§ (1) With the consent of the Secretary for Scotland and the Treasury, land may during the period of two years after the passing of this Act be acquired compulsorily by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland (in tins Act referred to as "the Board") for the purposes of the Small Holding Colonies Acts, 1916 and 1918, and the powers of acquiring land by agreement under those Acts shall be exerciseable during the like period.
§ (3) The Board shall, in addition to the powers conferred on them by the said Acts, have in relation to all land acquired by them there under, whether before or after the missing of this Act and wherever situated, and in relation to the tenants and small landholders occupying such land, the like powers which they possess in relation to land acquired under the Congested Districts (Scotland) Act, 1897, and in relation to the landholders, cottars and fishermen in that Act mentioned.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir JOHN HOPE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the word "two" ["period of two years"], and to insert instead thereof the word "three."
This Amendment is to extend the period of the operation of Part I. of the Bill from two to three years. I readily admit that in the corresponding English Act there is a limitation, similarly, in Part I., of two years, but in England, under the existing law, there is the power to create small holdings by purchase. In Scotland at the present moment there is no power of this kind. The Secretary for Scotland himself stated on the Second Reading that the main object of this Bill was to introduce a system of purchase, anyhow for a limited 316 time, into Scotland in order to facilitate the resettlement of soldiers on the land. This question, was raised in Committee, and tire Secretary for Scotland promised to consider the matter on Report. In Committee I moved that this limitation should be altogether omitted, and that Part II. should become a permanent part of the That was refused. On behalf of lire Labour party an Amendment, was moved to extend the period lo five years. That, again, was refused, or, rather, the Secretary for Scotland said he would reconsider the matter before Report. I now appeal to the representative of tire Government on the Front Bench to, at all events, accept tins very small extension. It is quite impossible adequately to settle the large number of soldiers on the land within two years. It may be urged that if it is found necessary later that an extension can then be made. But why not now? Why come to Parliament again it the thing can be done now, and so finish the settlement of soldiers on the land No extra expense of any sort or kind is involved.
§ Mr. CLYDE
When the Bill was in Committee it will be remembered that' the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh made a proposition for an extension of five years. In answer to that the secretary for Scotland undertook to approach the Treasury and see if he could not manage to get Treasury consent to extend the period for the acquirement of land, at any rate, longer than two years, and I think he mentioned three. Two years is the period under the English Act. Since then my right hon. friend has approached the Treasury. He has used his best powers of persuasion to enable him to meet the views so universally expressed in Committee upstairs. I am sorry to say he has had no success. The position is that we are rigidly tied down to the same period as was enforced in the case of the English Bill. Accordingly, I can do nothing at all to meet my hon. and gallant Friend. The Bill, I am afraid, will have to stand as it is, with the two years' limit in it.
Sir J. HOPE
if we pass this Amendment, surely the Treasury cannot overrule the power of this House to extend their own Bill beyond two years? The point does not involve any expenditure. I should like to ask my right hon. and learned Friend's ruling on that point: 317 Supposing we go to a Division and pass this new Clause, what will be the effect. Will the Treasury hold up the money?
§ Mr. CLYDE
The effect would be what my hon. and gallant Friend does not, I am sure, want: he would have the satisfaction of wrecking the Bill. I am afraid we cannot work ourselves free of the two years' limit. The question was that of getting money on terms. We got it. The term was two years. The Resolution passed was two years. Unless we can get Treasury consent otherwise we must be bound by that.
§ Mr. HOGGE
This, however, does not prevent the settlement of soldiers on the land that is acquired. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite has given the impression that, somehow or other, it would prevent ex-Service men getting on to the land. This Bill does not acquire land for the period of two years; consequently, the land having been acquired during the period of two years, the process of settling men on that land may go on after the two years if it is not completed. It is well that the general public outside should be aware of that.
Sir J. HOPE
May I ask the Lord Advocate, following the question of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, whether, after the two years have elapsed, he will be able to use any of this £2,750,000 in the process of settling soldiers on the land?
§ Major W. MURRAY
I beg to move, after Sub-section (3), to insert(4) The Board shall further, in addition to the powers conferred on them by the said Acts, have powers to create small farms which shall consist of land, being arable or pastoral or partly arable and partly pastoral, the annual 318 rent of which shall exceed fifty pounds in mousy but shall not exceed one hundred pounds in money.We understood in Committee that there was already provision in the Bill for what I am proposing, and that, therefore, my Amendment was unnecessary. I do not, therefore, propose to discuss this Amendment at any length, but if it is referred to, or covered, in Part L of the Bill, it is very vaguely. So with the knowledge and consent of the Secretary for Scotland, I have agreed to move the Amendment this afternoon for the purpose of having the decision made here. We have had a good deal of discussion to-day about the size of small holdings and small farms. This is an attempt to introduce a small farm which would be an economic agricultural unit. Of the two classes of small hodings at present in Scotand, only one can be described as economic, and that really is an ancillary holding where the smallholder has another occupation besides looking after his land. The forty or fifty small acres have, in some cases, been successful, but they have never yet passed through a period of agricultural depression since the formation of many of them. in 19ll. Therefore, it has to be proved whether or not they are actually economically sound. The two-pair-horse farms which I am advocating is the agricultural unit which has been proved to be economically sound. Tile -Interim -Report to the Board of Agriculture for Scotland on the Economics of Small Farms and Small holdings says—page 33—lf we here insisted rather strongly on the desirability of not generally creating holdings under the one-pair horse standard, or its equivalent, we are equally emphatic as to the desirability of creating what we may call small farms of this kind.If you go Step or two further on page 41 you will find it is suggested that these small farms should be instituted under a different form of tenure to that which is being put forward this afternoon. Are we going to do something under this Bill which is agriculturally sound? The forty or fifty-acre holding has not been proved to be agriculturally sound. The pair-horse farm is understood to be sound, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should in Part I. introduce the pair-horse farm, instead of wasting money upon holdings of forty or fifty acres which are not agriculturally sound. The chief part of this money is going to be spent on colonies. The colony proposal, to which I have no objection in principle, is 319 more of a Highland than a Lowland matter. When you come down to the Lowlands I am not sure that the colony is wanted, or that it will be popular, or that people would stay for a long time in the colony. If you are not going to have these colonies in the Lowlands, what are you going to have under this Bill? Only small ancillary holdings for which there is very little demand.
§ Mr. CLYDE
There has already been this afternoon a good deal of discussion on the question whether in the part of this Bill dealing with the system of tender there ought to be in the present measure a provision inserted extending the size of the holdings that are comprehended within that system. As the House remembers the position which my right hon. Friend and myself have taken up was to oppose the extension of the size of the holdings contemplated under the Act of 1911, and regulated by this system of tender. It would not be consistent while we opposo that extension with regard to the 1911 system in one part to accept an extension of the size of the holdings in the case of Part I. of the Bill. As far as possible, Part I. and Part II. ought to have an equal chance, and we cannot give a preference under one part as distinct from the other. What I want particularly to point out to the hon. Member who has moved this Amendment, and the hon. Member who has seconded, is that it happens that there is under Pelt I. of the Bill a certain amount of elasticity which you cannot have under the conditions of the 1911 Act system. If hon. Members will be good enough to look at Clause 7 of this Bill, they will see that power is given to the Board over and above all the other powers it has under the Congested Districts (Scotland) Act, 1897, or the Small Holdings Colonies Acts, 1916 and 1918—In any case where in their opinion it is necessary or expedient so to do for the better carrying into effect the purposes of those Acts or of this Act.Further on, in paragraph (b), power is givento sell, excamb, or let any such land or any right or interest therein.There is general power to let quite as general as the power to sell, and it is given only if in the opinion of the Board 320 it is necessary or expedient so to do for the better carrying into erect of the purposes of the Act. Therefore, when the hon. Member thinks it would facilitate the establishment of a colony or colonies to let part of the land they have acquired for a larger farm either as an instruction farm or as a farm which would afford a certain amount of employment, it is within the power of the Board to do so under Section 7. I do not want the House to imagine that that means the general letting of large farms by the Board on land which they have acquired, because it does not; but in a case in which the Board thinks it would help a colony, this enables part of the land to be let as a farm. Of course, it is limited, but to that extent there is a little clasticity in Part II. But, after all, that is not the object of this Bill. The hon. Member said that a 50-acre holding or a £50 rental holding in the south country Would not pay and is not an economic proposition. He wants a farm of £100 rental or 100 acres, which he thinks is an economic proposition, and he would like money spent in that way.
§ Mr. CLYDE
Yes, something between 50 or 100 acres. I could not accept that Amendment consistent with what has taken place this afternoon. I could not accept it for another reason. The moment you propose to empower the Board as one of their objects, apart from a mere incident, to provide what the hon. Member would call an economic holding, you are deliberately embarking on a policy in which the Board is to compete with other owners of land in providing tenancies which are self-supporting and, therefore, commercial. It may be desirable to do it, but it is a complete departure from policy. It is not the object of the Act of 1911 or of the Crofters Act or of this Bill. This Bill has been brought forward to accomplish the objects of the Act of 1911, namely, to provide for small people small holdings which, under existing conditions, you could not expect or, at least, you do not actually get ordinary proprietors to equip and provide. Therefore, I am afraid that I cannot accept this Amendment, but, if it be a small consolation, I can offer, incidental to what the Board does under Part I., that if it tends to further the main purpose of the Bill there may be the letting of one or more larger farms on part of the land which the Board has taken for the purpose of establishing small holdings.
Sir J. HOPE
I regret that the Lord Advocate does not see fit to accept this Amendment, and I do not quite understand his last few remarks. I rather gathered that he stated that the whole of this Bill was not intended to provide economic agricultural holdings for anyone, but only to improve the existing status and provide ancillary holdings. I understood that the policy of the Government and the intention of this Bill was, as far as possible, to provide for the settlement of ex-soldiers on economic holdings.
§ Mr. CLYDE
I hope that I did not lay myself open to misconception. When I spoke of an uneconomic holding, I meant one for which you could not get the equipment on the ordinary free conditions, but which you have to provide very largely through the Board of Agriculture by the expenditure of their money. I did not for a moment mean, when the smallholder was established at his fair rent and with his equipment provided by the Board of Agriculture on their terms, that he was not to find himself able to pay his way.
Sir J. HOPE
I still do not quite understand, but the question is whether a holding of 50 acres, even if there be no rent at all, will be sufficient in many cases to keep the ex-soldier. I regret that the Lord Advocate has not found himself able to give a little greater elasticity in the interests of the ex-soldier for which Part I. was specially intended. However, I suppose that we cannot take the matter to a Division, and we can only hope that the elasticity which the Lord Advocate says exists to some extent will prove sufficient to give the ex-soldier a chance.
§ Dr. MURRAY
I have a great deal of sympathy with the objects and remarks of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but this Act is intended for smallholders, and I am afraid that this Amendment would cripple the formation of small holdings throughout the country. Considering the object of this Bill, I think that it would be an unfair strain upon the finances to finance these small farms.
There is a very distinct difference between the right hon. Gentleman's idea of an economic rent and a fair rent. Is the fair rent going to be charged for these holdings at a lower rate than what one might call an economic rent?