HC Deb 14 August 1919 vol 119 cc1777-81

(2)Where land is sold for small holdings or an option to purchase a small holding is given at any time before the first day of April, nine teen hundred and twenty-six, the sale or option shall only be made or given subject to the approval of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries.

(3) A council may give to the tenant of a small holding an option to purchase the holding on such terms as may be agreed and be consistent with the provisions of this Section, and on any such sale any increase of the value of the land due to improvements executed by and at the expense of the tenant shall not be taken into account in estimating the best price obtainable for the land.

Lords Amendments:

In Sub-section (2) leave out the words "or an option to purchase a small holding is given."—Agreed to.

In Sub-section (2) leave out the words "or option"["the sale or option shall."] —Agreed to.

In Sub-section (2) leave out "the words" or given"["be made or given."]— Agreed to.

Leave out Sub-section (3), and insert instead thereof (3)A tenant of a holding provided by a county council on land purchased by the council, who has been in occupation thereof for a period of not less than six years, shall, on notice of his desire to purchase the holding being given to the council at any time before the tenant has received notice to quit, the holding, be entitled to require the sale to him of the holding at the expiration of one month from the date of the notice at the then value of the holding, exclusive of any increase of the value thereof due to any improvement executed thereon by and at the expense of the tenant, and thereupon the council shall sell the holding to the tenant accordingly unless the council obtain the consent of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries to the requirement of the tenant being refused by the council. (4)The value of the holding shall in default of agreement be determined arbitration under and in accordance with the provisions of the Second Schedule to the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1908. (5)A council may by order in relation to sales of small holdings provided by the council which are made while the order is in force, extend the term within which the purchase money is required by Sub-section (5) of Section eleven of the principal Act to be repaid, but so that the term shall not exceed sixty years. Provided that any order made under this Sub-section before the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, shall require the approval of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Treasury. (6) Sub-section (3) of Section eleven of the Principal Act (which required the payment on completion of tie purchase of a small holding of not less than one-fifth of the purchase money) is hereby repealed, and unless the purchaser desires to pay on completion of the purchase or at any subsequent time the whole or part of the purchase money, the whole of the purchase money shall be secured as provided by Section eleven, Sub-section (5) of the Principal Act as amended by this Act.


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is an Amendment of substance. The new Sub-sections will have this effect: They will facilitate the purchase of their holdings by smallholders, and there is a very strong feeling in the country that men who have fought for their country should not only have a chance of a small holding, but an opportunity of purchasing the holding. Certain proposals giving an option to purchase were made in the Bill as it originally passed through this House. In another place this has been carried very much further, and I will indicate precisely what the proposals made in the other place are In the first instance, by the new Subsection (3) any smallholder who has been a tenant for six years shall have the right to purchase his holding at the then market value. That, I think, is a perfectly proper provision, and it will prevent a county council from prohibiting a man who has been six years a smallholder from purchasing, but if there are any grounds for supposing the purchase is inadvisable, there is appeal to the Board of Agriculture. Sub-section (4) states that where there is default of agreement, the value shall be ascertained by arbitration. Subsection (5) lengthens the term during which instalments of the purchase money may be paid from fifty to sixty years. Sub-section (6) is a very important Sub-section, because it removes what is the principle bar to smallholders buying at the present time, and that is that they have to deposit one-fifth of the purchase money in cash. In future, if this Sub-section is agreed to by the House, the necessity for finding one-fifth of the purchase money in cash will disappear, and the whole of the purchase money will be paid by instalments. I believe if that necessity of finding the cash is removed, it will greatly assist smallholders in buying their holdings, and, inasmuch as nobody can exercise this right unless he has been six years a tenant, and has therefore gone through a very long period of probation, the risk of loss to the county council is exceedingly small. I think it will be a very satisfactory solution of an old question to many people, and notably a very old and respected Member of this House, Mr. Jesse Collings.


I am very much obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. It seems, as stated, to be a very satisfactory solution of an outstanding question.

Captain Sir B. STANIER

I should like, on behalf of those who have been working for many years at this very point, to thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman for the great help he has given us. I can assure him that not only those who are working on small holdings will greatly appreciate it but a very large number of soldiers who have looked forward to the possession of these small holdings will be ever grateful for what he has done.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

Will all the charges, for purchase fall upon the rates, or will any fall upon the Exchequer?


In the great majority of cases the small holding would belong to the county council, and the county council therefore would settle with the would-be purchaser. If there were any loss it would fall on the rates, but in our opinion, and that of the Treasury, the chance of loss is almost infinitesimal.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

Then I understand there never will be, under this Subsection, any charge on the Exchequer?


I cannot say that precisely. I said in the great majority of cases. It is just conceivable in two instances that there might be a loss to the Exchequer. There is, first of all, the case of an old smallholder, who was a smallholder before this Bill passed for six years, and now claims to buy, inasmuch as in the next few years any deficit is made good by the Treasury; but, inasmuch as the man has been a smallholder, we do not think any loss would follow. In any case the land is a security. The other case is this: Where the county councils are not sufficiently carrying out their duties. As the hon. Member knows the Board has power to carry them out. If, therefore, the Board of Agriculture sell a holding provided by them to the smallholder, and if there was a loss, in that case it would fall upon the Treasury. There, again, we have this double guarantee, that the man will have been a tenant on probation for six years before he is able to purchase, and, secondly, we have got the land as security and any instalments he has already paid.


But in that six years he will not only have paid the interest on the capital cost, but a portion of the capital cost itself. Is that not so?


I do not think that is quite true. It may have been true in the past because there was in the rent received sufficient to pay not only the interest on the capital, but the sinking fund. That is not going to be the case under this Bill. Under this Bill there will be a very considerable gap between the rent paid and the loan charges. Therefore, it will not be true of a tenant who becomes a small holder that he will have to pay any part of the capital cost.


But what about the man who has been paying off a mortgage for twenty or thirty years?


That does not arise on this Bill. It arises under the old Act. A man can sell but he can only sell on condition that for a certain period of years the land must have been used as a small holding.

Question put, and agreed to.