- (1) For removing doubts it is hereby declared that Section one of the Defence of the Realm(Acquisition of Land) Act, 191.6, applies to land of which possession has been taken by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries under the powers conferred by Regulations 2 L and 2M of the Defence of the Realm Regulations, arid that the Board are entitled whilst in possession of the land, after the termination of the present War, to exorcise in relation thereto any of the? Powers conferred by those Regulations for such term and subject to such conditions as are mentioned in the said Act.
- (2) Where at the termination of the present War a local authority is exercising powers under the said Regulation 2 L in respect of land of which the local authority is owner or occupier, the local authority may continue to exercise those powers in relation to that land until the expiration of one year from the termination of the present War, and the provisions of Sub-section (6) of the said Regulation shall apply accordingly.
by themselves or by any person deriving title under them."— [Sir A. Boscawen.]
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the wordsNotwithstanding any of the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Regulations or the Defence of the Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act, l916, land held for allotments shall continue to be held until it is shown to the satisfaction of the local authorities that the same is required for immediate public building or other public purposes provided that where land is so required 1271 unless the Board of Agriculture is satisfied that other suitable land has been provided, six months' previous notice in writing shall be given to the tenant.I put down a new Clause which dealt with the question of the security of tenure of the allotment-holders who acquired their holdings under the Defence of the Realm Act or the Acquisition of Land Act, 1916, and I was informed by Mr. SPEAKER that I could move it on Clause 21. This raises the question which has been a source of great anxiety to these particular allotment-holders as to the position in which they stand to-day. My hon. Friend has done -a great deal in this Bill to secure land for certain allotments, and also to make provision for securing land in future. But, subject to any explanation he may give, I say that the present position of these allotment-holders who came to the rescue of the nation at a very critical period is a very difficult and a very uncertain one to-day. As I understand it, these allotment-holders may be dispossessed at any time, and they are very much disappointed that apparently nothing has been done for them in connection with this important measure. They are prepared to give up these allotments for any national purpose, such as the Government Housing scheme, or matters of that sort, and they appreciate Clause 2 of the Bill, to which my hon. and gallant Friend attaches a great deal of importance.
They feel that there is no reason why under this particular measure those Regulations under the Defence of the Realm Act should not be incorporated in this measure. All over the country these particular allotment-holders are receiving notices to quit. In many cases they are being evicted, and we feel that the Board should do a great deal in this connection by giving them some security of tenure under this particular Bill. At the present moment their tenure largely depends upon circulars which have been sent out quite properly with a great deal of promptitude by the Board, but I think the hon. and gallant Member must feel that in this particular connection the allotment-holders are certainly entitled to a great deal more security than they have at the present moment. Only within the last few days some hundreds of allotment-holders in different parts of the country have received notice to quit, and I hope if this Amendment is not accepted at any rate the 1272 hon. and gallant Gentleman should make some statement which will allay a great deal of the justifiable anxiety undoubtedly exercising the minds of a large number of these men who have done a great deal in very critical times.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
This, I understand, is a proposal that stood in the name of the hon. Member in the form of a new Clause, and he suggests that it should now come as a new Sub-section to this Clause. Would it not necessitate the omission of Sub-section (2) as it stands?
§ Sir K. WOOD
I am moving a further Amendment to Sub-section (2). It was the suggestion of Mr. Speaker that it should be moved in this particular way.
§ Major LLOYD-GREAME
This Amendment is really about, the most important with which we have to deal. It goes to the root of the whole matter as it affects allotments. Let me advance, very shortly, three propositions showing why the Government should meet us. I need not labour the importance of allotments. Some of us are in doubt as to what the ultimate agricultural policy of the Government is going to be, and no doubt there will be many discussions as to what is an economic form of holding; but, whatever policy they may ultimately adopt, it is certain that an allotment is at all times and in all places an economic holding, enabling the holder to cultivate food for himself and his family. 1 need not labour, either, the direct benefit to food production, nor the enormous interest which has been added to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people by the development of allotments. Although the direct need for food production, which was urged upon people and led many to develop these allotments, has. to some extent, though not entirely, passed, yet the keenness of these people to go on with their allotments remains, and I hope will remain for many years to come. It is not likely to decrease in view of the very high prices of food which are ruling at the present time. That is a. difficult problem with which a Select Committee has been appointed to deal. It may be difficult to arrive at an adequate solution by the control of prices, but a simple and great solu- 1273 tion which does not require an Act of Parliament or an Order in Council is to be found in an increase in the number of allotments, enabling a greater number of people to grow their own garden produce, thereby leaving a greater amount available for sale and leading to a consequent lowering of prices all round.
I would point out one other thing. Under the Housing Act, the Government have rightly insisted that houses are to be built eight and twelve to the acre for the express purpose that each house may have a garden something in the nature of an allotment. You cannot give a new house and a new garden to everybody, and that is all the more reason for continuing to those who cannot have their actual housing improved the amenity of a garden allotment such as that which they have grown to enjoy. This proposal is the direct complement of the Government's housing scheme, and I feel sure that the Government will do their best to meet us. In the first place, it preserves the allotments, unless the land is required for some essential purpose. There may not have been a direct pledge—I do not want to put it too high—but there certainly was in the minds of the allotment-holders and in the minds of many hon. Members an understanding that the Government would give very favourable consideration to the continuation of these allotments. The Amendment, therefore, goes in the first place to preserve the allotments, and in the second place, it puts upon the local authorities the onus of providing alternative allotments where in the course of building development holders are turned out of their allotments. I commend the Amendment and the whole spirit of it to the Government as being a part of their housing and reconstruction programme.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I sincerely sympathise with the object of this Amendment, as stated by both my hon. Friend behind me (Sir K. Wood) and by the last speaker (Major Lloyd-Greame). No one is a more enthusiastic supporter of allotments than I am. I realise what a splendid work, both from the point of view of food production and from the point of view of establishing a most interesting and healthy occupation, has been done in connection with allotments during the War. The extension of allotments is an excellent thing, and ought to be encouraged by the Government and by public bodies in every possible way. "We have taken certain steps to encourage them. I do not think that 1274 they have been mentioned, or that hon. Members who have spoken realise what has been done. By the Defence of the Realm Acquisition of Land Act the Board are able to retain possession of the land which they have acquired for the purpose of allotments for two years after the end of the War—namely, two years from the present time, and for an additional three years with the consent of the Railway Commissioners. It is our intention, subject to certain limitations, to exercise those powers to the fullest possible extent, because we do not want to turn out allotment-holders except in cases where it is absolutely necessary. Of course, cases will arise. There is the case of housing, a most important matter. When we are satisfied that land is urgently required for building, and when building is going to take place at once, then we are bound to vacate the land, because, however much we may be in favour of allotments, and however much we may appreciate the value of allotments, we cannot allow a fringe of allotments round a town to block the natural development of that town, especially where houses are very scarce and are urgently needed.
Then there is another class of case in which we are bound to allow the allotments to be given up. I do not think hon. Members realise precisely what happened during the War, and what kind of land was taken. Not only was building land taken, but land which but for the War would have been used for other beneficial purposes was also taken. Those purposes have now come again into existence. A great deal of the land belonged to- cricket and football clubs. During the War these games were stopped to a large extent, and it was reasonably right and proper that the land should be used for food production. But it would be most unreasonable, and it would not be in the public interest, that these recreations and sports should be stopped indefinitely as they would be under this Amendment. We feel that that land should revert to the purposes from which it was diverted temporarily— very often at an absolutely nominal rent. Therefore we propose to use the powers we have under the Defence of the Realm acquisition of Land Act to the fullest extent, only in cases where such matters as buildings or other public objects are urgently required, thereby compelling the-plot-holders to leave; or in the other cases where land intended for other objects can only be retained by paying enormous sums 1275 in compensation. Subject to these limitations, we intend to use the powers we have got now to the fullest extent. I think that is the best thing we can do.
But my hon. Friend's Amendment goes beyond that. It is too wide a proposal. It says that the land is to be retained indefinitely unless it is wanted for public utility purposes. I do not think it is possible to do that. The amount of compensation would be enormous in many cases, and I think we have ample powers at present under the Defence of the Realm Regulations to do all that is required. There is another point. My hon. Friend said we should put the onus of providing other land where plot-holders are necessarily dispossessed on the public authority. But it is there now. It is the duty of the parish or district or borough council, or whatever the allotment authority is, to provide other land. And what I suggest to the House is this, that it is far more important we should get the local authorities to use fully the powers that they have at the present time than that we should give them additional powers which very probably they would not use any more than the powers they now possess. I think, therefore, having regard to the fact that we have got large powers already to keep the land we took under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, secondly, that the onus now lies on the local authority, and thirdly, that under this Bill the local authorities will have greatly increased facilities for getting other lands much more -expeditiously and at much less cost, the House would hardly wish that this Amendment should be pressed, although I candidly say that I sympathise with the object which the hon. Member has in view.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I could speak for hours in support of this Amendment, but I do not intend to" do so, because the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill has, with myself and one other hon. Member, been continuously in this Chamber since half-past three this afternoon. I originally framed these words some two years ago as defining a policy which it was reasonable for allotment-holders to try and impress upon the Government, with a view to getting security in their holdings. The policy has, in fact, been adopted unanimously by allotment-holders, and has always met with their complete approval. I am, therefore, rather sorry that the Minister in charge of the Bill has not ben able to go further in accepting the Amend- 1276 ment. He tells us—sand it is quite true—sthat the Board of Agriculture is doing its best in this matter. No doubt that is so. But the allotment-holders do attach a very great deal of importance to not being turned out of the land which has been taken until after a public local inquiry, and until the local authorities responsible are really convinced that the land is wanted for some public purpose. I am not quite sure that it is right to turn out allotment-holders unless a purpose of public utility is served thereby. In the second part of the Clause is stated the minimum which the allotment - holders think will give them anything like security in the land they now have. They say that unless other suitable land is provided they shall have six months' notice in writing before they arc required to relinquish their holdings. My hon. and gallant Friend did not deal with that part of the Amendment. I would ask him to consider that. I do not suggest lie should give an an immediate answer. But perhaps in another place something might be done in regard to it. Where there is no earthly chance for a man to get another allotment he certainly ought to have six months' notice in order that he may make the best of the situation. Immediate dispossession should imply that there is some other suitable land available to enable him to carry on the praiseworthy activities he took on during the War. This is, I repeat, a matter to which the allotment-holders attach very great importance. Considering the circumstances of the day, it would, I think, be unfair to take a snap Division against the Government, but I hope this matter will receive further consideration.
§ Mr. NEWBOULD
I wish to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member who moved this Amendment, but I am not at all sure it covers one or two cases of which I would like to give specific instances. I am speaking particularly of the Wanstead Flat allotment - holders. This is part of Epping Forest, and under-the control of the Epping Forest Commissioners according to Act of Parliament. This particular fringe of the Forest, before it was put to its present purposes, was of little use or value in any shape or form. It was a pure swamp, but it was taken possession of by these allotment-holders in 1917, and they have not yet had an opportunity of reaping any reward or return for the labour and the considerable amount of money which they have put into 1277 it. I was hoping that this Amendment would at least have given them two or, perhaps, five more years, in order to get some reward for their exertions. I am afraid that, unless the Amendment is accepted, the notice they have already received to quit in December of this year will operate; I am not sure also whether under the Clauses of this Bill the Epping Forest Commissioners would not be compelled to enforce their notice. I am hoping, if this Amendment is accepted, that they will have at least this further period of two years. I should like to have some statement from the Parliamentary Secretary on the matter. I should be content if the Board of Agriculture have the power to give the further two years, but, if they have not, I hope this Amendment will provide for it.
§ Mr. T. DAVIES
I have had more pressure put upon me to back up various Amendments to the Allotments Act than I have had on anything else since 1 came into this House. I can give concrete cases showing how hardly this works. In Cirencester, the town where I live, and in the district of Dorsetshire, which I know fairly well, it has happened over and over again during the War that some piece of land has been taken which was very rough. The allotment-holders, to my certain knowledge, have worked there on Sundays and at night by moonlight to remove the rough stones, and in some cases have actually dug up an old Roman road in order to make a good allotment. That is one ease. In the second case, in the next field, they have turned up new grass and converted it into an allotment. When you turn up new turf and plant it as an allotment you do not get a crop off the first year, because in nine cases out of ten the ground is infested with wireworm, which eats away the greater part of the crop, whether it be potatoes or carrots. In our part of the country many men who did not go to the War took up a good deal of this new land, and actually spent their time cultivating it for the absent soldiers. It is very hard, after they have cultivated this land, rolled it, gas-limed it and tried their level best to get rid of the wire-worm by planting it with carrots and other vegetables, and then digging them up and destroying the wire-worm, that no sooner do the soldiers come back than they find, after all this labour and expense has been given to the land, that they are asked to give it up. I suggest to the Board of Agriculture that one way out of the 1278 difficulty would be to say that for a period of three years—L think that will satisfy most of our people—those who are in possession of these allotments shall hold them until the land is wanted definitely for some public purpose, such as building or drainage. That will meet their just demands. Otherwise, if another occasion arises on which we want to develop allotments in face of a public danger, we shall not get the men who have put their backs into this to put their backs into it again. It will be a bad object lesson if, after all their labours during the last two or three years, they are turned out without getting any result. I want to keep faith with the public. I have had more pressure put upon me from all parts of my huge Constituency on this particular matter than on anything else. I hope the Government will see their way clear to making the period at least three years.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Having consulted one or two of my hon. Friends I feel that we must on this occasion rely on the Parliamentary Secretary carrying out his pledges, as I feel sure ho can do, and putting into vigorous application the undertakings he has given. I feel that he has been in the House for a very long time in circumstances somewhat depressing to him, and I hope my hon. Friends will see their way to allow this Amendment to be withdrawn in view of the undertakings that have been given. Therefore, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ Sir A. WARREN
The appeal made by my hon. Friend (Sir K. Wood) places me in a somewhat difficult position, because I was strongly under the impression that we were going to persist in this very reasonable Amendment. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate that in respect to a very large number of allotments have they not been taken up on what might be termed agricultural land. I know something of the case quoted by the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Newbould) in respect to the Wansted Flats allotments. I know the enormous work that has been put into that very unsatisfactory soil since 1917. I know of a large number of other cases in the East End of London which would interest the Minister of Health in connection with housing and the shortage of bricks, where vast quantities of bricks have been the first crop from the allotments and where there has been a most prolific output of 1279 tin cans and other refuse as the first instalment that has rewarded the labour of persistent and assiduous workers on these allotments where it has taken a vast amount of labour, patience, perseverance and time to bring the land into anything like a condition where they could expect a moderate return. That has been happening all around London. On the borders of Greater London a vast effort has been made. I feel that some security should be given to these men by some reasonable prolongation of the time in order that they might reap some little reward for their labours. The experience of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. Davies), who said that in all his experience of this House he had been more bombarded by allotment-holders than by any other section of the community, is one which could be asserted by a large number of hon. Members with equal truth. We have had correspondence, we have had deputations, the very able officials of the Allotment-Holders Association have come before us and made their requests and preferred their claims. It is with a view to carrying out all that we owe to allotment-holders in respect of their patriotism, the food production of this country and the physical development of many of these men, that we ask for this Amendment. Thousands of men who never before had smelt virgin soil and who knew nothing of mother earth have been digging and delving for long months in the soil. That has created a new interest and' given them a new outlook on life, in addition to materially improving their physical condition. All they ask for now is some reasonable time wherein to reap the reward of all this labour. The Parliamentary Secretary must be sympathetically moved by this reasonable request. Therefore I am somewhat embarrassed when the hon. Member who moved the Amendment desires to withdraw it. We hoped that we should find some acquiescence on the part of the Board of Agriculture which would have met the requirements of these men and gone a long way to have kept them in good humour. One of the principal duties of this House, of Members of this House, and of men who lead other men, is to meet the reasonable demands of. men and keep them in as good humour as possible until we have got through a very trying and difficult period. I felt it was incumbent upon me, as representing a consti- 1280 tuency wherein there are a huge number of allotment-holders, to ask the House to appreciate the fact that there is an earnest desire on the part of these men that that hope should be reasonably met.
§ Sir H. NIELD
I desire to associate myself with everything that has been said from the point of view of the allotment-holders. In every district round London a complete transformation has taken place. Nothing struck me more in going across Hampstead Heath the other day than the complete transformation it is undergone. That, I believe, should be the main principle upon which the Government should go—the continuation of these allotments in the possession of those who are at present cultivating them to the great advantage of themselves and of the nation. I know of no more scandalous instance of profiteering of the worst kind than is going on at present in green vegetables. In my own district I am told by a demobilised soldier on his return home that he is being charged 3s. —
§ Sir H. NIELD
I leave it there. I hope my shot will go home to tie greengrocers or the intermediaries. But I have a profound distrust of bureaucracy. I have-said that in every part of this building, and I desire to see an absolute statutory limitation and not to leave it to the will of the Board of Agriculture, however benevolently disposed it may be to the present arrangement. Ministers come and Ministers go, and, although this is supposed to be a temporary measure, I think the country will demand a continuance of the cultivation, of allotments, possibly for such a time that it will net be possible to-prophesy who will be the Minister in charge. Therefore, 1 hope in another place some alteration will foe made to-stiffen up and take it out of the power of the bureaucracy to determine the future policy with regard to allotment-holders, and that they may have some reasonable assurance that, unless for specific public reasons of the most urgent character, they shall not be disturbed so long as the need continues for their cultivation.
§ Mr. GRUNDY
I wish to associate myself with the appeal that has been, made to the hon. and gallant Gentleman to give some greater security of tenure to the 1281 allotment-holders. I am speaking on behalf of some 2,000 of them in my own town. They have formed their own allotment societies, and they have also formed a federation of allotment societies, and the whole tenour of "their complaint is the insecurity of their tenure. I have seen some allotments where they have taken cartloads of stones away, and after doing this work they feel it is very unfair that they should be turned away on the very short notice that has been given to some of them. They should be given some guarantee that they are going to have some reward for the toil they have put into their allotments. I have an allotment, and have done some of this hard work, and have gone home with many blisters on my hands. I am sure it is in the interests of the country that you should give these men some definite assurance Some of the land that has been taken will have to be used for building and for necessry local improvements, but you ought to give them the security that before they are removed they shall be provided with some other allotment. This movement has had an educative effect on hundreds of workmen, who now take a teal delight in their garden. They hold local shows, where prizes are given for the best allotment, and there are also federation shows, where the whole of the allotments in a certain area show their produce, and you have created a desire on their part to excel and have brought about a very humanising effect on the men. They did this work in the hour of the country's need from a patriotic point of view. You have created a love for the work. It forms a great part in their conversation. You have taught them to spend their time more beneficially than might have been the case. It is as well that the country should be kept in a good humour, and, in addition, it is only just to these men. It has been difficult; previously to have a yard of land to cultivate. Until the time comes when houses are surrounded by their own gardens, 1 hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to give some assurance to the allotment-holders.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I would appeal to the House to come to a decision. I have already pointed out that we are going to use the powers we have now under the Defence of tine Realm (Acquisition of Land) Act to the fullest possible exent. Some plot-holders must be turned out, be 1282 cause we cannot block the development of towns and houses for the sake of allotment-holders. I have also said that it is the duty of the local allotment authorities to provide allotments. Under this Bill we give them greatly increased powers for doing so. My hon. Friend (Sir Kingsley Wood) has an Amendment in respect of local authorities who have provided public parks for allotments for certain periods to enable them to extend that period. In the Bill the period is one year, but I am prepared to accept this Amendment to extend the period to two years. I can assure the House that in every possible way the Board is endeavouring to make securities for these people. But we cannot accept this Amendment. It goes too far. I think hon. Members who realise what the Board is doing are aware that we have saved allotment-holders in hundreds of case while the land has not been acquired publicly but by private treaty. Under these circumstances I hope the Amendment will not be pressed, but if it is, I trust we shall come to a decision as soon as possible.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), to leave out the wordsuntil the expiration of one year from the termination of the present War.This deals with allotment-holders in the public parks. The hon. Member has expressed his intention of increasing that period to two years, arid while I am bound to say that that does meet the period which, has been extended to the allotment-holders in the London parks in common, with other hon. Members I should like to see the allotment-holders in the London parks have a tenure much longer than that. However, in this matter we have to come to some agreement, and for that purpose I am willing to accept the two years.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I beg to second the Amendment. As one of those in whose name the Amendment stands I think we should do well to withdraw it and accept the two years which have been offered.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment made: Leave out the words "one year," and insert instead thereof the words "two years." — [Sir Kingsley Wood.]1283
|MINOR AMENDMENTS OF PRINCIPAL ACT|
|Provision of the Principal Act to be amended.||Amendment.|
|Section 23||…||In Sub-section (1) the words "for the labouring population" and "belonging to the labouring population" and the words from "and that such allotments cannot" to "applicants for the same" shall be omitted. Sub-section (3) shall be omitted.|
|Section 24||…||In Sub-section (1) after the word "allotments" there shall be added the words '" by any person or by an association to which allotments may be let under this Act," and the words "(other than boroughs)" shall be omitted.|
|Section 27||…||In Sub-section (1) after the words "quarter's rent" there shall be added the words "(except where the yearly rent is twenty shillings or less)." At the end of Sub-section (4) there shall be inserted the words "except with the consent of the council."|
|Section 31||…||The whole Section shall be omitted.|
|Section 34||…||In Sub-section (1) the word "labouring" shall be omitted.|
|Section 42||…||In Sub-section (1) for the words "attaching to small holdings or allotments provided by the council "there shall be substituted the words" letting to tenants of small holdings and allotments, "and in Sub-section (2) for the words "attached to the" there shall be substituted the words "let to tenants of."|
|Section 9||…||In paragraph (b) of sub-section (2), after the word "let,'' there shall be inserted the word's ''or sell."|
§ This Amendment and the following Amendments are designed to carry out an undertaking which I gave to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Acland) on the Committee stage, that there should be power to sell allotments just as there is power to sell email holdings.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: At the end of the paragraph beginning' Section 24 "insert the words" In Sub-section (4), the words 'other than the boroughs' shall be omitted."
§ At the end of paragraph beginning "Section 27" insert the words
§ "In Sub-section (6), after the words 'system Or,' there shall be inserted the words 'of letting or setting.' "—."[Sir A. Boscawen.]
§ Sir K. WOOD
I beg to move to leave out the words "Section 31." I think this is a valuable Section to retain.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I beg to move "That the Bill, as amended, be recommitted to a Committte of the Whole House in respect of new Clause, 'Compensation to Labourers,' " and also in respect of an Amendment to Schedule 2.
1284 These two Amendments may possibly involve a charge, and that is the reason why I move the recommittal of the Bill. With respect to the Amendment to the Schedule, we undertook in Committee to say that there should be some more effective way of compensating labourers who by reason of the acquisition of land by councils for small holdings lost their employment. At the present time the county council may compensate labourers. I propose that in future they shall compensate labourers. That will be the effect of the Amendment to the Schedule. In regard to the new Clause, at the present time the Board is bound to compensate labourers dispossessed through the purchase of land for the purpose of small holdings colonies, but they are not bound to do so under the Bill if the land is acquired for the purpose of small holdings. The object of the new Clause is to make it necessary for the Board to compensate labourers when land is bought for small holdings just as they have now to compensate them if the land if bought for farm colonies.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I am very glad that the hon Member has brought this forward. Anybody who knows of the possible hardships to labourers will be grateful to him, and I hope the House will be willing that the Bill should be recommitted for these purposes.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly considered in Committee, on recommittal.