HC Deb 02 December 1919 vol 122 cc264-70

Section six of the Act of 1886 shall be amended by the insertion, at the end of Subsection (1) thereof, of the following words: Provided that they shall allow no rent in respect of any improvements made by or at the expense of the tenant or any predecessor in title or in the same family for which he, or his predecessors, as the case may be, has not received payment or fair consideration from the landlord or his predecessors, nor in respect of the use of any building on the holding (other than an extra dwelling-house used for summer letting) for any subsidiary or auxiliary occupation authorised by this Act, unless the landlord has provided or improved, or contributed to provide or improve, the building for the special purpose of making or aiding the tenant and his family to make such use of it.—[Mr. Graham.]

Brought up, and read the first time.


Does this Clause in any way assist land settlement?




I would respectfully submit, on that point, that the Clause is designed to confer a certain freedom as regards auxiliary or subsidiary occupations. Taking it upon the narrowest possible view as regards this Bill—that is to say, the point of view of ex-Service men—we feel very strongly that these auxiliary occupations should be encouraged, and to that end we desire to move this and one or two other Clauses which stand in my name. I respectfully submit also that this Clause is, in effect, an improvement of Sub-section (2) of Section 10 of the Act of 1911, and, therefore, having regard to the title of the Bill itself, is entitled to be regarded as in order for the purposes of this discussion.

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

I may, perhaps, be allowed to indicate to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland the purpose we have in view in placing this Clause again upon the Paper. We desire to select the Clauses which minister, in our opinion, to that freedom in the use of holdings which will be necessary if the ex-Service men, especially, are to succeed in their settlement on the soil in Scotland. This Clause is plain and clear as regards its terms. It proposes that no rent shall be allowed in respect of any improvement which is made by the tenant of a holding for the purpose of carrying on any subsidiary occupation, and at the moment we are narrowing the consideration of the Matter particularly to summer letting. Beyond that, we propose that no hardship shall be inflicted on the landowner, inasmuch as he is protected by getting extra rent if he is responsible for the improvements made; it is confined strictly to the tenant's improvements. I think there is a distinct case for the Clause, even from the point of view of ex-Service men alone. In the Scottish Courts it has been distinctly laid down that the revenue which might be derived from summer letting is one of the circumstances which fall to be taken into account in determining what is a fair rent. The actual practice, as I understand it, is that during the summer months the smallholder lets either the house on the holding, or a part of it, and goes into residence on some other part of the stealing or elsewhere. This letting of rooms, or of the house, as a summer occupation, is definitely regarded as a part of the income of the smallholders. That falls, under existing circumstances, as we understand it, to be taken into account, and it seems to us to be an unnecessary penalty or burden on the small landholder. As I have indicated, the landowner is placed at no disadvantage by this proposed Clause, because he receives his rent or consideration if he is responsible for any part of the improvement on the holding which makes it possible for the smallholder to follow his summer occupation. On these grounds I venture to think that the Clause might well be incorporated in the Bill.

Beyond these considerations, however, there is a broad and general consideration which we shall reach in a rather more important form later in the Debate, namely, the matter of subsidiary occupations for ex-Service men. According to the views of the authorities on land settlement in Scotland and certainly according to one of the latest booklets which they have published, it is tolerably clear that, in order to be an economic success, there must be the freest opportunity for auxiliary occupations on the holding. I venture to think that the letting of a house or of rooms to accommodate summer visitors might be regarded as an auxiliary occupation, and I am strengthened in that belief by the terms of Sub-section (2) of Section 10 of the Act of 1911, in which these words are used: Provided always that nothing in the said Sub-section shall be construed as debarring a landholder from subletting his dwelling-house to holiday visitors, and so on. Clearly and plainly the intention of that Section of the 1911 Act was that the house shall be used freely for this purpose, and our inference from that, whether it be right or wrong, is that the tenant should not be penalised as regards his rent for engaging in that ocupation.


I beg to second the Motion.

I think that if we are in earnest in attempting to facilitate the settlement of ex-Service men on the land, it is necessary for us to provide, as far as we reasonably can, for subsidiary occupations. The one provided for in the Clause under discussion will, in our opinion, go a long way to assisting in settling ex-Service men on the land and providing them with the wherewithal to earn their living. I hope the Seretary for Scotland will see his way to accept this Clause.


The Clause, hon. Members will observe, breaks into two portions. The first portion begins with the word "Provided" and ends with the words "from the landlord or his predecessors." The second part of the Clause begins with the words "Nor in respect of" and is quite distinct from the first. In what I am going to say, I shall deal with these two parts quite separately. With regard to the first part, if that were not already the law, and if that were not already provided for in Section 6 of the Act of 1886, then, so far as I am concerned, I should have no objection, but the whole purpose of Section 6 is to provide for fixing a fair rent, and the whole scheme of this provision is precisely directed to that purpose—and, so far as I am aware, has been uniformly achieved. Section 6 deals with the fixing of the fair rent, and specially directs the Court which fixes it to consider not only all the circumstances of the case, but particularly to take into account the permanent or unexhausted improvements of the holding which have been executed or paid for by the landowner or his prede2 oessors. That is the whole principle on which fair rents have been fixed ever since the Act of 1886, and on which they will continue to be fixed. Therefore, with regard to the first part of the proposed new Clause, there is, I can assure the hon. Member who has moved it, absolutely no reason whatever for putting it into the Bill. It adds nothing—not one single jot or tittle—to what the law is already.

I now deal with the second part of the Clause, and here I hope the hon. Member will pardon me if I say I am in some little difficulty in understanding the words which he uses. He says that there is to be no rent chargeable in respect of the use of any building—not dwelling-house necessarily—on the holding (other than an extra dwelling-house used for summer letting) for any subsidiary or auxiliary occupation authorised by this Act, unless the landlord has provided or improved, or contributed to provide or improve, the building for the special purpose of making or aiding the tenant and his family to make use of it. The Arran case, to which allusion was made, was precisely the case of extra dwelling-houses. In that case there had been encouragement given—undoubtedly there are many benefits attached to the island—to the putting up not only of one but sometimes as many as four dwelling-houses on a holding, and these were in all cases, except one, for the purpose of summer letting. The question arose in that case, first, could the sites of these extra dwelling-houses be treated as part of the holding? If they were to be treated as part of the holding, could you reasonably disregard as one of the circumstances of the holding itself that it was, in fact, used for non-agricultural purpose's to a considerable extent, namely, for summer letting? The Court inclined to the view that it was one of the circumstances that ought to be taken into account. The Clause leaves the case of extra or additional dwelling-houses, over and above the one appropriated for the holding, untouched. Then it says, that no rent is to be charged in respect of the use of any building on the holding for any subsidiary or auxiliary occupation, and so on. I confess I am quite unable to realise what mischief this is intended to remedy. I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not mean a building which is not a dwelling-houses at all but is used for summer parties. No one, of course, would desire to do that, I am sure. It is something else. With regard to the words "subsidiary or auxiliary occupation," which, as he says, are in Sub-section (1) of Section 10 of the Act of 1911, the landholder is entitled to make use of the holding for subsidiary or auxiliary occupations as in case of dispute the Land Court may find to be reasonable and not inconsistent with the cultivation of the holding. I will be perfectly frank. I know of no case in which any difficulty has arisen in respect of a building used for some such subsidiary or auxiliary purpose. If there is any mischief to be remedied here, I am sure my hon. Friend will make it plain. But this I can say, that, in regard to the object which I think he expressed in the remarks which he made commendatory of this Clause, I think I can give him the assurance that there will be no case in which remedy is required. Therefore, if I understand the second part of the Clause as clearly as I am sure I understand the first part, I can say there is no need for this Amendment at all. With regard to the first part, no rent is charged now on tenants' improvements or those of his predecessors. With regard to such, I know of no mischief that calls to be remedied, leaving out of view altogether the extra dwelling-houses, as the hon. Member does in his Clause, quite rightly. Therefore I am afraid that, unless there is something I have failed to realise, we could not, because we ought not to, overload the Bill with words that are unnecessary.


The Lord Advocate has made a very reasonable speech, as he always does in trying to meet Amendments. Section 10, Sub-section (1) of the Act of 1911 says The landholder shall, by himself or his family, with or without hired labour, cultivate his holding, without prejudice to the right (which is hereby conferred upon him) to make such use thereof for subsidiary or auxiliary occupations as in case of dispute the Land Court may find to be reasonable and not inconsistent with the cultivation of the holding: Provided that the expression 'cultivate' in this Sub-section shall include the use of a holding for horticulture or for ally purpose of husbandry, inclusive of the keeping or breeding of live stock, poultry, or bees, and the growth of fruit, vegetables, and the like. Might I suggest to my right hon. Friend that what my hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) had in his mind, as many others have in their minds, is that these subsidiary and auxiliary occupations may not necessarily come within the definition of this word "cultivate." Let me take a specific, case. Supposing a discharged or demobilised soldier has been trained, say, in boot-making, and he is a native of one of these Scottish counties and he gets a small holding, and, in addition to cultivating his small holding, he makes use of one of the buildings for the purpose of repairing boots of the adjoining village—a cobbler's shop. That, of course, would grow as his business grew. My hon. Friend does not want that man to be penalised in a small holding by having any tax or rate put upon him because that building is used for the purpose of bootmaking. That is the point he has in mind.


I really think I can clear away the misconception. If the hon. Member will oblige me by looking at the Act, he will see that there is an obligation by Sub-section (1) of Section 10 put upon the landholder to cultivate his holding, and cultivation, as he has very properly pointed out, includes things which reasonably come within that category, but that obligation is without prejudice to the right to use the holding for such sub- sidiary occupations as the Land Court may allow. The cobbler's shop is exactly such an instance. It has nothing to do with cultivation. I do not suppose any of us need be afraid that the Land Court would say nay to the cobbler's shop or anything a great deal more extensive than that, so that the hon. Member need be under no anxiety about the limiting effect of the description "cultivate." In the case which the hon. Member quoted, where a building is used for the purpose of cobbling, that, of course, under the rent Clause should never form a ground for renting it in respect of the cobbling business. The rent is simply for the holding as before, and there is no case on record in which the Land Court, in fixing the fair rent, has ever dreamt of taking into account such a subsidiary occupation as that which the hon. Member suggests. I venture to think there is nothing in this new Clause which is not fully covered by the law as it stands.

Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and negatived.