HC Deb 15 August 1919 vol 119 cc1838-61

Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Colonel GREIG

My right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland may be congratulated upon the reception which has so far been extended to this Bill. The Bill deals with subjects of a critical nature, especially in view of our past experience, but the manner in which it has been approached by the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger) will tend to alleviate what otherwise might have been the acerbity with which it would have been discussed. There is one particular Sub-section in the Bill dealing with the question of compensation which I think will go a long way to ease the situation. One of the main difficulties in connection with compensation under the Landholders Act, 1911, was the fact that when a landowner came to an agreement with the Board of Agriculture for an agreed system of small holdings on his land, he could get no compensation under Section 17 of that Act if the scheme eventually failed and damage was done. That is met in the present Bill, and I suggest that the landowners will probably find that the Clause will go a long way to meet their views, because the difficulty to which I have referred was felt by them, and was what I know really led to a good many of the cases being fought. And if they come to an agreement with the Board for an agreed system of small holdings, they will now know that they will be entitled to the same compensation as if it had been carried through in the terms of the original Act. Of course, one realises that this Bill will cut down the measure of compensation, which was in certain cases unduly high under the old Act, but the concession to which I have referred I believe will be really of more value than the compensation, which admittedly was unduly high, that was given in many cases previously.

The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), who always makes useful contributions in debate, was under some misapprehension as to the methods of training in agriculture. The Bill scarcely deals with that matter directly, but it will assist if areas can be obtained upon which training schools and other means of training can be provided for the disabled soldier or even for the man in full possession of his physical powers. Of course, the Board has already started, under its present exiguous powers, two or three farms where training is given. The curious thing is that the very Department of training in which, the hon. Member opposite seems to suggest, disabled men might be able to find a certain amount of occupation does not appear to have been very successful. In reference to the market-garden colony which has already been established, the Board in their Report this year state that no suitable men offered themselves for training in market gardens, and towards the end of the year the question of making arrangements whereby training in agriculture would be given was under consideration. So in that respect nothing seems to have accrued, not because the Board did not provide for the training, but because the men were not forthcoming. The Craikstone farm in Aberdeen seems to be in operation now, but the scheme was intended to train men for after the War on the land as landholders, gardeners, market gardeners, and foresters, and a course of training with this object is provided on the farm at a fee of £l per man per week. It is well that these existing opportunities should be known, and no doubt this Bill will assist in that direction.

We are all interested in allotments. The difficulty is that they must be near a man's residence, and they are mostly in centres of population which are expanding. Unless the land is quite close to a man's residence it is not much use to him, and then it is usually just the sort of land that is going to be used to grow not vegetables, but houses. There are two sides to that question. Some people who have allotments may wish to have security of tenure but there are a good many people who have to move about, and they would be glad to have allotments for the time being only, and would not wish to be tied to them.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

Would my hon. and gallant Friend explain how we can grow houses?

Colonel GREIG

I used a metaphor which may be a little extreme. Land obviously has two or three uses. You may grow food, and there is also a very expensive use, and that is the growing of houses. The difficulty about this matter is this, that when the land is wanted for housing, naturally the allotment-holder has to go. Vegetables, after all, are of less value than houses. What does the Bill do? It attempts to meet that in a very fair way. It gives the local authority, where it has been unable by agreement to acquire land, the power to acquire compulsorily by purchase. That is a very considerable step in advance, and in that way security of tenure can in a sense be got. The question of land banks is dealt with in the Bill in a way that is a considerable advance on past methods. I recall that twenty years ago, at the instance of a peer who was very much interested in this matter, a Bill was drafted for the introduction of the German system into this country. It did not at that time meet with much approval, but since then we have come to realise that for the smallholder it is absolutely necessary to have access to sources of credit on which he can rely to start him in his operations and to tide him over a bad time. Clause 12 of the Bill is a serious attempt to deal with that matter. It may be that in detail amendment may be necessary, but, as it stands, it seems to me a very useful Clause. It provides that the Board may, with the approval of the Secretary for Scotland and the Treasury, apply the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund in making or guaranteeing advances, directly or indirectly, to land banks or co-operative or credit societies, so that there is a very wide area in which assistance can be provided.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman give credit to private enterprise in Scotland, which has made experiments in this matter?

Colonel GREIG

Certainly. We all realise what has been done. We are glad, however, to know that we are now to get statutory acknowledgment, and I am sure we all desire that the operation should be very widely extended. I am glad that this Bill has been introduced, and I think we owe a great debt to the Secretary for Scotland for having brought it in.


We have received an assurance from the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) contradicting the assumption of the Member for East Edinburgh, as to the Members of the Labour party being engaged in pastime, and now we are assured that they are engaged in something far less innocent.


Where are your own colleagues? Count them.


This Bill is a step, but only a partial step, and I hope it is the forerunner of greater steps for dealing with land. What is at fault is not the method of landowning but the fact that there are not nearly enough landowners in this country. If there was a very much wider distribution of land it would be very much better for the country as a whole, both agriculturally and commercially. Now is the time to achieve that end. Every man who owns a bit of land, no matter how small, becomes a defender of liberty and of property. Those are very valuable assets, and we should do our best to multiply them. I hold that now is the time to get as many small holders on the land as possible, because we are in for a very good time in agriculture. The farmer and the producer of agricultural produce has lately thriven, and rightly thriven, and we are all indebted to him. He had a bad time for the whole of a generation, and but for the fact that the landowner was very often a man of considerable means, with investments other than those in agricultural land, and was ready to come to the assistance of the farmer of the generation that began about the seventies—1879 was the worst time—there would not have been any agriculture in this country at all. There was, one might say, a large economic conspiracy. It was not a conscious conspiracy, but it was there none the less, against agriculture in the respect that there were gigantic exports of coal. When coal was exported to Continental countries, to America, and elsewhere, food was brought back cheaply to the disadvantage of the farmer from the point of view of making a living. There is not likely to be the same quantity of coal going out. Mr. Smillie, the leader of the Miners—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir E. Cornwall)

The hon. Member is getting rather wide in his remarks.

3.0 P.M.


My object was to show that with less coal going out and less food coming in there was likely to be a prosperous time for agriculturists. The land of this country can only support about 25,000,000 inhabitants, and if we do not export sufficient coal and get food in return we will require to go in for extensive cultivation in order to increase our food supply. I was distressed to hear one remark of the hon. Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir G. Younger), that there was no doubt that smallholders depreciated the capital value of an estate. That is a striking confession, and it ought not to be so. Governments are equally responsible for it, as I notice that when the Woods and Forests Department advertise estates in Scotland they are careful to put in, "There are no crofters on the estate," as if that were an additional advantage. That is a. very unfortunate state of affairs. I suggest when this Bill is being put into operation that instead of taking up farms here and there and sub-dividing them, the correct procedure would be as far as possible to purchase the whole property, and then there would be no necessity to pay compensation in the way it is done now. Make the settlement of smallholders sufficiently large, and in that way avoid the necessity of paying compensation. I think the present state of affairs is due to some extent to the commercialisation of landowning. In former days the landowner was more inclined to boast of men on his land than the size of his rent roll, and that was the only certain and proper foundation for the holding of the land. I think this dislike to the smallholder on estates is not so much due to the landowner as to his administrator or factor, or the person who managed the estate, and who desired by a natural human tendency to deal with men who were to some extent his equals, and who had sufficient turnover of business to be practical, whereas the smallholder, who was very often merely a producer without much experience, was rather a more troublesome problem for the agent. I am sure that the War has not only had an educative effect on all of us, but especially on landowner's, and I feel certain great or considerable numbers of them will welcome this Bill, and do all that possibly lies within their power to facilitate its operations, and, above all, will be willing to receive as tenants on the land discharged soldiers, for whom this Bill is especially designed. I do wish that one aspect of this matter would be considered, and that is as to the question of buildings on the land, and I would ask the Secretary for Scotland with the Board of Agriculture to give it attention, and endeavour to relax the present building Regulations. When a man in this country starts a smallholding he has to put up a steading which is so costly that it is practically a millstone of debt round his neck for the larger period of the time he occupies the holding. If a man goes to one of the Colonies he is not interfered with as to the style of dwelling. He puts up a shelter for himself, and proceeds to cultivate the land, and makes money, and not until he has acquired sufficient money to enable him to build a satisfactory dwelling-house does he do so. He fends along in a more or less primitive dwelling which is perfectly healthy, and suitable for all his purposes. Our own men in the course of the War have found that a great deal of what we call civilised dwelling-houses are not particularly necessary, and perhaps not so healthy as the somewhat primitive way in which they lived. I think this question goes to the very heart of this problem. Building is enormously expensive and likely to be for many years, and I suggest the smallholder ought to get a chance to lift his head and make some money, and he will require some adaptation of the building regulations to make it practicable for him to start and try and prosper. There is, and always has been, a very strong demand for small holdings in Scotland, and there have been many obstacles in the way. I know of one man with a farm of from seventy to eighty acres and he had 120 applications for it some years before the War. The same thing applies to allotments. There has always been a desire on the part of the people to have allotments, but what has hindered them in getting and using allotments has not been so much the difficulty of getting the ground, though in many places that was insuperable, as the fact that there was no protection for them. Allotments during the War had the inestimable protection of that very powerful legal lady known as "D.O.R.A." If anybody touched the produce of any allotment-holder he was very severely dealt with.

I doubt very much if the powers we have taken in Section 17 (2) are sufficiently drastic, because the Secretary for Scotland will know that all these allotments are very much exposed and in the open. During the War there was a spirit engendered in the people of respect for the allotments, owing to the fact that it was remembered that the allotment-holders were helping to beat the Germans, and even mischievous boys were restrained, but is it possible that that same spirit will be sustained after the pressure of war is taken away? I therefore suggest to the Secretary for Scotland that he should take some more drastic or elaborate power to protect the allotment-holders in the future, and that he should give him some of the protection which he had in the Defence of the Realm Act. After all, to destroy food of any kind is always to be regarded as a matter of sacrilege, and it should be treated as sacrilege, and the allotment-holder should have the greatest possible protection. It is not enough to give him the land and access to the ground if you do not make absolutely sure that the public conscience is aroused, that the children are taught in the schools, and that people regard these little plots, which are often very beautifully cultivated, and which it is such a pleasure to see people working on from the railway train, as something sacred. I welcome this Bill. It is a step in advance, although it does not go far enough. I should like to have seen a very big scheme of purchase, but we cannot have that in these hard-up days, I hope some day Scotland will have the privilege that Ireland has got, and that we shall have a large scheme of purchase, which will settle many thousands of Scotsmen on the land as owners, because I am sure in some such provision as that we shall make the greatest possible step in advance for social stability and national health and strength.

Lieut.-Colonel BUCHANAN

As representing an entirely industrial community, I will confine my few remarks to one part of this Bill, which I think is of vital interest to a constituency such as mine, and I would join most heartily with what has fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for West Renfrew (Colonel Greig) as to the importance of allotments. In my Constituency there has been an enormous demand for them, and the difficulty is not the want of ground, but the situation of that ground. It appears to me to be entirely useless—I know it has been tried with us—to offer a man. land as an allotment even half a mile away from his dwelling. We want to encourage these allotments, but they must be almost, so to speak, cheek by jowl with the man's dwelling, because, after all, though during the War food has been produced from these small bits of land, yet, to my mind it is almost of more importance that we should give a man healthy recreation. In my district, at the present moment, the parks are full of these people every evening after their work, but that, as we know, has to come to an end, and I welcome the Clause in this Bill which gives the local authority power to use any surplus land they may have for this purpose. I hope the local authority in my own Constituency at least will not be niggardly in the land they acquire, so as at least to have land in the future for this purpose. As the hon. Member for Kincardine (Lieut.-Colonel Murray) says, they cannot grow houses. We have heard houses talked about so much in the last few years that personally I believe houses are beginning to grow in my brain, but when we are growing houses on this land acquired by the local authorities, I hope we shall also have these allotments growing up and growing vegetables side by side with the houses. The hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Macquisten) referred just now to the need of protection. Protection is certainly needed for these allotments, but if my experience is worth very much, I think they have been amply protected, or to a great extent, by public feeling, and I am sure that when these allotments, which with us are a new thing, come to be a thing of permanency, the custom will be such that people will never venture, except in very rare cases, to interfere with them in. any way. As one having interests in land, I would venture to give this Bill a blessing and to hope that it will result, not only in allotments, but in settling smallholders on the land, in all the benefits which I am sure we all hope from it.


I am not going to make the complaint which has been made by other speakers, that we ought not to proceed with a discussion of this Bill this afternoon, for, after all, no Scottish Member is worth his salt who is not prepared to discuss a Land Bill on any opportunity which is offered him, and although this has been late in the Session in being introduced, I think some useful contribution can be made on the Second Reading Debate which will help us in Grand Committee after the Recess to come to some agreement on this extraordinarily important Bill. I regret that certain criticisms have been offered by certain Members, both of them now absent, about the attendance at this Debate. I believe that the hon. Member for West Edinburgh (Mr. Jameson) wanted to know what interest the Liberal and Labour Members of Scotland had in the subject of land, but the hon. Member apparently has only one interest himself and that is to make his own speech, and then disappear from he House. At the moment when he was talking there were fewer Unionist colleagues of his in the House than any other section of the Scottish Members, just as, at this present moment, the largest attendance of Scottish Members are of the Liberal persuasion. I notice also that the hon. and learned Member for Springburn (Mr. Macquisten), having made his own inconsequent and irrelevant speech, has now disappeared.


Is it in order, Sir, to refer to the speech of an hon. Member as inconsequent and irrelevant?


As the hon. Member for Springburn is not in the House, and is not himself complaining, the Debate had better proceed.


I am sure if my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock had been paying better attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Springburn, he would have agreed with me that that speech was both irrelevant and inconsequent, but as a consequence of delivering that speech the hon. and learned Member for Springburn has now retired from the Debate, having got rid of a cynical criticism of the explanation afforded by the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. William Graham) as to the absence of the Scottish Labour Members from this House. There are, I think, five Scottish Labour Members in this House who are not here. As a matter of fact, when the hon. and learned Member for Springburn was speaking, he was surrounded by two of his colleagues of his own persuasion, and I hope that those organs of publicity in Scotland which usually make a great deal of that kind of thing will make it quite plain that the hon. and learned Member for Springburn had an admiring audience of two of his own colleagues while he was speaking.

Having got rid of those criticisms, I want to say about this Bill that I think it is a great advance on anything that we have yet had in connection with land settlement in Scotland. So far as I can gather from the form of the Bill, it may be divided into two parts, although there are three parts in it. I take it—and I think I am right in assuming—that Parts II and III are permanent contributions to the settlement of land in Scotland, whereas Part I. is a temporary settlement to extend for a period of two years. Therefore, I am going to say straight away that, so far as I am personally concerned, I am not much worried about Part L, and would rather make what contribution I propose to make to the Debate on Part II., which, after all, is a permanent contribution to land settlement in Scotland, and a contribution which will obtain after Part I. of the Act has entered into the limbo of the past. Of course, I take a special interest in Part II., because from time to time in this House, first of all by the luck of the ballot pure and simple, and, secondly, by the cooperation of my own colleagues from Scotland, I have been in charge from time to time of amending Bills to the Scottish Smallholders Act, and even this Session I have had the good fortune to get the Second Reading of an amending Bill on a Friday afternoon. My right hon. Friend remembers that we refrained—and I think wisely refrained—from sending that Bill upstairs to the Scottish Grand Committee until we had seen this Bill. 1 think he will also agree that we have had to wait for a long time for the appearance of this Bill, and it is rather unfortunate, although I do not complain in the press of public business, that this Bill has only made its appearance in the last three days of the Session. It would have been very much more convenient if we had had the opportunity of considering this Bill a little earlier, so that between the printing of the Bill and the Second Reading Debate we could have had time to compare the provisions, for instance, in my own amending Bill and the Bill as it is produced this afternoon. However, do not think, after all, that that need worry us unduly. On Part II., which is, as I say, the part about which I want particularly to talk, I still see in Clause 9, Sub-section (11), these objectionable words "directly attributable." I had hoped that we would have got rid of words which would require to be interpreted. It is quite true the provision made by my right hon. Friend dealing with the question of assessing compensation to the landowner, when land is taken for the purpose of small holdings, is improved by this Subsection of the Bill, and my right hon. Friend sets out in paragraph (b) of Subsection (11) the detailed circumstances for which compensation shall not be paid.


I do not understand my hon. Friend's point of view. He takes exception to the use of the words "directly attributable." Those are words limiting the compensation to be paid.


I have no objection to telling my right hon. Friend quite frankly my point of view. It does not seem to me to matter how direct or how limited the words you put into an Act of Parliament, members of the learned profession will always argue for or against direct attributability or not, and I would rather have, if it could be obtained, some much more definite line of demarcation beyond which you could not go. If my right hon. Friend will look at paragraph (iii), it says that compensation shall not include "any compensation for injury done to the value of such land or estate as a sporting subject" Who is going to be the judge of direct attributability in that case? I do not trust the lawyer, if I may say so without offence, impersonally, on grounds of this kind, and I would very much rather see some closer and tighter definition of what could be attributed to the loss in value—letting or capital value—if the land be taken for the purpose. I had in my mind that the landlord might get over the difficulties of the restrictions placed upon him in Part II. by having the land acquired under Part I., and he might thereby put into operation all these delaying actions we have had in the Court of Session in Scotland by having his Land purchased under that. The Lord Advocate shakes his head. If that is not so, then I am gratefully relieved.

The only other thing I want to say is with regard to what is omitted from the Bill. I presume I am right in assuming that my right hon. Friend did do me the justice to look at my Small Landholders (Scotland) Act Amendment Bill in constructing this Bill, and I very cordially at once admit that my right hon. Friend has copied a great many of the points which I, on behalf of my colleagues in this House, made in the amending Bill which I introduced. My right hon. Friend says he goes further. That only indicates that if we had gone upstairs in Committee, he would have accepted a great many Amendments we proposed. But I am willing to say my right hon. Friend has met the Bill I introduced this Session in a very lavish fashion, though there are one or two points which he has not yet transferred in the Bill, to which, I think, attention should be drawn. If my right hon. Friend has a copy of my Bill in his possession and will look at Clause 2, he will find in that we ask for powers as to water supply for small holdings. I do not think in this Bill power is taken to guarantee a sufficient water supply in the case of these small holdings. I am not going to argue that point this afternoon, because to Members attending this Debate it is not necessary; but I think everyone will agree, whatever his political views, that the success of small holdings largely depends upon equipment, and one of the most necessary things in the equipping of small holdings is obviously water supply. My right hon. Friend, in his Bill, in Part II., Clause 9, Sub-section (8), paragraph (d), does take power to see that in any other scheme there shall be shown a water supply, and the source from which it is to be taken. That is quite true. I have not examined the Bill in such detail as we all hope to examine it, but I am not sure that in the new Bill absolute power is taken to guarantee that in these schemes of small holdings power shall be taken. In one of the Clauses of my Bill I make provision by which the water supply is secured. I do not want to press that matter further now than this, that perhaps my right hon. Friend will between now and the Report stage—

Notice taken that forty Members were not present. House counted; and forty Members being found present


(resuming): I do not take offence at my speech being interrupted, but the greatest disservice that any member of the Labour party could do to that party or to Scotland is to try to count the House out when we are considering the question of placing Scottish workmen on the land. It would have been very much more profitable for him as a Labour Member to see that the other sixty-three Members of the Labour party were here, instead of enjoying themselves or occupying their time in other ways.


I have plenty of my own sins to answer for.


Then this one of trying to count the House out can be further added to the charge of the hon. Member, I should also like to draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Clause 9 of my Bill, which deals with the question of the enlargement of holdings. So far as I have been able to discover, in this new Bill my right hon. Friend does not take power to deal with that matter. This is a Committee point, and I only want now to indicate some of the lines of criticism which some of us intend to take on this question later.

Take also Clause (10) of my Bill, dealing with land within burghs in crofting counties. This is an important question, My right hon. Friend will notice that in my Clause I confine the power to the counties of Argyll, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, Caithness, and Orkney and Shetland. He will agree—for he represented one of these divisions at one time—that here is a case in which you cannot give either small holdings or allotments. Those concerned, therefore, are entitled to special treatment. On this question, I hope something will be done. Since the Bill was drafted Lord Leverhulme has gone to Lewis, and considerable new developments have occurred in that large area. As a matter of fact, I believe every Scotsman will agree that Lewis and the Islands do deserve and require separate treatment from the other parts of Scotland. That also, I hope, we shall be able to deal effectively with when we come to Committee.

To return to the Bill proper, I think I have only one other remark to make—because I feel quite with other Members that we do not want a prolonged discussion, but rather to know where we are. With regard to the financial part of this Bill, Part IV., I asked in the course of my right hon. Friend's speech how the sum of £2,250,000 was arrived at, and he referred to his statement about the total grant of £20,000,000. I suppose £2,750,000 represents eleven-eightieths. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether this is the final allocation, and the only allocation, which will be made with regard to this money?

We have just passed a Forestry Bill, or are in course of passing it. The House made Amendments which will possibly concentrate the Central Committee in Edinburgh, and probably take over the bulk of the land in Scotland. If large estates are taken, and only part of them used for forestry, the only useful purpose to which the rest can be put is small holdings. Anybody who has gone into the question from the point of view of the country will know that one of the reasons for bringing in this Bill is that opportunities for repopulating this country are more in Scotland than any other part of the United Kingdom, and if any part requires attention it is the island of Lewis and the Islands. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that during the War Scotland's Grant was allocated at £10,000 per year. We suspended that Grant until it was £200,000, to which we were entitled. It was stopped on account of the War, and because the machine had stopped working. You could not put a man on the land and the money went back to the Treasury. There is the better part of £250,000, and I am wondering whether, in view of the fact that the Scottish scheme was starved of that amount of money during the War, and that the money is now needed for reconstructive work, which is more urgent in Scotland than in other parts of the United Kingdom, whether this eleven-eightieths is a proper kind of division?

It was stated that £20,000,000 was available, but was it earmarked in any particular way? Let me refer for a moment to the Forestry Bill which we passed the other day. It was unanimously agreed that the centre of afforestation would be in Edinburgh, and we multiplied the number of Scottish Assistant Commissioners. Now this scheme must run concurrently with that scheme if you are not going to waste money. I think it is worth while asking, in view of the reconstruction in Scotland, whether it is necessary in relation to that £20,000,000 to say Ireland, shall have so much, Wales so much, England so much, and Scotland only eleven-eightieths? These are some of the criticisms which occur to me on the Second Reading.

I am very grateful that the Bill has been introduced and I do not see, in view of Part II., that I should seek to ask Mr. Speaker to send my Bill up to Grand Committee, which after all I am sure is some relief to my right hon. Friend. I shall be prepared in Grand Committee to amend Part II. of this Bill in order to bring it into line with what we were attempting to do ourselves. I think I am stating the case for every Scottish Member when I say that there is no question upon which the average Scottish Member is more keenly interested than the repopulation of his own country. We may quarrel about the methods and the amount of compensation paid in this case and that, but I believe every man born in Scotland who loves this country desires to see the countryside repopulated, and wants to see the plains and valleys and counties of Scotland, which are now so sparsely populated, reviving their old glories. They have made enormous contributions not only in this War but to the Empire, and when people ask me why Scotsmen come to London and always migrate and never come back to Scotland the real answer to that question is the economic reason. Scotsmen in every part of Scotland, generally speaking, have been given an enormously better education than the average man in the Empire, and with that education Scotsmen have found it necessary to migrate to find an. outlet for their energy. The economic lever has driven them out of their own country, and if we keep same of these Scotsmen at home to develop our own country so much the better. It is for that broad, general reason that I welcome this Bill.


I am sure the House generally agrees that this is a good Bill, and that most of the points we wish to raise are really points for Committee. There is one matter of very great importance to Highland Members, and I do not think it has been mentioned. It is one which to a constituency like my own is very vital. It is, as I read it, that Part I. is subject to the limitations of the Small Holdings Colonies Act, by which three-fourths of the land acquired shall be land suitable to be cultivated as arable land. As far as I can gather, I rather think the land taken is subject to that limitation. If that is so, it is a point of very great importance to the Highlanders in a constituency such as mine, where a very great part of the land which must inevitably go for the successful creation of small holdings must be rough, hill pasture land, suitable for the grazing of sheep and cattle. It is the whole essence of small holdings in certain Highland districts that the profit should depend upon the grazing over the hills. In the Highlands there are very many men who have returned from the Army and Navy, and are anxious to get small holdings. We get letters from them continually, and we have been asking them to keep quiet and not follow the example set by some of seizing the land.

I am afraid that unless we get this provision altered it will make things very much more difficult, because the establishment of holdings under Part I. would be very much affected in many districts unless we obtain that alteration. I have no doubt the Lord Advocate will take that matter into consideration and do his best to meet us. I do not wish to raise Committee points, on which I have no doubt we shall be met. I think we may congratulate the Secretary for Scotland upon the introduction of a Bill which, generally speaking, is satisfac- tory. I only wish to mention one other small point, and that is the limitation to twenty-five acres of the land acquired by parish councils. This is a point relating to the natural conditions of holdings in districts of Scotland, where the whole success depends upon utilising the outrun and hill lands as pastures. Certainly twenty-five acres is a very small amount, and would certainly not be anything like the assistance that a larger area would be. I do not see why it is to be limited to so small an area, and I hope that point will also be considered and met.

Colonel Sir A. SPROT

There is an idea prevalent that it might have been better if we had to-day merely a statement from the Secretary for Scotland and a very short discussion, and that without taking a Second Reading we should have gone into Recess, and meanwhile consulted our constituencies and taken their views about the details of this Bill. I leaned towards that course myself for a time, but now that we have had the Bill before us, and have had the very clear explanation of the Secretary for Scotland, I am of the opinion that the proper course has been taken, and I hope the measure will receive its Second Reading this afternoon, because, without committing oneself entirely to all that it contains, it will form a very good peg on which to hang a discussion when we go to visit our friends in the North. If there should be large meetings, as has been suggested, in Edinburgh or elsewhere, I am sure that we shall all be very glad to put in an appearance and to discuss the provisions of the Bill from the point of view of what is best for our country. I do not think, however, that will be the proper way to arrive at what we desire. This is the holiday month, and it may be found impossible to get people together for such a purpose. I have no doubt, however, that during our holiday we shall all have ample opportunity of discussing the Bill. There will also be discussions in the Press and in other ways, and we shall be able to arrive at the opinion of Scotland in the matter before we return to consider the Bill in Committee.

We must all rejoice to see, according to the provisions of the Bill, that opportunity will be given to those returned soldiers who are desirous of doing so to settle upon the land of Scotland, and I associate myself most fully with the words which fell from the Secretary for Scotland upon the subject. How are these returned soldiers who are to be settled upon the land to be selected? We have all given pledges upon this subject, and we are all desirous of carrying out our pledges so far as it is possible to do so. This Bill is the outcome of those pledges, and I think the fullest publicity ought to be given to the steps that ought to be taken by returned soldiers who wish to get a small holding and adopt the farming profession. It is no use having applications receivable in an office in Edinburgh. These returned soldiers may be all over the country. They may be in Argyllshire or up in the North, and they may not have either the opportunity or the money necessary to present themselves at such an office. The thing ought not to be carried out by a private association. The Government, therefore, should make as public as possible the steps which ought to be taken by those who are desirous of availing themselves of this opportunity, and I hope the Secretary for Scotland will be able to tell us something upon this point when ho makes his speech in reply. The present occasion is very different from all previous occasions. If we take the old Army, there was a very small proportion of those serving who were at all suitable for settlement on the land. It is perfectly different to-day. There is not a family in any class all over the country which has not had some representative who has fought in this War. Many men came from the agricultural class and they will be found to be suitable for taking up such small holdings as we wish to have. I am afraid, however, that the selection will prove to be a matter of the very greatest difficulty, and all the Departments ought to co-operate with the Secretary for Scotland and lend him their assistance in evolving some plan which will enable him to get the proper persons to settle upon the land.

4.0 P.M.


I join with other hon. Members in congratulating the Secretary for Scotland upon the splendid advance which this Bill makes upon existing legislation with regard to small holdings in Scotland. I could have wished, however, that we had had more time to examine the Bill before we gave it a Second Reading. The pleasant and amiable way in which the- Secretary for Scotland accepts the somewhat humble role of sitting at the table of the Whips and picking up the crumbs is probably a very nice picture, but it is not very good for Scotland that he should be quite so humble. I could not help wondering the other night why we could not have had an important Bill of this character instead of that sordid, squalid Bill providing £1,000,000 to dope the Nonconformist conscience in Wales. A remnant of the Nonconformist conscience has found a refuge on these benches, the last refuge of political integrity in this House. An important Bill of this sort ought to have precedence over a squalid Bill of that kind. From the bird's-eye view that we have had of this Bill, I must say that as far as I can judge it is a very good measure so far as it goes. The Land Courts have been eliminated from certain stages in the schemes of small holdings— I am not at all criticising the Land Courts, they will have plenty of work to do, even after being eliminated from certain stages in the schemes— and I am glad to see that the Board of Agriculture are to have more direct action in the framing of schemes, because up till now the schemes have had to be submitted to the Land Courts, and it has meant a delay of months and sometimes years. I very much regret the attack of the hon. Baronet the Member for Ayr Burghs on the Land Court and its action in the past. So far as the people whom I represent are concerned— sections of the people in the Highlands and members of the Crofting community—I may say they had absolute confidence in the late Lord Kennedy, and looked upon him as a very fair judge in these matters. I can quite understand that the other parties may hold that the new judge is an improvement, but I do say that the attacks made upon Lord Kennedy were unjustified. He undertook his duty at a very difficult juncture and performed it in a way which earned the gratitude of the people in the Highlands. The Secretary for Scotland has a great advantage in the fact that the small holdings can now be secured much more ex-peditiously than under the old Bill. "We all know that it was on the rock of compensation that the Small Holdings Act was practically shipwrecked. The Board of Agriculture were, however, able to overcome certain of the difficulties and were successful in creating a great number of small holdings throughout Scotland, especially in some parts of the Highlands. There is no doubt whatever that the compensating Clauses in the old Act as interpreted by the Court of Session were very successful, and I am sorry they are not to have that finality which one could desire. I hope, however, the present proposal will grease the wheels of progress. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) referred to the question of water supply. That is a very important matter. There ought to be facilities for creating a water supply for these small holdings. There is one other matter which is of particular interest to my own Constituency. It has unfortunately been left out of the Bill, but perhaps the Secretary for Scotland, having plenty of information on the point, will be able to deal with it. It has regard to the system of crofters. They take houses and till the land, but they pay neither rent nor taxes. There are thousands of them, and I hope that the Secretary for Scotland will take steps to regularise their position and make them smallholders. At present they are neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring. I think they should be dealt with in this Bill. The question of housing of the statutory small tenant is not touched in this Bill, and I think powers should be given for an increase in their holdings. Under the Housing Bill the condition of crofters is not very satisfactory, and I was hoping that in this Bill it might have been made much more clear. I am quite aware that the Board of Agriculture have power to give loans to crofters for the erection of houses and for improvements, but they are placed at a disadvantage with the people in the towns, who can get grants of money from the Exchequer for building houses, say, in Central Edinburgh and elsewhere. Why should not the crofters be given money in the same way for building houses in the Highlands and in the rural parts of Scotland? At present they are left in a very unsatisfactory position. I hope this Bill will improve matters in a very short time. The people are getting very impatient. I have petitions daily from various parts of my Constituenc5' asking when they are going to get small holdings, and, as I say, they are getting very impatient. The cry of "Back to the land" is all very well, but in the Highlands there is no need to urge people to get back to the land; they want to get on the land. Hundreds of thousands of them are anxious to do so, and I hope this Bill will place them in a more satisfactory position in that regard.


Whatever may be said with regard to the unfortunately short notice which the House has had of this Bill, it will, I think, be agreed that the Debate to-day has revealed a very remarkable amount of agreement, and a very remarkable degree of resolution, to combine for the purpose of making this new legislative instrument as good as it can possibly be made for the purpose for which it is proposed. I know with regard to the question of time that some hon. Members— the hon. Member for Kincardine(Lieut.-Colonel A. Murray) is one of them—feel strongly that they should have been asked to be present for the Debate this afternoon. It was not because we did not know that or had no sympathy with that feeling that we nevertheless felt compelled to ask the House to give the Second Heading to-day. It was because of the circumstances. The pressure of public business forced us, much against our will, time after time to postpone the introduction of this Bill. I know that that is no excuse, when the time comes, for asking that the Second Reading Debate should be taken. It was not that we were anxious to force the Debate on the House in these circumstances; it was the congestion of business which made it, so far as we were concerned, inevitable. The really remarkable and gratifying thing is to find in connection with a subject which has certainly scorched us with the fires of the controversy it has raised in the course of the last, let us say twenty years, that there is to-day, even among some of those who come to criticise the Bill— even in the Bill itself there are some signs of it— a very strong disposition on all sides to try to bury the ashes of that controversy which, after all, in the main has burned itself out. It is quite true that the solution which this Bill attempts does not go into those darker and deeper strata of political thought which the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) reminded us in the view of some hon. Members must be entered before a solution of the land question can be attained. It is true that we leave the ownership of land as it is, except in so far as the Board of Agriculture buys the land. That is true, but the hon. Member will permit me to say that I doubt, even if the property in land were made public, we should not find ourselves still under the necessity of having some Bill like this or something very like it to see so far as we could that facilities and opportunities were given equally to all sorts of people who were fitted for it to have a share in the cultivation of the land. Therefore do let us be content to try to tackle, if we can, with some hope" of moderate success the very practical questions which are within our reach.

Another remarkable feature of the Debate is that in one-third of the time during which the discussion has lasted the topic ventilated has not been small holdings but allotments. I suppose that is not wonderful because of the development of allotments in our big towns and small towns because of the War. But it prompts one to say that if one of the legacies of the War is to be the development of something in the form of a rus in urbe in the way of ordinary occupations and avocations of the people in that way, we may be thankful. Whether the provisions this Bill contains with regard to allotments are found to be altogether satisfactory or not, there is no doubt that to some extent they are and must be tentative. Whether they are found successful or not, it is of enormous importance to use the present opportunity to provide encouragement and assistance for the development of allotments in towns. The hon. Member (Mr. Graham) pointed out several difficulties with regard to the administration of allotments at present. To some extent I have made myself familiar, in connection with the preparation of this Bill, with some of the points which he raised improvement could be made with regard to machinery, and, in view of the experience of the Scottish Committee with regard, at any rate, to two Bills within very recent months, there is every reason for Scottish Members to rely on the discretion and willingness of my right hon. Friend to consider any well-considered Amendment which is brought before us, and certainly if there are any of that character dealing with that particular topic I am sure they will be so considered. Of course, the essential trouble is to get land in big towns sufficiently near for the population to use it really to be of any proper service. That is a tremendous difficulty.

What I really want to say a few words about I can do that by referring to the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Hogge), which was in the happiest spirit with the exception of one unfortunate passage in which he so far forgot himself ns to say he would never have any confidence in a lawyer. I remind him that he is surrounded by those gentlemen in this House. The first question he asked was in regard to money. He asked, is it not possible that some different arrangement might be made some day with regard to the division of what I may describe as Imperial money. I could not hold out the smallest prospect, at any rate, at present, of any different arrangement from that which was based on the well-known proportion of the eleven-eightieths. He put a more pointed question, and I wish I could answer it as pointedly. He said, "I see your provision for £2,750,000 is a 'not execeeding' limit. Cannot you tell us exactly what it is"? I cannot tell him exactly what it is. It will not be precisely £2,750,000, but I can give him an assurance, which he must not take as a guarantee, but which I do not think he will find wrong, that the amount will be very little below £2,500,000. Accordingly, to that extent we are certain of our money. Another point which both he and others have raised, turning directly on that, is this. Is there any intention at all of allowing Part I. to be used as it were for the defeat of Part II.? In both cases the consent of the Secretary for Scotland has to be given to a proposal to purchase land under the Board of Agriculture's scheme. The intention—and I think it will be found the operation—of the Bill will be anything but in the direction which hon. Member's very rightly deprecate What is the real discrimination between Part I. and Part II.? You will have, under the circumstances which at present we have to face a very considerable number, especially in the more Northern and Western parts of the country, of cases where very large schemes are required. The difficulties in in the way of applying the Act of 1911to large schemes are enormous, and I am afraid, do what you will with your compensation Clauses, they will prove, on a large scale, covering a whole estate, enormously expensive, and at the end of it, when you have spent all your money you have not got the land. Therefore, with regard to large schemes, where land settlement proposals on a large scale are in question, the administrative probability will all be in favour of purchase. When the proposal, on the contrary, is the establishment of a single holding or a group of two, three, four, or five, here or there or somewhere else, all the administrative expediency and possibility will be against purchase and in favour of leasing. I do not think I can put it very much further than that.

Most of the other questions asked I think raised what are really substantially Committee points. There is the question, Have you enough for rural credit? There is a Clause which is intended to provide means for it. If that can be strengthened, let it be strengthened by all manner of means. There is the question whether the term "directly attributable" is sufficiently clear. There again is a matter which can be properly discussed in Committee. A very important question has been raised about water supply. There is something in the Bill about that. These and other questions have been considered very frequently and deeply by my right hon. Friend and myself. They are all full of prickles and difficulties, but that will not prevent either him or me from having a most open mind. I know that my right hon. Friend's mind will be as open as possible to any proposal which would enable him to overcome the difficulties with which I know he is already fully familiar. There is a further point as to the limitation in the case of the purchase of land. That is a limitation to a proportion of three-quarters—three-quarters not of arable land but three-quarters of land capable of being made into arable land. I hope there is no misconception here. It is not as bad as it seems. What we want to guard against is being saddled with barren mountains and barren mountain tops. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Fife-shire (Sir A. Sprot), he raised a very important question and a very difficult question as to the selection of soldiers suitable to be supplied with land. There is a great difference between the north and west and the rest of the country. In the north and west demobilised soldiers or soldiers who have served, are most of them by their training fit to undertake the management of a holding; but that is not true to anything like the same extent when we come down to the south and east. There is a bureau which has already been opened by the Department of Agriculture. That bureau ought to be accessible to all sorts of applications in the Constituency of the hon. Member (Sir A. Sprot). Where they cannot apply personally they will have to write. This is a matter in regard to which we are very willing to listen to suggestions. If it is not self-satisfactory, the Bill will have failed in one important respect. I think that a foundation has been well laid to-day for what I hope will be as successful and as satisfactory a Committee stage that we have had in connection with the Housing Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

I should like to know whether the original £200,000 a year which was earmarked by the Board of Agriculture comes into the finance of this Bill, or whether that has lapsed?


The £200,000 referred to is the money, is it not, that we used to get under the Act of 1911, and which, during the War, was put down to £10,000?

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY



That money has gone. It is a great pity; but the same thing is true in the case of England. Their Grant was also reduced.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.