HC Deb 02 December 1919 vol 122 cc359-60

In addition to the purposes mentioned in Section six of the Act of the Board may, on such terms and conditions as they think proper, with the approval of the Secretary for Scotland and the Treasury, apply the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund constituted under Section five of that Act in making or guaranteeing advances, either directly or indirectly, to land banks or co-operative or credit societies having for their object or one of their objects the assistance of tenants under Part I. of this Act, landholders or statutory small tenants in the stocking, equipment, and profitable working of their holdings.


I beg to move, at the end, to insert the words and may, with the approval of the Secretary for Scotland, apply the said fund in the acquisition, for such sum or annual payment as failing agreement may be determined by the Land Court, of land for the purposes of facilitating the constitution of new landholders' holdings and the enlargement of landholders' holdings. The object of this Amendment is to enable the Scottish Board of Agriculture to have the option of purchasing land for the purpose of creating small holdings. Of course we all know that Part II. of the Bill is an Amendment of the 1911 Act, which only allows the creation of small holdings under the leasehold system, and the Secretary for Scotland and all members of the Government have acknowledged that in many cases purchase is the best system. They have themselves introduced a system of purchase into Part I. of this Bill, but that is only operative for two years. I am not suggesting that it would not be possible out of the fund to proceed further with purchase, but if in England small holdings can be constituted entirely by purchase, why should not Scotland have the same option? There have been certain cases in the past, and there are likely to be in the future, in which I believe the Board of Agriculture would have been, or would be, only too glad to proceed by purchase. They thought- it the best system, and one which would save many complications, but they were prevented. If only my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland would accept this very small and not material Amendment, I am sure it might be of great benefit and could do no harm to anyone.


I beg to second the Amendment.


I am afraid, for reasons I gave upstairs, it will not be possible for me to accept this Amendment. This involves grafting a system of purchase on the Small Landholders Act. It is quite true that the principle of purchase has been recognised in this Bill, and that Part I. deals freely with it. Nevertheless, that is a temporary system which at the end of two years ends—.-it is part of an emergency measure. That is the difference between our system in Scotland and in England. where purchase is not exceptional, as this Bill proposes to make it. The proposal of the hon. and gallant Gentleman means that even after two years -have expired, under Part I. of the Bill, the Board of Agriculture shall be entitled to go on purchasing. The fund of the Board is already too overtaxed in meeting purposes at present to attempt any such wide extension as would be involved. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says the Amendment is a small one. I regard it as an exceedingly important one. No doubt it is a power conferred on the Board; but once it is conferred public pressure from various quarters would be exerted on the Board to purchase, rather than exercise its powers under the Small Landholders Act, and it would be very difficult to resist. I really dread mixing up the two systems in the way my hon. and gallant Friend proposes; and I think that, while in theory one may agree, in practice his proposal is inadmissible.


I am sorry the Secretary for Scotland cannot accept the Amendment. He does not seem to have much confidence in the strength of mind of his own Board or of their capability to resist public pressure. I regret his decision, but I do not propose to go to a Division.

Amendment negatived.