HC Deb 26 June 1919 vol 117 cc450-9

(1) This Act shall apply to Scotland subject to the following modification:

  1. (a) The provisions of this Act other than the provisions of the Section thereof relating to Rules for the assessment of compensation, shall apply to the determination of any question which, under Sub-section (11) of Section seven or Section seventeen of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act, 1911, is referred to arbitration, as if the 451 Board of Agriculture for Scotland were the acquiring authority, and as if in the said Sub-section (11) there were substituted for the Lord Ordinary on the Bills such person as may be prescribed by Rules made by the Reference Committee for Scotland; and the provisions of that Act, including the Second Schedule to the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1908, as thereby applied, shall in relation to such determination have effect subject to the aforesaid provisions of this Act:
  2. (b) "High Court" means Court of Session; "arbitrator" means arbiter, and "easement" means servitude.

(2) This Act shall apply to Ireland subject to the following modification:

Nothing in this Act shall affect the determination of the price or compensation to be paid on the compulsory acquisition of land by the Irish Land Commission or Congested Districts Board for Ireland under any statute or the special provisions contained in the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 18S5, and the enactments amending the same, with respect to the jurisdiction of the Irish Land Commission in cases where land is taken compulsorily under those provisions for a term of years.


I beg to move, in Subsection (1, a), to leave out the words other than the provisions of the Section thereof relating to Rules for the assessment of compensation, This Clause deals with the application of this Bill to Scotland and to Ireland, and particularly as to the Small Landowners (Scotland) Act, 1911. That Act sought to constitute new small holdings in Scotland without purchase, and the smallholders created under that Act became tenants of the landlords with security of tenure at judicial rents. The object of the Act was to give all the advantages of occupying ownership to the smallholder in Scotland without purchase of the land. Certain provisions were introduced into that Act in order to deal with the subject of compensation. The idea apparently was then prevalent that the creation in Scotland of colonies of smallholders was going to depreciate the letting value of the estates out of which those holdings were taken. The object of my Amendment is to deal with that situation, because, obviously, the basis of compensation should not be more favourable to the landlord when tenants are created than when the estate itself is bought outright. This Amendment provides that in respect of procedure, and in regard to the rules for assessing compensation the provisions of this Bill shall be substituted for the provisions of the Small Landowners Act, and the excision of the words proposed would substitute that basis for the basis which at present obtains' under the Small Landowners Act. As Scottish Members in the House know, the operation of that Act in Scotland has been brought to an absolute standstill mainly on account of the exorbitant allowances for compensation which have been granted owing to the judicial interpretation of Sub-section (11) of Section 7 of that Act. That Sub-section provides, among other matters, Where the Land Court are of opinion that damage or injury will be done to the letting value of the land to be occupied by a new holder or new holders, or of any farm of which such land forms part, or to any tenant, in respect that the land forms part of the whole of his tenancy, or to any landlord either in respect of an obligation to take over sheep stock at a valuation, or in respect of any depreciation in the value of the estate of which the land forms part, in consequence of and directly attributable to the constitution of the new holding or holdings as proposed, they shall require the Board in the event of the scheme being proceeded with to pay compensation to such amount as the Land Court, after giving the parties an opportunity of being heard, and if they so desire of leading evidence in the matter. That matter was brought to a head in Scotland by the famous Lindean case in the year 1914. That was a case where a scheme of small holdings was carried out by the Scottish Board of Agriculture, and the compensation given exceeded the value of the entire estate out of which the holdings were carved. That judicial interpretation practically created a deadlock, which was, of course, further emphasised by the War, and the administration of the Act became practically a dead letter. In this Bill the House is called upon to extinguish as far as possible indirect claims, variously defined as injurious affection, in order that the public authority should be able to buy the land at a much less impossible price. I suggest that the logical course to pursue is to give the same conditions where the land is only leased as well as where it is bought, and that under existing conditions that is a course which deserves some rather special consideration. Land is at present being sold at very largely inflated prices, due to conditions which have no relation to the permanent value of the land. Therefore any land bought under those conditions must certainly involve loss to the purchasing authority. Under the Land Settlement Bill the Committee gave power to the parties to lease as well as to purchase land, and in that way sought to remove the handicap which the present abnormally inflated prices impose. The procedure under the Small Landholders Act is, as I am sure the Lord Advocate will admit, the equivalent of leasing. The tenants in that case are under conditions of security of tenure which I submit are the equivalent of leasing. The compensation where the small holdings are constituted under that Act obviously cannot be greater, and should, on the other hand, really be less than when the land is bought. Therefore I submit this is a fair Amendment, because of the conditions of procedure set up under this Bi are applied to the operations of the Small Landholders Act we get rid at one stroke of the impossible conditions which now surround the acquiring of land for small holdings in Scotland, and we take up where we left off in Scotland before the Lindean decision of 1914. I think my proposal is not only practical but simple, and that it will achieve for Scotland that for which we might have to wait for a long time to secure by amending legislation to be brought in.

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

I beg to second the Amendment.

I would press upon the Lord Advocate to accept this Amendment. As the Mover pointed out, the provisions for Compensation of Small Landholders Act have been responsible very largely for holding up almost entirely the provisions of that Act. The Lord Advocate may perhaps say that this Bill applies primarily to the acquisition of land by purchase, and that therefore it would not be possible for him to insert an Amendment of this kind. If he gives that reply, will the right hon. Gentleman further tell the House whether or not he considers this to be an Amendment based upon justice. When I say that, I mean does he propose in the Land Settlement Bill which is to be introduced shortly, as we hope, and in which no doubt certain areas of land will be acquired by purchase for the settlement of small holdings, that the land shall be acquired under this Bill, and that the provisions as to compensation of this Bill will be applicable to those cases, but that when land is acquired under the Small Landholders Act the large compensation which has been paid in the past should continue to be paid in future? I hope the Lord Advocate will be able to accept the Amendment, but if he is unable to do so I hope he will not be merely content to tell the House that he cannot accept it merely on the ground that it is not applicable to this Bill. I can assure the Lord Advocate that there will be many people throughout Scot- land who will anxiously study the answer he gives on this Amendment. It is a very material point, and I hope he will be able to give us some satisfaction in the matter.


I am afraid that some misunderstanding underlies the Amendment. We cannot in a Bill which deals with the assessment of compensation for land acquired enter upon the general amendment of the provisions of the Act of 1911, and I would like to say this at once, with regard to the remarks of the last speaker, that it is no part of my intention to lift the smallest corner of the veil which at present conceals the precise contents of the Scottish Land Settlement Bill. Therefore, if he or anybody else is hopeful of getting from me at the Box tonight some information in advance of what that Bill contains—

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

That was not my object.


If that had been the hon. Member's object, I should have had to disappoint him completely. The purpose of Clause 9 is this, and this alone, and I am certain that so far as that object is concerned I shall have the approval and support of both the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, namely, to apply to the arbitration procedure under the Act of 1911 the cheaper and the cheapening methods which this Bill provides in relation to an ordinary case of acquisition of land. In short, the purpose is to apply to those arbitrations precisely the same limits upon the possibilities of expense which this Bill applies to an arbitration to assess the value of land taken. The parties will be under all the limitations with regard to costs, limitations which in my humble opinion are worth all the rest of the Bill put together, but they will be under all those limitations as to costs just as in the case of an acquisition of land. They will be under all the limitations with regard to the employment of experts, and counsel, and so on, which apply to arbitrations in connection with the assessment of value of land taken. In short, in all these respects the Clause undoubtedly tends to restrict and is introduced for the purpose of restricting the expense so far as procedure goes. As I understand from the speech which the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment made—I would not have gathered it from the Amendment itself—his object is to try and go a good deal further than that. He wants to apply shortly all the provisions of the Bill somehow to the problem which the arbiter has to solve under Sub-section (11) of Sections 7 of the Act of 1911, and of Section 17. I wonder if the hon. Member quite realised what a series of impassable barriers he has to cross before he could do that by any Amendment of the kind proposed. He will remember that the only provisions which are excluded from the proposed application to the purposes of the Act of 1911 are the provisions of the Sections of this Act relating to rules for the assessment of compensation. It is Section 2 (Rules for the Assessment of Compensation) and Section 2 alone which is not brought in so as to apply to proceedings under Sub-section (11) of Section 7 and Section 17 of the Act of 1911. The hon. Member might ask me, "Why don't you?" The answer is that there is not one of them that could be applied, and the broad reason of that is the one which occurred to the hon. Member for Kincardine (Lieut.-Colonel A. Murray), who seconded the Amendment, and that is that the purpose of this Bill is the assessment of value for land acquired, and that under the Act of 1911 no land at all is acquired, and the subjects of compensation are different in their nature altogether from the subjects which have to be dealt with when you buy a piece of land. Will the hon. Member look at Section 2 (1), and he will see what I mean. (1) No allowance shall be made on account of the acquisition being compulsory. There is no acquisition under the Act of 1911, and therefore there never was any question of a compulsory allowance. It will not fit, take it as we will. The hon. Member said the method of the Act of 1911 might be described as a compulsory lease. Yes, but not a compulsory lease which implies or involves the taking of anything compulsorily. All that happens is that you compulsorily force a landlord and a tenant into a contract in the terms of a statutory tenure. In the broad sense, it is true that it is a compulsory lease, but you do not take anything, and you do not pay anything in respect of what you take. On the contrary, under Sub-section (11) of Section 7 you pay if you diminish the letting value. You pay if there is general injury done to the value of the estate as a whole, but, again, there is nothing about compulsory allowance. I do not want to go into detail through each case, but the reason why Section 2 is not brought in to be applied to arbitrations under the Act of 1911 is that there is no taking. Sub-section (2) of Section 2 is as follows:— (2) The value of land shall, subject as hereinafter provided, be taken to be the amount which the land if sold in the open market by a willing seller might be expected to realise. We do not buy any land in the 1911 Act, so that is no good. The section reads on: (3) The special suitability or adaptability of the land for any purpose shall not be taken into account if that purpose is a purpose to which it could be applied only in pursuance of statutory powers, or for which there is no market apart from the special needs of a particular purchaser: (4) Where the value of the land is increased by reason of the use thereof or of any premises thereon in a manner which, could be re strained by any Court, or is contrary to law, or is detrimental to the health of the inmates of the premises or to the- public health, the amount of that increase shall not be taken into account: (5) Where land is, and but for the compulsory acquisition would continue to be, devoted to a purpose of such a nature that there is no general demand or market for land for that purpose, the compensation may, if the official valuer is satisfied that rein statement in some other place is bonâ fide intended, be assessed on the basis of the reasonable cost of equivalent reinstatement. It is clearly impossible to apply either of those to anything under the 1911 Act. Let me remind the House, also, that the provisions of Section 17 have to do with compensation for cases in which there has been, material deterioration of the holding, during an occupancy which has expired. Again, we do not apply these things to it. Therefore, while it is impossible to use this Act as a means of recasting or reforming, the definition of the subjects of compensation in the Act of 1911, while the only thing is to make available the cheaper method of arbitration which this provides, which we have done to the full, we cannot, and with all respect the Amendment which the hon. Member has moved would fail in achieving the object he has in view, namely, of revising altogether the subjects to be defined as those for compensation in, the Act of 1911. It would merely apply to those same objects of compensation a series of provisions in Section 2 which would be incapable of receiving any application to them, and that is why the Bill takes the form which it does take and why it is quite impossible for me to accept this Amendment. On the other hand, I think I can say quite truly that to the full extent to which this Bill enables an arbitration where compensation is involved to be cheaply carried out we shall, by the Clause as it stands, get the full benefit.

Colonel GREIG

I am one of those who have always taken the strongest view of the decisions under the old Landholders Act of 1911, namely, that those decisions did in effect, probably on the words of the Statute, give a construction which those of us who were supporters of the Bill never intended should be given. I agree entirely with what has been said by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), that the effect of those decisions and the words of the Statute has been to hold up, subject to what the War has also done, the whole of the useful effect of that Act; but I have listened with great interest to what the Lord Advocate has said, and I must confess that I have been convinced by his reasoning. The Bill as we now have it will, I think, very much cheapen the procedure under the Landholders Act in Scotland, and that is an advantage which, I think, it is wise to adopt at once. With regard to the question of altering the basis of assessment and the standards of valuation for the creation of small holdings under that Act, having listened to what the Lord Advocate has said, I agree now that it would be far better not to attempt it here. I do not know myself what may be in the minds of the Government as regards future legislation, and if I did know I should not say anything at the present moment, of course; but I do not know, and I hope the strong views which are held by nearly every one of the Scottish Members on the expediency of altering those standards as they are now laid down will be brought home to the notice of the proper authorities, and that either in the next Bill or in some Bill to amend the Landholders Act those standards shall be adjusted equitably.

8.0 P.M.


I think my right hon. and learned Friend who is in charge of the Bill at the moment will admit that the discussion which has taken place has not been without use, and we are indebted to my hon. Friend and colleague for having moved this Amendment. We are also indebted to the Lord Advocate for the very clear, and, if I may say so, able statement he made on what is undoubtedly a complicated situation, and I am glad that two views of his have, I think, clearly emerged. First of all, he agrees with us that the costs under the present system of arbitration in respect of the Small Holdings Act in Scotland require remedy, and he welcomes, as we do, such remedies as are found in this Bill. The second point—I hope I carry him all the way with me, although I approach this with a little less confidence—is this, that the present scale' of compensation which has been established by the decision of the Courts in. Scotland also requires amendment. I gathered that from him, and it therefore gives us a certain amount of hope, verging perhaps on confidence, that in that drama, of which he declines to-day to lift even any portion of the curtain, which will coins before the House under the title of a Land Settlement Bill for Scotland, we may see enacted there the death of the system which at present obtains in regard to compensation for land acquired for small holdings in Scotland, and the advent of a system which, while just to the claimant, will be fair to the public. I do not know what my hon. Friend will do with regard to this Amendment. But I think we will all agree that the discussion this afternoon has been a useful one.


I should be very glad to respond to the invitation to withdraw the Amendment, but the Lord Advocate will remember that ten weeks' ago I got the Second Reading of a Bill amending the Scottish Small Holders Act, and at his own request, and that of the Secretary for Scotland, I have not yet asked for that Bill to be sent upstairs, because my two right hon. Friends at that time told us the Scottish Land Settlement Bill would be introduced before Whitsuntide. We have had the Whitsuntide Recess, and we have been back a week, and there is no indication yet, apart altogether from the curtain being raised, as to when the Bill is to be put on the posters. We have not even seen any indication of it on the Order Paper, and; therefore, having made that sacrifice in keeping my own amending Bill back, I thought by moving this Amendment I might get some indication as to whether or not the method of compensation for the taking of land for small holdings in Soot-land was going to be radically dealt with. I hope, if my right hon. Friend cannot raise the curtain, he may at any rate tell us if there is any immediate chance of the Land Settlement Bill being introduced, because I have already waited ten weeks before asking for my Bill to be sent to the Standing Committee. I shall not be able to wait much longer unless my right hon. Friend can tell us that his Bill is coming shortly. If he will say a word on that, I may be willing to withdraw.


I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I can certainly say the Bill is coming along, and is coming along shortly. I cannot go further than that, and I cannot, as I have said, indicate in any way what that Bill at present contains. My hon. Friend must exercise some little patience, and I think I can promise him it will not be lost.


I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made:

In Sub-section (1, a), after the word "Bills" ["Lord Ordinary on the Bills"], insert the words and the Lord Ordinary, except where the Lord Ordinary is therein last referred to.

In paragraph (b), after the word "means" ["means Court of Session"], insert the words either Division of the."—[Mr. Clyde.]

Bill to be read the third time upon Monday next.