments cease. That is supported by all the agricultural associations in the Kingdom, and they have urged, not that the power to purchase in the abstract should be given to them, but they have concentrated their demands in the concrete form of the Bill. In the face of those facts, and they are facts, it would seem to me rather difficult for the President of the Board of Agriculture to repeat the old fallacy that the farmers do not want the land. I should 898 like to know whether he is going to oppose the unanimous wish of practically all the agriculturists of Great Britain, or whether he is to take steps to meet them? The committee which considered the question said nothing about the merits, and did not discuss them even, of the proposals contained in the Bill, and which farmer after farmer declared to them was the only remedy to settle it. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is going to repeat the statements about the Act of 1908, that there was an enormous number of applications for tenancy and very few for ownerships. That is true, but the 1908 Act was a tenancy Act pure and simple, but it incorporated the Act of 1892, which does offer purchase, but it requires 20 per cent. to be paid down, and that is useless for the labourers and others who cannot afford to do so. I brought forward for some years a Bill to do away with that condition and to advance the whole of the money, but the Government offered the most strenuous and bitter opposition. On one occasion, where, after a great effort, I got the first place in the ballot the Government moved the Adjournment of the House rather than allow it to be even discussed. No doubt their Socialist supporters are consistently opposed to the private ownership of land, and even to the ownership of any other property. But until the labourers and others are offered terms which it is within their power to accept, it is a mere mockery for the President to say that they have no desire to purchase. Some time ago the Duke of Bedford cut up a small estate, some 300 or 400 acres, into eighteen holdings. He advanced the whole of the money on favourable terms, but on commercial principles, repayable in thirty-five years, and he advanced, also on the same terms, money for homesteads. For those eighteen holdings there were no fewer than 500 applications. Contrast the position of these men with that of the tenants of the Bedfordshire County Council alongside of this estate. These owners will have homesteads, so many acres of land, and all their appliances, for a rate of something like £4 2s. per annum. while the tenants of the county council will strive to pay an exorbitant rate for land which they will never possess.
The Committee were asked whether legislation was necessary. The answer is in the affirmative. They offer two alternative or supplementary schemes. The chief merit of the Report, in my opinion, is that it recognises the principle of ownership by State-aid. We cannot get away from 899 that. But they couple with it the condition that the purchasing tenants shall find one-fifth of the purchase money. Of course they cannot do it except in very rare instances, unless by crippling themselves in regard to working capital. We want more capital rather than less employed in agriculture. The fact is, the farmers have asked for bread and the Committee offer them a stone. Moreover, the four-fifths is not to be advanced directly by the State, but through a middleman in the form of a bank. I was reminded of the amusing description, by an American humorist, of a regiment composed entirely of officers. The bank is to be composed entirely of directors. There are to be no depositors, no shareholders. This distinguished body is to issue bonds—there is no limit stated to the amount—with a State guarantee of 3¼ per cent. No doubt by this method they will get heaps of money, out of which they offer to the farmer four-fifths of the purchase money at an interest, including sinking fund, of 4 per cent. That may be very good banking, but it is not very good for the agriculturist. The other recommendation is purely on the lines of Henry George. Five of the members declined to assent to it, because, they said, it leads to land nationalisation. But it is land nationalisation brought about by sweating the tenant farmers under it.
There is another reason why this Amendment should be accepted. The Mover spoke of the magic of ownership. That is a somewhat hackneyed phrase, but, however often repeated, it loses none of its force and none of its truth. The owner has an improved status, he has the strongest incentive to industry, to perseverance, and to securing success. The ownership of anything, from the child's doll upwards, discloses all that is best and most active in the owner. Speaking generally, the output of land is undoubtedly greater under ownership than under tenancy. The value of land is reckoned by the output; hence in ownership countries land is worth three times as much as similar land in England. We shall make a fundamental error if we regard agriculture only as the same as any other industry. It is the parent of all industries, and, in view of our dependence on oversea supplies of food, the increase of our home supply is of the utmost importance. We are told on high authority, by no less a man than the late Sir Nowell Salmon, 900 who was then Admiral of the Fleet, that no matter how big our Navy, we cannot keep our sea roads clear. Sir Nowell said that the danger would be in the first three weeks. After that, he said, something possibly might be done. But it would not be long after the proposals of my hon. Friend had been put into force before we should get, without difficulty, a three months' supply of food for the people of these islands, thereby securing, at any rate, freedom from panic, which is one of the principal things.
Let the capitalists remember that without this reform we should be starved into surrender, and the fine that they would have to pay would not be the £200,000,000 that the Germans inflicted on the French, but nearer £1,000,000,000. I do not think that that can be disputed. If so, go into the City and ask the underwriters if, at the outbreak of war, they would insure our grain-laden ships? They would tell you that they wanted such large prices as would prevent any owner from sending his ships to sea. We are living in a fool's paradise at the present time through our neglect of agriculture. No nation, ancient or modern, ever survived for long in the front rank which did what we are doing—that is, sacrificing agriculture to what we are pleased to call money-getting and commercialism. If what I say is true, all of us, without regard to party, should insist that this reform should be carried out; otherwise we shall be too late. What answer has the right hon. Gentleman to make? I will not take up the time of the House by enumerating the enormous degree in which the social problem in our midst would be solved by the reform we are advocating. We are spending millions a year on unemployment, on pauperism, on the defective in mind and body. The falling birth-rate, the increasing emigration of one of the great assets of the nation, in the form of the pick of our rural population, and other evils, would be stayed by the carrying out of these proposals under discussion.
There is the old classic story of the combatant who, when hurled to the ground by his antagonist, gained fresh life and vitality through his contact with Mother Earth. That is a true picture of the strength and recuperative powers of the nation whose people are rooted in the soil. There is at present room for 1,000,000 families on the uncultivated uplands of this country. The extra money from the produce would be spent in our towns, our workshops, our factories, and our retail 901 shops. The old French physiocrats, farseeing men, declared that land was the source of wealth. Adam Smith added "labour." He said, "Land and labour constituted the sole source of wealth." They were right. The man who cultivates an acre of land hitherto uncultivated adds more to the real wealth of the country than all Lombard Street, the Stock Exchange, and other holders of wealth. I hope the President will tell us what the Government are going to do.
There are certain rumours which, of course, must be taken as rumours, and one is that the Government are about to amend the Act of 1908 by throwing the sinking fund on the rates which is now paid by the tenants, recouping the county councils in hard cash for the land of which the tenants will never possess an inch. That will require fresh legislation. When done it will be no use to the tenant. The man who commands the rent is master of the situation. So long as a county council has command of the rent they may charge anything. You may call it a sinking fund, but the tenant will have to pay, and then there will be a continuation of those shameful impositions now practised by county councils on their tenants. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at his Command Paper No. 5180 he will find the incredible profits which the county councils make out of its poor tenants. They are unbelievable except for the fact that they are illustrations given in the Government's own Report. Therefore I am curious to hear what the President has to say. As for the known desire of the smaller tenants to buy, there is held up to notice the small holdings on Lord Carrington's estate, near to Spalding, where the tenants are said to be in a flourishing condition. I have visited the farms there, and have seen the holders individually and collectively, and the sum of the result was this: One man said that his difficulty was that he did not see his way clear to make provision for his family in case of death. I said, in conversation with one of those men, "Would you not like to buy your holding?" and he said, "Oh, yes, but I could not." "But," I said, "suppose the State were to advance the money?" and he answered, "No such luck !" I said, "If you were in Ireland it would be done." "Oh, yes," he said, "but we are only Englishmen." There is another rumour, which I hope is not true, that the Government are proposing to appoint a Select Committee or Commission to consider the 902 whole question. The matter is entirely too pressing for that, and if you were to have a dozen Commissions you would get no further information than we possess today. It may be a very good means of shelving the question, because in any future contest, when the candidate would be sounded on this matter, he would be able to answer, "It is in the hands of a Committee"; but I think that advice is too stale to be used at the present time. The Act of 1908 does not touch the fringe of this question, and for the purpose of getting people on the land it is expensive, very expensive. No doubt there will be talk about the risks to the State, but the land being irremovable property, and, therefore, subject to all sorts of taxation, and always remaining, it constitutes a great security to the State, which has a first charge on the holdings on which they have advanced the money to buy. Not only that, but that security increases every year as each instalment is paid. I have heard it often advanced that the State would pay an excessive price. That is ridiculous. The procedure of the Board of Agriculture under this Bill, if it became an Act, would, when the landlord and tenant are agreed upon the price, send two valuers down, and they would say whether the price agreed upon was about right, and I think the State would run no risk of loss by accepting their value.
I cannot help contrasting the present position with the position some years ago. I remember very well, when speaking from those benches opposite, below the Gangway, I introduced a Bill for the purpose of the purchase of land by the aid of the State. It was received as a joke and with a great deal of good humour. It was received with loud cries of "Three acres and a cow," and other things were said in ridicule of it, but the question has survived the stage of ridicule, it has gone through the stage of indifference, and it is now in the very front rank of practical politics, and great will be the statesman who carries out that policy for England. His name will be handed down, I am not exaggerating when I say it, as one of the saviours of this country. I hope the day is not far distant when that will be done. I ask the farmers to waken up, to sink their party considerations, and to concentrate upon this measure, not to be content with a candidate or with a Member who says, "I am in favour of the question generally." The real question is, "Are you in favour of this concrete scheme?—yes or no. If not, you are not our man. If you 903 are, well then we are for it." I hope to see such legislation pass, and then, as far as I am concerned, and as far as my political life is concerned, I shall then be content to sing Nunc dimittis.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I find it difficult to follow the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, whose name is so long and honourably associated with the policy which he has advocated. The hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment pointed out that the Report of the Committee showed some of the causes which are now bringing a number of estates into the market. He left the impression that the real cause was recent legislation or the fear of legislation. What the Report really says is that it is partly due to the fear of future legislation, and I think if the hon. Gentleman will read the evidence he will be satisfied that in not a single case where the question was put to the witnesses was any evidence produced that so far any Act of Parliament passed has been detrimental to the interests of agriculture in this country, the only exception being the Death Duties. But as the hon. Member knows, the Death Duties are equally applicable to personal estate.
§ Mr. STANIER
There is a difference. Death Duties really fall heavier on land than on stocks and shares.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
The Death Duties are payable on realty and personalty with the one difference that the duty on realty is payable by instalments and is so more easy to pay than in case of personalty, but the hon. Gentleman made a quotation from the Report which I submit is wholly misleading. He read a paragraph dealing with State-aided purchase, and omitted the last sentence, which considerably modifies and alters the meaning of it.Of all the remedies which were advanced by the witnesses which came before the Committee to alleviate the grievances under which the tenant farmer was alleged to be suffering, none was advocated so strongly as a scheme by which the tenant should be enabled to purchase his farm by the advance of money by the State.The last item in the paragraph is:—There is little desire for ownership in itself, and it is only advocated as an alternative to being turned out of his home.The whole case resolves itself into a question not of the ownership of land advocated by the hon. Member opposite, but whether ownership is itself desirable. As a matter of fact, all the tenant farmer witnesses, with the exception of three Welsh witnesses, were against ownership, 904 except as the absolute alternative to being turned out of their farms. That, of course, was the reason why the second recommendation had been made by the Committee with regard to State purchase. I take it that, except in one small section of this House, the Members are in favour of a State-aided purchase scheme. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley made out the question at issue to be not whether we are in favour of State-aided purchase, but of the particular scheme advocated or associated with the name of the right hon. Gentleman himself. The Committee had to consider that scheme.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon, there was continual reference to his scheme. As a matter of fact, the real point at issue was whether the scheme we adopted should be that of the right hon. Gentleman or the one adumbrated by an eminent financier, Sir Edward Holden, a Member of the Committee.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I am sorry to contradict the right hon. Gentleman, but the question of his Bill was continually before the Committee. The Committee laid down two principles. First of all, that there must be a desire on the part of the tenant to become the owner. In the second place, that the scheme adopted should be such as to secure the State against loss. What are the proposals of the Committee? That a bank should be established with a capital of £500,000, the money to be advanced at 3¼ per cent., or lower if it can be obtained. The sinking fund was to be 5s. per cent., and, in addition, 10s. per cent., not on the whole of the money advanced but on the amount outstanding. That 10s. per cent., has to cover all the incidental expenses and risks. It was stated before the Committee that during two months last summer there was a decrease of no less than 10 per cent. in the value of land on account of the weather and other conditions, and with a decrease of 10 per cent. in eight weeks it is obvious that the Committee must provide for it. May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that under the scheme proposed by the Committee there is nothing to prevent the bank advancing the whole of the purchase money provided they have satisfactory security?
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
If the right hon. Gentleman will read the Report he will see that it is to be obtained by the issue of bonds guaranteed by the bank and by the State. The real objection of the Mover is to the one-fifth margin as security against loss. Continual references have been made to the case of Ireland, and I think the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution are to be congratulated upon their wisdom in the vagueness of their references to the Irish case. It has been pointed out on the platform that the position of the Irish tenant farmer was an admirable one. Let me point out what is an undeniable fact, that at the present moment there are in Ireland contracts amounting to £50,000,000 under the Wyndham Act on which the tenants are paying 3½ per cent. interest owing to the fact that the price of Irish stock is so low that the Government dare not go into the market to create the necessary stock in order to pay off the landlords. I think it is only fair to the English farmer that he should be acquainted with the case, and understand that, whatever Irish finance may be, it has been a poor one from the point of view of the position of the British taxpayer, and apparently of the tenant farmers., The right hon. Gentleman's suggestion is that the annuity should not exceed 3¼ per cent., including the sinking fund. May I point out that the evidence given by Sir George Murray went to show that money could not be advanced under 3½ per cent., with the result that the annuity at 3¼ per cent., which includes the sinking fund expenses of management and risks taken by the State is ¼ per cent. less than the figure at which Sir George Murray says money can be advanced. Can money be obtained now for the purpose of purchase in Ireland? The first loan was issued at £2 15s. Under the Act for which the present Secretary for Ireland was responsible the interest was increased to 3 per cent., and that is the present rate of interest for land purchase in Ireland. The stock under the present Chief Secretary's Bill was issued at 92½, carrying 3 per cent., and to-day it is quoted at 85, and yields £3 10s. per cent. Does the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment and the right hon. Gentleman who seconded it really suggest that whilst that stock is selling at 85 and yielding £3 10s. the Government should find the difference between 906 £2 15s. and £3 5s. to enable a private individual to buy property for his own profit? Are they advocating that we should bring forward a scheme to enable private persons to buy land as their own property, and have the benefit of it, and that we should ask the taxpayer to pay 5s. to 10s. per cent. interest for their benefit? That is the question. Am I to go down to my Constituency faced with that difficulty where it has already been announced that a large number of farms are going to be put up for sale? Suggestions have been circulated that if the party opposite were returned to power it would enable the English tenants to obtain money upon the same terms as the Irish people. I should be pleased if that were possible, but I do not think it is in view of the state of the money market. With regard to the question of the margin, practically every witness before the Commit tee suggested that the whole of the purchase money should not be advanced to the tenant, In some cases they advocated that no more than two-thirds of the money should be advanced, but it is said again it is advanced in Ireland. Let me point out the three things which favour the Irish tenant, but which do not favour the English tenant. First of all, the advance made to the Irish tenant is guaranteed by the Local Taxation Fund. Am I to understand hon. Members opposite advocate that the county councils should be responsible and that they may be mulcted in rates in order to assist the English tenant farmer? Not only that, but in Ireland the price was agreed upon after the rent had been fixed by the Courts. Do I understand hon. Members are prepared to establish Land Courts in England and Wales?
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
The right hon. Gentleman says "No." Consequently, you have not one of the first securities of the Irish tenant viz. a price based upon a rent settled by a Court of Law. There is another particular where if we are to advance the whole of the purchase money in this country it would not be like the Irish case. In Ireland the tenant is the owner of the tenant right, and the only thing he purchases from the landlord is the landlord's interest, but in the mortgage he gives to the Government as security there is included not only the land he has bought from the landlord but his own tenant right, which I am told is equivalent to from one-fifth to one-half of the value of the whole 907 property. I will ask again whether we are to understand it is seriously proposed that whilst in Ireland the tenant does not get more than two-thirds or four-fifths of the value of the whole holding, the whole of the price is to be advanced to the tenant farmers of England and Wales without either the security of the tenant right or the guarantee of the local rates? There is another, and a very serious matter, which has been overlooked by both the right hon. and the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that is the conditions upon which the tenants in this country are prepared to buy their property. Bead the whole of the evidence, and what does it amount to? "We will buy the property with the aid of the State if we can get it so that the amount repayable does not exceed the present rental."
I was surprised to hear the English tenant farmer say he did not desire to buy his property, because I had always understood from the speeches of hon. Gentlemen representing agricultural constituencies that they were burning for an opportunity of acquiring their land and of becoming their own landowners. But the tenants one after the other said they would not purchase except on present rentals. What does that mean? It means that the owner of the property, very often a trustee, is to accept less than the market value. Does anybody suggest that an English landowner is prepared to sell his land to-day for less than its real value? Not only that, but there was evidence before the Committee that in a very large tract of country rents would be put up by 20 per cent. without giving cause for complaint. It is much to the credit of the landowners if it be so. I am here to point out that there is no desire, and I point to the evidence before the Committee and to the fact that practically everyone agreed that a scheme of State-aided purchase would only be of assistance to little more than 10 per cent. of the tenant farmers. Let me put one or two considerations for saying there is no desire in England on the part of the tenant to become the owner of land except as the alternative to leaving. Then take the Report of the Board of Agriculture. The last paragraph of that Report is rather curious reading in the light of speeches to which we have been accustomed:—Since 1888 there has been an almost uninterrupted decline in the proportion of the acreage owned by occupiers. In that year it was for the whole of Great 908 Britain 15 per cent. In 1911 it had fallen to 11.89 per cent. The tendency has been not only continuous, but general all over the countryMr. Parker, one of the agents of the Duke of Westminster, speaking in November last, said:—he viewed the breaking up of estates with regret. If they took his advice they would be the last persons in the world to buy their farms. It was far better to have their capital, as it were, on the farm than lucked up in the farm[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very glad hon. Members agree with me that except as a last resort there is no desire to buy. That is the reason why the second recommendation of the Committee was made. Take the experience with regard to the Small Holdings Act. Under the Act of 1892 a tenant buying from his landlord was entitled, and is still entitled, to obtain four-fifths of the purchase money on mortgage at 3½ per cent. repayable in fifty years. Two-thirds of all the holdings in England are under fifty acres, and consequently come within the purview of the Act. In thirteen years, however, only thirty tenants have applied under that Act, and ten of them came from the Division which I represent, and applied on my own instigation. I point out that to show I have no bias against purchase. Both the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite said private ownership is really advantageous to the tenant. I am not quite so sure that it is. In Wales a large number of men own their farms, and I am sorry to say they are exceedingly poor. There has been a remarkable book published recently on Belgium, in which the position of the tenant in Belgium is summed up as follows by Mr. Rowntree:—Ample means of transit, a good system of agricultural education, and co-operative societies, including the provision and the insurance of live stock at very low rates. Surely with all these blessings their lives should be almost ideal. But is it? A closer acquaintance with the small holder is that though he seldom, never perhaps, suffers from want, he generally lives roughly, and, except in winter, works unreasonably long hours.Let me add what he says with regard to the position of the occupying owner:—The peasant proprietor is left in a very similar state to that of the tenant. Both live sparingly and work extremely hard to make a living.And the reason for that is this: the smaller the farm the greater the demand for the holding, and the greater the demand the higher the price paid; and, in consequence, the higher the interest or its equivalent in rent. It is the experience in Ireland, and in practically every other country, that the creation of small holdings means a greater demand and a consequent increase in the rent. Reference was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the 909 Bordesley Division to the experience of tenants under the county councils. May I point out that the scheme advocated by the Committee was not acquisition through the county councils. I do not think hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are quite fair to the county councils. The right hon. Gentleman may have forgotten the occasion when I, in 1907, moved an Amendment to the Small Holdings Bill which would have made it unnecessary to charge the sinking fund to the tenant. The right hon. Gentleman himself, against his Leader, voted against the Amendment.
§ Mr. JESSE COLLINGS
That makes no difference, as long as you give the county councils power to charge any rent they like.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
It is a public authority, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would not suggest the county councils are making unnecessary profit. The real complaint is that they charge the tenant with the sinking fund, and although the Leader of the Opposition supported the Amendment moved from this side of the House, the right hon. Gentleman voted against it.
§ Mr. JESSE COLLINGS
If the hon. Gentleman will read the Report of the Board of Agriculture he will see instances in which county councils treated tenants in what I call a shameful manner by charging high rents, yielding great interest on the outlay they had made. Does the hon. Gentleman desire that?
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I question whether the right hon. Gentleman is right in his inference that the county councils have made a profit on any land they have acquired, or that they have let it to the tenants at a rent over and above what is necessary to recoup the expenditure they have incurred. I come now to the question of State purchase. The right hon. Gentleman rather suggested that the State purchase of land by sitting tenants was advocated only by a minority of the Committee, but I would point out that the whole Committee, with but one exception, declared that they were not opposed to the extension of Crown estates by purchase for the benefit of the sitting tenant. In other words, so far as the system was confined to the acquisition of Crown estates for the benefit of sitting tenants, there was no objection to it. Take the question of State-aided purchase, a tenant buying in the market is apt to pay 910 a competitive price, and particularly so when he is buying his own farm, land with which possibly his family has been associated for many years. We suggest that the expenses of administration by the State would be considerably less and that the rate of interest on the purchase money would be lower. The land once acquired by the State would obtain for the tenant that security of tenure which is so important a factor in his life, and would enable him later on, if compelled to move, to obtain from the State fair compensation for the improvements he has effected by his labour on the land.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Sir JOHN SPEAR
I desire, in a very few words, to heartily support the Amendment before the House, and in doing so I am confident that I am faithfully representing the wishes of tenant farmers generally. I am glad that the Seconder of the Amendment was a veteran champion of assisted land purchase before the reasonableness of the safety of the principle was generally accepted by the people of this country. I am sure we are all glad to see him here today and in good health. Agriculturists generally prefer assisted State purchase to holding land under the State. I quite agree with the last speaker we must see that in carrying out these transactions no injustice is done to the general community. We must be careful, for instance, that the purchaser is a suitable man, and that the price paid for the land is fair and equitable. But given those conditions, I say it will be good for the country, that it will elevate the position of the agriculturist, that it will increase the output of the native food supply, and do much to encourage the dwelling in rural districts of more people—a movement we all desire to see.
I am willing to submit, in response to the opinion of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, that where a tenant rents under a good landlord he has thereby fixity of tenure, and he is just as well off as if he became a purchaser under the scheme adumbrated by the Amendment. But we are face to face with a crisis in the history of the tenure of land, and that is really the question that justifies, and indeed compels, those who have any sense of sympathy or justice towards the agricultural classes to bring this question before the House to-day, as is done by this Amendment. Recent legislation and the speeches of prominent Members of the party opposite have excited a feeling of 911 alarm in the minds of owners of land. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Surely the hon. Gentleman who cries "Hear, hear" cannot have any pleasure in exciting alarm in the breasts of any law-abiding fellow-countryman. The trouble is this: The alarm and disaster is not confined to landlords only. The British farmer loves his home and loves his land, and it is a good thing for the country that such is the case, because during the depression that rested on agriculture for the twenty years following 1879 it was the love of home and the love of his industry that gave the British agriculturist so much pluck to persevere. We therefore have a right, on behalf of agriculturists, to come to this House and ask that, since the Government by legislation have created unrest and have dispossessed men of their homes and farms, something should be done to remedy the grievances they have created. We know this: When farms are for sale the tenant endeavours to buy them rather than run the risk of being turned out. He goes into the open market to borrow money at a high percentage, and he purchases his holding at a price which means an increase of 10s. or 15s. per acre on his rent, and that makes it extremely difficult for him to develop the land as he should do in his own interest and in the interest of the country.
I was delighted to have a seat in this House when the Irish Land Act was before us, and, as strongly as I could, I, as a tenant - farmer myself, supported that measure. That measure has regenerated Ireland, and produced a state of prosperity that could not have been anticipated some years ago; and with that example before us we claim that the same principle, on sound economic lines, taking care to protect the interests of the community, ought to be extended to the British farmer. The State, we know, can issue Land Stock at a low rate of interest, and advance the money to the tenant without any loss to the community. The last speaker devoted his speech more to criticisms of the methods of securing land purchase than to the principle. I would remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment was very careful to say that he did not pledge himself to any particular scheme. Although he preferred his own Bill, all that he desired was that at this crisis, when tenants are being turned out of their homes through no fault of their own, and by no desire of their landlords—who, through a sort of compul- 912 sion, had been driven to sell the land, with the result that the tenant is thrown out of his holding—the State, who has caused the mischief, ought to do what it can to remedy it in the direction indicated by the Amendment.
It has been asserted that it would be better for the State to acquire the land, and for the farmer to occupy it as a tenant under the State. I submit that the experience of State ownership, as shown by the reference to the Small Holdings Acts, has convinced every practical agriculturist that that is a scheme which is not fair or just to the tiller of the soil. It has been pointed out that, under the county councils, first of all interest has to be paid on the principal where land has been bought and divided into small holdings, then some 15 per cent. is charged for working expenses, and then there is a contribution to the sinking fund, which in eighty years pays back the original cost of the land. But the man who pays the money never owns the land. I submit that that is not fair. We ask that an opportunity should be given, where land is being sold with a ready seller and a ready buyer, that the sitting tenant should have a State advance which would enable him to purchase his holding, making a repayment annually of principal and interest, and that ultimately he should become the owner of the land he tills. The hon. Member who last spoke thinks that there is no real demand for the ownership of land. As one of the directors of the Surrey Small Holdings Association, although we have only to deal with 361 acres of land, which we bought and divided up and sold on the principle of the purchaser paying by ten annual instalments, I can say that when that farm was offered and advertised we had 1,100 applications to become purchasers under that system. That strongly refutes the contention of the hon. Member that there is not a real desire to become owners of land. I believe that this policy would tend to increase the output of our native food supply, and that it would encourage, what we all wish to see, more dwellers in the rural districts. The movement of the flower of our rural population into towns and to foreign countries is menacing the stability of the race. On these grounds, but especially at this crisis and on the ground that the Government, by their policy and by their speeches, have caused such destruction of confidence in the owners of land so that it is being forced into the market, thereby compelling the tenant either to borrow money to buy his 913 holding or to run the risk of being turned out, we say that the Government that brought about this disaster on the rural owners are responsible for doing what they can in the direction proposed by the Amendment in order to modify, at any rate, if not undo, the mischief which their lack of knowledge and of practical agricultural experience has led them to do, namely, inflict the hardest blow on the agricultural classes which the industry has suffered for many a year. I feel that, on the ground of justice, the Government should as soon as possible give effect to the principle of the Amendment, and, in doing so, they will relieve many well-deserving tillers of the soil of the anxiety and distress in which they have been placed by inability to purchase the holdings which are being sold, and who are running the risk of being turned out of their homes and farms which they love, and on which they have lived for many generations.
We have a right, as English farmers, to claim the same treatment as the Irish farmers have received. I glory in the passing of the Irish Land Act, but surely the time has come when Englishmen have the right to expect at the hands of the Government similar treatment to that which was extended to Irishmen. I appeal to the Government to give consideration to this question and to see whether something cannot be done, by way of an advance of money by the State, to help those who have been dispossessed of their holdings and to avoid the inconvenience and distress of others being turned out of their holdings. Therefore I cordially support the Amendment. I can say, on behalf of the farmers, that we do not want any unbusinesslike proceeding. We want the Government to take due precautions, to see that the principles are sound economically, that the right men are secured to the holdings, and that a fair price is plaid, and if we have these conditions I think it will be in the interests of the country and the interests of agriculture that some steps should be taken, and that quickly, on the lines suggested by the Amendment before the House.
§ Mr. BLACK
Nothing is more remarkable than the change that has taken place in the Unionist policy with regard to the land during the last few years, and, for my part, I welcome it. I should like to say, on behalf of Members on this side, how greatly we appreciate the zeal and energy with which the President of the 914 Board of Agriculture is prosecuting his toil, and, with the desire which is evident on both sides of the House to secure a better solution of the problem of dealing with the tenancy and ownership of land, I am quite sure something will be arrived at. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jesse Collings) made reference to an experiment made by the Duke of Bedford on one of his estates. I believe that experiment was always regarded by some as a political move, but I never so regarded it. I always welcomed it as a generous experiment, which I should like to see multiplied on all hands. The right hon. Gentleman stated that, in his opinion, the proposal made in the Report of the Departmental Committee to advance four-fifths of the money for the purchase of the land at 3¼ per cent. interest, with an addition of ¾ per cent. for sinking fund and expenses, was an unreasonable proposition. It seems to me that there are many Members of the House who would be delighted to get money on those terms, and the objection that I have to the right hon. Gentleman's Bill and the proposal now before the House is that it really cannot be regarded as a business proposition. The hon. Member (Sir J. Spear) said he did not want anything that was not a business proposition, but to ask, without proper security, that the whole of the money should be advanced at the lowest possible rate of interest seems to me to be asking not for a business proposition, but for charity pure and simple, and the tenant farmers of this country have not fallen so low as to demand charity at the hands of the House.
With regard to small holdings and the Small Holdings Act, many of us who supported that Act were not satisfied with the provisions we were able to secure, but we got the best we could, and on many occasions we looked in vain for support from Members on the other side in order to secure better conditions than we were able to get for small holders. With regard to the County Council of Bedfordshire, they have done exceedingly well in acquiring land on the best terms they could get and hiring it out to the small holders, and those small holders had to pay full value, including sinking fund, and 4s. or 5s. per acre for expenses, which is a big order, yet on the whole, in spite of this, the small holders are doing fairly well. They are having to pay principal and sinking fund and interest on the value of the land spread over a period of eighty years. By some Gentlemen on the other side I believe that is regarded as an unfair thing, 915 but it seems to me that if the community takes the risk in a case like this there is a very strong argument in favour of the value that is thus created being secured to the community when the period has come to an end. But it seems to me that the case for the small holders in these circumstances is infinitely greater than the case that is now made on behalf of the tenant farmers, and if the President of the Board of Agriculture could see his way to introduce legislation which will give to the small holders renting from the county council an opportunity on favourable terms of securing the freehold of their land I should welcome it and give it all the support I possibly can.
§ Mr. BARNSTON
I should like to ask what is the position of the ordinary farmer in England to-day. We have it on the evidence before the Committee that, in 1910, £1,500,000 worth of agricultural land was disposed of, and we are told that in 1911 over £2,000,000 of agricultural land was sold, and, though I have no figures for last year, I should say, from the experience in my own county, that these unfortunate sales were even greater than in the two previous years. In Cheshire we have had sales almost in every district, causing an immense amount of unrest and anxiety—a perfectly natural unrest and anxiety—and almost every farmer is asking himself—certainly every farmer who rents an outlying farm—"Will my farm be the next to be sold?" That is not only a predicament for the farmer to be in, but it is also very bad for agriculture generally. This is a most important question for the farmers of the country, and really common justice demands that attention should be paid to it and something should be done for these men. We are face to face with this fact, that, owing to the feeling of apprehension, which the Government themselves have caused, because that is definitely stated in the Report of the Committee, estates are being forced on the market, and as a result there is a good deal of anxiety and unrest among the farmers of the country. I received only this morning a resolution passed at a meeting of farmers in the Division next to mine in support of the amendment of the Agricultural Holdings Act, with which, generally speaking, I am in sympathy, and they also sent a resolution copied from Clause 7 of the Report of the Committee in which they assert that an assurance in respect of future legislation will go a 916 considerable way towards restoring confidence to land owners, thus resulting in a continuous system of land tenure which, in the opinion of such witnesses, has worked admirably from the point of view of the tenant farmers of the country. What we ask by the Amendment is that where farms are in the market and where the sitting tenant is anxious to buy, the purchase money should be advanced by the State on the lowest possible terms in order that the tenant may be able to buy his own farm, and may not be turned out and have to seek his fortunes elsewhere.
It is impossible to speak on this subject without referring to the Report of the Committee. I think two facts come very clearly out from the Report. The first is that it is apprehension that has caused nearly all these sales, as was stated by the majority of the witnesses, and the second is that the one thing, under certain conditions, which seemed to unite all the members of the Committee was that they were in favour of some scheme of State-aided purchase. I want to qualify that by stating that they are in favour of State-aided purchase, not necessarily when an occupier makes application, but when a farm is being sold over a farmer's head. For my part, I may say at once that I am not in any way in favour of advocating the universal ownership of agricultural land by farmers. I think we often hear on the platform, and occasionally in this House, landlords spoken of as if they had two horns and a tail, and sometimes we hear it advocated that it would be of advantage if many of those who live in towns were to go to Scotland and grow cabbages on what are now deer forests. No one who understands farming treats these suggestions at all seriously.
I am convinced that the ordinary farmer, if under a good landlord, would prefer to remain as a tenant, for he knows perfectly well that the disappearance of the large landed proprietor from the country would not only be a loss to him, but a great loss to the agricultural community generally. Let me give one or two instances in support of that. Take, for instance, the way in which large landed proprietors have in the past by every means in their power, in the interest of tenants and of agricultural labourers, encouraged the breeding and improvement of all kinds of stock. I venture to say that you cannot go to an agricultural show in any part of the country without that at once impressing itself upon your mind. I think it would be a great loss to the farming community 917 if this valuable support and encouragement were done away with. I believe, speaking generally, tenant farmers who are under good landlords would much prefer to remain tenants. I think it would be better for them to do so, but there is a great desire among tenant farmers whenever their farms are to be sold over their heads, when they do not know who the new landlord is going to be, and when they do not know whether they can go on living on the farms, to become the owners of their own farms. Anybody who has been, as I have been, during the last two or three months to any of the great sales of agricultural property in the country and heard the loud cheering when a tenant farmer has been able to buy his own farm, will, I venture to say, endorse what I have stated. So far as I can gather from the Report in regard to ownership, speaking generally, it seems to me entirely in favour of some scheme of State purchase. I must confess that the system they advocate would probably stop a good many tenants from ever being able to purchase their farms. I must once again say what has been said before, that we who represent English farmers really do not understand why terms which are given to Irish farmers are always denied to British agriculturists. To-day is not the time to go into great details, for, after all, we are discussing the principle. May I mention a few of the conditions on which a State purchase scheme, to be of any use, would have to be carried through? In the first place, I think care must be taken that the State incurs no loss. In the second place, I should say that the amount of the purchase money should be voluntarily agreed upon between the owner and the sitting tenant. I think that is important, for this reason. In selling farms you do not want the tenant to pay for any improvements he has made. Therefore I think it is important that the price should be agreed upon in that way, because you do not want the tenant to pay for improvements he has made through his enterprise and capital. Thirdly, I think the tenant should be able to pay back to the State the money that has been advanced, though not all at once. The scheme which I would advocate would be one of a reducible mortgage, and I would suggest that no advance should be made by the State unless the Board of Agriculture certified that the amount of the purchase price is not in excess of the value of the holding.
I believe very strongly in a scheme on the lines which Mr. Eve brought before 918 the Committee. That scheme would be of great advantage to the tenant farmers of this country without doing any injury to other members of the community. In this question time is most important. We have had a great many sales in the past. These sales are going on, and I am certain that in my own county we are going to have a great many sales in the near future. Therefore whatever is done with respect to this question should be done at once. That will be of advantage to the tenant farmers. I do hope that when the President of the Board of Agriculture replies we shall have a sympathetic answer telling us that this question is going to be dealt with now that the Committee has made a Report in its favour. I have, and I think everybody must have, an immense amount of sympathy for men who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in this position. Surely it is natural that this House, which is supposed to redress grievances, should give some attention to this question which affects the agricultural community.
§ Mr. J. PARKER
I cannot claim to know a great deal at first hand about agriculture, but I rise to address the House because I was a Member of the Committee whose Report and recommendations have been criticised this afternoon. I have looked carefully at the Amendment moved by the hon. Member (Mr. Stanier), and I fail to see exactly what the point of it is. It expresses regret because the Government have not developed a system of small ownership of land. It is not my business to defend the Government, but it seems to me, that so far as the Board of Agriculture is concerned they have been assisting hon. Gentlemen opposite to the utmost of their capacity in this direction. The Committee whose Report has caused so much discussion this afternoon was not a very united Committee, to say the least of it. There are half a dozen reports or reservations among a dozen men, and you cannot say that such a Committee was unanimous in regard to anything. I am absolutely opposed to the personal ownership of land. Altogether apart from any "ism" or party feeling, I am opposed to it on these grounds: I claim that the large majority of British tenant-farmers to-day are not in a position to purchase their holdings unless the whole of the money is to be found by the State. If the State is to find the whole of the money at a rate which does not pay in carrying out the scheme, then you are going to impose a tax on the industrial community in order 919 to relieve the British farmers in the first place; but, in reality, what you are going to do is to tax the town communities in order to meet the price at which the British landlord is going to sell. I do not expect that hon. Members opposite will approve of the proposition being put in that way, but I will endeavour to give some proof in support of that view.
The Irish Members have the right to such legislation as they believe the people of Ireland demand. I, as an English representative, claim the right to express an opinion as to whether that is wise or not from my own point of view, and I believe that within the next twenty years, when Ireland has got Home Rule, it will find that it has got to deal with a problem with regard to tenant-farmers and the excessive charges which were imposed upon them owing to the number of years' purchase they have had to pay, a problem which will almost be as difficult as the problem was when they started out to buy up the Irish landlords. In many cases twenty-five and in some cases even up to twenty-eight years' purchase has been paid to those landlords, which is a ridiculous price. It was stated by the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir J. Spear), with regard to the large estates that have been broken up, that this was done because of a feeling of alarm. Let us examine what is that alarm. One of the witnesses (Mr. C. P. Hall), who I think was agent for the Duke of Bedford, was asked as to the cause of this particular alarm. The evidence will be found on page 73 of the Blue Book. He was asked whether the estate for which he was agent had suffered in any sense as the result of the Budget of 1910, and his reply was a definite one, that it had not. But he said that the apprehension which they had was with regard to future legislation. What is the real tax in this country which is forcing landlords to break up large estates? If there is any particular tax that is responsible at all it is the Death Duties, and not the Death Duties which have been carried during the last few years, but the whole principle of Death Duties. I think that that particular form of taxation is a very wise one.
§ Mr. PARKER
They are selling now because they can get a better price at the present moment than at any time during 920 the last twenty years; otherwise they would not now be selling. The same gentleman told the Committee that although they were receiving only 15s. 3d. per acre for rent on that estate they could raise the rents by 20 per cent. without a single tenant making any objection. In answer to the question, why do not they do so and get the best rent for the farms it was said that the individual duke or landlord does not want to risk the odium of raising his rent, and therefore he sells the estate and shifts the white man's burden on to someone else to stand whatever odium there may be with regard to raising the rent. It is necessary that those things should be stated and understood as the real cause for alarm, if there has been such alarm, though I doubt very much whether that is the reason at all why estates have been put into the market. It is suggested to us that there is some particular virtue in the ownership of land. Of the witnesses who came before the Committee, I am sure that there were not more than one or two, if indeed there were any at all, among the tenant farmers who said they desired to own the land. The only people who desired to own the land were the people who were afraid of a change. Some of them, I presume, have good landlords, and they said, "Leave us as we are: we are all right. If we had to choose between that and being turned out, then, of course, we will purchase, if compelled to, but we cannot afford to pay any more in sinking fund and interest than we are now paying in rent."
Hon. Members opposite say that the landlord to-day is letting to the tenant at a rate which does not yield him a fair return for his money. They also say that the State is to bring forward a purchase scheme which is to enable the tenant by the same payment to get possession of his land. Who is going to pay the difference? What the landlord takes to-day he takes in rent. The State out of the amount which it is to charge the tenant for interest and sinking fund is to get no more than the landlord gets to-day. Therefore the taxpayer who is not a tenant farmer is to be called upon to buy the farm for the tenant farmer. That is the position underlying what we are asked to do this afternoon by this Resolution, by the recommendation of those people who say that the tenant farmer should be put in a position to purchase his farm at a price which is no greater than he is paying to-day. I signed a brief reservation myself to that Report. I do not believe it is in the interests of 921 British agriculture for the tenant farmer to own his own farm. I am satisfied that the majority of British farmers are not in a position to spend the purchase money without impovershing the farm or without sweating the labour which they employ. Either of these things is bad, and my knowledge, I admit derived through books, of what obtains with regard to peasant proprietorship in France by no means justifies me in coming to the conclusion that private ownership means an easier or a better life for the agriculturist than his being a tenant, whether it be a tenant of the State, or whatever tenancy there be. These are the reasons why I refused to sign that portion of the Report which recommends this scheme of State ownership; but this particular scheme that is advocated is a scheme under which a kind of banker has to be set up which the State is to guarantee. The banker is somehow or other to make a profit as between the State and the tenant, yet the tenant is to get his land at slightly more, including the purchase of the freehold, than the rent he is paying to-day.
I should have defined this particular scheme as a scheme for putting money into the pockets of the bankers more than into the pockets of agricultural tenants. I would have nothing to do with it. I believe it to be a bad thing for the tenant farmer, and certainly a bad thing for the State, while the banker gets what there is to be obtained. Hon. Members opposite, when they speak of the effect of the Budget taxation upon the land, accuse some of us on this side of the House of wanting to do things which would injure British agriculture. My Friend behind me and myself would put a tax on all the land we could. Though we put a tax upon land, we would relieve the land of certain burdens which it has to bear to-day. The tax would be upon the land value, and burdens would be removed from improvements, so that the position of the tenant farmer would be materially better than it is now, whatever might be the position of the landlord. I shall vote against this particular Amendment. I do not think individual ownership is a practical thing for the tenant farmer, and I am sure it is not good for the State. The effect of it must necessarily be to starve the land, to reduce wages, and to increase the number of hours the farmer and his men have to put into their work. All these circumstances have their effect on a business where there is too little capital to work 922 with, as is the case with the tenant farmers to-day. It is calculated that not more than 10 per cent. would take advantage of this scheme, but I think it would be a good deal nearer the mark if we were to say 2 per cent. Wherever, whether in the business of a tenant farmer or any other business, you have a lack of capital, owing to the purchase money being invested in the land, leaving to others the task of working the undertaking, the result must be the starvation of the particular industry concerned. In no case would that be more likely to be the experience than in farming, and for those reasons I am absolutely opposed to the Amendment.
§ Captain WEIGALL
I find myself the only member of the Committee on this side of the House, and, in answer to the hon. Member who has just sat down, I must say that I am perfectly sure that anyone who heard the evidence given before that Committee could come to only one conclusion as to the causes which have led to the breaking up of large agricultural estates. The hon. Member quoted Mr. C. B. Hall, who represented an acreage of 11,000,000 acres of land. He attended before the Committee as a witness on behalf of the Land Agents Society, and as a man whose chief business it was to endeavour to hold the scales of justice equally between landlord and tenant. I am only too happy to think that the whole of my life has been spent in that profession. Mr. C. B. Hall answered several questions which I put to him. I asked him:—Q.—Had it not been for this feeling of insecurity, would there have been put up for sale the large acreage of land which is now in the market?A.—In my opinion, certainly not.Q.—Do you consider if we had had the improved agricultural prices, and if we had not had the action of the State, there would have been this enormous acreage in the market?A.—Certainly not.Hon. Members opposite all over the country have gone about saying that what is known as Lloyd George finance has not hit the agricultural community. The whole of the evidence given by those who are qualified to speak on this matter has certainly been to the contrary effect. Hon. Members opposite must know that the landowner is a man first and not a philanthropist, and if his property appreciates in value he is ready to sell it. Mr. Hall's evidence alone, without any other evidence, is sufficient to prove that it is not the appreciation of the value of agricultural land that has induced the landowners 923 to sell. In my own experience, I know perfectly well the views that animated the landowners whose property I had to sell. They said to themselves: "We have been selected by the Government of the day to have imposed upon us burdens that other sections of the community have not got to bear. Therefore the time has now arrived when we must sell, even though it hurts those who are farming our property." Hon. Members opposite always forget that in agriculture you have an industry in which forces operate that do not operate in any other industry. If I may advance a simile, in the agricultural industry in this country the landowner provides the engine with the whole machinery in working order. The tenant farmer provides by his stock, implements, and skill and energy the fuel which keeps the machinery going. We heard from witness after witness that this machinery has worked perfectly smoothly until the Liberal administration came along and put sand into the lubricating oil in the shape of your whole system of land taxation, and this sand in the lubricating oil has upset the relations between landlord and tenant throughout the whole country. If it had not been for an addition of this sort we should never have heard a word about the grievances on which my hon. Friend opposite and myself, with others, have been engaged for the last eight months. I agree with Mr. Gladstone that the ideal system of tenure in this country is where one set of men own the land and another set occupy the land, with absolute freedom of contract on either side. Owing to the action of the existing Liberal administration, that ideal system of land tenure in this country has come to an end. We had the evidence of tenant farmers, including the Radical candidate for North Northamptonshire. I put a question to the candidate:—Q.—As a practical farmer, would you sooner hold your land under the average good landlord in the country, or would you sooner hold it under a local authority, or the Government under some State purchase scheme?A.—Undoubtedly, I would hold it under the individual landowner, if you can guarantee that the system will go on.[An HON. MEMBER: "What about Ireland?"] Ireland has an entirely different state of affairs. We have heard the question on both sides of the House—I am sorry to have to disagree with many of my Friends on this side of the House—why should not the tenant farmer in this country be given the same advantages as 924 the tenant farmer in Ireland? The answer is this: In Ireland you have got a tenant farmer having a far larger interest in the holding than has the tenant farmer here. Sir George Murray was called simply and solely as a financial expert representing the Treasury. We had arrived in our deliberations at this point: A few of us who are financiers desired to have the greatest financial expert before us in order that we might arrive at some decision as to the rate of interest at which the State funds should be lent to any section of the community without injury to the community as a whole. As a broad principle, I suppose everybody in the House will agree that you are not entitled, and that no responsible Government is entitled, to advance funds which are provided by the whole of the taxpayers of the country for the relief of any one section of the community. That is a broad principle, but, so far as agriculture is concerned, you have to deal with an industry in which forces operate which do not operate in any other industry. I do not want now to go further into that question, but let me, in answer to the remark of the hon. Member about Ireland, say that I asked Sir George Murray this question simple and solely on finance. We all know, from the state of the finances of this country to-day, how it has been brought about. This is neither the time nor the Debate to discuss those things, but suffice it to say that owing to the existing state of the finances of the country at present, the Irish system has not been a success. Purely on finance qua finance I asked Sir George Murray:—Many witnesses have said what is done for the Irish farmer ought to be done for the English farmer?His answer to that was:—There is a great deal of difference between the position of the selling landlord in Ireland and the selling landlord in England. It is almost a misuse of language to apply the same term to both. The landlord in Ireland, as everybody knows, is really very little more than a rent-charger. In England, he probably supplies at least half the capital.That is the answer to those who ask why you should not have the same thing done for the English tenant farmer as we have done for the Irish tenant farmer. The two positions are not analogous in the least. As to the recommendation for some system of State-aided purchase or State purchase, the hon. Member for Glamorgan, who was a member of the Committee, accused me in his speech of advocating, or rather admitting in my reservation, that I was an advocate of State purchase because in our first reservation we used these words:—We are not opposed to the extension of the Crown estates by purchase for the benefit of such tenants.925 That is a very very different thing from giving unlimited opportunity to the Government of the day to go into the market and buy up wholesale large agricultural estates. For the reasons that we have given in those conclusions, I have been, and always shall be, absolutely opposed to the State becoming a large landowner to an unlimited extent, both from the point of view of those who have got to provide the funds, the whole of the taxpayers, and from the point of view of the tenants, who have got to occupy under that system of land tenure. The State is always an absentee landlord. Anyone who has ever had any intimate connection with the administration of any large agricultural estate knows perfectly well that where you have a resident landowner who is endeavouring to do all that he can to make the holdings accommodating and attractive to the tenant farmer, and to make the cottages more comfortable for the labourers, and to make the labourer's life easier and happier, that that is a condition of affairs you could never get under any system of State purchase. I am perfectly convinced in my own mind that it is not a system of tenure that is going to make for the good either of the community as a whole or of the tenant farmer.
As to the State-aided purchase recommendations, which I did sign, I perfectly recognise that from a purely financial point of view the scheme as propounded by Sir Edward Holden is primarily a banker's scheme. I do feel we have reached a point where we want a little steadying influence. We have got to a point where those who have any capital invested in the land, I do not care whether it is a fixed capital of the landowner or the moving capital of the tenant farmer in his stock and implements or the muscle of the labourer, you have got all those three interests, if I may use the expression, "on the jump," simply and solely through the action of the legislature as the land taxation of the Liberal Government. All you desire is a comparatively small sum, from half a million to a million. I am perfectly certain, if it was advanced, even on the terms advocated by Sir Edward Holden, you would get the steadying influence you require after that had been in operation for a few years, and if there was what the Committee asked for, namely, an assurance from His Majesty's Government that we were not going to have any more of this reckless, riotous land finance. If you got that and the 926 steadying influence of what I freely admit is a banker's scheme, you would restore the whole position of land tenure to what it was before this Liberal Government started on its system of land finance.
I know and realise that we agriculturists have got to deal with a spirit of very earnest commercialism. After all, we have been called a nation of shop-keepers, but there are things that cannot be bought for pounds, shillings and pence. We hear much as to the wealth of this country in sovereigns, and as to export returns and import returns, but there are things that make for wealth that you cannot estimate in pounds, shillings and pence, and undoubtedly almost the greatest asset this country has got is its national character. We talk a great deal about getting people back to the land. I say if you can only keep the people on the land and out of the slums, which has been the product of commercialism, you will improve your national character, you will improve your national physique, you will improve the virility of the nation; and, I ask, is not that an asset worth even a half per cent. in a banker's scheme for State-aided purchase? I am perfectly free to admit that on pure financial grounds that that scheme cannot possibly be defended, but there are grounds that I say are of far more value to the country as a whole than purely pounds, shillings and pence. I have spent the whole of my life in the agricultural community. I want to see agriculture the predominant industry of the country. After all, the health and wealth of the nation depend on it more than any other, and I do feel that anyone who reflects on this aspect of the question must realise that the taxpayer as a whole must be prepared to place his hand in his pocket to a certain extent in relief of the agricultural industry. I am happy to think that agriculturists as a whole can congratulate themselves that the office of President of the Board of Agriculture is in the hands of a man who is sincere in his endeavours to help the agricultural industry, and I believe that the right hon. Gentleman will give his greatest enthusiasm and devote his greatest energies to the endeavour to make it, as it should be, the predominant industry in the country. I am perfectly certain that when the Government passed their Land Tax legislation they never for one moment realised the effect it would have on the landed interest. I am not going to accuse them of imposing this taxation wilfully on any one section of the community, but now that they see what 927 the result has been on our greatest industry, I most strenuously appeal to them to endeavour, on the lines of the Departmental Committee's Report, to restore the feeling of security that their land taxation has taken away.
The hon. Member opposite (Captain Weigall) prefaced his remarks by a reference to the effect upon the agricultural industry of what he and others are pleased to call "Lloyd George finance." The fact that landowners are selling their land is in itself no proof that "Lloyd George finance" has been injurious to the landowners of this country. We require something more than vague assertion to prove the hon. Gentleman's contention. One might quote such letters as, for instance, one written by a Noble Lord to "The Times" last year, in which, in accounting for the sale of his estate, the writer said that it was in no way associated with "Lloyd George finance." My purpose in rising, however, is to speak on this Amendment from the point of view of Scotland. I am not quite certain whether the Mover intended that it should apply to Scotland. I can see only one Scotch Member present on the opposite side, and he for the moment is sitting below the Gangway, perhaps to show his independence on this particular point. I do not see any other Scottish agricultural Members present to support the Amendment from the Conservative point of view. I am somewhat surprised at this, because it is not very long ago that the late Leader of the Opposition, speaking in Aberdeen, said that the extension of the system of small ownerships in Scotland was one of those causes which were very dear to his heart. It would be very interesting to know whether or not the Unionist party have now abandoned their policy of small ownerships in respect of Scotland. I do not believe there is in Scotland any general desire for such a system. The reasons have already been given. The small farmer in Scotland does not wish to handicap himself by the heavy burden of purchase. What he desires, above all, is security of tenure.
§ Mr. JESSE COLLINGS
All the Scottish agricultural associations without exception have passed resolutions in its favour.
But since the period when those resolutions were passed we have gone through several General Elections, and, with one or two, or, perhaps, 928 three exceptions, the Scottish agricultural community at those Elections have repudiated in the strongest possible manner the system of small ownerships advocated in the Amendment. What is most essential to prosperous agriculture, on the part of either small or large farmers, is security of tenure. If security of tenure could be obtained only by a system of purchase there would be a great deal to be said for the proposal. I am happy to say, however, that last year we were successful in passing the Scottish Small Landholders Act, which conferred upon the small farmers of Scotland that measure of security of tenure which is essential to their prosperity. Not only that, but under the same Act we secured for the Scottish agricultural community something which is almost as important as security of tenure—namely, a fair rent. Therefore, from the point of view of Scotland, the policy advocated in this Amendment is not only wholly unnecessary, but is not desired by the Scottish agricultural community. They having secured security of tenure and a fair rent, I look forward, without any such policy as that now advocated, to a prosperous future for the small tenants among the Scottish agricultural community.
§ Mr. E. JARDINE
The Amendment has been brought forward so temperately by the Mover and the Seconder and by hon. Members on this side that I will not detain the House by saying anything further in its favour. I would like to deal in some measure with the criticisms which have been made on the other side. The last speaker, the Member for Kincardineshire (Captain Murray), asks what the effect of Lloyd Georgian finance has had or could have upon agriculture? I will tell him. An hon. Member stated that to-day—he quoted the Chief of the Treasury—we borrow money at £3 10s. 3d. per cent. At the beginning of the regime of the Radical party in 1906 Government stocks, Consols, compared with to-day have decreased in value 10 per cent. Comparing this with our neighbours across the Channel, during the same period, French Rentes have increased 9 per cent. The difference to agriculture of Lloyd Georgian finance, taking the recommendations of the Report of the Committee that we have been referred to so often this afternoon, the Committee that deals with the breaking up of the estates, is that under any scheme brought forward the English or the Scottish farmer will have to pay for his farm twice over. 929 That is the actual difference owing to Lloyd Georgian finance.
Another point has been taken up, the question of the finance of the Death Duties. Death Duties, it is true, affect all personal property; not, one may say, technically land more than personal property. But those of us who know agricultural districts are aware that money is leaving the land to be put into industries, perhaps in the cities and towns, but I am afraid in many cases to foster industries abroad. Whenever through Death Duties a sum of £10,000 is taken out of an estate, say in the City of London, that £10,000 remains in the City of London. Take a county division. There the Death Duties are taken from a family already poor—in some cases really poor—though they may keep up a large establishment, and find really very happy homes for quite a number of work-people. In that case the £10,000 which is taken out of the country exhausts that estate and that country-side to the extent of £10,000. You go on from one death to another, all the time impoverishing agriculture and forcing the sale of these lands.
May I refer for a moment to the speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. James Parker), whom I am sorry not to see in his place, because I should have liked to have invited him to go with me on a tour in an agricultural district, providing he would confine his remarks to the question before the House. I think that one or other of two results of that tour would be that either the hon. Member would become converted to the necessity of something being done for the farmer or, and may I say what appeals to me more than anything else, for the labourer; and he would get to know something of agriculture, of which he frankly admits he knows nothing. I might fail to get the support of that prominent Member of the Labour party in support of the agricultural party, but I would say that if he put forward the Socialistic doctrine which he has been advocating this afternoon he would bring over every moderate Liberal in the constituency to vote for the Unionist candidate. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax said he did not believe in the private ownership of land. I presume he does not believe in the private ownership of anything—[An HON. MEMBER: "He did not say so."]—except what Socialists believe; that is, in owning as much as they can for themselves.
930 I am quite sure the hon. Member would admit—because he is full of common sense—that private ownership has many advantages. A man will always take much greater care of what is his own than what belongs to the other fellow, and considering that land is the most important national asset that we have, considering that no man can improve the value of land without increasing the wealth of the community, it is desirable that a man should own his land. Apart from what the hon. Member for Halifax says, and the House, I think, will be unanimous, so far from a man starving the land if it were his own, he would do much better for it. He would put into it more work, more science, more of his savings, and that land would become more fruitful. That man also would not starve labour. The natural course of supply and demand would compel him to bid up for labour, and that would increase the price of labour and the independence of the agricultural worker. The hon. Member referred to the peasant proprietorship of France. I do not know whether he knows more about that subject than he knows of the peasant in England. I think it is hardly necessary for me to remind the House that in France admittedly the back-bone of the country, and that which leads to the stability of the State, is its peasant proprietary. It was the peasant proprietors who found all those vast millions the Germans demanded at the close of the Franco-Prussian war. It is peasant proprietorship which to-day is saving France. It is the only conservative element—I am not speaking in a political sense—left to the French nation. The French peasant proprietor has a hard time—a much harder time than many Gentlemen here who take £400 a year from the country. He has a hard time, but he is of great use to the nation—
§ Mr. E. JARDINE
I do not know, Mr. Speaker, whether I ought to take any notice of these interruptions, but I have not kept the money. May I refer to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Biggleswade in which he rather overlooked the Amendment. He said, 931 "How is it that you advocate land ownership for the farmer, and leave out the little fellow: has not he the same right of ownership as the farmer?" The words of the Amendment read:—Develop a system of small ownership of land.We are just as anxious on this side of the House that the small holder should become the small owner, as we are that the farmer should have the right of purchasing the farm that he, and his father, and in many cases, his grandfather held before him. There is one other point that I wish to call the attention of the House to. Dukes, lords, and landowners have been held up, or attempted to be held up, for the execration of the people as a class though letting land at uneconomic rent. That has been repeated over and over again this afternoon. The farmer, as the evidence given before the Commission shows, does hot want as a rule to buy his land, and practically all farmers were unanimous in desiring to remain tenants under the duke, or the lord, or the rich landlord. The farmer is wise in his generation. Certainly, if he came under the county council or the State he would have to pay higher rent, and he would receive much less considerate terms than he receives to-day. I agree most of the farmers do not want to own the land; they would rather be tenants at uneconomic rents under generous landlords, but it is not in the interests of the State that the farmer should be living at these uneconomic rents when we can give him an opportunity of possessing the soil, making him more comfortable, and enriching the nation by increasing the energy and the effort put into the land.
The President of the Board of Agriculture is starting with a clean slate: he is earnest, and we can assure him from this side of the House he will have our entire sympathy and help; but we would ask him to consider what was well put by several Gentlemen speaking on this side that it is a business proposition to help the farmers and the labourers to settle upon the land. The pick of the people are leaving the villages, not merely to go into the towns, but are leaving the country. Speaking in a village in West Somerset the other day, I was heckled by the Radical chairman of that district. One remark he made was very useful during the course of the Election. He said, talking about agriculture, and pointing to a very bright specimen of the agricultural labourers present, "If I were that young man I 932 would leave the country to-morrow." That is not a good thing for this country. We ought to be prepared, and we should be prepared, to pay a price, even if, on the face of it, it does not look quite well. We should be prepared as a nation to make some sacrifice and to make it cleanly and openly to keep our people on the land in order that we may not only grow increased supplies of food, but what is vastly more important, in order that we may breed a strong, a brave, and a hardy race.
§ Mr. KING
It is a pleasure to me in the first place to follow a fellow Somerset Member, and I can assure the House that if we only had one man one vote in that county, we would have more Members on this side of the House than upon the other from Somerset. It is a pleasure to me to have listened to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite, and to be able to draw what I hope is not a wrong conclusion, that a man can make a speech upon the subject of occupying ownership without any reference to that subject at all. The hon. Member has given us his ideas upon the agricultural situation. He has inveighed against Lloyd Georgian finance; he has told us that emigration is proceeding, and that we ought to stop it; he has touched upon many other aspects of the agricultural question, but he has not brought forward any real remedy in reference to occupying ownership.
§ Mr. KING
Yes, but it is a curious thing to get up and speak to an Amendment and not say a word about it; I intend in a certain measure to follow the hon. Member's example, and I want to do so by calling the attention of the House to the fact that during the whole of yesterday we were debating a Tariff lie form Amendment to the Address. I read that Amendment again and again with the closest attention, and I could not find in it the remotest reference to the agricultural need for Tariff Reform. I listened throughout the Debate and I tried to speak, without success, but I hoped that I would hear some bucolic Member state the need for Tariff Reform in the agricultural districts.
§ Mr. KING
I bow to your suggestion, Mr. Speaker, and promise to follow it. Let 933 me point out to hon. Members opposite the fact that their proposals on the agricultural question vary from year to year, and even from month to month. Two years ago, the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Wheler) brought forward a Motion by way of Amendment to the Address raising the agricultural question in what appeared to hon. Members opposite to be its most acute form. He referred to the hop districts, and the Amendment was to represent to His Majesty the critical condition of the hop industry, and in the course of the Debate which followed there was a demand that the Government should put its hands in its pocket, just the same as is demanded to-day, and give protection. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand (Mr. Walter Long) made a very interesting speech, in which he stated that the only hope for the hop industry was Protection, and that if we did not get protection for it the hop industry would be blotted out. Who says hops to-day? Two years ago twenty Members opposite were deploring the universal ruin of the hop industry. The speech made by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Wheler) then could not possibly be made to-day, for this reason: that that industry, which suffered undoubtedly very heavily from severe seasons then, has had a very prosperous season now, and no complaint whatever can be made, and an Amendment with reference to the hop industry finds no place upon the Order Paper. I congratulate hon. Members, and I congratulate the hop industry, on that fact. I must point out that the only really practical proposal which we hear from the opposite benches is that the taxpayer should put his hand in his pocket and should find money so that landlords may be paid higher prices than they otherwise could get in order that small holdings should be established. That is the whole object of this Amendment, and that is the reason why we are here this afternoon. Having stated that fact, I think I have said enough to justify my opposition to this Amendment.
§ Mr. ROYDS
I do not propose to answer the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, because if I attempted to do so I am afraid I should be ruled out of order. One or two Members opposite have asked us to produce clear evidence that the system of land valuation and taxation set up by the present Government has resulted in a burden and has been injurious to agricultural estates, and as a consequence owners were selling their 934 estates. The last speaker on this side pointed out that, as a consequence, tenants were buying, or were being assisted to buy, farms in consequence of that legislation, and the money would have to be borrowed at higher prices than would be paid for the farms. What has already occurred is that the rate of mortgages throughout the length and breadth of the land has, in consequence of the legislation of the present Government, been increased by at least one-half per cent. I speak from experience in this matter. I wonder if the House has ever realised the sum of money that is probably invested on the mortgage of landed estates in this country. I cannot help thinking myself that that sum is very likely two or three times over the amount of the National Debt itself. I think that, taken as a whole, landed property in this country is very probably mortgaged to the extent of one-third of its value. From landed property on which Income Tax is paid the net income is about £160,000,000 a year. If you assume that that property is mortgaged to the extent of one-third of its value, you will realise that I have underestimated it when I say that the sum of money on mortgage exceeds the National Debt several times over. Landowning is a business like any other business, and the landowner finds, in consequence of the raising of the rate of interest on his mortgages, that he is not able to get the same profit out of his property as he was able to do in the past. He does not know what is going to happen in the future, and as a result he offers the property for sale and some of his tenants are displaced. The Amendment has been moved this afternoon, as I understand it, very largely to provide a sum of money to meet exceptional circumstances which have been created by the action of the present Government. As the present Government have created that abnormal state of affairs—and I think abundant evidence has been furnished that that is the case—I hope that they will assist in doing what they can to relieve the present situation, and provide a sum of money to enable tenant farmers, large or small, to purchase their farms on the fairest possible terms.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
Every speaker in this Debate has expressed a desire to promote the well-being of our agricultural interests, and incidentally to stimulate the property of the farmer and improve the position of the agricultural 935 labourer. The principle embodied in this Amendment is not a new one, because the right hon. Gentleman who seconded it introduced the same proposal I believe so far back as 1884. Those who care to peruse the speeches then made in advocacy of its aims will find a remarkable likeness to the speeches to which we have listened to-day. We were then told it was a matter of real urgency. It was said that if this principle was not speedily embodied in legislation that our national agriculture would be irreparably damaged, in fact, we were told that the very existence of the Empire demanded its early confirmation. The right hon. Gentleman opposite and his party were in power for some twenty years succeeding the introduction of that measure, and naturally I am inclined to ask why, if this principle was a matter of such extreme urgency, that great party, with its ample opportunities, failed to pass legislation dealing with the matter.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I am glad to have the assent of the right hon. Gentleman in that respect. For my own part, I do not think it will be expected that I shall subscribe to that principle. I regard it as an endeavour to allow landlords to unload their land at enhanced prices. When we are disposing of national money we ought to look around and ask which are the classes most urgently needing assistance, and in what direction can the money expended be best calculated to promote the greatest national interest? Now we are told on the one hand that recent enactments of Parliament have so damaged the interests of landlords and others that it is absolutely essential that the State should come to their assistance. On the other hand, everybody knows that the state of the land market is exceedingly prosperous. When a municipality or a county council, for instance, propose to acquire land under the Small Holdings and Allotments Act we immediately find that the price of that land has enormously increased in recent times, thereby manifesting, in my opinion, that there is no real basis in the argument put forward on behalf of the landlords' interest. I think perhaps that recent tendencies have combined to create some apprehension in the minds of the landlords. The valuation of national land is proceeding, and if the statistics now being compiled are avail- 936 able for public purposes, I think they appreciate that it may put an end to the sale of land at unduly inflated prices. It may well be that in anticipation of further developments they are extremely anxious to get rid of land at the present time in order that they may realise higher prices than will be possible in the future. I believe it is perfectly true, as the previous speaker remarked, that a considerable proportion of the national land is under heavy mortgage. I believe this fact is very largely responsible for the large sales which are now taking place. People see that at the present time they can command much higher prices than are likely to endure, and that by getting rid of their land they can relieve themselves of their mortgage liability, and probably have something left to secure to them an income. These facts go to prove that the landed interest is not suffering the great disabilities one would imagine from the speeches which have been delivered to-day. It is remarkable that this policy is not advocated here in the same fashion as it is in the country. Yesterday I read an article in a certain year book by a prominent Member of the party opposite, the hon. Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) in which he put this question of occupying ownership as one of the first constructive proposals of the Conservative party in the event of their returning to power, but he stated that its inevitable accompaniment must be Tariff Reform. We therefore see that this Resolution would ultimately be accompanied by that other most objectionable proposal, which I apprehend the country will not have under any circumstances whatever.
We constantly hear that public assistance to an unfortunate class is certain to have the effect of demoralising them. I remember when we proposed to feed necessitous school children, and when old age pensions were brought before the House, we were assured that the allocation of public money to any specific class in society was certain to have demoralising and damaging effects. Yet hon. Gentlemen opposite who support this Amendment have acknowledged to-day that their whole purpose is to get State money for the assistance of the farming class. Incidentally, I am bound to say I do not think the farmer would get the advantage of it. As far as I am able to conceive the circumstances, the landlord would be able to appropriate it all. We know that before this inquiry the tenant farmers expressed no desire for purchase, and the experience 937 under the Act of 1892 shows that only twenty-nine purchases have been made even with the aid of the State. The small holdings inquiries conducted by the county councils have elicited the further fact that not more than 2 per cent. of the applicants have ever expressed any desire for purchase. They want security of tenure and fair rents.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
We are entirely agreed upon that point. We differ because the right hon. Gentleman, avers that the only way to secure that is the method embodied in this Resolution, and I say the tenant farmers are not convinced that that is the only way, and I think we have a right to have regard to the opinions expressed by the experts in this connection. The tenant farmers in their evidence made it perfectly clear that they could not afford to pay under such a scheme as is adumbrated in this Resolution more than they are at present paying in the form of rent. I submit it has been clearly proved that could not possibly ensue, and that the State would be called upon to make up some deficiency in the matter. If public money is to be devoted, there are more urgent claims than even those of the deserving farming class. For instance, I think we might do a great deal more in the direction of supplying agricultural labourers with small holdings, and we might advance them money to enable them to cultivate their holdings and properly equip them. I do respectfully submit that the claim of this class is far more urgent than the claim of the farmer, and that the result would be a great deal more advantageous to the State as a whole. One hon. Gentleman argued that this scheme would do something to improve the housing problem in our rural districts. I view with a great deal of apprehension any proposal to increase the number of small landlords. If we have to have a landlord class, I prefer the old feudal system to the small landlord class, because, if you have a number of small landlords, their capital is necessarily greatly restricted, and they are invariably the hardest of employers. They seek to get labour as cheap as they possibly can; they never have the capital to put into their holdings, and the result is that the condition of the agricultural labourer and his housing provisions are much worse than they are under the larger feudal 938 estates. We are bound to acknowledge facts, and I candidly say therefore that I do not favour proposals which are likely to set up a small landlord class, because in my opinion the condition of the agricultural labourer, the class with which I am more immediately concerned, would not be better. I rather apprehend some detriment might ensue to him.
Having looked at the matter all round, I must confess I am not animated with a desire to see the right hon. Gentleman carry his scheme. I think when public money is to be utilised we ought to utilise it in a way which will be of great enduring benefit to the larger class of the community, and I respectfully submit that can be better obtained on the lines on which the Board of Agriculture are now moving—by improved education, to be ultimately followed, I hope, by solid support of co-operative endeavour. In my opinion, it is not the principle of ownership that accounts for the great success of Denmark, but the principles of co-operation and mutual help. Men like Sir Rider Haggard, and others who have made very exhaustive inquiries in these parts, know full well that the lot of the small holder under occupying ownership is no better than under the other system. I believe it is well known that in France and Denmark a lot of the small owners are constantly in the toils of the money-lenders. A bad season comes, and they have to mortgage their lands. I do not think, after all, we can hold this out to the agricultural population as likely to prove an enduring and satisfactory solution of the difficulty. Improved transit, better education, and that sort of thing are more likely to bring actual advantages in the way of promoting the success of British agriculture than the principles embodied in this Amendment, and these are the reasons therefore why I propose to vote against it.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
The Debate to which we have listened has been a very interesting one, and, with the exception of the early part of the speech to which we have just listened, it has been conducted with a desire to get at the facts, to make practical suggestions, and to avoid the narrower questions of party politics. When I hear some hon. Gentlemen opposite speak I wonder, appreciating, as I do, their unquestioned ability and their high order of intelligence, what is the extraordinary kink in their minds which seems to force them to entertain the most lurid ideas I about the agricultural landowner. The 939 hon. Gentleman began, and he was cheered by his Friends in doing so, by making a scarcely veiled attack on the agricultural landowner. In his enthusiasm and zeal he entirely misdescribed the proceedings of this afternoon, and ignored the recommendations of the independent Committee on which Friends of his own sat. He proceeded to describe the Amendment of my hon. Friend as an attempt to get public money in order that landlords might secure larger prices for their property. I am bound to say that at the end of his speech he sought to make some atonement when he told us it was not the feudal landlord, the old baron, or even perhaps a marquess, or any of those other great peers to whom he was referring; but that it was only the small owner, the man without capital, who could not develop his estate and could not do his duty to his tenants. I readily accept the olive branch the hon. Member offered at the end of his speech, but I wonder at the curious turn of mind which makes it impossible for him and his Friends to look at facts really as they are. The hon. Gentleman gave one clue to the difficulty in which he finds himself, as he told us he had looked all round this question. I think, perhaps, the solution of his difficulty is to be found in the very fact that he has been looking round the question instead of staring it straight in the face. This may, at any rate, account for the contradictory opinions he has expressed with regard to the landlord and for the mistaken view he has taken in this Debate of the attitude of my right hon. Friend. As to the suggestion that the State purchase of holdings is going to increase the price of land, I think the hon. Members who have spoken from that, point of view have betrayed the most complete ignorance of the farming classes. They talked of the farming classes as if they were fools and unable to look after themselves. I expect I know farmers in this country, individually and collectively, as well as most people, and I venture to say there is no class in the country less deserving of the epithet of fool and less able to hold their own or less well acquainted with the true facts connected with their industry. To suppose that because an occupier of land is to have money lent him by the State, in order to enable him to remain in his holding, he will, therefore, be driven to give a price in excess of the value of it, is to attribute to farmers a weakness and 940 an amount of folly which anybody who knows them will admit is a libel on their character and ability. The hon. Member therefore gave in this respect a complete misdescription of the condition.
There is one question in connection with the Debate to which I desire to make reference. I am sure everybody in every quarter of the House will feel it is a reference that ought to be made. The Amendment to the Address was moved in an admirable speech by the hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. Stanier), and he will not misunderstand me if I say it was seconded in a speech even more interesting and, if possible, more attractive to the House by one whose presence in the Debate is singularly welcome to men in all quarters and welcomed also outside by that vast body of agriculturists and agricultural labourers to whom my right hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division (Mr. Jesse Collings) has devoted the energies of his whole political life. I believe that even those who disagree with his policy will find in this some consolation for the disappointment of their own views, while those who agree with it will find extra pleasure in seeing my right hon. Friend able, as a Member of this House, to watch the fruition of the hopes he has so long entertained for the successful completion of the task on behalf of which he has worked so strenuously. But the proposal before this House is not that the State should lend money in order to increase the price of land. Hon. Gentlemen who made that statement have themselves controverted and contradicted this assertion, because parts of their speeches have been devoted to saying that landlords are selling because they are getting extraordinarily good prices. If they were trying to sell, or getting singularly bad prices, I think in that case they would hold on to the land, but if thousands of acres were being put up, and if the land was being sold far below its value, there might be some justification for the statement made by the hon. Member and his Friends that we ask them to accept our views because of the unsaleable character of the land or the lowness of the prices obtainable.
Hon. Members have stated that we have gone out into the market not because of the fears entertained of an increase in the number of owners, but because we want to put more shekels into our own pockets. I do not in the least mind that charge being made. My withers are quite unwrung by it. I am as much entitled as an owner of 941 land to do the best I can for myself and my family as any other member of the community, and why hon. Gentlemen should specially single out owners of land and throw this charge into their teeth I cannot understand. We do not hear of hon. Gentlemen getting up and saying, "I have learned to-day in the City my right hon. or hon. Friend has been selling certain securities because the price has gone up." But they come down here and say that our allegations as to the causes of sale are untrue, and that the real reason is that we are trying to put money into our own pockets and to improve our own position. Personally, I do not object to the charge, but I say that by making it hon. Gentlemen are not going to get rid of the fact that stares them in the face, that the increase in the number of sales is undoubtedly due to the anxiety and nervousness connected with recent legislation. What is it we are trying to do? We are taunted by hon. Members opposite that we want to increase the value of the land so as to put money into the pockets of the owners. The point is not that landowners cannot sell, for it is an undoubted fact that the number of sales is likely to increase rather than decrease, but you are brought face to face with the fact that, unless something is done, a considerable proportion of the present occupying tenants will have to give up their farms. That is really the question which this House is asked to consider to-day. I do beg hon. Gentlemen, whatever may be their tendencies in regard to land and landowners, to realise that this is a national question and not one which affects either the landowner, the tenant farmer, or the labourer alone. I have great sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. Roberts) said at the end of his speech. There is a good deal to be said for giving facilities to labourers to get land for small holdings. That is a very different and a far more difficult question. Anybody who knows anything about the occupation of land knows that we cannot do a labourer a worse turn than to offer him land remote from his home, unsuitable for small cultivation, and remote from a market where he can sell his produce. If you want to do him a bad turn give him a small holding of that kind. This is a very different question. This is a question the importance of which was admitted by the late President of the Board of Agriculture when he appointed this Departmental Committee, the report of which has been, referred to. This is a question of whether you are going to sit with folded 942 arms and see men who have been in occupation of their farms ever since they were born, and in many cases whose families have been in occupation before them, driven out because they cannot lay their hands on the capital necessary to buy the farms for themselves, and see strangers take their places, or whether the State is going to realise that it is important that something should be done and to approach this question, as it has been approached by most of the speakers who have addressed us to-day, from an impartial and non-political point of view, or whether they are going to treat it merely as a political question, as if it were doing something for the land-owning class. It is as a national question that my hon. Friends have brought it before the House to-day, and it is as a national question that I beg the House to consider it now.
I confess that when this Committee was appointed by the late President of the Board of Agriculture I did not myself believe, in the first instance, that it was necessary, and I said so at the time. I am not sure that I was not wrong. I think there were more causes for its appointment than I was aware of. But I did not expect any great results would follow. At all events, one event has followed, which, in my experience, is unique. I have had the experience of sitting on committees, and of reading their reports, but I do not believe that I ever before read a report of a committee where every member of it, save the chairman and one member—a gentleman for whom I have the greatest possible regard, and who has had practical acquaintance with agricultural matters—thought it necessary to sign a memorandum or a separate report, or a saving of one kind or another. You see opposite the name of every gentleman whose name is appended to the Majority Report, except that of Mr. Eve, the usual mark which indicates that for some reason or another they want to present some special view. In that respect the Report is unique. It is valuable, however, because it is a complete answer, if answer is required, to the two charges which have been made, namely, that all the recommendations we make from this side of the House are always actuated by a desire to help ourselves and not to benefit all the classes of the landed interest, and that the troubles of tenant farmers are due to the way in which landlords have exercised their rights and managed their affairs.
943 Never has there been a more emphatic answer to that charge than has been found in this Report and the evidence on which the Report is founded. The main consideration before the Committee was that the great bulk of the farmers in England do not want to buy. I think that that is absolutely true. No other view has ever been held on this side of the House. Why do they not want to buy? It is because they prefer to keep on under the existing landowner, and because they hope that the existing landowner may retain the property. Why then do the Committee make the recommendation? It is because sales have become more frequent every day, because every day more and more land is coming into the market, and the farmers say, "If we cannot sit under our landlord we would rather buy than see some stranger take the place." That is the question that was considered by the Committee, and that is the recommendation we make to the House to-day. Surely it is neither fair nor honest in face of those facts to charge us with self-interested motives in our action, or to try-to make out, as did one speaker to-day, that we are seeking some advantage for ourselves, and that on the whole we, as owners of land, we who are owners, are responsible for all that has followed, and not only have misused our talents, but, like greedy vultures, have been preying on this country ourselves, and sacrificing every other class in the community, including the taxpayer. Both charges are very unjust in face of the evidence before the Committee and the findings of the Committee, and should not be made to-day.
This Report is valuable because it gives the clearest answer to charges of that kind that can be found anywhere. If this Report of the Committee, is not a most eloquent tribute to the way in which landowners as a body have discharged their duties to this country, then I do not know what meaning is to be attached to it. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Parker) and one or two others threw doubt upon what is undoubtedly the finding of this Committee, that the cause of the increase in the number of sales is the anxiety resulting from recent legislation. One hon. Member asked, "If that is the cause, how do you account for the fact that these sales have increased so largely in quite recent times?" One hon. Gentleman made the amazing statement that the reason was to be found in the fact that a better price 944 can be got now than could be got at any time for twenty years past. I should like to get some authority for that statement. I speak with some knowledge of the subject, and I believe that it is absolutely imaginary on his part. I defy anybody to produce any justification for it. If any hon. Gentleman will take the trouble to look at the figures for himself he will find that during the last three years prices have ruled better. Why? Because there has been a remarkable recovery in the general agricultural situation. Agriculture cannot be altered like an ordinary trade. The conditions of an ordinary trade can be altered in a short time, but it takes years to re-arrange the system of agricultural life and business, as it has taken years to get the agriculture of this country to accommodate itself to the altered situation. The change has been effected and the improvement has come, but anybody who alleges that this sudden increase in the number of sales is due to an improvement in prices which operated in the last twelve months is wilfully and deliberately ignoring the facts of the case. Since when have these sales so suddenly increased? Within the last twelve months.
Twelve months ago there was not anything like the amount of land on sale that there is now. Let anyone who wants to know about it go into the offices of the great auctioneers. Let them ask themselves when the sudden increase in the number of estates put up for sale began, and let them ask the reasons why the owners are selling. The owners will not tell them that it is because all the great estates sold recently are mortgaged. Everybody knows perfectly well that some of the largest estates sold recently were not mortgaged. They have been sold because the owners believe that the general trend of legislation is against land. Do let right hon. Gentlemen opposite be worthy of their own high standard of intelligence and acknowledge the real facts. What would they think if they heard addressed to them, in regard to their own particular interests, the kind of speeches which we have been accustomed to hear from their side of the House in regard to land? The other day we were discussing the question of rates, and the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood), who is always courteous and kind in his language but quite decided in stating his views with regard to land, did not hesitate to tell us what he thought ought to be done in regard to rating. It 945 is not only in respect of Government legislation, it is not only in respect of the Death Duties, that this fear is entertained. There have been lively altercations more than once between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my hon. Friend the Member for the Chelmsford Division (Mr. Pretyman) upon the Land Taxes. It has been stated that there is no evidence at present that an extra burden has fallen on agriculture in consequence of these taxes. It is undoubtedly true up to the present time these particular taxes have not fallen on the agricultural landlord. But what does the Chancellor of the Exchequer say? The right hon. Gentleman has stated the case from a totally different point of view. When it was stated that the new land taxes had produced very little revenue the Chancellor of the Exchequer replied, "Wait a minute, it is not by the revenue produced to-day or to-morrow that you must judge them."
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
How do you know and how do we know? If the hon. Member will forgive me, I prefer to take the language of Members of the Government themselves to that of any of their supporters. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman himself has most beneficent intentions with regard to land, but there are Gentlemen who sit near him who are just as competent as he is to pronounce on this question, and I do not think they share his views. It is impossible to hold that they have tender intentions towards landowners, for they have not. We know perfectly well that the Government have started on a new system of taxation. We know that they claim that they are going to get vast revenues out of this taxation in future. Men would be more than human if they did not look upon all this with apprehension and anxiety, and if they did not say, as they do say, that it is not wise to have all your eggs in one basket. However much you may dislike the idea, unquestionably the existence of this new method of taxation is the main cause which has led to the increase in the amount of land which is put upon the market for sale.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
There is another consideration. Some of these purchasers have probably been careful students of the Liberal party, and may have said to themselves, "The Liberal party think more of counting heads than they do of the actual equity of their taxation, and if land is distributed amongst a larger number of people it is less likely to be the object of Radical attention than it has been in the past." But the mere fact that someone is found to buy does not dispose of the statement, which I make deliberately, and which is proved up to the hilt in the report of this Commission, that this anxiety, in consequence of new taxation, has been the main cause in bringing about these sales. There may be other causes—many possibly. I do not care in the least about that. I say you have embarked deliberately upon a system of taxation which has caused this feeling in the country, and that is my answer to those Gentlemen who tell us that we have no right to ask the State to interfere in the matter. It is not because landlords are suffering, it is not because tenants are suffering, it is because, as the Report says, those who have occupied farms are being driven out of them, and they are being bought over their heads. Is that good for the State or fair to the individual? Is Parliament prepared to step in? You have brought about a distribution of land by your legislation. Are you prepared to accept the only method by which you can prevent that distribution bringing injustice upon those who have in no sense deserved it, and who will be the best owners and occupiers of the land in the interests of the State? That is the recommendation that we make in the Amendment. I am not in the least deterred from saying that by the remark of the hon. Member for Somerset that some of us have talked about the question being urgent many times before. I have no doubt we have, and we shall probably do it many times again, but, in my opinion, this is an important question for this reason, that these sales are taking place every day, and will be going on during the next two or three years. I believe you could do a very great deal to help the position of these tenant farmers by the employment of a very small sum of money. I do not care whether you take the scheme advocated in this Report or the more generous scheme of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jesse Collings), but the State having deliberately entered upon, this new policy, having brought about this state of things, ought to look 947 the matter straight in the face and take their share of the responsibility and I believe in that way it can be done. By adopting the recommendations of my hon. Friend, at all events in some measure, those who would otherwise be drawn out of their holdings might remain in them, not as tenants but as owners, because you may rely upon it, if a man has to change his landlord he would rather become the owner of the soil himself, and though I do not share all the views which are held about ownership and occupation, I believe in the circumstances with which we are now confronted, ownership is the only possibility. In justice to these men, and in justice to the State I ask the Government to regard this as an urgent question and not as one which may be indefinitely postponed or still further inquired into.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Runciman)
I am sure no one need complain of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, for he has stated again the views which he has often expressed, and he has stated them with the qualities which I am sure even he would not wish us to deprive his reputation of. He has combined an honest statement with large emphasis. With many of his views I find myself in complete agreement, but I am afraid that the deductions he draws are not always the deductions which I should draw, nor are the remedies he suggests for the perils which he thinks the agricultural interest is now passing through, the remedies to which I could give my name. But of the importance of the situation to a certain class of sitting tenant fanners at the present time, no one has any doubt. No doubt sales are taking place, and very likely to take place within the next year or two, even the next few months. As was pointed out, just as there are numerous sellers so there are numerous buyers, and even more buyers than sellers; and the problem which we have to face at the present time is not that of enabling the landlords to get out easily. The problem we have to face is giving more sense of security to the tenant farmers, who are afraid of dispossession or disturbance owing to the sale of these large estates. I think this perfectly genuine apprehension has diverted the whole discussion to a discussion on the Report of the Committee which was set up by my right hon. Friend practically a year ago. That Report reached me on the 948 10th or 11th January. I would like the House to observe that what the Government are invited to do now is to proceed in the Gracious Speech from the Throne to announce legislation on the basis laid down in that Report within six weeks of the Report having been received. I do not believe that such rapid drafting of legislation was emulated by the party opposite when they were in power, and I am certainly not going to plunge into a problem of this kind without much more consideration than I could possibly give it in six weeks. There is much in the Report which certainly expresses, and truly expresses, the anxiety now felt in agricultural quarters. I have not the least doubt that farmers in many parts of the country have been alarmed at estates on which they have lived all their lives, as did their fathers and grandfathers before them, passing to the hands of men of whom they know nothing.
Their treatment might be different in the hands of the new owner from their treatment under the old owner. In some respects advantage might be taken of the opportunity to give notice to quit, and a fresh start might be made with a higher basis of rent under the new owner. No doubt some farmers bought their farms not because they wanted to become landowners, but because they had a genuine fear. The Committee admit all that. I do not think there was a single Member of the Committee, except the Member for Halifax, who does not hold views in harmony with those of most of his colleagues on that Committee, who did not express that opinion in the Report to which he put his name. The one thing we do not know is how many farmers in future are likely to be disturbed. How many of them have fears well founded I do not believe we have any means of knowing. I only know this, that, so far as I have been able to consider the recommendations of the Committee, I find that the adoption of three or four of them might go far towards allaying those fears. Take, for instance, the second recommendation:—That, in the absence of agreement, two years' notice should be required to determine the tenancy of an agricultural holding.I am curious to know whether hon. and right hon. Gentlemen would support the introduction of legislation to carry out that recommendation.
The third recommendation is:—That, except when notice to quit is given for one of the purposes referred to in Section 23 of the Agricultural 949 Holdings Act, 1908, or where the tenancy is for a period of twelve months or less, notices to quit for less than twelve months should be made void by Statute.And the fourth is:—That the tenant should be empowered to demand extended notice in the case of a sale.On those three recommendations I have no doubt it would be advisable to introduce legislation, but they are not intended to be taken alone. The right hon. Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings), whom we listened to, if he will allow me to say so, with great Admiration earlier in the Debate, interrupted me to point out that those recommendations were not intended to be taken alone. I must remind him of the difficulty in which I have been placed by this Committee's Report. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me drew attention to the fact that seldom had a Report been published which combined so many reservations and such complicated reservations. It was a Committee of thirteen. One Member had a Report all to himself. Of the remaining twelve six signed reservations pointing to two, three, or four points; one, I think, to only one, and the others to three or four more. There has not been such a collection of stars and daggers and double daggers in any Report issued for a long time. To ask us now on the Report of this Committee to promote legislation in conformity with it would be an impassibility, for the Committee was not agreed. Certainly, with regard to the recommendations which were no doubt in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, there was unity of agreement. For my own part, I could not adhere to Sir Edward Holden's scheme as it stands. I do not like the idea of a land bank. I think there is a grave objection to that. I think there are better ways of dealing with a purchase scheme, if we are forced to deal with it, than by a land bank. Such a recommendation as a scheme of State-aided purchase, I feel assured is not likely to meet with support on the other side. This Report does not provide a basis for legislation; it only points out fears and alarms which have certainly excited the minds of various tenants on estates that have been sold.
The general question which has been discussed this afternoon was seconded in a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley, and perhaps he will allow me to make a slight personal reference to himself. I do not wish to be presumptuous, but I look with admiration on any man who has been so long in the 950 House of Commons as for thirty-two years and during the whole of that time has been a perfectly consistent advocate of one political doctrine. Consistency is a rather overrated virtue in political circles, but the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to all the credit for unvarying consistency during the whole of his Parliamentary career. I have another point of sympathy with him, and it is this. He is, I think, a Gentleman who has been most of his life in close connection with an urban rather than a rural constituency. I am glad to find that the House is prepared to give credit at any time to a man whose urban experience has not unfitted him for dealing with rural problems.
The earlier part of the Debate appeared at one time to be passing into channels that would lead to a discussion of the Small Holdings Act of 1907 and the proceedings under that Act. The hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment and who is a great authority on agricultural questions, criticised in some respect the administration of that Act. I think some of his criticisms would be easily met, I have no doubt, by the Small Holdings Committee of his own county, but to one of his statements made I must give an emphatic contradiction, and that is that the cost of management of county council small holdings under the Small Holdings Act amounted to something like 15 per cent. of the rents of those holdings. He is labouring under a complete misapprehension. The average throughout the country is only 5 per cent. I fancy that he has been confusing the figures of management with the percentages which are charged for upkeep and repairs, which certainly in many parts of the country have amounted to nearly as much as 15 per cent. But when he suggests that the management by county councils has been expensive. I would point out that you cannot start a system of this kind without having a larger percentage of expense in management than when the scheme has been for some time in full swing and the number of holdings is large. The percentage must be increased as the area covered by the management committee or the land agent is small, and it diminishes as the scheme extends. As far as I can ascertain, there are very few counties in the country now which have entered into the administration of the Small Holdings Act with any degree of success which are not able to reduce year by year the management charges. That is the experience of counties all over the country. I have 951 figures before me constantly showing that, so far from 15 per cent. being the amount charged, it is 5 per cent., and in some cases even less, and it has diminished during the last two years. The best way to test the demand for small ownerships in this country is to find out how far the system has been taken advantage of. I know the right hon. Gentleman has a reservation to make on that point, because his own policy differs from the policy embodied in the Act of Parliament which provides for small ownerships.
§ Mr. STANIER
May I point out that I took the figure of 15 per cent. from the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. Sir Edward Strachey stated that about 15 per cent. was the cost of administration.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I have no doubt that when he said 15 per cent. he intended to include upkeep and repairs. He certainly did not by his phraseology exclude them. I have given the figures of the Board of Agriculture, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept them. The demand for small holdings on a tenancy basis is large, whereas the demand for small holdings on an ownership basis is small. I do not want to decry small ownerships, if small ownerships be the solution of the agricultural problem. What I wish to press on the House is that it would be foolish for us to undertake a system of small ownerships if we find that we can satisfy the rural demand with a system of small tenancies. There is not the least doubt that the demand for small holdings is on the increase. We know at the Board of Agriculture that we have now unsatisfied demands in English and Welsh counties amounting to no less than 130,000 acres, and that on a tenancy basis. The 1907 Act includes the provisions of the 1892 Act, which Act provides for small ownership. Yet under the Act of 1892, as embodied in the Act of 1907, only 2 per cent. of the holders have applied for small ownerships. All the rest have preferred to be tenants.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman to a certain extent. I will come to that later. I specially made the reservation because I knew he held that view. It is proposed, I gather, that we should get over the difficulty of the 1892 Act or of the 1907 Act, whichever you please, by wiping out the 952 instalment which has to be provided by the purchaser in the first instance. I do not know whether the Mover of the Amendment has the same view. If that be the suggestion, it has absolutely no support, as far as I can gather, from any authorised body ever appointed by this House to inquire into the subject, whether appointed by the party which the hon. Member supports or by any other. Every committee has stated emphatically that there must be a cash payment made by the man who wishes to become an owner. The Committee on which the right hon. Gentleman sat—and I believe the right hon. Gentleman's name was the only one that was withheld from the Report—for he has consistently adopted the view from the very beginning that the whole of the money ought to be provided by the State, and paid back over a series of years—
§ Mr. JESSE COLLINGS
That view is supported by the whole of the labouring population of the country.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman is quite right; but the Committee did not support that view. What I wish to emphasise is that those who have inquired into the problem are not of opinion that it is wise and prudent, or likely to be beneficial, to provide the whole of the purchase money without any deposit from the purchaser. That is undoubtedly one of the reasons why small ownership in this country has not spread, and it is not the only one. I believe there are several good reasons: that in the spread of the system of small ownership it has been realised that there is a great deal of risk in the breaking up of estates, and that after a few years it was not always possible to prevent the holding getting into the hands of a mortgagee. As has been pointed out this afternoon, mortgaging is rampant in some parts of the country. Denmark is frequently held up to us as an example on the agricultural question. According to the best information we can get in regard to Denmark, upwards of 50 per cent. of the values of small farms in that country are held by mortgagees. The change from landlord to mortgagee is not necessarily a beneficial one. From what I know of landlords in this country, I would much rather be in their debt than in debt to a moneylender. The misery of mortgage may be the one thing that would entirely destroy what an hon. Member spoke of as "the magic of property."
953 Those who have looked at this problem from the point of view of the State, have realised that upon death you are met with the serious dilemma of the property being passed on with heavy encumbrances, or perhaps broken up. The experience of France, which is very largely broken up into small holdings—and this indeed is one of the perils of small ownership in that country—is that the large rural population, those who are small owners, find it extremely difficult to make a living out of their small holdings. One good result of the pressure of poverty, whether or not it has spread agricultural education in France, is that it has led to a great increase of intensive agriculture. That, no doubt, is one of the solutions of our difficulty, and one which we have to look forward to in the future. One reason why small holders themselves, small farmers, prefer tenancy as against small ownership, is that if they became owners they are bound to that piece of the soil. Many analogies have been drawn between England and Ireland. If there is one thing in which the Irishman is supreme as against the Englishman it is in real devotion to his small patch of soil. So far as I have been able to ascertain small holders in this country to a very large extent are very anxious to use their small holdings not as an ultimate ambition, but as a stepping-stone to a larger farm. Everyone who knows anything of farmers knows that every farmer is always wanting a little more land. If we were to say definitely that the only possible solution that we have to offer for this agricultural problem is to put a man in possession of fifty acres and tie him up so that he would find it a great disadvantage to leave, he would doubtless say: "I want to use the small holding as a ladder." Rung by rung the small holder wants to go up to larger and better holdings. I do not believe that small ownership will satisfy our national demand, or indeed is the main stream of our national demand. There is another reason why I, for one, should certainly be sorry to find a system of small ownership the system of ownership of land on which development should take place in this country, and it is this: There is not the least doubt that agriculture is passing through a transitional stage at the present time. I do not mean as regards ownership, but as regards methods. Agricultural education is spreading more rapidly than ever before. Farmers are taking advantage of research, they are asking for advice, and they are realising 954 that science can be applied to agriculture almost better than to any other industry in the world, and it would be a great pity for us, who are responsible for the organisation of agriculture, so to fix the form of tenure that we should be likely not only to bring about fixity of ownership, but fixity of methods as well. I wish to see increasing changes in the methods of agriculture. I cannot conceal from myself that many of the small farmers are imitating the methods of the larger farmers. But, on the whole, most small owners are wise enough to see that they can best establish themselves in their holdings by specialising on some class of work. Some of them specialise in the cultivation of fruit, others as market gardeners, some specialise in the breeds of animals; but the best and most intelligent among them realise that their methods must be adaptable to the times and the market, and that they must not confine themselves to one method; and it would really be a disadvantage not only to them, but to agriculture as a whole, if it were otherwise.
I should like to say a word upon the subject of the Irish analogy to which there has been frequent references this afternoon. I do not believe that the conditions in Ireland are, or ever have been, the same as in England. To begin with, the landowner in England has always been in a different position from the landowner in Ireland. In Ireland the landowner is a partner in the undertaking. Partnership came about as a development of legislation, and the landlord in Ireland became nothing but a rent charger. The landlord in England is not a partner to the same extent as the landowner in Ireland. The growth of the tenants' interest in Ireland became so great that upon one occasion, I am informed, Mr. Justice Madden, who was then Attorney-General for Ireland, said, speaking from this bench, that over 50 per cent. of the value of the holdings in Ireland was represented by the tenants' interest. Such a thing never occurs in England, but even in Ireland the problem is by no means easy, and I suggest to hon. Members opposite that before we embark upon a large scheme of purchase for Great britain, or even England and Wales, it would be well to take into consideration some of the financial risks that would be incurred if purchase is to become anything like general. If it is not to become general, then I will not say that merely it is not worth 955 it, but that it is not worth the risk. If it is to become general, the extent of the financial obligation would be stupendous. I remember when the Irish Land Act of 1903 was discussed without any serious opposition from any quarter, we were told that the problem we had to deal with would represent a capital of something like £100,000,000. The amount soon rose to £150,000,000, and after a time, when the finances of that Act were inquired into about four years ago, we found that for the whole of the purchase schemes which were more or less in sight £180,000,000 would be required. That meant a very large undertaking, and had it not been for the increase of the bonus there is no doubt that land purchase in Ireland would have come to a standstill because of the financial difficulties.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I entirely disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I had the honour of presiding over the Committee which went into the finance of the Irish Land Act, and it was because the finance of the original Act was unsound that you were bound to have an extension of the State credit and there had to be an Amendment of the Purchase Act of 1903. There was a bonus of £12,000,000, and we do not know what the ultimate amount will be in Ireland. That is a statement of fact, and on that point there is no disagreement between us, but if we are going to embark upon a similar scheme for England we shall want not £12,000,000 or £18,000,000, but £120,000,000, or £180,000,000. That is a task upon which no Government can embark. No Government could undertake it, and, what is more, there is no State which could contemplate floating £1,000,000,000 or £1,200,000,000 without completely wrecking the whole financial stability of the country. I do not know how the hon. Baronet the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) would view the floating of £18,000,000 to £20,000,000 in English land stock on the London market every year. I remember the complaints which were made in regard to the floating of the Irish land stock, and formerly we were told that many of the hon. Baronet's constituents were then sent out of existence.
An attack has been made upon the Government on entirely different lines. The right hon. Gentleman emphasised the point made by his hon. Friend earlier in the 956 afternoon that one reason why there had been a sale of so many agricultural properties was entirely due to the action of the Government of which I have the honour to be a Member. I should like to know what injury has been done to agriculture by the present Government. I will not refer to the large increase in the rebate allowed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the purpose of making some recompense for repairs done by the landowners. It has been publicly stated by Noble Lords who are themselves selling their land that they are grateful for this rebate, and that they did not regard the increase of the Death Duties as such a serious matter. One Noble Lord said the sale of his estate was entirely due to private causes, and at the same time he announced with gratitude the change which has been made in regard to upkeep and expenses, and we get no credit for that. There has been legislation in the agricultural interests, and certainly in the interests of tenant farmers, and hon. Gentlemen might at least give us credit for that. But even if it is allowed that the Death Duties have done something to force estates into the market. I do not think that is altogether a bad thing. The Death Duties were imposed by Sir William Harcourt, and I believe we are now reaping the fruits of that great statesman's finance. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, when he was in office, did not diminish the Death Duties, and did not propose to repeal them. The fact is that this feeling of alarm which has been referred to is to be found only in one quarter of the agricultural interest. The right hon. Gentleman was very wisely asked by my hon. and learned Friend if there were not buyers and sellers. The sellers are alarmed, but the buyers are confident—[HON. MEMBERS: "Are they?"]—and I am quite prepared to abide by the decision of the buyers. If they were not confident they certainly would not buy. I believe the main reasons why there have been sales of agricultural estates are commercial reasons. I am getting rather tired of hearing sentimental talk about agriculture. The truth is that men are engaged in agriculture for commercial reasons. They want to make a livelihood, and landlords, like other people, want to have as good, as steady, and as secure an income as they can get, and some are of opinion they can get that better out of other interests than out of land. It is purely a commercial reason. I know there are some tenants who are 957 driven to buy, and are said to be anxious to buy, because they do not want to leave the country in which they have dwelt all their lives. There may be a great deal of truth in that; but on the whole the reason they buy is because they want to make a livelihood out of the land they know, which to a large extent they have enriched, and which is surrounded by markets where they know how to buy and how to sell. What the tenants want is, I believe, not to be the owners of their farms, but to be
§ secure in their tenure. Although I am not prepared to dogmatise about a country in which the conditions are so varied as we find in ours, I believe the main request is that they should be secure in the farms they occupy, and not subject to capricious or damaging disturbances.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 132; Noes, 188.959
|Division No. 6.]||AYES.||[4.58 p.m.|
|Aitken, Sir William Max||Gibbs, G. A.||Mount, William Arthur|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Gilmour, Capt John||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Goldman, Charles Sydney||Newman, John R. P.|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Nield, Herbert|
|Balcarres Lord||Goulding, E. A.||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Grant, J. A.||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Greene, Walter Raymond||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Barnston, Harry||Gretton, John||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Haddock, George Bahr||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Pole-Carew, Sir R.|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Boyton, James||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Hamersley, Alfred St George||Quilter, Sir William Eley C.|
|Burdett Coutts, W.||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Rawson, Col. R. H.|
|Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Campion, W. R.||Hills, John Waller||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Hoare, S. J. G.||Royds, Edmund|
|Cassel, Felix||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Horne, W. E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Stanier, Beville|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Houston, Robert Pateraon||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Ingleby, Holcombe||Swift, Rigby|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Kerry, Earl of||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)|
|Clyde, James Avon||Kirkwood, J. H. M.||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. J. (Birmingham)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Lawson Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Lewisham, Viscount||Ward, Arnold S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lloyd, George Ambrose||Weigall, Capt. A. G.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Croft, H. P.||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Faber, George D. (Clapham)||Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale)||Winterton, Earl|
|Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hn. A. (St. Geo., Han. S.)||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)|
|Fell, Arthur||Lyttelton, Hon. J. G. (Droitwich)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Macmaster, Donald||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Forster, Henry William||M'Calmont, Colonel James||Yerburgh, Robert|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine)|
|Gardner, Ernest||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Bridgeman and Mr. Sanders.|
|Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Bryce, J. Annan||Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Burke, E. Haviland||Delany, William|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Byles, Sir William Pollard||Devlin, Joseph|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Cameron, Robert||Dickinson, W. H.|
|Barnes, George N.||Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Hey wood)||Dillon, John|
|Beale, W. P.||Chancellor, Henry George||Donelan, Captain A.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Doris, William|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts, St. George)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Duffy, William J.|
|Black, Arthur W.||Clancy, John Joseph||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Boland, John Pius||Clough, William||Fdwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Elverston, Sir Harold|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Cotton, William Francis||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Crumley, Patrick||Essex, Richard Walter|
|Brunner, J. F. L.||Cullinan, John||Esslemont, George Birnie|
|Ffrench, Peter||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Radford, G. H.|
|Field, William||Lundon, Thomas||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lyell, Charles Henry||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Lynch, A. A.||Reddy, Michael|
|Gill, Alfred Henry||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Goldstone, Frank||MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||MCallum, John M.||Robinson, Sidney|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Hackett, John||Manfield, Harry||Rowlands, James|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Martin, Joseph||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Masterman, C. F. G.||Seely, Colonel Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Hayward, Evan||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Shortt, Edward|
|Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., South)||Menzies, Sir Walter||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Millar, James Duncan||Smith, H. B. L. (Northampton)|
|Hinds, John||Molloy, Michael||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Hodge, John||Molteno, Percy Alport||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Muldoon, John||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Hudson, Walter||Munro, Robert||Tennant, Harold John|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Neilson, Francis||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Nolan, Joseph||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Waring, Walter|
|Jowett, Frederick William||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Doherty, Philip||Wason, J. Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Keating, Matthew||O'Dowd, John||Watt, Henry A.|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||O'Grady, James||Webb, H.|
|King, J.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Lamb, Ernest Henry||O'Sullivan, Timothy||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Williamson, Sir A.|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leeks)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Leach, Charles||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Power, Patrick Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Resolved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ To be Presented by Privy Councillors and Members of His Majesty's Household.