HC Deb 06 November 1919 vol 120 cc1799-802

Considered in Committee.—[Progress, 4th ovember.]

[Sir E. CORNWALL in the Chair.]

Question again proposed, That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of such semis as may be necessary to make good losses incurred in respect of loans by the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, so far as such losses relate to expenditure under any Act of the present Session to make further provision for the acquisition of land for the purposes of small holdings, reclamation, and drainage, and other purposes relating to agriculture in Scotland, to amend the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act, 1911, and the enactments relating to allotments, and otherwise to facilitate land settlement in Scotland; and to authorise the issue to the Public Works Loan Commissioners out of the Consolidated Fund of sums not exceeding two million seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds for the purposes of such Act.


I beg to ask my right hon. Friend a question which may save time, and if he has any statement to make in addition, well and good. I want to refer to Clause 12 of the Bill, the part which deals with advances to land banks or co-operative or credit societies having for their object the assistance of landholders or statutory small tenants in the stocking and equipment and profitable working of their holdings. The point on which I should like information is whether the Government have taken sufficient cognisance in framing the financial part of their scheme of the previsions of this Clause? This is most vitally important to the development of small holdings in Scotland, and if in their schemes the Government have just lumped matters in a general way without any special reference to or study of this part of the Bill, I would hope that they will review the whole financial scheme for which they are now asking the sanction of Parliament, and direct special attention to that part of their own Bill in connection with their money scheme. If there is one thing more clear than another from the English experience and from the too. limited experience in Scotland, and linking that up with the rich experience in Denmark and other countries where small holdings have been developed to a very high degree of efficiency, it is that without the cooperative system and the use of banks for giving financial aid to the smallholders, the best and most expensive schemes of establishing smallholders will fall very far short indeed of anything approaching. a high standard of efficiency, and a large amount of the money which the Government propose to expend under this Resolution, I will not say will be thrown away, but will be almost derelict for many years to come unless this financial scheme is linked up very closely and effectively with the development contemplated, I am glad to. think, in Clause 12 of the Bill. I am quite sure no additional words are needed as far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned to add to the force of what I feel. We hear very constantly in Scotland this cry to develop co-operation if we wish to-have success in this movement, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to give consideration, in dealing with the financial question, to the provisions of Clause 12, because if that is not done the very best schemes of the Government will be very largely a failure, whereas we want to make them a pronounced success.

10.0 P.M.


May I inquire whether this Financial Resolution will cover any Amendment to the Bill giving power to acquire land under Part II. of the Bill by means. of purchase or of annual rent charge? I think it does, because it gives power to acquire land under Part I. of the Bill, and I hope there is nothing in this to make it out of order to propose that land should be acquired by purchase or by means of rent charge under Part II. I certainly hope also it will cover the matter referred to by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and which he considers, as I do, are distinctly desirable in the interests of Scottish land.


Perhaps I may first deal with the point last raised, seeing that it is one quite by itself. It is undoubtedly the case that, so far as the provision of the money under this Resolution is concerned, it can be competently used for acquiring land for the purpose of small holdings by purchase or for defraying the expense of constituting small holdings under the system of the Smallholders Act, 1911. While that is perfectly clear, I should not like by anything which I say to hold out any prospect that you could have the purchase of land carried out under Part II. of the Bill at present under discussion in Committee. Part II. of that Bill deals with the constitution of small holdings under the Act of 1911, as amended. But the feature of that Act is precisely to buy nothing, but to plant the holder on the land and to compensate the owner as far as you can for the damage done him. Therefore, while technically I answer the hon. Member's question willingly in the affirmative, I must add that for practical purposes I do not think any question with regard to the purchase of land under Part II. can be solved or assisted in connection with this Financial Resolution.

With regard to the matter put by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir D. Maclean), I may at once give a general affirmative answer to all the questions which he has put to me. If we considered whether our finances could be devoted to the assistance of smallholders, not merely in the provision of land but in the equipment and stocking of their holdings, whether by direct or indirect assistance through associations intended to operate on the principle of co-operation or credit, the answer is certainly "Yes." I wish I could give as complete and short an answer to the question whether the moneys which we propose to provide will adequately meet all the demands that may be made upon us in that respect. But that I cannot say in advance. I can, however, state that the whole of these questions have been very carefully considered, and that this, at any rate is certain that a very long step can be taken in all the directions in which the right hon. Gentleman very properly pointed his finger. I only say this to indicate that, whether we liked it or not, we have had to consider the whole of the chapter which was opened up by the right hon. Gentleman in regard not merely to the acquisition of land but to the questions of equipment and stocking. We could not possibly contemplate what we were intending to do under the Bill at present under discussion without having considered all these questions. May I respectfully say I agree that you may Acquire land, you may equip it at heavy cost, and you may help the holder in stocking it, but if you do not have besides all that, not merely instruction and guidance but co-operation, there is likely to be much money thrown away. I do not know that it is possible to go further at a stage like this, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that these questions have been fully before our mind.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.