§ Considered in Committee, and reported without Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
As one who takes the keenest interest in the settlement of the country and the system of small holdings or holdings large enough to contain a family, I want to make a protest against this belated act of the Government in introducing a Bill which, to my mind, is farcical, first, in the area of the land which it contemplates to deal with, and, secondly, in the fact that it is not intended to 1519 purchase the land, but the Department of Agriculture will be restricted entirely to leasing. From what one knows of the United Kingdom it is very difficult to lease land on terms that will give the settlement of small colonies the slightest prospect of real success. I deplore that now, nearly four years after the War started, the Government has not been able to provide for the settlement on the land of the country of discharged sailors and soldiers, now numbering about half a million, to a greater extent than they have done. We had it from the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture the other day that only twenty-six discharged sailors and soldiers have yet been settled on the land of Great Britain, and yet in this morning's paper we have a Proclamation of the Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief of Ireland in which he says that Irishmen who have joined the forces since the outbreak of War—I am paraphrasing his Proclamation—and who will join it will be given land in Ireland, and by a grant of land I presume it meant a freehold grant of land. The point I want to put to the President of the Board of Agriculture is this: Why this discrimination in favour of Irishmen who, in the fourth year of the War, must be coaxed to do what everybody admits is the paramount duty on the part of every citizen of the United Kingdom and of the Empire? What of the millions of gallant Welshmen, Englishmen, and Scotsmen who have been soldiering since the early days of the War, and who will continue to the bitter end? I know of no apple of discord that could be thrown into the Armies and Navies of Great Britain that is more apt to cause grave discontent among fighting men than this most inept and, I think, futile Proclamation of the Viceroy of Ireland. Here we have a single sheet of Parliamentary Paper with the smallest and most inadequate Bill in reference to land that has been introduced since the War in any Parliament of the British Empire. Every Parliament has dealt with the settlement of the land. In Canada, which is as generous towards its soldiers as its soldiers are brave—but no braver than the gallant lads from this country— there is given to every discharged soldier, and there will be given to every demobilised soldier, 160 acres of freehold land, with an advance of £500 at 5 per cent. to start on, and the Imperial Gov- 1520 ernment offers to the millions of her sons this shabby sheet with this miserable Bill promising to lease, which they know they cannot do, a few thousand acres of land for the resettlement of millions of men who have fought and been mutilated, and who will fight and be mutilated by the hundreds of thousands before this War is over, for the very land that is denied them. There is not a soldier now fighting who can say, in the trenches on any front, "I am going to get one single rood of my native country." An Irishman will be able to say it if he has the pluck and patriotism to join up under Lord French's Proclamation, but the soldiers and sailors of the United Kingdom cannot feel, and the Government is to be condemned for that fact, that they are literally fighting for their native land. I feel very strongly on this question, and I certainly hope that the Government will rise to their great responsibilities and not treat British soldiers and sailors worse than Irish soldiers and sailors, and worse than they are treated by any part of His Majesty's Dominions.
§ Mr. P. A. HARRIS
I think we ought to be thankful for small mercies, for, although this Bill does not by any means sufficiently grasp this big problem, it is an experiment in the right direction. I do not think the Government can go away with the idea that they have fulfilled their duty in dealing with the provision of land for our soldiers who have been fighting. This is purely an administrative Bill, an extension of an Act already passed, just giving them the power to acquire a larger acreage of land. What, however, makes us a little suspicious of this measure is the failure to take adequate advantage of their old powers under the Act, of which this Bill is an Amendment. I asked a question before this Bill was introduced about the number of soldiers who had been already provided for, and the House was astonished to find that only twenty-six men had at present been settled on the land. Now, I am afraid, quite apart from what the hon. and gallant Baronet has just said, that the Board has not put such enthusiasm into acquiring land and encouraging facilities to soldiers as they might have done. If this Bill is in any way effectively to deal with the subject with which it sets out to grapple, greater publicity must be given to soldiers in the Army and soldiers who have left the Army, to the fact that the Government 1521 desires to give every facility for soldiers to acquire land. I think if it is going to be a success, it is necessary to get the active co-operation of the local authorities in all the counties. The Small Holdings Committee, which exists in every county, should be asked by the Board of Agriculture to take an active part, first, in finding what land is available, and, secondly, in finding if there are any discharged soldiers who are land-hungry. If the Small Holdings Committees, by experience, do not prove a competent authority, then the Board of Agriculture should ask the new agricultural commit tees, which are in every county, and have a very intimate knowledge of the suitable land, because they had to survey the agricultural condition of the whole country, to report on the whole subject, and when they come across land which has not been properly cultivated by existing holders, they might very well put up suggestions to the Board as to the acquisition of that land.
I understand the Board intends rather to depart from its previous policy, and to go in for smaller holdings, and acquire not only in a particular area three or four estates, as in the past, but to acquire a great number, and I certainly think they should aim at having some kind of estate in every county throughout the country which should be a model of how small holdings should be run, which should be the centre of co-operation, and it should, if possible, provide in a dairy county for a co-operative dairy, and be a centre of agricultural experiment for the area. There is one thing, I think, the Board of Agriculture should do. It should arrange both with the local pension authority and with the War Office that every soldier should be asked if he desires to go on the land. There is a very general idea that these facilities are largely to be provided for townsmen. I think that is a very secondary matter. What we want to do is to get the agricultural labourere who has gone into the Army back to the land, and he is not going back to the land merely to become an ordinary labourer at a very narrow wage. The Army will have broadened his vision, and if he does not see one or two things —a prospect of getting greater independence and higher wages, or, alternately, the possibility of acquiring land— he is almost certain to emigrate to the Colonies, where they are offering him such great prospects and so many oppor- 1522 tunities of acquiring land. So that I would say to the Board of Agriculture, they should try to get the active cooperation of the military authority, and the pension authority, as men are discharged, to make clear to them the opportunities the Board are prepared to give, and they should be supplied with an application form to state whether they are prepared to go on the land. This becomes all the more important, because, when the War is over, we shall be faced with the difficulty of absorbing the industrial population. There will be shortage of capital, shortage of raw material, and the ordinary normal industries will be dislocated, but if, in the meantime, we have drawn back a large part of the men in the Army who came originally from the land, who are agricultural labourers, by the prospect of acquiring land on reasonable conditions, you will have done a considerable thing towards assisting the problem of reconstruction and solving the industrial problem.
§ Mr. C. HARMSWORTH
I, like my hon. Friend, who has just resumed his seat, am disposed to be thankful for small mercies, and all the more so because this particular mercy is at least ten times as great as that bestowed two years ago. During the passage of the original Bill, I was one of those who very frequently criticised it, on the ground that it was absurdly inadequate to the purpose that this House at that time had in view. I am not prepared to say that the multiplication of the acreage then provided for by ten goes any considerable distance to meet what I regard as a great national need, but it is a greater provision, and for that we may be thankful, and I think we must remember that if you are going to experiment in small-holding colonies you had best not provide too great an area of land for the purpose. I have said on many occasions in this House that I do not know why my right hon. Friend and his colleague, the Secretary for Scotland, had embarked on this series of experiments. Small holdings are not in the experimental stage, although it may be true to say that small holdings, especially if largely created for soldiers and sailors, have many experimental features about them, but I should like to think that, concurrently with the operation of this Bill, when it becomes law, my right hon. Friend would be able to revive the now dormant powers of the county councils under the 1523 Act of 1908. I am aware, of course, of the great financial difficulties of this time, but we must not forget that this Act alone, as I work it out, will cost the Treasury some £3,000,000, if not more, and I should have preferred myself, although I am not opposed to the acquisition of land be the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, to see that money put at the disposal of the county councils for the purpose of continuing their very useful activities in the direction of providing small holdings. The House is well aware that many counties have done extremely well under the powers of the Act of 1908. In particular this applies to Cambridge, Norfolk, and Devon, and—having regard to its size—the county of Bedfordshire, a portion of which I have the honour to represent here. I hope that even under this Bill, and even if my right hon. Friend finds it impossible to revive the dormant powers of the county councils, that he will yet find it possible, as the last speaker has suggested, to place these colonies, or, I would prefer to call them, groups, in the counties, and to give them a particularly and special county character.
I should like to think that under this Bill there would be a Devonshire colony, or rather several groups of small holdings called the Devonshire and the Bedfordshire groups, and so in the other counties; because we must not forget that a great number, perhaps by far the larger number of men, who return to the land will be men who will want to go back to the neighbourhood and the locality which they know and with which they have been associated. I have reason to suppose that already in connection with the one or more colonies that have so far been established, one or two, at least, of the men have already begun to feel that they are in a countryside they do not know or understand, and they wish they could be given facilities in their own county. I have no wish to criticise this Bill. I welcome it. But I would take this occasion, as I have taken others, to impress on the Treasury Bench the importance of taking a much larger view of this whole question. I am told that those of our men at the front who have any disposition to go on the land are coming back to us expecting to find the land provided for them. I think that they will make their voices heard in a very emphatic way about that. It will be much more gracious, I think, 1524 and would exhibit better our gratitude, if we made generous and ample provision for them before they return from the front. Since all transactions connected with the land are of necessity slow and laborious, we cannot afford to lose any time. I will only say that I welcome this Bill as a very small instalment of the discharge of our duty, and I trust my right hon. Friend and his colleagues will remit no effort, and will bring every kind of pressure to bear upon the Government, to see that this great question is settled in a national way.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir R. Winfrey)
I am grateful to the two last speakers for their helpful criticisms. The last speaker said we could not afford to lose any time. That is the reason for this Bill. Whilst the Government are thinking out a much larger scheme—really a national scheme—we have thought it advisable to bring in this little Bill in order to have something to be going on with. I am glad to have it welcomed in that spirit. I quite agree in regard to giving the county council back its powers under the Small Holdings Act of 1908. The Board of Agriculture have pressed that point more than once on the Treasury. I still hope that ere long we shall be successful in persuading the Treasury to allow the county councils to resume their borrowing powers under that Act of Parliament. Until they do so this Bill, at any rate, is something to be going on with. In regard to the criticisms and suggestions of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Harmsworth) as to giving facilities, we have already, I may say, taken steps to approach both the Pensions Committees and the War Office, and we are having leaflets printed which will be placed in the hands of every discharged soldier, and also in the hands of pensioners. This, of course, is only an enabling Bill, enabling the Board of Agriculture to lease land and to establish these colonies. We seek also the co-operation of owners who are willing to lease land and to let us have it on a rent charge. I am very hopeful we shall find such landowners up and down the country. At any rate, the Crown authorities, and probably the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, will lease us land and help us to continue our work. I should like to add, with regard to the fact that we have only at the present time twenty-six men upon the land, that it must be remembered that the Bill passed two 1525 years ago only provided for four colonies, two of which we have not yet got possession of. When we get buildings erected and more men there we believe they will be successful, and that the men will show what they are able to do on these small holdings I can assure the House that we will use our best endeavours to put this enabling Bill into operation as speedily and as satisfactorily as possible.
§ Mr. HOLT
I must say that I think this class of legislation is entirely wrong. It is a very great pity that the Government should take up the time of the House and spend a great deal of public money in messing about things which they had much better leave alone. We shall have every need after the War to bestir ourselves in every possible way to restore our economic prosperity, and there cannot really be any doubt that every man who is worth anything, and is capable and willing of doing any useful work, will get as much employment as he likes without interference from the Government. I believe the only thing that will happen, as the result of this class of legislation is, first of all, a certain number of persons will get salaries from the State for acting as members of a Government Department; and, secondly, a considerable number of persons will, at great public expense, be employed in doing something exceedingly badly. We shall find men put on the land who are quite incapable of making profit out of it. They will be doing that at a time when it is the more necessary at any other time in the national history that men should be engaged to the full economic advantage. The object of this legislation—nobody can possibly imagine other in the case of legislation of this kind—should be that the persons intended to be put on the land are those most likely to produce the best economic results. If that were the case those who paid the greatest rent would get the land, and the whole problem would solve itself. As long as I have the honour to be a Member of this House I shall go on protesting against all this false and wrong political economy. It stands to reason that it is wrong. There seems now to be a desire to set up Government Departments in order that Ministers may say, "See what I have done!" They make grand speeches, and people listen to them with amazement and pleasure, and then it turns out a few years later that they have done nothing but dissipate a large amount of public money. I protest against this 1526 measure, and whenever any similar measures are brought forward I shall do my best to oppose them.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I often find myself in agreement with the hon. Member who has just spoken, but on this occasion I do not agree with the speech he has just delivered. The hon. Member did not offer any direct criticism of this particular measure. I have no delusions as to the wealth-producing qualities of those settling on the land. I will examine some of the statements made by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt). He said that after the War there would be a vast number of people who would find any amount of opportunities for employment, and he argued that to take people from a profitable industry and put them to unprofitable work would be an unsound procedure. Does anybody think that when this War is over you are going to have a great demand for labour? Does he not believe that after the War you will have a vast mass of people thrown upon the labour market seeking employment in every direction when the Army has been demobilised. Does he suggest that all these people will be provided with jobs here, there, and everywhere, and that there will be a tremendous demand for them? History gives the lie to such a conclusion. If the hon. Member studies the history of the great wars of the past he will surely find that after any war of this character you have a shortage of capital and a great surplus age of labour.
§ Mr. HOLT
Surely the hon. Member will admit that during the years immediately after a war there has usually been a good state of employment, and that there will be a great demand for labour after this War to make good the material damage of the War, and in this country, where we all know structural work is falling into disrepair, it will be necessary to make good the wear and tear.
§ Mr. MASON
There may be a considerable demand for labour for a time, but those who study the history of past wars invariably find, after a war of great impoverishment which the war entails, a great depression and a surplus of unemployed labour. The hon. Member for Hexham is far too good a political economist not to agree with that conclusion; in fact, it is a conclusion that any student of ordinary history would arrive at. I think the Government are to be congratulated upon 1527 this Bill, for it is a measure to meet a condition of affairs which is likely to arise. The hon. Member for Sunderland criticised adversely this measure, and he drew an analogy between this country and Canada. Everybody knows that there is no analogy to be drawn between those two countries. This Bill is merely an instalment of a greater measure, and we ought to welcome it as the foundation of something to meet a state of things that is likely to arise after the War, when you must find some outlet for the energies of the great number of men who will necessarily be unemployed, and who will not find that multiplicity of occupations which the hon. Member seems to think will be presented.
I think we, as the trustees of these people, should do something to enable them to obtain an honest and a useful living. One hon. Member quoted the Canadian analogy, and he said that the Canadian Government, in addition to providing opportunities for settlement on the land, also provided them with a certain amount of capital. I think we ought to bear that fact in mind, either by establishing agricultural banks or making advances upon easy terms. It is no use giving men land without a certain amount of capital to develop and work it, and in the measure which we have been promised for placing a greater number of people on the land, I hope some provision will be made for advances at such a rate of interest as will enable those who are placed upon the land to have a fair chance of making it remunerative. In making that suggestion, which I hope will be considered favourably, I congratulate the Government on this measure, and so far as I can render any assistance I shall do so. I welcome this measure and I offer it my hearty support.
§ Mr. WING
The Bill before the House reminds one of the difficulties the Government have to face in the variety of speeches which have been made. The hon. Member for Sunderland commenced the Debate by pointing out that this was an inefficient sort of measure, while others commended it, and the hon. Member for Hexham thinks the Bill is entirely superfluous. This only shows that the Government must strike out on lines for themselves, and determine whether something is needed or not. I have not much faith in the policy of 1528 allowing things to take their own course, for we have had far too much of that kind of thing in the past. I commend the Government for taking the line they have done, and I regret that they have not done more.
I think the suggestion that the Ministry should enlarge the powers and responsibilities of county councils, so as to arouse that county patriotism in which there would be a healthy rivalry between one county and another, and in which you would carry out that local feeling which ought to be promoted, is worthy of consideration. I hope that the Government will see that this is done. In relation to the management of these estates, it is suggested by the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Mason) that capital should be provided. On this subject I have every faith in the Minister for Agriculture, who is an authority, and he is assisted by other agricultural experts, and I think they will realise all the various necessities of Government aid and they will be equal to the occasion. I congratulate the Government upon this measure, and I hope that some of these small colonies will come towards the county of Durham, where we have a number of very willing workers.
§ Captain Sir C. BATHURST
I do not feel justified in opposing the Third Reading of this Bill, although I cannot help feeling that the Government are moving along the wrong lines, if they mean to settle a large number of our ex-soldiers on the Motherland with the greatest satisfaction to themselves and the most economical expenditure. I cannot imagine myself opposing the principle of such a Bill, because, undoubtedly, we ought to afford every facility to enable those who are really properly equipped to cultivate a portion of their motherland. I say that with all the more emphasis because there has recently passed through this House the Emigration Bill, which affords facilities to men who are prepared to cultivate agricultural land to go abroad in order to do so, thereby removing from this country at a time when we require those men more than ever we did before a very important element in the body politic. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not passed yet!"] I am. adopting the attitude which the hon. Member opposite would have us adopt, that it is almost unpatriotic to oppose any Bill which the Government puts forward with a patriotic motive. I do deprecate this attempt to centralise the administra- 1529 tion of small holdings. We have already, all over the country, a large number of bodies who are amassing a vast amount of experience in the acquisition, cultivation, and equipment of agricultural land, and who know the conditions better than any Government Department can possibly know them. I am sure that the inclination of the bulk of these men will be to settle in the neighbourhood of their own homes, if only facilities are afforded to them to do so. I understand that the President of the Board has been making and is making appeals to the Treasury to revive the powers of the local authorities. I hope that he may be successful. I should like to remind him of one great handicap from which he suffers and from which they do not suffer. Under certain circumstances, they have very considerable powers of compulsion in the matter of the acquisition and cultivation of land. I know from experience that the great difficulty that has faced and will face the Board of Agriculture is this very lack of the power of compulsion in order to acquire the land which they want now in a much larger quantity than at any time previously. That power of compulsion can be exercised and is exercised with far less feeling of grievance by county councils than it can be exercised by the Board of Agriculture.
I am bound to say that the farmers did not show themselves any too ready to be dispossessed of the land which was taken under the original scheme. Now the area is to be multiplied by ten. I cannot conceive how you are going to persuade farmers in these days, when the equipment of their farms represents a far larger amount of capital than it did two years ago, to leave these farms to be re-occupied by another body of men altogether without throwing an enormous charge by way of compensation upon public funds. I rather hope that it may yet be possible to induce our fellow legislators in another place to introduce an Amendment which will, at any rate, enable local authorities to act as the agents of the Board of Agriculture in carrying out these duties not only of the acquisition but also of the equipment of land, and more particularly of the settlement of men of whom they have full local knowledge upon land where they would be most likely to be settled. There is only one other observation that I want to make. The Government to-day have the opportunity to remove a serious blot from the face of this country, with great economic advan- 1530 tage to the country, and without at the same time disturbing any sitting tenants. I refer to the reclamation of the very large area of land which is open to be reclaimed, which can be reclaimed with the help of German and other labour, and which can be made commercially remunerative as the result of such reclamation. Had I been in my place earlier I should have liked to have moved an Amendment in favour of the Government proceeding along the lines of reclamation rather than the disturbances of sitting tenants in carrying out this enlarged scheme. I think the House ought to pass this Bill, but I hope, in passing it, it will agree that the power of the county councils ought to be revived concurrently, and, if possible, that they should be made the agents of the Government in carrying out this further effort of land settlement for our ex-soldiers.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I rise to make a somewhat more modest point, to which I made reference on the Second Reading. I regret that the Minister in charge of the Bill did not give us an opportunity of putting our points before he rose. It is true that he gave me some information not reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT and unfortunately not in the records. As far as I read the Bill, it says nothing at all about soldiers and sailors, and I think the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Sir H. Greenwood) went astray and rather misconceived the Bill as an attempt to cope with the after-effects of this War, whereas the President of the Board of Agriculture gave us to understand that it is a modest beginning, by the way, and that when the Government deals with the replacement of those who have fought at the front we may expect a more ambitious measure. I do not see any mention whatever of soldiers and sailors, and therefore I put forward my plea on behalf of those who are under the charge of the Sanatorium Committees under the Insurance Act. It does seem to me that it would be very convenient to use this Bill for establishing at any rate one colony in order to cope with that terrible evil. I do not ask that it should be the dominant thing. I am only pleading that a beginning should be made with those who suffer from this terrible scourge. It may be that a beginning will be made with returned soldiers, but I hope that will not mean entirely those who have been to the front, because it 1531 is well known that many men have developed the disease of tuberculosis during training, and have been returned broken to civilian life to come upon the funds of the approved societies. If it is interpreted in that larger sense, I have no objection, and I do not think the approved societies would have any objection, to the experiment being made with men who have left the Colours, though I do not see why, as it is a general Bill and as the general taxpayers will have to support it, it should be made a necessary qualification for a tenant upon these colonies that he should have been in the Army. It is not merely that there is additional tuberculosis in the country through the operation of the War, but many of the people who have gone into the factories and munition shops and are working longer hours will in a short time decide—some of them have already decided—that the land is a much healthier place for them to work, and there will be an increasing number of them looking forward to an establishment such as this Bill sets up.
A great deal of the money now expended is wasted; the men who get the treatment, even more than the women, have no resources; they are not well educated, they have no taste for reading, and they lack occupation. If they had some responsibility, some actual work to do, it would largely assist in their recovery. The hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. D. Mason) mentioned the necessity of having a little capital, and suggested that unless the Government were prepared to do something in that direction probably a large part of this scheme would prove inoperative. There is a good deal to be said for that. But in the cases of which I am speaking many men have a small capital. I have cases before me of men who have been through the sanatoria under the National Health Insurance Act; they are a superior kind of working men, superior, that is to say, in the sense of wage-earning; they have saved money and got a little bit of property, and they would be willing to provide a couple of hundred pounds, it may be, in order to get a place in one of these colonies where they could have decent neighbours and batter chances of recovery. They could have, for instance, their families with them, and they certainly would be doing better living in the open-air than if they were in smoky surroundings. I am not suggesting that the whole of the colonies should be de- 1532 voted to this purpose; I am only pleading that a start should be made with one of them. I understand there is already one man in one of the colonies who was a tuberculous patient. All I am asking is that you should set apart for this work one colony, where thirty or forty people could be treated. By doing so you would contribute a great deal to the solution of the health problem which sooner or later we shall have to face in this House, because this disease is becoming a. terrible scourge. Further than that, it would be possible to secure better medical attention for these patients if they were all congregated in one colony they would be a help to each other, there would be co-operation, and, from inquiries I have made, I am assured that it would be possible to secure the right kind of individual. Surely the working man is entitled to the same chances of recovery as the rich man gets; but, unfortunately, the cures in these cases are nearly all confined to rich men. It is proved beyond question that the bulk of the money spent on the working classes does not result in cures. I am confident Members of the Labour party will realise that they have an obligation not merely to their members while at work but to those who are broken down in health. I merely ask for a small experiment to be tried, and I press upon the Government the desirability of enabling the Board of Agriculture to add one more laurel to those which it has already earned by endeavouring to help these people.
Sir G. NEWMAN
The Minister who-has spoken on this subject expressed a hope that the time would come when the county councils would exercise 'their powers to borrow money in order to increase the number of small holdings. Speaking as a member of the Devonshire County Council, with an experience of some years, I want to point to a defect in the powers possessed by county councils at the present time, and to suggest that the Government should if possible, by legislation, provide a remedy for that defect. Under the present system county councils have power only to lease the land and the result is that the small holder who takes a holding under the county council has to pay the purchase money for the land and then at the end of so many years when the land has been bought, instead of it becoming the property of the smallholder it becomes the property of the county council although the tenant has had to pay to the sinking fund all the 1533 time. That seems manifestly unfair. Surely the man who has found the money for the sinking fund ought either personally or by his successors to enjoy possession of the land. I hope that any concession that may be made in the future will be in the direction of enabling these small men to become possessors of the land in due course.
§ Sir C. SEELY
I rise to support what was said by the hon. Member for Wiltshire (Sir C. Bathurst) with regard to this Bill. With him I hope that, in its administration the Board of Agriculture will not interfere with the very valuable work done by the county councils with regard to small holdings. I speak with a certain amount of uncertainty because on the face of it the Bill gives one very little information indeed, as to what are the intentions of the Department, what are the objects with which the land is going to be obtained, and in what manner the Bill is to be carried into operation. I take the value of small holdings to be that they are stepping stones by means of which a man who is already an agricultural labourer can rise to the position, first, of a small farmer, and then go on to the larger farm and to those other positions which are open to those engaged in agriculture. That object is provided for by the Small Holdings Act, for which the county councils are responsible, but I am a little afraid from the use of the word that these "colonies," as they are called, will not meet the same purpose. I trust that the Department will see that in carrying out this Bill it interferes as little as possible with the work of county councils in providing small holdings. I say it emphatically, because however much they may wish not to do so in practice, when a large Government Department starts a work of that kind they are apt, according to my experience, whether they wish for it or not, and whether outside people wish for it or not, to gather up to themselves the whole of the work and to interfere very seriously indeed with the activities of all other persons. The only other subject I should wish to mention with regard to it is that one of the several Members who have spoken has referred to the question of those who have fought for us and who are returning home, and finding work for them. I really do hope that the Government and the Board of Agriculture will not think that anything that can be done in that way will be at all adequate or 1534 valuable for our soldiers when they come home. As a matter of fact, I do not think that you will require any great Government provision on the ground of want of employment. Nearly all the men who went away went away from an actual job in which they were engaged, and when men are back I am afraid we shall find that the men who do not come back for their jobs will be more in number than the number of jobs which have vanished in the course of the War. Therefore I do not foresee any great want of employment or any necessity for any great interference or action by the Government to deal with that question.
There is, however, a question on which, I think, there may be very considerable desire and feeling on the part of the men, and where the Government might help them. That is this: There axe many men who have gone away from the towns, who, after they have lived in the open for three or four years, will not wish to go back to town life. There are many men who will want to lead a freer and more open life than they have done. The proper thing for those men to do, and the thing which it is worth their while to do, is to go out into the great open lands of the Empire and to help and assist our old Colonies and found new Colonies, as their fathers have done before them. They are not the men who want to lead the life of the small holder who is climbing up a Ladder, from the bottom of which he started as a boy. The life of the small farmer in England is hard compared to that of the townsman. It has not the amusement of the townsman It has not the recreation or the companionship which the man in the town has been accustomed to, and when a man gives all that up and goes out into the country he wants to have what he has in the Colonies and America, and the great open countries of the world, the prospect that if he leads a rather hard, troublesome, and lonely life for some years he has a chance of leaving to his family in the future a really valuable property—a chance of great gain and advantage, and of raising himself and his family to a totally different position from that which is his chance in the older and more crowded countries.
That is the real object we should lay before ourselves when we talk of our soldiers who wish to go on the land, and to give up town life and go into country life. That seems to me, not only front 1535 their own point of view, but from the point of view of the Empire as a whole, the really valuable work the Government might do, and I do hope when we see this Bill taken that it is not going to be used in order to try and induce men who would do good work for themselves by farming in Canada, or Australia, or places like that, who have been townsmen and want to go on to the land, to refrain from doing it, and the Government not to assist them in doing what might give them a great opening in life and be of value to the Empire, but instead to come here living on a little small holding, for which there are plenty of capable people who have not the energy, the youth, or the knowledge which the others have gained by an open life during the four years, and which will enable them to make a success of work in a foreign land. For that reason, although I welcome this Bill for what it is worth, and I hope the Department will listen to the two suggestions that have been made to them—one by the hon. Member for Wiltshire, that they should devote themselves largely to reclamation, and the other by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Booth), whose advice, I think, was valuable in view of the fact that those people who suffer from tuberculosis and ought to go on the land have undoubtedly, in certain classes, great difficulty in doing it—and that for purposes of that kind, small modified purposes, I think it may be valuable. To think that anything of this kind can be of any really great value seems to be very misleading, and I am a little afraid it may draw the Government and the country off from what I feel sure is one of the great prospects of the future— that is, a great increase in our Colonies and a large and valuable number of men who will make a great future out there in consequence of the knowledge of open life which they have acquired in this War, whenever it shall happily end.
I do not intend to follow the last speaker into the question whether or not after the War there will be many unemployed persons. He appeared to lose sight of the fact that at present we have 1,500,000 women employed in this country, and a big problem will arise when peace is declared. I am not so sure that there will not be a great amount of unemployment. I am glad to see the Secretary for Scotland here, because I want to suggest to him that it is not a 1536 wise policy to have these large colonies established in different parts of the country. It would be far better to set up these men in small farms all over the country, instead of placing them in colonies. Many of these men will be suffering from physical disabilities. In Scotland, I understand, three estates have been purchased. It would be wiser if a lease of a large farm falls in, to make some, arrangement to secure that farm and split it up into two or three small farms, because the neighbours would be only too glad to help these wounded soldiers in carrying on their farms. In many cases the men would be wounded or disabled, and it would be less difficult for them to obtain assistance in such areas than it would be if they were scattered all over the country in large colonies. What we have done in this direction so far has been a lamentable failure. It is nothing short of a scandal that, after we have been engaged in the War for four years, so little provision has been made for the men returned from the War. The suggestion I make is an administrative one, and if it is carried out it will go a long way to secure the object the Government have in view.
There is one matter in regard to this Bill to which I ventured to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend on a previous occasion, namely, that the Board of Agriculture should get into touch with other Departments of the State which are also interested in the matter. The Ministry of Pensions has also elaborated a scheme for the training and treatment of discharged soldiers, and the Insurance Commission and the Local Government Board are interested in the treatment of discharged men suffering from tuberculosis. They should collaborate with other Departments and endeavour to find out how far this scheme which they have foreshadowed in this Bill can be fitted in with the activities of the Minister of Pensions, and possibly other Departments which are interested. It is proposed to train discharged men in these training centres, it follows that it will be very difficult to persuade them to undergo all this training unless the. State is also prepared in some way to guarantee that they will be planted out on small holdings afterwards, and will be provided, either by the formation of credit banks or in other ways with the necessary capital. I know something of schemes which have 1537 been already started in endeavouring to provide training in market gardening and other occupations for discharged men, and the difficulty is that they will not go to these centres unless they have some security that, after they have gone to the trouble of leaving these trades and occupations small holdings or market gardens and stock and plant will be available for them.
With regard to the question of tuberculous soldiers, hundreds and even thou sands of men have already been discharged who ought never to have been admitted, and the number is increasing day by day and month by month, and when public money is going to be spent, at least one scheme should be provided to deal with this class of case. There is a great advantage in segregating the tubercular populace as far as possible securing that a tubercular man who leaves the Army may not become a source of infection to his wife and family. That can only be safe guarded by making provision for his training in one of these training centres, which should be in as close proximity as possible to a sanatorium, so that medical advice, assistance, and supervision will always be forthcoming, and having received training there should be suitable occupations for these men, because the incidence of the disease follows very largely the kind of occupation in which these men are engaged, and a great deal of money is undoubtedly frittered away at present because the patients go back to their old occupations and their old environment instead of being provided with healthy homes to live in and healthy occupations which are suitable to the kind of disease from which they are suffering. Therefore, from a purely business point of view, and the point of view of the State, it is in the interest of the Board of Agriculture, the Government, the Insurance Commissioners, and the Local Government Board to put their heads together and produce a complete and comprehensive scheme which will pro vide not only for the treatment but also for the training and eventually for the actual work and industry in which these people are engaged, and capital so that they may be able to make the most of the remainder of their years. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider this question in that light and, so far as possible, collaborate with other Departments of the State which are also interested in it
Sir F. BAN BURY
I do not want to discuss the question whether this Bill is going to do any good; I rather doubt it. I want to know what is the actual meaning of the words:Provided that where land which is to be acquired for the purposes of the said Section one could not, if this Act had not been passed, have been acquired for that purpose without making the total area of the land for the time being so acquired exceed the amount authorised to be so acquired, the land shall not be acquired otherwise than by taking the same on lease or by purchasing it on the terms that payment shall be made there for by way of a rent charge or other annual payment.This seems to be extremely confused. I do not gather what is meant. I see the hon. Member for Wiltshire (Sir O. Bathurst) is a little amused. Perhaps he can explain the Clause. The only meaning that I can see is that the Board of Agriculture will be authorised to acquire any amount of land, provided they rent it instead of purchasing it. I do not know whether that is so.
§ Sir R. WINFREY
The principal Act gives us power to purchase as well as to lease. This Bill only gives us power to lease and not to purchase. That is the legal way in which it is put.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think that this Bill gives the power to increase the acreage from 4,500 to 45,000, from 2,000 to 20,000, and from 6,000 to 60,000. Is that to purchase?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then that is purchase. Apparently you are able to lease an unlimited quantity of land. Is that so? It is very confused. We are fortunate in having the presence of the Scottish Law Officer (Mr. Munro). Will he give his opinion upon this Clause? I should be prepared to accept his opinion in regard to English law.
§ The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. Munro)
It so happens that I am not the Scottish Law Officer. I happen to be Secretary for Scotland, not Lord Advocate. The right hon. Baronet has confused the office I now hold with the office which I formerly held. I quite confirm what was said by my right hon. Friend beside me, and I have nothing to add.
§ Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.