HC Deb 19 July 1916 vol 84 cc1075-95

(1) During the continuance of the present war, and a period of twelve months thereafter, the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries (in this Act referred to as "the Board ") for the purpose of providing experimental small holding colonies may, with the consent of the Treasury, acquire by agreement any land which, in the opinion of the Board, is suitable for that purpose:

Where the Board, or a landlord at the request of the Board, terminates a tenancy of land by notice to quit, whether given before or after the passing of this Act, with a view to the use of the land or any part thereof by the Board for the provision of small holdings under this Act, the tenant upon quitting shall be entitled to recover from the Board compensation for the loss or expense directly attributable to the quitting which the tenant may unavoidably incur upon or in connection with the sale or removal of his household goods or his implements of husbandry, produce, or farm stock on or used in connection with the land.

Provided that no compensation shall be payable under this Sub-section:

  1. (a)unless the tenant has given to the Board a reasonable opportunity of making a valuation of such goods, implements, produce, and stock as aforesaid; or
  2. (b)If the claim for compensation is not made within three months after the time at which the tenant quits;
and in the event of any difference arising as to any matter under this Subsection the difference shall, in default of agreement, be settled by a single arbitrator in accordance with the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1908:

Provided also that compensation under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1914, shall not be payable in any case to which this Subsection applies.

The total area of the land for the time being acquired by the Board for the purposes of this Section shall not at any time exceed six thousand acres, and in the selection of persons to be settled on the land so acquired the Board shall give preference to persons who have served in the naval or military forces of the Crown in the present war.

(2)For the purpose of the acquisition of land by agreement under this Act, the Lands Clauses Acts shall be incorporated with this Act except the provisions of those Acts with respect to the purchase and taking of land otherwise than by agreement and the provisions relating to the sale of superfluous land.

(3)Where a labourer, who has been regularly employed on any land acquired by the Board for the purposes of this Act, proves to the satisfaction of the Board that the effect of the acquisition was to deprive him of his employment, and that there was no employment of an equally beneficial character available to him in the same locality, the Board may pay to him such compensation as they think just for his loss of employment or for his expenses in moving to another locality, and any sum so paid shall be treated as part of the expenses of the acquisition of the land.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words, "twelve months" ["and a period of twelve months thereafter"], and to insert instead thereof the words "five years."

I move this Amendment because I think to limit this experiment to a period of twelve months after the present War would very much jeopardise its success. As we proceed with the Committee stage, I am hopeful that enlarging Amendments will be accepted by the Government extending these experiments, and I should like to see the Board of Agriculture have at least five years in order to carry out this project. As the Bill stands at the present time, it is of a very tentative character, and I cannot see any advantage in limiting it to a period of twelve months after the conclusion of the present War.


The hon. Member who has moved this Amendment has, I think, made it clear that this is only the first of a series of Amendments intended to extend the whole scope and purpose of the Bill. I think I may take this Amendment as part of a series of Amendments which the hon. Member and others have put down upon the Paper.


I really do not think that is permissible. Take for instance the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet to extend the area. We must not argue that point on this Amendment, and we must deal simply with the question of the period.


Yes, Sir. In that case I must say, unfortunately, I am not able to accept Amendments enlarging the scope of the Bill, because I think we can acquire sufficient land to form the area of our experiment under the Bill as it stands during the continuance of the present War and twelve months after, if not in less time than that. I do not think there will be any necessity to prolong the time, although, of course, if the time was lengthened and no other Amendment was made it might allow us to go a little bit further than the limited area and take pieces of land round the colonies collected, and that might be convenient. For that purpose it might be convenient to have an extended time, but I cannot see that we need it for the purposes of this Bill, and we ought to be able to acquire colonies in the time stated in the Bill. As I cannot announce that we can extend the Bill, I think I ought to say that the Government cannot accept the Amendment.


I have much pleasure in supporting this Amendment. The idea of the Bill is to provide small holdings for those who have been fighting in the ranks during this War. As it only extends for twelve months after the War, a great number of these soldiers will not have returned to this country, perhaps, for six, nine, twelve, or even eighteen months after' the conclusion of the War. As we cannot deal with the Amendments which followed this one to extend the Bill, I think if the Government were to accept this proposal it would give us more time to get land for the hundreds and thousands of soldiers when they come back in order that they may have something in this country for themselves to work upon.


I think there is more in this Amendment than the Parliamentary Secretary for the moment seems to appreciate. It is clear that under this Clause the limit of time applies only to the acquisition of land. I understand his argument to be that if you limit the area to be acquired under the Bill, as is indicated in the Bill as it stands now, primâ facie an extension of the time for acquiring that very limited area of land does not seem to be necessary. But it may be very necessary. There may be a difficulty in rounding up some of the particular areas wanted for these initial few colonies which cannot be overcome within the limited time contemplated by the Bill. It may be that for some reason by agreement it is not possible to get some particular strip of land which follows the contour of the land to be acquired, and an extension of time cannot possibly be interpreted as an enlargement of the scope of the Bill if it is understood that that is merely the object of it, for the purpose of rounding up whatever colonies are going to be acquired by the Government. Consequently I do think that, although the Bill may have to be kept within the rigid limits imposed by the Government, assuming that, I say that you do want to have this purely permissive power to acquire odd bits of land after a later date than this, and I urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that he should consider this matter, and either give way now or consider it again and bring the matter up again on Report.

6.0 P.M


It was only because it seemed to me it was moved as really belonging to a series to extend the whole scope of the Bill that I felt. bound to lay down the general principle of not accepting such an Amendment, but if the Bill is not to be enlarged and it is a mere question of time by itself I think there is something to be said for it, and I am prepared to keep an open mind. I do not want, however, to accept an Amendment if it is to lead to further demands to extend the scope of the Bill.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the word " experimental."

There is no necessity, in my judgment, as I ventured to say on the Second Reading of the Bill, to have any further experiment in regard to small holdings. We have had experiments enough, extending over a great number of years. I have taken an interest in small holdings for the last twenty-five years. I have had various experiments on the go for twenty years at least, and all of them have been a success. We have now had the Small Holdings Acts in operation for seven years, and all hon. Members who know anything about the working of those Acts in the various counties will admit that they have been a success.






I should be glad to hear from hon. Members the particular districts to which they refer; but far as the counties with which I am acquainted are concerned, I am prepared to say that they have been an unqualified success. I think it is very dangerous, therefore, to use the word "experimental." During the Second Reading Debate we had a speech from the hon. Member who represents the Oxford University (Mr. Prothero) and who, I believe, is looked upon as an agricultural expert. He gave us his reasons why he was in favour of calling this an experiment. He said: Then, again, I think the produce that can be raised on a small holding is very limited in its range.… I was very surprised to hear. that from an expert in agriculture. You will not find that the small holder is likely to succeed except where the form of agriculture which he adopts gives the last return per acre and also is a form in which manual labour is a very large proportion of the cost of production. If that is the case, then the man has a chance of success, but that limits him"—— and this is the point I wish to drive home to the House— to vegetables, fruit and flowers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1916, col. 92.] The hon. Member seriously argued that at present small holdings could only be made a success when they had a very limited range, and that only vegetables, fruit and flowers could be made to pay upon a small holding. He went on further to argue that this scheme should be considered an experiment until the Government had decided the great problem of agricultural production of the future. He said that if you decided to grow more wheat and more bread and more milk you could not afford to cut up much more land in order to create small holdings. I am entirely at variance with the hon. Member. If you want to produce more wheat and more bread, you cannot do better than cut up more land into small holdings, because the small holder will produce more in proportion on his area of land than the large man. In the light of that speech, I have taken the trouble during the interval to have a very careful record made of the small holdings in which I am interested, and I should like to give the House these facts and figures to directly controvert what the hon. Member for Oxford University suggested, that small holdings can only be made to pay if you grow fruit, flowers and vegetables. I formed a Small Holdings Association in Lincolnshire just twenty years ago. We started in a small way by taking SO acres of land. We went on from year to year until we took no less than three large farms of about 1,000 acres from Lord Lincolnshire, which we now occupy. We then extended our operations to the county of Norfolk, where, not finding a landowner to lease us land, we purchased a farm. We therefore have three farms leased in Lincolnshire and three farms purchased in Norfolk. During the last seven years we have leased a further 1,000 acres of Crown land from the Government. This association, of which I have the honour to be chairman, has now something like 2,500 acres of land and a rental of £5,000 a year. I am in the happy position, as chairman, to be able to say that we have no arrears of rent whatever at the present time, and that all the Lady Day rents have been paid. With regard to the contention of the hon. Member for Oxford University that smallholders cannot produce and do not produce wheat and bread, as he put it, I have not had time to take the record of the 1,000 acres of Crown land, but I have got our steward to get out the figures with regard to the three farms owned by Lord Lincolnshire and which we have on lease.


I am afraid that this would open up a discussion very far beyond the scope of this Bill. Surely the only question here is whether the word "experimental," which the hon. Member proposes to leave out, is right or not in connection with these proposed colonies for returned soldiers. That cannot be held to open up the whole question. A whole day might be spent on the question of how far small holdings of every kind have succeeded, and how far they have not succeeded.


I should be quite prepared to occupy a whole day. I bow to your ruling, but I am only answering the arguments of the hon. Member for Oxford University. I believe you, Sir, were in the Chair at the time. The whole gist of his argument was that this should be experimental, that it ought to be experimental, and that the word ought to remain because we had never yet proved in this country that smallholders could produce bread and beef.


We must not in Committee answer speeches made on the Second Reading. On Second Reading the House considers the scope of the Bill, and then in Committee we deal in a business-like way with the details of the Bill itself.


I regret that I am not in order, but perhaps during the Committee stage I may have an opportunity of giving these interesting figures to the House. I am quite clear that there is no necessity for any further experiments with regard to the success of small holdings, and, seeing the urgent need of getting these small holding colonies in existence and in readiness for our soldiers when they return from the War, it seems to me a thousand pities to limit the Bill to the experimental stage. I would much prefer to have left out the word "experimental" altogether and to have so enlarged the scope of the Bill so as to give the Department, subject, of course, to their getting the money from the Treasury, all the scope they desire to get these small holding colonies in every agricultural county in England. That is my desire, and I cannot help feeling, so long as we keep this word "experimental" in the Bill, that it will be a stumbling block and that we shall not succeed, as a good many of us hope and desire, in increasing the scope of the Bill.


I am afraid, as the hon. Member has just said, that his intention in moving this Amendment is to enlarge the scope of the Bill, that I must resist it. The word "experimental" is contained in the title, and it is an essential part of the intentions of the Government in putting forward the Bill. I regret that I cannot consent to have it cut out. I said, on the Second Reading, that there are still some important questions which we hope these experiments will solve, and that there are points on which we are now ignorant and on which we hope to gain a great deal more knowledge. I do not want to repeat what I said then, but it is a fact that we have not yet had any experience of settling ex-soldiers, a large proportion of whom, at any rate, have not hitherto been experienced in land matters, although we hope that they will make splendid colonists. We do not know yet, for certain, whether men of that type, or of any other type, can successfully be settled in colonies. There is a great deal of conflicting evidence and information with regard to the success of colonies. We have not anything like enough experience as to the working of cooperative and credit societies to aid colonists and men of that kind, and that is one of the essential things on which we want to experiment under this Bill. We have not even as much evidence as we should like on the question of ownership as against tenancy, as to which I shall be able equally to keep an open mind as systems under which soldiers may finally be settled. I really believe that on all these points useful evidence will be obtained under this Bill. I believe experiment is highly desirable on all these points, and I therefore think the word "experimental" might be retained as rightly describing the intentions of the Government.


I must express very great regret that my right hon. Friend feels constrained to retain the word "experimental" in this Bill. It is perhaps true to say that in this country we have had no definite experience of establishing colonies of demobilised soldiers and sailors on the land. There can be no question of that. But surely we have had experience in this country of the success of small holdings in general and of groups of small holdings in particular! Some years ago I was a member of the Departmental Committee appointed by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries to inquire into the whole question of buildings and small holdings, and in connection with that work I visited a number of groups of small holdings which I should think, except for the co-operative principle now to be introduced, were exactly or very similar to those colonies which it is now proposed to establish. I understood at the time—and I have seen no reason to change my mind since—those groups of small holdings were perfectly successful, and they are perfectly successful to this day. I cannot help feeling that, while it is useless to argue this question at any very great length, it is, from another point of view, a great mistake to leave this word "experimental" in this Bill. I understood that this Bill was introduced with the object of finding adequate employment and reward for a number of our demobilised soldiers and sailors. And what do we offer? We offer them an experiment; an experiment which, in a matter like agriculture, must of necessity take some years to prove, during which time I venture to think that our soldiers and sailors will drift away from us to the self-governing Colonies, or will be found tramping the roads of this country. I do not want to argue a foregone conclusion. I must content myself with expressing my most sincere regret that the Government insist on retaining this word, and generally in confining this Bill to a scope which is wholly inadequate to meet any of the purposes we thought it was intended to effect.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the word "may" ["small-holding colonies may"], and to insert instead thereof the word "shall."

My experience of legislation is that the word "may" is a very unsatisfactory word, and I always prefer the word "shall," at any rate in dealing with small holdings. We in this House ought to demand that the Government shall provide these colonies, and we have had no information given to us up to the present as to whether any real steps have been taken to find land for these ex-soldiers. We may, in the course of this Debate, hear something more on that point, but that there is likely to be a great demand for land I think we have had very clearly stated in the answer which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture (Mr. Acland) gave in reply to a question which was put to him on 12th July. He then told us that, at the request of Lord Selborne, Sir Douglas Haig had asked the Army Commanders in France to arrange for the commanding officers of certain regiments to have inquiries made through the company officers as to whether any of their men contemplated settling on the land, either in the United Kingdom or in the Dominions, when the War was over. Ninety-seven thousand men drawn from a large number of different units, were questioned accordingly, and 17,000 men, out of 97,000, expressed themselves as desirous of settling on the land, either in the United Kingdom or in the Dominions. The Board had not been supplied in all cases with separate figures for each unit selected, but in the case of those for which particulars were available, the percentage varied from nil in one battalion of the Rifle Brigade to 46 per cent. in a battalion of a Suffolk Regiment. In two battalions, mainly composed of townsmen, the percentage was 5, in two battalions mainly composed of miners it was 9, and in two battalions drawn from rural areas it was no less than 28 per cent. If that be a correct estimate, after taking the opinion of 97,000 of our soldiers, what will it work out at when you take the opinion of 4,000,000? So far as I am able to estimata it, we shall want land for something like 500,000 of men, and in these circumstances it seems to me that the word " shall," rather than the word "may," would be that which it would be advisable for this House to accept. I think we ought to make it mandatory upon the Government and the President of the Board of Agriculture to find this land for these men, and, not merely to say that they may find it if they wish, or they may not if they do not wish.


I think this is not the first, and probably not the one-hundredth, time that it has been moved to substitute for the word "may" in a Bill the word "shall"; and this is not the first time by any means that it has had to be explained that it is really a mistake to put in " shall" in this sort of legislation, because, really it has no meaning. You cannot mandamus a public Department, and it is better to leave in the word "may," unless the word "shall" has a technical meaning in that there is some power to compel action to be taken. It may mean "shall" in this case. We take the powers because we intend to use them, but "may" s the better word, because the mandatory "shall" cannot be technically enforced by any process of law. With regard to the figures quoted, although I agree with my hon. Friend as to their interest, I should like to make this clear, that there is nothing to show how many of those men were already employed on the land and simply expressed their wish to return to their usual and prior occupation. The figures have a value, but they would have a great deal more value if the question had been asked as to how many men not hitherto employed on the land wished to settle on the land, and how many hitherto settled on the land did not wish to be so after the War. There is nothing to show that these percentages were not wholly, or mainly, composed of men already settled on the land who expressed a preference to continue in the state of life in which they previously lived. With regard to the earnestness of the Department in the action which they are taking I can absolutely reassure my hon. Friend. There is no doubt whatever that we do not mean to take advantage of the word "may" not to acquire the area which the Bill, we hope, will give us the right to acquire. We have already gone quite as far as I think the House would consider it right and proper for us to go in making inspections, inquiries, and entering into negotiations about land; and I think that certainly with one of the colonies it will only await the passing of this Bill for us to be able to make a final agreement under which we shall be able to obtain vacant possession at Lady Day next year. There is no doubt we are pushing on action which will result in attaining the area required with the greatest possible speed, and therefore I hope that as it makes no difference to the meaning or to the action which will be taken, my hon. Friend will consent to leave the word "may" in, as I think is almost invariably done in Acts of Parliament, rather than substitute the word "shall."


Can we have this point cleared up as to what the questions really were that were put to the men—"At the request of Lord Selborne, Sir Douglas Haig asked the Army commanders in France to arrange for the commanding officers of certain regiments to have inquiries made as to whether any of their men contemplated settling on the land." Was the question definitely put to the men as to whether they desired to become small holders or colonists, because that seems to me a very important points It would help us very much in debate on this Bill if we could really know what sort of questions were put.


I do not think that point arises here. It may arise on the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, but it is not cognate to the question of the words "may" or "shall."

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, in Subsection (1), to leave out the words " by agreement" ["acquire by agreement"].

I make this proposal because I want the scope of this Bill increased. I hope later on we shall be able to carry against the Government the Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Collings), or one of those Amendments extending the acreage of land to be obtained under this Bill. If that is so it is very important that we should leave out the words "by agreement," because we want to give the Board of Agriculture power to acquire otherwise than by agreement, if necessary. They have the power under the Small Holdings Act of 1908. Where a county council fails in its duty to obtain land, and fails to put the compulsory powers into operation, then the Board of Agriculture have the power to set the county council aside and to proceed themselves to acquire land; and when they so do it they can do it under the compulsory Clauses of the Small Holdings Act. I think we ought to give the Board of Agriculture the same power in this Bill of acquiring land by compulsion, if necessary, as we have done in the Small Holdings Act. It seems to me equally important—presuming that we are able to carry the Amendment—that instead of 6,000 acres 60,000 should be obtained, or my Amendment that at least 6,000 acres should be obtained in each agricultural county—for the Board of Agriculture to have compulsory powers. I do not think it will be possible for them to acquire that amount of land by agreement, not within a reasonable time at any rate, and I therefore hope the Committee will support me in my Amendment to leave out these words in order to give the Board of Agriculture full power to obtain this land, either by agreement or by compulsion.


I am very sorry to have to make it quite definite that the Government do not think it right to adopt compulsion as a means of getting land under this Bill. We believe we shall be able to get a sufficient area to establish the colonies we contemplate establishing without resorting to compulsion. Further, we know that the questions of compulsory acquisition of land, the Statutes under which land can be compulsorily acquired, and the basis of the payment of the price for which it shall be acquired, are matters of acute controversy. We want to avoid that controversy in this Bill, which is a very small Bill; but if we were to accept the principle of compulsion we should have immediately hon. Friends of mine taking one view of the basis on which compulsory powers should be exercised and other Members taking an entirely different view. We should be in danger of being plunged into a very acute controversy which it would be rather difficult to avoid. As, therefore, we can get the land without raising that controversy at all, we think we are justified in not asking for compulsory powers, and I ask the Committee not to accept the Amendment.


Has the right hon. Gentleman not in contemplation, or have not negotiations been commenced for, the acquiring of a considerable area of land for this Bill, and could he tell us for how many of the 6,000 acres in Britain and the 2,000 acres in Scotland negotiations are in progress?


Before my right hon. Friend answers that, will he also give the House information on this point: I understand that Lord Lucas and various other people who are in a position to do so have freely offered some land for the purposes of this Bill. I do not want to ask my right hon. Friend to anticipate any details, but could he give the Committee some idea of the total area of the land which has been so offered in the aggregate?


We are certain to be able to get a certain area of Crown land in the south of Yorkshire which, I think, is 2,500 acress in extent, for one colony. Nothing else is certain at all. Naturally, those who are advising us on this matter want to be certain of what offers may be available, and I think also, naturally, we have not been able to invite offers from patriotic people who may be willing to help us in this matter so definitely before the Bill has been passed as we shall be able to do after the Bill is passed. Although, therefore, various other suggestions of areas have been considered, I cannot say anything certain at all except with regard to that particular area about which we have a firm offer from the Crown. With regard to the property that Lord Lucas offered, it is an extraordinarily fine and patriotic offer. That land has been very, very carefully inspected, and it was found that the area of suitable land was held by so many people that it would be inadvisable to dispossess them by people holding a small number of acres, however much we should like to do so. Of the other land, held in larger farms, a very large proportion of the area was too heavy to provide the best chance for the people we want to settle. Therefore, with very great regret, the Board has come to the conclusion that they would not be well-advised to accept that offer, in spite of the splendid spirit in which it was made.


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman one question before the Amendment is disposed of. I understand the point of view of the Government in relation to the question whether or not there should be compulsion in this Bill depends entirely upon the very limited scope of the Bill, and that they are not by this Bill seeking in any way to set up a precedent for future small-holding settlements, but that if the scheme is carried further, as we hope it will be hereafter, they do not preclude the possibility of compulsion being adopted if it is necessary?


That is so, absolutely.


The answer given by the right hon. Gentleman proves to me the necessity of adopting the Amendment. We hear that some land has been offered by a Noble Lord, but has been found not to be suitable for the purposes of this Bill. Does not that rather prove that we ought to have power to take land at a fair price if it is suitable for the purpose? If the Government do not require to use the power given by the Amendment, they need not do it. If they get plenty of land by agreement, they need not use compulsion. The Amendment is a safeguard, and the Committee should adopt it.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and agreed to.

Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT

I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "land" ["or farm stock on or used in connection with the land"], to insert the words " and for a further sum not exceeding one year's rent for indirect loss due to the quitting of the holding."

This Amendment has been put down at the instance of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and provides for the giving of adequate compensation to a sitting tenant who may be disturbed by the taking of his land. The history of this Bill in its passage through another place is very similar to that of a former measure dealing with small holdings which passed through this House. Many hon. Members will remember that in the Small Holdings Act, 1908, there was no provision for compensation to sitting tenants whose land was taken, and that subsequently a Bill had to be brought in to remedy that omission. In the same way, this Bill was introduced without any provision at ail for compensation, but in the course of its passage through Committee in the other House a partial compensation was granted which is now included in the Bill before us. The Amendment carries the question of compensation a little bit further. It only does that which is just. The experience of some of the best valuers in this country goes to show that in the hundreds of cases which have been before them, where the land has been compulsorily acquired for the purpose of creating small holdings, the tenant has not received anything like the fair compensation to which he might fairly consider himself entitled. In no case is he compensated for the loss which it is practically impossible for him to submit in a concrete form to an official valuer.

The Amendment which stood on the Paper before mine in the name of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Ellis Davies) dealt with the question of good-will. That is only one part of the loss which is suffered that is very difficult to assess by means of a valuation. Supposing a man who is occupying a farm has built up a milk trade or some other development in connection with his holding, and, after many years of labour and the expenditure of much time and money, he suddenly receives notice that his farm is going to be taken for an experimental purpose, all that is lost to him. He receives under the valuation the compensation to which he is entitled in regard to stock and certain improvements on his land, but for disturbance, which is a very serious thing to farmers—more serious to farmers, perhaps, than men engaged in any other pursuit—he remains uncompensated. There is another matter which ought not to be lost sight of when we are considering this particular Bill, that is, the sentimental side of the question. This Bill is commended to Parliament very largely on sentimental grounds, with a view to establishing those who have been maimed or injured in the course of the War on the land in order to get them back to their own native land. We have also to remember those who are in occupation of that land. We have to think of the men who have, perhaps, two or three sons out in the War, and who were born on that land. Are we not to think of them? Are they to come home and find that their home has been seized suddenly for the purposes of this experimental legislation? The justice of my proposal is so patent that I feel sure it will meet with considerable support.


If ever any Amendment, moved so innocently as it has been by my hon. and gallant Friend, raised a hornet's nest, it is this one. The history of the proposal has been described. The form of words we propose to adopt here originated in the Bill which will always be honorably associated with the name of my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Jesse Collings). A Clause was put into that Bill, against very strenuous opposition from certain quarters of the House, providing that a landowner who disturbed the tenants without good and sufficient cause and for reasons inconsistent with good estate management, should pay certain compensation. Although, of course, many of us at that time may have thought that it did not go far enough, at any rate certain principles for the payment of compensation were adopted. Certainly no one on these benches wanted to make them any broader, on the contrary, their speeches and voting were the other way. The same words were adopted in the Small Holdings Act, 1910, to apply to persons who were dispossessed from the land for the public purpose of providing small holdings. We have taken the existing Statute, simply changing the words that had to be changed so that the compensation will be paid by the Board instead of by the landowner, as it is in the Agricultural Holdings Act, or by the county council as it is in the Small Holdings Act. We have applied them verbatim to this Bill. This is the first time, but it is not the last time in this Bill, in which we have applied the principle in existing legislation exactly, without making any variation, in order to avoid the risk of raising any new contentious matter which might be used as soon as we put it into this Bill as an argument for making it go very much further. What would be the position if we accepted the Amendment? Were the State, for the public purpose of settling soldiers on these few experimental small colonies, to find it necessary to dispossess tenants—I need hardly say the risk of that will be the minimum, because we have already had to decline several suggestions on the very ground that persons would have to be removed—compensation would have to be given on a different and higher scale than that upon which the landowner is made to pay if he disposesses his tenant for reasons, it may be, of politics, religion, or something of that kind. Surely that is an extremely contentious proposal. The only path of safety and the only right path in this case is to accept and transpose existing legislation into this Bill without making these additions. If you are going to change the whole basis of giving compensation to a dispossessed tenant, you ought not to propose it only in the case of these small colonies for returned soldiers, but you ought to say that you are willing and anxious to do it for all tenants dispossessed by private landowners from one end of the country to the other, and also amend the Agricultural Holdings Act. As that Agricultural Holdings Act was settled in its present form after very severe controversy in this House, I hope we may let that sleeping controversy lie and not raise it all again by trying to expand the scope of the compensation given in this Bill.


I am very sorry to hear that the right hon. Gentleman looks upon this Amendment in the light he has done. I look upon it in quite a different light. There is no shadow of doubt that if this Bill is to become law and the soldiers are to be put on the land, the whole matter will have to be hurried and done as quickly as possible. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was an innocent Amendment, because the existing principles are being followed. This Bill, however, is an experiment. We have just settled that. It is an absolutely new scheme to put soldiers on the land. May I call the attention of the Committee to the fact that; most likely, indeed I think certainly, you will also be unsettling soldiers from the land in order to carry out this scheme. There will be tremendous difficulties for those people who are dispossessed to find out farms suitable for them again, and there will be a considerable period before the man who is being dispossessed will be able to find a farm suitable for him to take and get to work again, and I think it is only fair and just that the Amendment should be accepted, and if it is carried to a Division I and a good many others will back the hon. Baronet up. Why do you quote all these Acts of Parliament when your Bill, as you acknowledge, is an experiment? I sincerely hope you will pass the Amendment and give the people who are dispossessed the very adequate compensation which it proposes.


If hon. Members who have supported this Amendment would apply the principles they have been advocating to all cases of tenancy under the Agricultural Holdings Act and apply it throughout, I should warmly support it. But if this Clause were not in at all the tenant would not get anything. The object of the Clause is to give to the tenant something which he would not otherwise have had, and to add to that something which does not apply in other cases of exactly similar hardship seems to me so much out of place that I shall vote against the Amendment.


It is with very great regret that I cannot find myself supporting the right hon. Gentleman. This Amendment does not come from a body of faddists or outside land reformers, such as sometimes hold forth, but from the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and it has been moved by the president and supported by the vice-president, and I really do not understand why, when the Government is taking power to acquire land by agreement for the purpose of putting on small holders, and they will have to dispossess some other men who are possibly farming the land quite well, these tenant farmers should be mulct in considerable loss because they are dispossessed and have to move from one farm to another. There does not seem to me to be any answer to that. Why should you, for the purpose of putting one small holder on the land, inflict loss upon the present occupier? The Clause is perfectly plain:

"The tenant upon quitting shall be entitled to recover from the Board compensation for the loss or expense directly attributable to the quitting which the tenant may unavoidably incur upon or in connection with the sale or removal of his household goods or his implements of husbandry, produce, or farm stock on or used in connection with the land."

That means that he will be simply compensated for the cost of transporting his-household goods, implements, and farm stock from one farm to another. My right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that there is far more in it than that. If a man has to leave his farm and go into a new neighbourhood he has to adapt himself to the conditions of that new neighbourhood. In his old farm he knows what each field will produce. He has got the measure of the farm. If he takes a new farm in a different neighbourhood he has to study that farm. There is a considerable loss. More than that, he may have another connection. My hon. Friend suggested a milk walk, or the sale of dairy produce, or a hundred and one things in which the farmer is engaged. You turn him out and simply give him compensation only to the extent of moving his goods from one farm to another. It is totally inadequate, and I ask the Government why should they injure the present farmers, who are doing their best, for the purpose of putting on other farmers. I gladly welcome the experiment of the Government in putting these settlers on the land, but for heaven's sake do not do an injustice to the present occupiers of the land, and that is what you are doing. I do not think there is a single man but would wish to deal fairly and even generously with the dispossessed tenants.


Would you expect it from private individuals?


My right hon. Friend is very skilful. He is trying to draw a red herring across the track. We are now dealing with this Bill, and when it comes to dealing with private individuals we will talk about that. This is a question of the Government acquiring land. Are they going to deal honestly and fairly by the present tenants? I suggest that they should. After all, it is a very poor commencement for an experiment of this kind that the first thing they do is to treat ungenerously the farmer who is doing his land very well. I hope my right hon. Friend will see his way to accept the Amendment which has been proposed on the authority of so substantial a body as the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and that in thismatter, at any rate, he will lay down the important principle, the just principle, that a tenant farmer who is dispossessed from his holding shall get not only compensation for moving his goods from one farm to another, but one year's rent in addition.


I very strongly support this Amendment for three or four extremely strong reasons. The first is this, the great difficulty in the wide extension of the principle of this Bill hereafter to other areas, so as to make it possible to settle any considerable number of soldiers upon small holdings, is the posssession of land by sitting tenants If there is one thing that the nation ought to do generously it is this. If they are going to dispossess any considerable number of sitting tenants for the purpose of carrying out a national object like this, the least thing they can do is to treat them generously. It is perfectly well known to everyone interested in agriculture that the measure of compensation laid down in this Clause is not anything like the full loss to a sitting tenant who has to go when he does not want to. There is no question about it, and it seems to me that to say that you are going to do this because this was done in previous Statutes is a ridiculous argument. We are dealing with a totally new problem. We are dealing with a problem that is not only new but has to be carried through under the pressure of extreme urgency in a very short time, so that you cannot wait over a long series of years to take up farms here and there as they become vacant. You have to take steps to get your land quickly. The essence of this problem, as it seems to me, is that the offer of the State to the returning soldier at the end of the War must be made as a firm offer before demobilisation begins. Who knows when the War is going to end? The right hon. Gentleman talked of getting possession of the first of these colonies—one colony—100 men—next Lady Day. The Government will have to get ahead at a very much more rapid rate than that, and, if they are going to do that, the first thing they must do is to prepare to say to the sitting tenants, "If you will only go we will help you and do everything we can to get a comparable farm elsewhere. We are asking you to go on national grounds, for the sake of the soldiers who protected you, and we will treat you handsomely." One hon. Member said this provision of the Bill was a new provision, and that this measure of compensation provided by the Bill was in itself an advance. That is only so to a very limited extent. Under the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1914, this measure of compensation was extended to every tenant where the property was sold, and, consequently, the only newness about the proposal in the Bill is in those cases where there is a sitting tenant on Crown land, or where the Crown or the Board of Agriculture takes a lease instead of purchasing. In every case where the Board buys, the Act of 1914 gives it, and, consequently, I urge very strongly upon the Government that, in common fairness to the farmers of this country, and, if you like, as a measure of opportunity essential in order to enable your policy of small holdings on existing agricultural land to be carried through quickly, as distinguished from land which has to be reclaimed, I urge them to adopt the Amendment.

7.0 P.M.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman (General Sir Ivor Herbert) brought this Amendment forward on behalf of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, of which he is the distinguished president. It could not have been in better hands than his.

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