HC Deb 02 December 1919 vol 122 cc285-8

Paragraph (c) of Sub-section (3) shall be amended by the insertion at the end thereof of the words: Provided that the expression "municipal boundary" shall mean, for the purposes of this Sub-section, the boundary of the area within which the functions of local administration and local rating are carried on.—.[Major M. Wood.]

Brought up, and read the first time.

Major M. WOOD

I beg to move "That the Clause be read a second time."

It has been found in the working of the Act of 1911 that very often—


I desire to put to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the point whether it would be, convenient, in discussing this new Clause, to discuss at the same time the Clause standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles (As to land within burgh in crafting counties) which deals with precisely the same matter as the Clause now before the House, except that I understand my right hon. Friend's new Clause is limited to crofting counties. The two Clauses are closely inter-related.


As the discussion proceeds it will become evident how far the Clause standing in my name and the Present Clause will be covered by the discussion. I can only assure the right hon. Gentleman that we will not unnecessarily cause delay. In so far as Mr. Deputy-Speaker allows it, the discussion might, perhaps, cover my Clause, as the subject is practically identical.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir E. Corn-wall)

I understand this refers to the new Clause standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles, which is the second one on page 2899 of the Amendment Paper?


That is so.


Of course, I must judge the matter as the discussion proceeds, but I will bear in mind the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

Major WOOD

The object of the new Clause is quite clear. There has been found to be much land, ire many cases within the royalty of a burgh and outside the rating area, which would be quite convenient for toe purposes of setting up small holdings, but by the interpretation given to the Act that land was excluded. do not for one moment suggest that we should make land available for small holdings which might be required for the development of a town. There seems to me no danger of that sort of thing, because the Board of Agriculture presumably would see that no land should be taken for small holdings which would hinder the development of a town. In many cases land in proximity to a town is the very best land that could possibly be obtained for small holdings, because the produce of the holdings could be sold in the neighbouring towns. I hope that the Government will do something to meet this difficulty and will remember that their own Board of Agriculture will see that any powers which they give them are not abused.

Captain W. BENN

I beg to second the Motion.


I ought to say at once that as between the two proposals, the one just moved and the proposal which appears on page 2899 of the Amendment Paper, the latter approaches very nearly, if not quite, an Amendment we should be prepared to accept. The difficulty with regard to the Clause now moved is that it is universal in its application. It would apply in all parts of Scotland, and, in particular, to land within a Royal burgh, even although that land were rapidly becoming developed for building purposes. No doubt there may be one or two such cases within the crofting counties, but I think what hon. Members have in mind is not rapid and progressing burghs; they are thinking of different counties altogether. If the hon. and gallant Member would withdraw this proposal we should be prepared when we reach page 2899, to accept the new Clause standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Peebles.


As it stands?


I would not like for the moment to commit myself to that. There is one point I wish to make quite clear. One of the inducements to accept the second proposal rather than the first is that the second expressly applies only as from the commencement of the Bill when it becomes an Act. Hon. Members on reflecting will see the great difficulty of accepting an enlargement of the scope of the measure such as that now proposed, which takes effect right back to 1911. That we could not possibly accept, because I do not know in what confusion it might involve us. If the offer I make here and now commends itself to the hon. Member, I would ask him to withdraw this new Clause upon the undertaking I have given that the new Clause on page 2899 of the Amendment Paper, or one substantially like it, would be accepted.


I would ask the Lord Advocate whether he has considered the question of rating in connection with the Clause he proposes to accept? Is there, for instance, anything to prevent a house and garden in Inverness being created a small holding and being exempted from rating?


The hon. Baronet is quite right. The difficulty, which exists already in the case of these small holdings in the county districts, would also exist in the case of small holdings which are within a municipal or police area. That is perfectly true. But, frankly, I think that is one of the reasons why it is not likely there will be any considerable creation of smallholders in municipal areas. On the other hand, it will not apply in the case of small holdings which it is proposed to create within the ancient royalty of a Royal burgh but outside the actual police boundary of the burgh. Therefore, although I admit there may be difficulties if the Board of Agriculture were unwise in their selection of the sites for these holdings, I do not think there is any reason to anticipate a special difficulty because of burgh rates as distinct from county rates if the Board exercise their ordinary discretion.


May I say, on behalf of those who put down this Amendment in Committee upstairs, how gratifying it is to us to find that the Government are prepared to accept a Clause which was then ruled out of order? I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend (Major M. Wood) will not press the present Clause if the other new Clause is accepted substantially as it stands. The point raised by the hon. Baronet the Member for Ayr (Sir G. Younger) is a perfectly fair one. We would never dream of an application of that sort. All we have in our minds is the settlement of a long outstanding difficulty in the crofting counties. One knows that the Government could not accept the present proposal, as the royalties exist all over Scotland. If we get this extension to the crofting counties, it is a great step forward, and I suggest that my hon. and gallant Friend should intimate at once that he withdraws his proposal and waits for the discussion on the other Clause.


May I suggest to the Lord Advocate that he should consider the desirability of embracing some words to prevent indiscretion?

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.