- (1) Where the tenancy of a holding terminates after the commencement of this Act by reason of a notice to quit given, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, by the landlord, and in consequence of such notice the tenant quits the holding, then, unless the tenant—
- (a) was not at the date of the notice cultivating the holding according to the rules of good husbandry; or
- (b) had at the date of the notice failed to comply within a reasonable time with any notice in writing by the landlord served on him requiring him to remedy any breach of any term or condition of the tenancy being a breach which was capable of being remedied; or
- (c) was at the date of the notice a person who had become bankrupt or compounded with his creditors; or
- (d) had at the date of the notice refused, or within a reasonable time fails, to agree to a demand made to him in writing by the landlord for arbitration as to the rent to be paid for the holding as from the next ensuing date at which the tenancy could have been terminated by notice to quit given by the landlord subsequent to the date of the said demand;
- (2) Where, after the commencement of this Act, the landlord of a holding refuses, or within a reasonable time fails to agree to a demand made to him in writing by the tenant for arbitration as to the rent to be paid for the holding as from the next ensuing date at which the tenancy could have been terminated by notice to quit given by the tenant subsequent to the date of the said demand, and by reason of the refusal or failure the tenant exercises his power of terminating the tenancy by a notice stating that it is given for that reason the tenant shall be entitled to compensation in the same manner as if the tenancy had been terminated by notice to quit given by the landlord.
- (3) The provisions of this Section relating to demands for arbitration as to the rent to be paid for a holding shall not apply where the demand is so made that the increase or reduction of the rent would take effect at some time before the expiration of two years from the commencement of the tenancy of the holding or from the date on which a previous increase or reduction of the rent took effect:
- Provided that an arbitrator in determining for the purposes of this Section what rent is properly payable in respect of a holding shall not take into account any improvements executed thereon so far as they were executed wholly or partly by and at the expense of the tenant without any equivalent allowance or benefit made or given by the landlord in consideration of their execution, or fix the rent at a higher amount than would have been properly payable if those improvements had not been so executed
- (4) The compensation payable under this Section shall be a sum representing such loss or expense directly attributable to the quitting of the holding as the tenant may unavoidably incur upon or in connection with the sale or removal of his household goods or his implements of husbandry, fixtures, farm produce or farm stock on or used in connection with the holding, and shall include any expenses reasonably incurred by him in the preparation of his claim for compensation (not being costs of an arbitration to determine the amount of the compensation), and also a sum equal to one year's rent of the holding, or, where the notice to quit is given without good and sufficient cause and for reasons inconsistent with good estate management, such sum, not being less than one year's rent nor more than four years' rent of the holding, as the arbitrator may think proper.
- (5) Compensation shall not be payable under this Section—
- (a) in respect of the sale of any goods, implements, fixtures, produce or stock unless the tenant has before the sale given the landlord a reasonable opportunity of making a valuation thereof; or
- (b) unless the tenant has before the termination of the tenancy given notice in writing to the landlord of his intention to make a claim for compensation under this Section.
- (c) where the tenant with whom the contract of tenancy was made has died within three months before the date of the notice to quit; or
- (d) if in a case in which the tenant under Section twenty-three of the Act of 1908 accepts a notice to quit part of his holding as a notice to quit the entire holding, the part of the holding affected by the notice given by the landlord, together with any other part of the holding affected by any previous notice given under that Section by the landlord to the tenant, is less than one-fourth part of the original holding, or the holding as
1933 proposed to be diminished is reasonably capable of being cultivated as a separate holding except compensation in respect of the part of the holding to which the notice to quit related; or
- (e) where the holding was let to the tenant by a corporation carrying on a railway, dock, canal, water, or other undertaking, and possession of the holding is required by the corporation for the purpose for which it was acquired by the corporation; or
- (f) in the case of a permanent grass park which the landlord has been in the habit of letting annually for seasonal grazing, and which has since the fourth day of August, nineteen hundred and fourteen been let to a tenant for a definite and limited period for cultivation as arable land, on the condition that the tenant shall along with the last or way going crop sow permanent grass seeds supplied by the landlord, unless the Minister is of opinion that in the national interest the ground should continue to be cultivated as arable land.
- (6) In any case where a tenant holds two or more holdings, whether from the same landlord or different landlords, and receives notice to quit one or more but not all of the holdings, the compensation for disturbance in respect of the holding or holdings shall be reduced by such amount as is shown to the satisfaction of the arbitrator to represent the reduction (if any) of the loss attributable to the notice to quit by reason of the continuance in possession by the tenant of the other holding or holdings.
- (7) The landlord shall, on the written application of the tenant of a holding to whom he has given a notice to quit which does not state the reasons for which it is given, furnish to the tenant within twenty-eight days after the receipt of the application a statement in writing of the reasons for the giving of the notice, and if he fails so to do the notice shall be deemed to have been given without good and sufficient cause and for reasons inconsistent with good estate management.
- (8) If any question arises as to whether compensation is payable under this Section or as to the amount payable by way of compensation under this Section the question shall, in default of agreement, be determined by arbitration under the Act of 1908.
- (9) Compensation payable under this Section shall be in addition to any compensation to which the tenant may be entitled in respect of improvements, and shall be payable notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move, to leave out the Clause.
This Clause occupies three and a half pages of the print of the Bill, and is difficult to understand, but it sets up a fair rent court and, to a certain extent, provides fixity of tenure. I will deal with 1934 these points as a business man accustomed for many years to carry on business in the City of London. I happen to own a small property, but that in no way affects the argument which I am going to put before the House to show that it is vital to the prosperity of this country to reject this Clause. I have always been brought up to the belief that the prosperity of this country, and every other country depended upon the sanctity of contract and the maintenance of the rights of property. Those conditions are essential to commercial life and to every business that has ever been carried on in any civilised country. This country is over-populated, and cannot maintain its people on the produce of its soil. Therefore it is necessary that all the various commercial undertakings which have produced the great prosperity of this country should be continued. Once you begin to break the sanctity of contract, or interfere with the rights of property in one industry, it becomes certain that those principles shall be extended to other undertakings and other forms of property.
We have had something of this sort in Ireland. Many years ago it was suggested that the chief, if not the only cause of discontent in Ireland, was the landlord, and that if we desired to put Ireland in a peaceful, prosperous, contented condition we should establish what were called the three f's—fixity of tenure, fair rent courts, and free sale. It was argued that that was a legitimate: demand because differing from what has always taken place in England, Scotland and Wales, the landlord in Ireland did not execute the repairs or maintain the property in a tenantable condition. That was done by the tenant, and therefore it was said that there was a considerable amount of the tenant's money in the holding. I always thought that that was a very unsound argument, because the tenant when he took the holding knew perfectly well the position. Whether that was so, the fact remains that the granting of fixity of tenure and fair rents in Ireland, which are established by this Clause, did not in any way produce prosperity or tranquillity in that country. Before the War ninety-nine people out of a hundred who had studied this question would have admitted that the land legislation in Ireland had been a disastrous failure. I have, especially in latter years, discussed with all sorts of people the future of land 1935 in this country, and all have agreed that it is quite certain, whatever else happens, that the policy which has been pursued in Ireland will not be carried out in this country.
The Clause says that when the tenancy of a holding terminates after the commencement of this Act by reason of a notice to quite given, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, by the landlord, and in consequence of such notice—I am not quite sure as to what "whether before or after the commencement of this Act" means, and whether it means that this is going to be retrospective legislation—then, unless the tenant was not at the date of the notice cultivating the holding according to the rules of good husbandry or had at that date failed to comply within a reasonable time with any notice in writing by the landlord requiring him to remedy any breach or any term of condition, or had become bankrupt or refused to agree to a demand made by the landlord for arbitration as to the rent to be paid, certain things will ensue. In addition to the compensation given to an outgoing tenant under the Agricultural Holdings Act further compensation which might amount to four years' rent would also be given. On what ground can it be said that the tenant who has entered into an agreement voluntarily providing for a year's notice is entitled to anything if he is given notice to quit beyond the provision under the Agricultural Holdings Act, which, so far as I know, has never been disputed or considered unjust by the tenants?
The majority of tenants in this country at present hold their farms on a yearly agreement. They do not do so because the landlords compel them. On the contrary, the tenants—I think I can speak for probably the whole of the south part of the country—have refused to take leases, and have preferred to hold their land on yearly agreements. This is not in the interest of the landlord but in the interest of the tenants themselves. During the period of depression which began in 1879, and did not become very serious until 1882 or 1883, and lasted until about the middle of the 'Nineties, those tenants who had yearly agreements were, comparatively speaking, in a good position, because when they found that 1936 under the fall in prices they were unable to make a profit at the rent paid they were able to go to the landlord and ask him to reduce the rent, and in some cases I believe the tenant was allowed to continue in occupation on condition that he paid the tithe. The holder of the lease was in a different position, because he was obliged to go on, notwithstanding the fact that the operation of cultivating that farm was unprofitable, and unfortunately a good many of the tenants who had leases were ruined. Consequently after that no tenant, or very few tenants, would take a farm on any other conditions than on a yearly agreement.
What is the proposal of this Clause? I do not believe myself that the majority of tenants in any kind of way want this Clause of this Bill. It would be out of order for me to discuss the Bill, and I will limit my remarks to saying that I do not believe the majority of the farm tenants of this country want this Clause. I am quite aware that the Central Committee of the Farmers' Union has passed a resolution in favour of this Clause. I do not think that in any kind of way indicates that the majority of farmers desire it. As far as I know, the tenant farmers I have spoken to—I did not pick them out; I spoke to them as I happened to meet them—were not aware of this Clause and had not read the Bill and did not know what the Bill contained, and when I explained it to them, said they did not like it. I only speak from my own experience. I may be fortunate or unfortunate, as the case may be, but that is as far as I know the position of the tenant farmer. What is it that this Clause proposes to do? The tenant has taken the farm on the understanding that if he does not like it he may give it up at the end of the year, and that if the landlord does not like the tenant he may ask him to go at the end of the year. All that is to be abrogated in favour of the tenant. That to my mind is an absolutely indefensible position, and one which, if it is maintained, would reduce this country to bankruptcy. I do not wish to say a word against the tenant farmers. They are excellent people. I am quite certain that the majority of them do not in the least know what it is proposed by their executive should be done for them.
1937 What is the tenant farmer at the present moment, and what is the landlord? I would ask the House to go back for some six years. At that time the great majority of the land of England was let below its value, and the landlord was not getting more than a very moderate interest, not upon the land, but upon the capital which had been expended in putting up buildings and making fences, etc., on the land. I believe that cannot be contradicted. That was the position, and the farmer was taking a moderate income. What has taken place during the last six years? During the last five years the farmer has made very considerable profits. I have never taken the view thtat the farmer has made enormous or excessive profits. I have never held, because in one or two cases, notably in the north of England, large profits have been made by growing potatoes, that you must take that as an example of what the tenant farmers of England as a whole have done. There has been very unfair misrepresentation of the profits which have been made by farmers. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that farmers have done well. During the past they have had very bad times, and they were entitled to make hay when the sun shone, and they had a very fair time. What about the landlord during that time? I am now speaking I believe correctly of the majority of the landlords of this country. Did they come down to their tenants and say: "You are having a good time; we want some of it"? Not at all. They left their rent during the whole of the War untouched. What is the position of the landlords? Repairs cost more, the tithe is nearly double. In my own case my tithe went up from 4s. an acre to 7s., and in all probability that was the same with all landlords whose estate had to pay tithes. Why have tithes gone up? Because prices of produce went up. Who benefited by the price of produce? The farmer. Who paid the increase of the tithes? The landlord. That is the man to whom you are saying: "Because you behaved well, because your interest has been to encourage the production of food, to allow the tenant to make a reasonable profit on the land and not to take advantage of the fact that during the War he is making a profit to increase your rent, because you have done that, because you put your hand into your pocket and paid all the 1938 increased cost of the tithe, and the increased cost of the repairs, now you are to be rewarded by having a further proportion of your property taken away for the benefit of a man who has entered into agreement with you voluntarily, and has done exceedingly well out of that agreement." I would venture to say that any fair and partially-minded person, presuming my statement is correct, who will consider the matter in the right light, can only come to one conclusion, that this Clause should be withdrawn.
I have dealt with the question of the compensation which is to be given in the event of a tenant determining his holding. What docs this arbitration mean? The tenant, as I understand it, has entered into an agreement with the landlord to pay £1 an acre for his farm per year. He is now to be able to go to an arbitrator. There is to be an arbitrator appointed by the Lord Chief Justice, and that arbitrator is to decide what the proper rent is for the particular holding on which he has a farm. There seems to be very little difference between that and a rent court. It seems to me to be exactly the same. I ask this House if they are going to contemplate the introduction of a rent court into this country. It strikes at the root of everything that has made this country prosperous. What has made the country prosperous? Individuality, the right of a man to exorcise the talents which God has given him to the best of his advantage. It may be said you should use them to the advantage of other people. If we were a community of angels, no doubt that would be very excellent advice, but as we are not, and as I for one have no faith whatever in the new world which the Prime Minister has foreshadowed—I may say that we see very little of it—the only hope of restoring this country to the prosperity which it formerly occupied is to observe the lines of procedure and methods upon which that prosperity was achieved. In the old days when we were, perhaps, one of the most prosperous countries in the world, there was no question, if a man wanted to sell and another man wanted to buy, of an arbitrator being fixed by the Government to tell the man who wanted to sell what he was to get and the man who was to buy what he was to pay. I venture to say—it sounds like prophesying—that if that principle is once introduced, it will not 1939 stop here. It will be extended—it will go much further, and in the result, whatever it does for the landlord, it will certainly destroy the present, race of tenant farmers.
May I tell the House a little story of what happened to me only a few days ago? I happened to be dining, and sat next to a friend of mine, a former Member of this House. He said: "Near where I live in the country a friend of mine, a landowner, put up his estate for sale. I had some thoughts of buying some of the land, but I rather hesitated owing to various circumstances which I need not go into. Before the sale took place several of the tenants on this estate came to me and they said, 'If we buy our farms as tenants will you take them over from us at the price we have given, and will you allow us to become your tenants?'" My friend thought it over, and he said he would. This took place about a year ago, and it shows that the tenant of the present day is only too anxious to remain a tenant under a landlord, and that when he has an opportunity of buying his farm, probably rather below the market value, because these farms were to be sold to the tenants, he would prefer, sooner than keep the farm in his own hands, to pass that farm on at the price at which he had bought it to another landlord, in order that he might remain a tenant under that landlord and under the old conditions which had prevailed, and which will be altered by this Bill.
I think I have said enough to show that the tenant farmer would prefer to remain as he has been in the past. There is no real desire for this Clause. If the Clause is passed it will tend to injure all the people connected with the land, and will encourage the sale of land. One of the reasons advanced for the necessity for an Agriculture Bill is the reason that the old landlords were selling their estates. That reason is still advanced from the more radical side of the community. It is rather an extraordinary argument to come from those who in the past have always held that the system of landholding in the country was very bad, and that an alteration would largely benefit the community as a whole. As soon as these sales began, two or three years ago, there was an outcry that what was necessary was the prevention of the 1940 sales and the keeping of the original owners as the landlords. I am not surprised at that, because the vast majority of landlords have recognised that they had a duty in holding land—I am now talking about country landlords—and they were content with a very small remuneration from their capital—probably about 3 per cent, was the limit, and in many cases it was not even that. The fear of legislation of this sort has driven a large number of these people to sell their properties, no doubt partly because some of them thought it was their duty to their children to preserve as much of their property as they could, and they thought that in future it would not be possible to maintain their estates as they had maintained them in the past. Others sold their estates because they lost their heirs in the War and, possibly, had no near relation to whom to leave their property. When they sold their property they believed that it was not a remunerative investment, and they feared that they would be harrassed and bothered by legislation of this sort. Large numbers of estates have changed hands in that way.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The prices were very considerably below those which were in existence before 1880, and it must be remembered also that to-day the sovereign is said to be worth only about ten shillings or less. I do not altogether hold that view. I think that the depreciation of the purchasing power of the sovereign has been exaggerated. Let us say, however, that the purchasing power has decreased to about twelve shillings. You have to take that off the price which the landlord gets for the land, and when you have done that I do not think you will find that in the majority of cases anything very excessive has been obtained for it. Further sales of land are not desired either by landlord or tenant. I do not know that I can speak for the labourers, but I am inclined to think that I may say the same even in regard to them. I have not myself seen any marked hostility on the part of agricultural labourers to the squires, though there may be cases. Therefore, to a certain extent I think the labourers would prefer that the land should remain where it is. I have en-deavourerd, I hope calmly, to put before 1941 the House the points of view that have occurred to me. I earnestly trust that many hon. Members will vote with me when we divide upon the rejection of this Clause.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
We have listened to a very interesting speech, and with certain portions of it I agree. The reason I take exception to the Clause is that it does not fulfil the pledge given to the farmers of Great Britain in the speech made by the Prime Minister last year. I very much regret the Prime Minister's absence. The right hon. Gentleman came to the House a few nights ago and dilated at length on the question of control, but when faced with a situation revolving round the pledge he gave to the country in his Caxton Hall speech he is absent from the Debate. I mentioned to the Parliamentary Secretary a few days ago that I intended to refer to the speech of the Prime Minister, and said I hoped it might be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to be present. I must deal with the Scottish aspect of the case. It would have been infinitely preferable had Scotland been given a Bill of her own. Scottish condtiions differ from those of England and Ireland, and Scotland and Scottish farmers would be willing to take a Bill very different from that we are now discussing. The form of compensation that is proposed in this Clause is far different from that which the Prime Minister led us to expect at the Caxton Hall. What did the Prime Minister say in regard to the question of security? It i3 with a view of giving security to the farmer that, I understand, this particular Clause is introduced. In his speech at the Caxton Hall on 21st October the Prime Minister referred to the two cases where the farmer undoubtedly stands in need of special protection, and said it was essential that he should receive that protection, if he was to respond to the appeal that was made for increased production. The whole object of this Bill is increased production, but where the increased production in Scotland is coming from I fail to understand. The Prime Minister went on:The first case is where the farm is sold over his head to another landlord and when the new man may either want it himself or may want to sell it and make money out of it.1942 Of course cases of that kind have occurred. Then the Prime Minister said:In these cases the farmer needs protection and he must get it, and therefore it is proposed that he shall be secured in his tenancy, unless the land is sold either for public purposes or a case can be made out that he is a bad cultivator.Where in this Clause is there any sentence which secures the farmer in his tenancy, in the particular cases to which the Prime Minister alluded, or in any case? On the Second Reading of the Bill the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture endeavoured to wriggle out of the very difficult position in which the Prime Minister had placed him.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
The right hon. Gentleman did do so. He referred to the question of security, and pointed out that in his opinion, at any rate, this particular Clause of the Bill gave security of tenure to the farmer, security on his capital. Those were the words that he used. I asked him then where was the security? The right hon. Gentleman replied:The security which the farmer has is that first of all most people would hesitate before turning him out, and in the second place he would walk off with a very considerable sum of money, and very likely get a better farm than he had before."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th June, 1920; col. 89, Vol. 130.]Am I exaggerating when I say that the Parliamentary Secretary endeavoured to wriggle out of the position in which the Prime Minister put him? There is no security in the sense indicated by the Prime Minister in the Caxton Hall speech. The last speaker has told us that landlords are selling their land for fear of legislation such as this. There may be a case or two where landlords sell for that reason, but I suggest that the right hon. Baronet is exaggerating in saying that the sales which have taken place during the last year have been for such reasons. Land has been sold from time to time for various reasons. If we look through the land history of this country we find that because of mortgages on estates, deaths, and so on, land has changed hands over and over again during the last three hundred or four hundred years. We also 1943 know that it is very difficult under present conditions of taxation and rates for landlords, unless they are blessed with wealth in other forms, to continue to live on their estates. That is one of the reasons why land is being sold. What is the effect so far as this Bill is concerned. By whom is the land being bought? It is being bought in many instances by individuals with what I may call no land history or traditions behind them, who have none of those relations with their tenant which good landlords, and there are many such, had had in the past, and who if they wished to take a farm into their own hands would have no hesitation in doing so, and to whom a paltry four years' rent would be nothing at all in the way of payment for eviction. That is the exception I take to this Bill, that it gives no security to the fanner in that particular case. It would be out of order for me to travel at any great length over the particular form of securtiy which is indicated in a subsequent Amendment.
I do wish to impress on the Government so far as the Scottish farmers are concerned, and I think I can say this with the utmost confidence, the provisions of Clause 7 in so far as they are proposed to give security to the Scottish farmer have been met by them with the greatest and deepest disappointment. The farmers of Scotland in a manifesto which they drew up some time ago gave their opinion as to proposals to which, in their opinion, immediate legislative effect should be given. First and foremost they placed security of tenure, and that it should be conferred on all occupiers of agricultural holdings, subject to proper safeguards with regard to good farming. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City will, I hope, forgive me when I say that he drew a red herring across the path of security of tenure when he referred to the security of tenure that was introduced into Ireland. The Lord Advocate knows that we have had experience of security of tenure in Scotland in the Scottish Small Landholders Act, and we expressly excluded from that Act the free sale of the tenant right, to which was due the breakdown of the whole of the Irish system. I wish it were possible to introduce into this Bill the form of security of tenure that was promised by the Prime Minister in his Caxton Hall speech. It may be too much 1944 to expect that the Prime Minister would have fulfilled that pledge, but at least we had reason to hope that he would do so. We shall know in future what to expect from speeches in which pledges are deliberately made. I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City into the Lobby against this Clause, because I believe that the compensation which is contained in the Clause is better than nothing at all. The Bill is not hailed with any deep satisfaction in Scotland. Scottish farmers, if given security of tenure, would put much of their capital into the land which is now going out of the land by reason of the sales to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. It would give the Scottish farmer all that confidence which is necessary for putting not only his capital but his best into the land. The guarantees would not be wanted if security of tenure were given. The form of control which received the assent of the House a few nights ago is not hailed with any wild enthusiasm in Scotland. So far as this particular Clause is concerned, it is accepted by the Scottish farmers as being something better than nothing at all. Indeed, I may say that, on the whole, this Bill is viewed by the farmers of Scotland with an attitude which I may describe as one of pessimistic acquiescence, as they cannot get that security of tenure which they desire. I feel sure this point will be emphasised by other speakers. The Lord Advocate and the Minister of Pensions, who are present, know full well that this particular form of security, which in effect is no security at all, meets with the gravest disappointment on the part of the farming community in Scotland.
§ Captain FITZROY
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his interpretation of the speech made by the Prime Minister at Caxton Hall. It appears to me that it would be very improper at this moment if I were to interpret the speech in a way that I am quite sure was never intended by the Prime Minister himself.
§ Captain FITZROY
The Prime Minister was speaking on the security of tenure and had particularly in mind the insecurity of tenure oreated by the sales of 1945 estates. The Prime Minister had been badly coached before he made that speech, and those of us who listened to him were under the impression that through stress of work which was necessary at that time, as peace had just been declared, he had forgotten the fact, and indeed, he had to be reminded of it, that a Bill which had just been passed had to a very large extent removed the grievances which farmers suffered on the occasion of sales. Further than that, I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman was quite fair to the Prime Minister, because in his speech on the question of security of tenure, when referring to it as he did on the occasion of sales, the Prime Minister laid down five exceptions to the general rule of compensation which in his opinion should receive especial consideration. He specially laid stress on the fact that owners wishing to occupy farms for their own occupation, or to put members of a family into them, should be put in a different category from that contained in this Bill. If I may say so without offence, I think, as a matter of fact, instead of this Bill literally carrying out the Prime Minister's intentions as expressed at Caxton Hall, it goes far beyond, instead of as far, what was in the mind of the Prime Minister when he made that speech.
Notwithstanding the dullness of this particular subject, I think we are fully justified in debating it at some length. This Bill is intended to increase food production in this country, and in order to do so this particular Clause proposes to recast the whole system of land tenure in this country. When I mention that fact Members will, I think, realise the importance of the Amendment under discussion. There are two broad categories of tenancies, or rather questions of tenure, which are dealt with in this particular Clause; that is to say, there are two different types of notices to quit being given to tenants in which they are to receive compensation. One is that when a tenant is given notice to quit for reasons inconsistent with good management, that is to say what is termed a capricious notice to quit. I do not propose to take up any time discussing the particular category, because I think we are generally agreed that considerably more compensation should be given to tenants where they are capriciously 1946 evicted than is the case at the present time. The Bill in that respect is carrying out the Selborne Report. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City says that it goes further, but at any rate it follows the report by giving larger compensation for capricious eviction than is the case at present. Therefore I do not consider it is worth while to discuss the exact amount, because we are all agreed that a greater amount should be given in that case. The question that is of importance, much more importance, is that of the compensation which is to be given to tenants who are given notice to quit on grounds which are consistent with estate management. This Bill is framed with a view to increasing food production, and good estate management is one of the most important items towards that achievement. There is nothing more important than that estates should be well managed if you are to increase the food supply. That makes us very unwilling to do anything that would in any sense be considered as a fine on an owner for doing something consistent with the good management of his estate. Yesterday we were considering the question of how we were to deal with estates which were badly managed. There was no dispute about that; but it is much more difficult to arrive at what we ought to do in the interest of both landlord and tenant in the case where an estate is well managed. It is perfectly arguable to maintain, as some people do, that in cases where the tenant is given notice to quit consistent with good estate management, he is not entitled to any more compensation than he receives under the existing Agricultural Holdings Act, but there is the other side of the question. It has been represented to us, by those who claim to speak for the tenant farmers of this country, that although it is quite true that it is not right to fine an owner of land for managing an estate well, and if it is necessary giving his tenant notice to quit, at the same time you cannot expect tenants on their part to put their full efforts into the production of food on their farms if they are the whole time liable to notice, or have the fear at any rate that they may be given notice, to quit at any moment. It has been represented to us that the reason for this insecurity which is felt by tenant farmers 1947 at the present time is owing to the number of sales. I do not want to take the pessimistic view that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London took in the speech that he made this afternoon; I prefer to take a more optimistic view of land ownership in this country, but if it be the case that the insecurity of tenure is caused by the fear of sales, if not by the sales themselves, the question arises in our minds as to whether this compensation which it is proposed to give tenants on their being given notice to quit will have the effect of diminishing the number of sales. I am rather inclined to doubt it.
I can conceive a case in which an owner, as the right hon. Gentleman for the City of London has quite rightly pointed out, does not sell his estate because he wants to sell it, but because he is forced to sell it. The ownership of land at the present time certainly is the most unremunerative investment it is possible to have, and by selling his estate a man can in almost every case increase his income by 20, 30, 50 or even 100 per cent., or more. Therefore, instead of selling because he desires to sell, it is in many cases his bounden duty to sell, and to represent to us that the fact of having entitled a tenant, on being given notice to quit, to compensation such as is proposed in this Clause will have a deterrent effect on owners selling land is, to my mind, absolutely untenable. Indeed, I would go further, and I would say that with these kind of regulations and fines which it is proposed to put on the owners of land, it would have the exactly opposite effect, and that any owner who might be in doubt as to whether or not he should sell his estate would, as the result of this Bill, make up his mind at all costs to sell. If that be the case, what is the object of giving this compensation at all? That is the dilemma in which we are placed. I have tried to show—and I think with some success—that this particular legislation will not have the effect of lessening the amount of insecurity because of sales, and I would suggest, for the serious consideration of the Government, if that is their view, whether, it would not be much better, having regard to the insecurity that the tenant farmers feel from these sales, to strengthen and amend the Cautley Act if it does not carry out the objects which it had in view.
1948 It has been represented to us that the Cautley Act is not so effective as it might be in preventing notices to quit being given on sale. Might I say in passing that I never can quite understand the attitude that representatives of the farmers take up that notices to quit are not given on the occasion of sales. I see no reason why notices should be given on the occasion of sales. The Cautley Act says that any notice to quit, if it is given within 12 months of a sale, is null and void, but I cannot understand why any notice should be given on the occasion of a sale.
§ Captain FITZROY
I know that that is the idea, but at any rate any notice to quit now under the Cautley Act which is given within 12 months before a sale becomes null and void. It is represented to us, although I have not myself moved in the particular circle of landowners who try and evade Acts in the manner in which, it is sometimes said that they do, that there are some owners of land who evade this Act by giving notice to their tenants to quit 366 days before the sale is to take place, so that they can get outside the Act. If that is the case, surely it ought not to be beyond the power of the Government so to amend the Cautley Act that notices to quit or any insecurity that may arise on the occasion of sales should be absolutely impossible.
If I eliminate sales from this Clause altogether, I come to the question as to whether a tenant, on being given notice to quit for reasons consistent with good management for other causes except sales, should be entitled to the compensation which it is proposed to give him under this Clause. Those of us who have taken part in the discussions on this Bill have had to contend with a great many different points of view on this particular question. There are some, like my hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Lieut.-Colonel A. Murray), who maintains that this Bill does not go nearly far enough, and there are others, like my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London, who says that it goes much too far, and it appears to me that if this Bill is to be successful, it is all important that the different interests engaged in agriculture should be able to come to some general agreement as to what would be 1949 satisfactory to all concerned for a final settlement of this particular question. Although it was not an easy task for those of us who meet together as representatives of agricultural constituencies in this House, we deputed some of our numbers to confer with representatives of the National Farmers' Union to see if some amicable arrangement could not be arrived at on this very critical problem which would be satisfactory to all parties engaged and interested in the industry. I might say that at the time when the conference on that particular question took place—it was before the Committee stage on this Cause, and we were anxious before that stage took place to come to some agreement by which the Clause could be agreed upon in Committee— the general view was held that considerable compensation should be given to tenants on being given notice to quit for reasons consistent with good estate management, and I think that the numbers of those who thought that the compensation now given under the Agricultural Holdings Act was sufficient were fewer than they are now. I think that the general trend of opinion has hardened in the direction that this Clause goes further than the circumstances of the case require, so that the actual situation now as regards coming to a common agreement on this particular question is not exactly the same as it was at the time when the agreement on this question was arrived at.
However, as I have had occasion to point out, there are always two parties to any agreement, and unless one of the parties is prepared to reconsider the whole question de novo, the actual agreement that was arrived at on the previous occasion, when perhaps the circumstances were different, must at any rate be followed by those who were parties to that agreement, and, so far as I am concerned, and those who acted with me in coming to an agreement on this question, our attitude must be with regard to this Clause that we are still bound by the agreement which we made on that occasion, and I, for one, at any rate, certainly will not go into the Division Lobby with my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London if he brings this question to a Division on this particular Clause. I do not for one moment suggest that that agreement which some of us came to, no doubt at 1950 the time on behalf of our colleagues, is in any way binding on anyone but those who made the agreement. Everybody must form his own opinion and act accordingly. But, to revert to the main question of whether this compensation, which it is proposed to give under this Clause, is just or not just; whether it is too much or too little, I think that, putting aside all questions as to the insecurity of tenure on the occasion of sales, the occasions when notice to quit is given consistent with good estate management, except on the occasions of sale, are extremely rare. In my experience of agricultural questions, I can hardly recall to mind a single occasion on which a tenant farmer has been given notice to quit by his landlord for reasons which might be called consistent with good estate management; but if such occasions do occur—and it is possible—I for one do not attach nearly so much importance to the actual amount that is to be obtained on those occasions as some of my hon. Friends do. I do not think that that is the matter of controversy. If you accept the principle, it appears very much easier to fix the amount by agreement than some people think. I may be wrong, but I think if we could come to a general agreement, first of all that this particular Bill is not the Bill which need deal with the insecurity of tenure which is created by sale, but it ought to be dealt with under another Bill, then it appears to me, if we accept the principle, on other occasions when tenants are given notice to quit, and in consequence insecurity arises, the amount of compensation is not very difficult to arrive at.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
If arbitration is demanded by the tenant and the landlord refuses, then it is to be taken as if the landlord had given him notice to quit for reasons inconsistent with good management.
§ Captain F1TZR0Y
I agree that, perhaps, there may be some similarity between them, but I do not really think it is of such importance as the principle of compensation, because I think the occasions when the tenant would demand arbitration and the landlord refuse it 1951 would be singularly few and far between. Those are my views on the general policy of this particular Clause. There will be plenty of opportunities later, on the various Amendments to the Clause, for Members to make up their minds as to what is to be the actual amount of compensation which should be given on these questions, but I hope my right hon. Friend will not go into the Division Lobby against the Clause as a whole.
§ Mr. TOWNLEY
I have listened with the greatest care to the speech just delivered, because we all know how great is the hon. and gallant Gentleman's knowledge of the subject of agriculture, and anything he may say on the subject is sure to be put very temperately and very fairly. I think we must all agree that that has been the case this afternoon. He said the question was dull. That is a matter of opinion. Surely that which concerns the welfare of the country more than any other industry ought not to be dull. If it is dull, I think it must be that we who address the House on agricultural questions are dull in our way of doing so. I am one of those who regret that this Motion to omit Clause 7 has been brought forward. I think it is a Clause which should receive the general support of this House, although I feel that it requires very considerable Amendment when we come to deal with it. I know in saying this, perhaps, I am not altogether in fellow ship with those with whom I generally act in matters connected with agriculture, but I think they are taking a somewhat too gloomy, a somewhat too exaggerated—if I may say so— view of the matter. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), I think, takes rather an exaggerated view, and I would just point out one sentence in his speech which shows that. He said that his tithe had risen from 4s. to 7s.
§ Mr. TOWNLEY
I only give that as an instance to point out that in some cases there are exaggerations. I cannot think how the right hon. Baronet arrived 1952 at his figures, because tithe in 1914 was £75 16s. and something, and at the present moment it is £109 3s. and something, and a small arithmetical calculation will show that the 4s. would have risen to 5s. 9d. It is rather on that point of exaggeration that I think many Members have approached this Clause. I do not feel myself—and I have had a very intimate knowledge of land for the last 30 years—that this Clause is going to harm either the good tenant or the good landlord. I do not think it will hurt any of the good landlords throughout this country so long as they are alive. At death it will not be so much this Clause as the imposition of the Death Duties which will compel the sale of estates, which, in consequence, may damage the landlord under this Act. That is even a matter of opinion. A great deal of land has recently changed hands, and I should like to point out that that land which has changed hands has very frequently indeed been purchased by the tenants, and they have done it for two reasons. First, the tenant knows perfectly well that it is worth more to him than to anybody else. That is the reason why they have been the principal purchasers in the market. Another reason is that they feel that by becoming owners they get a security. It is perfectly true that no tenant wishes to change his place, because he knows the expense that will fall on him as a tenant is out of all proportion to the security he gets so long as he is under a good landlord; but I know perfectly well that we are bound here to legislate not only for the good, but more particularly for the bad, men in the country, and I suppose there are black sheep in every community. Now and again, undoubtedly, you will come across a bad landlord. Now and then you will come across a man who, for no apparent reason, gives his tenant notice to quit. It is highly desirable that these men should be treated in some such way as is provided under the Bill. But I do not believe in the good landlord giving this notice. I have had to do with land for something like 30 years, and I have not been instructed to give a single notice to quit to a tenant farmer so long as he has been solvent, and I believe that is the case throughout the whole of the principal estates of this country.
1953 What is the object of this Bill? As the hon. and gallant Member for Daventry (Captain Fitzroy) has said, the main object of this Bill is to produce more food. How are we going to do it? In the first portion of this Bill you have done it through guarantees. There is one way by which, I think, you can improve the cultivation of this country, and that is by giving security to the tenant. That was a promise made by the Prime Minister in his speech, and it is a promise I and many another made during the last election. You propose to increase the tenant's security under this Clause, and I cannot help thinking that if you reject this Clause altogether you will wipe away something to which the tenant farmers of this country are looking forward eagerly, and not only the tenant farmers of the large farms, but more particularly the tenants of the small pieces of land, which are more intensely cultivated, and if they are market gardens are producing market-garden crops on a big-scale. There is an Amendment down, I see, to excuse the local authorities from payment of this compensation. I do hope that these exceptions will not find favour. The object is to give compensation to the tenant for good cultivation, and to give him more security for the capital he has put into the land. It does not matter to the tenant when he leaves that land whether the land is taken over by the landlord for his own purpose, or by a stranger, or the local authority. The one person who probably has more claim to be treated leniently than anybody else is the man who wishes to take his own land for his own occupation. Surely, if his land has been well cultivated in the past he will have no great objection to paying liberal compensation to the man who has done so. But when you come to the local authorities, I fail to see entirely why they should not have to pay just as much compensation to the outgoing tenant as would be paid by the stranger. If this is pressed to a Division, I for one shall support the Clause.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
There has been undoubtedly a very great amount of anxiety amongst the tenant farmers of the country owing to the very large sales of land that have taken place. We cannot blame the landowners for these sales. They have been forced upon them by the inexorable circumstances of the War. 1954 taxation, and the other burdens which have been placed upon all those who have property. But one meets almost every week cases where farmers have had their farms sold and have really been compelled to quit. I had a case this morning sent to me by a very good and respectable farmer in the county of Devon. His farm has been sold behind his back—more or less—and he is obliged to quit. This, of course, is a state of affairs that cannot conduce to good cultivation or good husbandry. In these cases it is the duty of the House, in the interests of food production, to see that so far as possible good tenants are protected against these vicissitudes of fortune. When we discuss this matter we have to keep in our minds that it is a national necessity that good cultivation should be encouraged to the utmost possible extent. But no man will cultivate well and properly unless he has reasonable security of tenure. Again, unless you have dual ownership you must not legislate so as to frighten capital away and from being devoted to the land.
There is no doubt that in the past landowners have not received anything like a commercial interest for their money, and to-day when farms are sold the owner of the land can invest the proceedings of the sale and receive probably double the income he has been receiving. In a large number of cases in the past— I mean before the War—and I hope it may be so in the future, the owners of land undoubtedly have spent large sums of money, not so much from the point of view of getting a commercial return, but from love of their estate, and their desire to keep it up. We want in our legislation not to frighten such men away. There has been an enormous amount of money spent on farms which really has not given the ordinary commercial return. Still, the national interest must come first, and we must secure the good tenant in his holding so far as is compatible with the conditions that I have laid down. No man will farm, or farm well, if he believes somebody else is going to reap the benefit of his industry. Therefore—and I am speaking very generally, because it is upon the general question that my right hon. Friend opposite has raised discussion—we want to encourage the good tenant and the good farmer. Again, however, in our legislation you must not make it difficult that the bad farmer. 1955 the slack farmer, shall be got to quit his holding. I hope there will be nothing in this Clause that will make it difficult to get rid of the bad and slovenly farmer, or that no owner of land, if he finds his land is not cultivated properly may not take action. I do not know in this matter how many officials we shall have from the County Committee, or the arbitrator and the rest of it—what retinue will be attached to the office—but it should not be made difficult to get rid of the bad farmer. I do not want this class of farmer to be stereotyped on the land. It is bad for cultivation, bad for the owner, and bad in the national interest. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said "Omit the Clause altogether." I do not think he really can expect the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Pollock) opposite to do that. My hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Townley) has said they have been relying upon the pledges made, by the Prime Minister at Caxton Hall. I understand the right hon. Baronet is a supporter of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Well, so far as my right hon. Friend supports anyone! I know his independence, and we should miss that independence from our Debates if by any chance my right hon. Friend was not here. But T do not think he can ask the great bulk of this House—for this is only a side issue—I do not think he can ask hon. Gentlemen not to support the Prime Minister, and so directly to negative one of the pledges he deliberately made to the farmers of the country. Personally speaking, the Prime Minister would not have anything to do with me at the election, but I have sufficient respect for him that if my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) does go into the Division Lobby, I am afraid he will find me in the opposite Lobby to himself. Latterly we have been finding ourselves in the same Lobby. I am afraid in this matter I cannot support him; but I think the Clause will have to be very carefully examined when we come to it in detail. At the present moment, so far as I am concerned, I shall support the Government.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
This question is one of very great difficulty, because to decide 1956 wisely upon it requires very great foresight as to the future current of affairs, agricultural and general, in this country. You cannot look at this question solely from the point of view of agriculture. You must look at it from a wider point of view, from the national interest as a whole. There is one point, however, which has not been mentioned in this Debate, a point very strongly emphasised by the Prime Minister in his speech on Clause 4, namely, the great necessity that we should have not only the highest production from the land cultivated, but of getting more people on the land. He urged that we should take the very widest point of view, not merely that more food may be grown, but that those concerned should feel an interest in the land, so that they may contribute to the national stability by getting a firm footing on a bit of land which they may have an interest in owning or cultivating, or both. That is a most vital thing, to my mind, in the national interest. I do suggest in considering this particular Clause that we cannot consider it apart from that. From that wide point of view, it is not necessarily very wise to fix every farmer other than the extremely bad farmer. He can be turned out by other parts of the Bill. I am assuming that is effective, and that you can turn out the really bad farmer who will become an object of remark, and remonstrance by the county committee, and by the landlord, and steps will be taken to remove him. But that does not apply to the ordinary average man or even indifferent farmer. Further than that, our urban populations are growing rapidly, and it is most necessary that large, very large areas of land should be made available for cultivation by people who are not entirely dependent upon cultivating that land, but who will get their foot upon the land, and become interested in it, and get much food value out of it, and at the same time derive the benefit of the stability of which I have spoken.
It is most undesirable that land should be fixed merely for the use of ordinary farming when it is required for land settlement of that description. That must be borne in mind. When we are imposing this compensation we can only look at it from one single point of view, that is the point of view of the tenant—that he should be fairly treated and given such a measure of security as is reasonable and proper 1957 in the national interest. I really cannot understand the attitude of the Government who say that this compensation shall be paid in one case and not in another. It passes my understanding. Either it is fair or unfair that a tenant should be given this compensation when he is given notice to quit. What difference does it make to the tenant what use is going to be made of the land from which he has been removed after he has left it? What difference can it make? He is farming that land, and if he is rightly entitled to some compensation when he is compulsorily made to leave it, that compensation should be given, to him without any exception whatever. The Government themselves introduce an Amendment into the Bill to say that whore notice is given by the local authority who want the land for some purpose such as I described just now, then no compensation is to be paid. But if they are to pay no compensation then why should anybody pay it? I really cannot follow that. There may be something missing in my mind. Perhaps there is. But this is compensation to the tenant.
If this were a Bill for putting penalties on landlords, then it would be perfectly legitimate and just to put a burden on the landlord which you do not put upon anybody else. But everybody has disavowed that. Hon. Gentlemen opposite desire, and honourably desire, only to see security increased, because they believe that will increase food production by the farmers to whom the security is given. They make no attack upon the landlords. I do not believe they desire to penalise the landlords. They desire to benefit the tenants. Very well, from their point of view it can make no possible difference whether the tenant who is to be removed from his farm is the tenant of a local authority or the tenant of a private landlord. Surely he ought to have exactly the same terms? If that is admitted I suggest that this Clause—and I say here that I think some clause is required, and, therefore, I cannot vote for the deletion of the Clause—will have to be got into such a state that it will be fair to all parties without exceptions. When we get down to the details of the Clause I shall tie ready to say what I think will be fair. Let me say as I began, and as strongly as I possibly can, that this Clause cannot be justified at all. If I thought the Government were going to insist, upon the 1958 exceptions, I would vote with my right hon. Friend against the Clause, because it cannot be justified. If there is compensation in one case, and they withhold it in another, where the circumstances of the tenant are identical, simply because there is a different kind of landlord, where are we? A most interesting and able speech was made by the hon. Member for the Daventry division of Northampton (Captain Fitzroy). I agree with practically every word he said. I am bound by no agreement. I was no party to it, and I am absolutely free to vote for or against this Clause or any part of it.
I agree with what has been said about the effect of this Clause upon sales, and that is an important matter. Reasons have been given why the effect of this Clause on sales will not be to restrict them. A very large proportion of rural landowners cannot afford to hold the land any longer, and they are selling it. That is why land is coming into the market. There are people who are absolutely obliged to sell, and they have sold; but there is a large proportion of landowners whose financial interests would be greatly served by selling, but who do not sell because of the old estate feeling which subsists most strongly between them and the tenants, with whom they have lived amicably for so many years, and they know that when they put the land on to the market their friends feel and know that they will have to borrow the money to buy the farm and will be subject no the heavy mortgage interests, and have to pay their own tithe and do their own repairs, and have all the expenses which have hitherto fallen upon the landlord, and they will lose the use of the landlord's capital at a very low rate of interest for equipping the land. Anything which deprives the tenant of those advantages is against the interest of the tenant.
We feel that if this compensation passes in the form in which it stands, it is the beginning of dual ownership, because it creates a permanent interest of the tenant in the land which he has not hitherto had, and it takes away the permanent right and interest of the landlord. Where a landlord does not feel that he can sell, although it would be his interest to sell, he will decide that, as this legislation becomes operative, he had better sell, and not hold on any longer. From that point of view, I believe a large 1959 area of land which, but for the Clause of this kind, would remain under present conditions will come into the market. You cannot exaggerate the financial advantage to the landlord in selling his land, not only from the immediate point of view, but from the point of view of the death duty in the future. Look at the position of the landlord who owns a farm of 500 acres which he can either hold or sell. It is most unlikely that landlord will be getting more than £200 a year out of that farm, for he will be lucky if he spends less than £300 a year in maintenance and other expenses. He may be able to sell the land at £25 per acre, and then he would get £12,500. He can invest that sum in Victory Bonds at 73 or 74, and if he dies there will be £100 accredited to his estate for every one of those Victory Bonds, and that will produce him a clear rental of 4 per cent, on the total amount of Victory Bonds purchased. Anyone who works that out will see that it is a pretty fine balance whether the economic advantage to themselves and their estates and successors from selling the land can be counterbalanced by their feeling of sentiment and loyalty to the tenants on the estate.
It is a serious step for the tenant farmer to take to start on the system of dual-ownership. If I thought it was the general desire of the farming community to take that step I would accept it. I would say to them, "We have been friends for generations and we wish you every luck and happiness, and we will allow this new system in the national interest." I have no proof, however, that they want to do this. The leaders of the National Farmers' Union have made this demand, and if I felt that they really had the support of the farming industry I would accept their point of view. But I do not think they have. Such evidence as I have had points directly in the contrary direction. I will read to the House a resolution which has been sent to me by the North Lincolnshire Branch of the National Farmers' Union at Grimsby, and this comes from the finest wheat-growing district in England. Anyone who knows anything about English farming I am sure will be ready to confirm that statement. Here is the opinion of that body which has been sent to me by the Secretary:A largely attended meeting of this branch was held this afternoon when the 1960 Agriculture Bill was introduced by the Chairman and some of its provisions were carefully considered. The meeting was attended by some of the best known men and most representative farmers in this district, and this Clause was most carefully considered. It was unanimously resolved that the case as between landlord and tenant and the agricultural interests generally would be best met by the outgoing tenant receiving one year's notice to quit, and it was unanimously felt that under no consideration could the amount of compensation paid exceed one year's rent. It was strongly felt that the whole of the Bill beyond this would be unfair to the landlord, and would be of no actual advantage to tenant farmers.
§ Major M. WOOD
I understood that the right hon. Gentleman had evidence that farmers did not want security of tenure.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I have evidence to show that the farmers do not want this. Clause. I understand that my hon. Friend does not think that this Clause gives security of tenure, but I am not concerned to discuss that question now. The question I am discussing is whether the farmers want this Clause. At the time when the leaders of the National Farmers' Union in London say that they do want it I get a resolution of this kind from one of the most important branches of the Union, and they say they do not want this Clause in the form in which it appears in this Bill, and that makes me doubt whether the tenant farmers of England are really behind the demand. I am sure that the mass of landlords desire to remain on the same relations with their tenants as in the past, and hold as much of the land as they can for the benefit of the country. If it is in the national interest that the land should pass into other hands we are perfectly willing to hand it over. I have seen no proposal for dealing with large areas of agricultural land in this country which convinces me that there is a better way of working the land than that of one man finding the capital at a cheap rate, and another man who has his confidence working with him and laying their heads together to do the best they can to get the biggest production out of the land. I know of no better way than that.
1961 I think the land should be taken and used for a wider settlement of people on the land, not necessarily for them to be dependent upon it, but to use it as part of their daily living. The War has shown the wonderful and complete success of the allotment system. Now that food is dear and hours of labour are shorter, more land should be taken in the way which, in my opinion, is the very best agricultural use to which it can be put. Nothing we do in this Bill should stand in the way of that policy. Subject to that, I think we should do as little as we can to upset the present position as between landlord and tenant. Where the land is sold you want to do the maximum you can to protect the tenant. I think there is a little misapprehension as to who buys the land. People seem to imagine that the land is being bought by people who have made large fortunes during the War, and that they are replacing the old landlords and treating the tenants in a very different manner. That, at any rate, is not the experience in my own neighbourhood.
There are only two sets of people who are buying any large quantities of land. One of them is the speculator pure and simple, who buys the land to sell again in order to make a profit. He buys a whole estate, breaks it up, and re-sells it, and tries to get some 20 or 30 per cent. profit in the process. That man does not necessarily give notice to the tenant, and if he does he is stopped by the Cautley Act. If by any crooked means that Act is being evaded, it should be strengthened, and the way to approach the question of injury to the occupiers of land through their farms being sold over their heads is to amend this Act. The proposal we are now discussing will force a lot more land into the market, and it will injure people who would not otherwise be injured at all. This Clause has been debated only as it affects the ordinary type of landlord and tenant. A Clause has been put into the Bill under which the tenant farmer has also to pay compensation on the same scale to the labourer as he has to receive from the landlord. We must bear in mind that the compensation has not only to be paid by the rich landlord to the poor tenant, but in many cases it may have to be paid to a man who is very much better off than the man 1962 who is paying the compensation. There is another consideration. During the War, I think I am justified in saying, the owners of land, as a whole, have suffered much more from the consequences of the War than the cultivators. Many owners of very large areas find their rents are practically identical with what they were before the War, while their burdens have trebled and even quadrupled, whereas, in the case of tenants and occupiers, while their burdens have increased in the same proportion, they have obtained increased prices for their produce and have thus passed the burden on. Generally speaking, the heavy increases of burdens and prices which have occurred during the War have gone round and round in a vicious circle, and have been passed from one to another, but in the case of the landowner they are not and cannot be passed on, and, therefore, I suggest that, from that point of view, he has suffered almost more through the War than anyone else. He is now, whether rich or poor, and whether his tenant is rich or poor, brought under the operation of this Clause. The first Amendment inserted by the Government provided that every clergyman should be put under it as far as glebe land is concerned. When a clergyman takes over the glebe—as it is not at all unlikely that his whole income is dependent upon the rent he receives from it— he may want to give notice to the farmer in order to divide the land into allotments or small holdings, and he will then have to pay compensation under this Bill in order to secure the land for that purpose. It is necessary, therefore, to consider this Bill very carefully from that point of view.
Take the tenant farmer's own point of view. There will be very few cases where notice will be given by an old standing landlord to a tenant which will render him liable to pay compensation. I wonder how many farmers will really get the compensation which this Clause provides. What percentage of the farmers will get it? I venture to think it will be a very small percentage indeed. But when the same scale of compensation is to be paid to the labourer then I think that practically every farmer, particularly in the North of England where hirings are almost always annual, will have to pay the labourer, whenever he leaves the house in 1963 which he has been working, this compensation, together with a year's rent and his cost of removal, if he is given notice by the occupant. The compensation paid to the tenant and the compensation paid by the tenant to the labourer is an additional burden on the industry. Anybody who has any experience in the management of landed property will know that a considerate landlord, who seeks to improve his estate, tries to rid it of every burden that he possibly can. In Lincolnshire we used to have following crops, which meant a heavy expenditure either to the incoming tenant directly or to the landlord. This system has been got rid of.
Every additional compensation in any shape or form, put on either tenant or landlord, must be considered as an additional burden on the industry and an additional detriment to putting capital into the industry. When a man puts capital into an industry he has to consider how much capital he shall find and what return he will got. But in this case it will not be possible to get one single farthing more out of the farm because of this compensation which has to be paid. There will be no profit at all and the cost will have to be spread over the larger amount of capital he will have to find, because the burden of this compensation must eventually fall on him. Therefore it will clearly be a deterrent to anybody either to buy or to hire land. It is all very well to say that at the end of the tenancy he will get it back. A man does not take a farm with the idea of giving it up again in two or three years, and it means therefore that a considerable amount of capital will be locked up in a farm which he may get back when he leaves the farm, 10 or 20 years later. I have come to this definite conclusion. We will accept the Clause, but suggest that as drafted it goes much too far. It is imposing too heavy a burden. In some cases the gross rent really represents four years of the real rent to the landlord. Not more than one-fourth of the rent is actually available, and the landlord is very lucky indeed if he gets so much. If he is to pay the tenant a sum equal to a year's gross rent it is like taking away from him four years' actual rent. In addition there is the heavy and extremely indefinite compensation which accompanies it, and which to my mind is even more than the rental. It 1964 may represent, in fact, another year's rent. It may mean two years' gross rent, or the equivalent of eight years' actual rent of the farm, to be paid simply because he has given the tenant notice "for reasons consistent with good estate management," which may be absolutely in the national interest. Why should he be thus fined eight years' income? The proposal is not practicable, and I for one shall oppose it for all I am worth. I believe it is against the whole interest of the industry. I have an Amendment down to limit the compensation to one year's rent, and to make that universally applicable. If that is carried we shall have a more reasonable Clause, and one which can be better defended both in the House and out of it. We cannot always act according to the rules of absolute logic. We have to consider the conditions under which we live, and we have to make concessions. I am prepared to make concessions, but I say that if we go further than I have suggested then we shall do serious injury to the industry, we shall increase its difficulties, and instead of getting a larger production of food and attracting more capital to the land, we shall secure less production than we are getting now and drive away capital.
§ Mr. ROYCE
Like other speakers this afternoon, I do not propose to support the proposal for the deletion of this Clause, but I do not want to give a silent vote in favour of it, as it might be misconstrued as suggesting that I agree with the whole of the provisions of the Clause. It has been stated times almost without number that this Bill has been promoted for the purpose of improving the agricultural industry and getting increased food production. One of the very first items in this Clause makes the operation of compensation due to dismissal from the farm retrospective. How you are going to improve agriculture and to increase production by paying compensation to someone who is leaving the farm I do not know. That is one of the mysteries which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to clear up when he speaks later on. Another difficulty in connection with making this Clause retrospective applies to the matter of small holdings. Unlike my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Pretyman), I consider this Clause will absolutely destroy all prospect of the acquisition of land for small holdings. It will impose too great a 1965 burden on the State in the acquisition of land for the settlement of ex-service men. When this is made retrospective it is more unjust still, and I doubt whether any Court in the world, or, at any rate, in this country, would uphold a decision to make payment to a man who has been given perfectly legal notice. This is an extraordinary state of affairs, and it is one of the reasons which induce me to press as hard as I possibly can to get this Clause amended. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) is a leader of lost causes in this House. I admire his courage very much, but I venture to think that he is one of the greatest assets the Government have in getting their proposals through, because everybody is against what he says. I do not know whether he has been retained by the right hon. Gentleman for the purpose of getting this Bill through. He has pointed out this afternoon a great many difficulties in this Clause, and, indeed, if we had not considerable hope of getting it amended, many of us with whom I am associated would have to go into the Lobby against it.
We must have something in the nature of an opportunity to continue that progress which has been designated by every speaker in this Debate as being so very conducive to the good of this country—I refer to the small holdings and allotments movement. If you are going to give compensation to people who never expected it—I will not say they do not want it—if you are going to give them compensation, not only in the future, but in respect of the past, when sales have actually taken place, it will hinder the progress of that movement. I could instance many cases where men have been unable to take up allotments solely because they could not pay this compensation. It is too generous. I am in full sympathy with compensation being paid in every case where a tenant is dispossessed of his farm, and in that case I do not care how much compensation is given; but when I have said that a tenant shall have compensation for his farm I am not stating that he should have compensation for a dozen or 20 farms. Although this Clause was modified considerably in Committee, it does not go anything like far enough for those with whom I am associated. I do not want to prolong this discussion. The matter has been adequately dis- 1966 cussed, and there are a number of amendments upon which we shall have an opportunity of speaking. I rose to say, on my own behalf and on behalf of those with whom I am associated, that we shall vote against the right hon. Baronet if he goes into the Lobby, but we are not in sympathy with the Clause as it now stands.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I gathered, Mr. Speaker, from the way in which you put this Amendment, that you considered that, if it were not carried, the next Amendment on the Paper would not be in Order. It seems to me, therefore, that in this discussion on the question of leaving out the Clause, we are justified in referring to the two possible alternatives which would be before the House if the Clause were left out. The first is to leave nothing in its place—to give no compensation. That would be the effect of cutting out the Clause and putting nothing back in its place. The second alternative is to work out a system under which you would not go on the lines of compensation at all, but on the lines of security, or, indeed, fixity, of tenure, as is suggested in the next Amendment. I do not desire to discuss the next Amendment now, but there are obviously these two alternative modes of proceeding. You may oppose compensation because you do not want to give any; or you may oppose a certain sort of compensation because you want to give a great deal more.
With regard to the first alternative of simply cutting out the Clause, and therefore giving no compensation for disturbance, it seems to me that that is quite fatal to the whole purpose of the Bill. The whole purpose of the Bill, surely, is to get the farmer to put more effort, more energy, and more capital into his farm, and, although I do not want to compare the farmer with any particular animal, yet, really, the Bill consists of two carrots and one stick. The two carrots which are dangled before the animal's nose are guaranteed prices and extra security; and the stick is the control which you take from the point of view of getting further progress if the guaranteed prices and increased security do not give you what you want. Clearly, if compensation for disturbance is taken away, one of the main inducements, at any rate, to the farmer to put more energy and more 1967 capital into his farm is gone. It seems to me that, if a national policy is being put before us for agriculture, the least we can do is to give it something like a fair trial. If the Government are determined—I have doubts as to whether they will succeed—to try, through the operation of this Bill, to get a really higher standard of production, and if they are determined to impose on the taxpayer the heavy liability of guarantees and to work in the direction of control, I think they have a right to call upon the landowner, although, of course, it will mean enormous sums out of his pocket because of the depreciation in value of all agricultural land—they have some right to call upon the landowner to make his contribution and to give extra compensation if tenants have to leave their holdings. Therefore I could not possibly support the deletion of the Clause without putting anything in its place.
There is a great deal more to be said from the point of view of the alternative suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kincardine (Lieut.-Colonel A. Murray). His point was that the Clause did not go nearly far enough. He says that the farmers, of course, are glad to get something, but that, after all, compensation for disturbance is really no good to them; what they want is security of tenure. There is, however, surely, great doubt whether the Bill, if passed in anything like its present form, would give anything that can reasonably be called security of tenure. I quite agree that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Pretyman) is perfectly right in saying that practically sales of land only takes place now for two purposes. It is either sold as a speculation for re-sale at a profit to people who will cultivate it themselves, or it is sold direct to persons who themselves intend to cultivate it. The time when rich people bought land because they rather liked to be landowners, or because it increased their importance in the local estimation, is dead and gone for ever. I believe that the War profiteer has much too much doubt as to how he will be received, and as to how he and his children will "get on" in a district, to anchor himself down to the ownership of a particular piece of land. He wants to take a nice house, with shooting, for a term of years, and not to become a real working land-owner at 1968 all. Therefore, changes of ownership take place, as I think we are agreed, only for the two purposes of speculation or of genuine occupation and cultivation by the new purchaser. The Bill, of course, does not do anything to prevent that, except to give one year's compensation, but it does not make it in any way impossible for the new purchaser, if he really wants to get into the farm and cultivate it himself, to say, "Very well, I have got to pay a year's rent, but I am going to come in, and you have got to get out." I think, therefore, that it remains to be seen whether there will not continue to be, in spite of the passing of this Bill, a great disposition on the part of sitting tenants to feel that the liability to be turned out is still hanging over them, and that the one year's rent, and the other expenses which they will receive, do not, after all, make very much difference to that fact.
What is the alternative? Just as I think it would kill the Bill to cut out this Clause altogether, so it seems to me to be very doubtful whether, at this stage, we could give that real security or fixity of tenure to a tenant, during good cultivation, without going a great deal further and building up a considerable edifice of which at present the Bill shows no trace at all. If you gave this sort of security —that is to say, security during good cultivation—you would have to say that you could not let a farm for a series of years with the idea that, when your son was old enough, he would take it on. Once you let the farm, the tenant would have the right to stick, and stick, and stick, as long as he paid his rent and cultivated the farm properly. You would have to say the same if an owner-occupier died, and his wife wanted to let the farm for some years with the idea that her son should come into it when he was old enough. Once the tenant was put in, you would give him fixity of tenure, and would not be able to get him out. That would produce an even more absurd position in the case of sales. Once you give security to a tenant, so that you cannot turn him out as long as he pays his rent, there is really only one purchaser for the land if it is sold, and you have to take exactly what price the sitting tenant may choose to offer for it. There is no chance of anything like a free sale of land in the open market except for purposes of cultivation. No one buys land now as a speculation, be- 1969 cause it imposes all the burden of death duties and so on, and all the duties of repairs and the maintenance of a large local staff.
To take the path of fixity of tenure means that you have to go a great deal further. I do not think that we can enter upon that path without giving the landowner a right to hand over his land altogether to a public authority, say at the price at which it is valued, for the purpose of death duties. I do not think you have a right to say that, until his tenant dies, he must keep him as his tenant, without any right, whatever compensation he may pay, to turn him out, and at the same time to expect him to carry out all the duties of land-ownership with regard to repairs and so on. If you do give real security, you will have to have a different land-owning system altogether, and I think that we shall very probably come to that. Sales of land will probably continue to be so common, in spite of extra compensation, that you will feel, in spite of all you have tried to do in this Bill, that you have not given the farming community in England the real incentive which will make them put that extra capital and effort into the land which we all want them to put into it, and which is the main purpose of the Bill. It cannot be done in this Bill, but it may be possible, and I think we ought to be prepared to try, in some years' time to work out that further step.
There is one further reason why I think that that particular alternative is inadvisable now. There has been a great change in the habits of landowners since the War—possibly as a result of the War —with regard to training themselves and their sons for the profession of land ownership and land cultivation. I am sure that hon. Members opposite will agree with me that before the War you could count the landowners of this country who had really obtained for themselves the highest possible scientific braining in agriculture and estate management on the fingers of your two hands, at any rate, if not on the fingers of one hand. If you went, as some of my friends did occasionally, to house masters at Eton or other great schools, and asked them what most of their boys were going to be, they would answer, "Landowners"; and if you then asked how 1970 many of those boys were really going on to take the best courses available for them in agriculture, estate management, forestry, and so on, at Oxford or Cambridge, the answer would be, "None." That was not the line which people were taking at that time. Now, however, it is the fact, and I am very glad that it is so, that that has absolutely changed. If you go to Oxford or Cambridge to-day, you will find estate management, agriculture, and forestry courses being taken by older and younger sons of landowners, all trying as hard as they possibly can to fit themselves to be working partners with their tenants in the development of their estates, and trying to carry on, in the old traditions, it may be, but with a better business ability and on more scientific principles. I do think that the House would be wise in, at any rate, letting that sort of thing have its chance and seeing how it works. Landowning as an ancient and honourable occupation is going, but it has not yet gone, and I do not think the House ought rashly to adopt an alternative to this Clause, which would really mean the reshaping of our land system altogether. I think it would be wise to adopt this Clause, in principle, and to consider Amendments to it in detail.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
The speeches to which we have listened for the last two hours afford a pretty clear indication that the great majority of Members of this House do not want to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London into the Lobby in order to delete this Clause, but that a good many of them do wish to consider Amendments to the Clause in detail. I venture, therefore, to interpose at this moment to suggest to the House, in order that we may get to business, that it would be better to bring to a close as early as possible this general discussion, so that we may then take the discussion on the details of the Clause, in which, I think, many hon. Members are anxious to take part. I think, however, that I must say just one or two words as to the object and meaning of the Clause. My right hon. Friend proposes to omit it altogether. I am sure that he realises quite well that this Clause is an essential Clause of the Bill, and that, if it be omitted altogether, the Bill is practically destroyed. Perhaps ray right hon. Friend wants to destroy the Bill, and in that case I find no fault 1971 with him for taking the course of moving to delete a vital Clause. But I do not think that the total destruction of the Bill is the desire of the great majority of Members of this House, and I shall be very greatly surprised if the great majority of them fallow my right hon. Friend into the Lobby. My reason for saying that this Clause is vital is simple. We feel, and feel very strongly, that it is absolutely necessary to introduce some measure for giving greater security to tenant farmers under existing conditions. It is perfectly true that for many years in this country tenant farmers have enjoyed in practice, in most cases, the most perfect security of tenure. It is rather remarkable that in England and Wales, where the tenancies are almost invariably yearly tenancies, there has been, in practice, complete security of tenure. I have known estates on which members of the same families have cultivated the same land and occupied the same farms from generation to generation. The last thing that the old landlords wished to do was to turn out a tenant, with the result that sometimes there has been a good deal more security of tenure than good husbandry. But still, no charge can be brought generally against the older landlords of England and Wales of interfering with security of tenure or evicting their tenants unnecessarily.
But we cannot but recognise this fact that, owing to conditions which have I arisen principally during the War and since, those conditions have largely disappeared. England has been changing hands. The old families in many cases have found it impossible to retain at all events the whole of their estates. High taxation, the enormous cost of repairs, and so on, have led to these extensive sales of land, and the practical security which, with the system of yearly tenancies, was enjoyed for many years and generations on most estates has largely disappeared, and there has become almost a scare and a panic among farmers in some parts of the country that they will be turned out with quite inadequate compensation in consequence of these sales. I know my hon. and gallant Friend suggested that we should deal with the question of sales in another manner. I do not quite know how it is to be done. The Cautley Act is evaded to-day by the speculator. 1972 I know many cases where notice is given and the sale takes place the day after the notice expires. That is a perfectly easy thing to do. The only way you could deal with that would be by further extending the term of the Cautley Act. That would lead to a vast amount of inconvenience in endless cases—it leads to a great deal of practical inconvenience as it is to-day— and I do not think that is a practical remedy. Therefore you have really to deal with the difficulty caused by these sales. And not only by these sales. You have to deal with a new race of landlords, many of whom have not got the old ideas of obligation, which the old landlords possessed, and the result is that there is this feeling of insecurity on the part of the tenant fanners which is really a new thing in English country life and which has got to be dealt with somehow. As the Prime Minister said in his Caxton Hall speech, security is the best fertilizer of the soil, and if we want to have more food production we must have more security than exists at present. We could deal with this question in just two ways. We could deal with it by introducing the principle of fixity of tenure or by the plan of the Bill, which gives security for the capital of the tenant farmer when he is evicted, by the plan of compensation for disturbance. After carefully considering the matter, after consulting landlords, after consulting the National Farmers' Union—
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I think of Scotland, but certainly of England and Wales, we came to the conclusion that we would not introduce fixity of tenure here, but would introduce security for capital by means of compensation for disturbance; and the National Farmers' Union of England accepts that solution and does not ask for anything more. We rejected fixity of tenure because we saw that in Ireland it produced the most disastrous results, so that the State had to come forward and get rid of it by very large State-aided schemes of land purchase.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
If you get one of what are known as the three F's the 1973 others are bound to follow. I do not believe it is practicable or possible, but I know no example in history—
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
You are dealing there, I think, with crofts and small Holdings which differ altogether from the average farm.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I think I am right, and the Lord Advocate will confirm me. If you have fixity of tenure you have to have the fixing of a fair rent, and you have to have free sale. That means dual ownership. Dual ownership was tried in Ireland under conditions far more favourable than would ever exist here, because in Ireland the tenant farmer did practically all the repairs. He very often built the house, kept it in order, and kept the whole industrial equipment of the farm in order, and therefore he had, to start with, an interest in the soil, which the English and the Scottish tenant farmer have not got to-day, because in England and Wales and Scotland the system is entirely different and the industrial equipment of the farm is found by the landlord and is kept in order by him. Therefore, whatever arguments there may have been in Ireland are inapplicable in Great Britain, and as it failed in Ireland, where it was far more suitable owing to the conditions of land tenure than in Great Britain, I think we should have been very unwise if we had introduced it into this Bill. But we say, if we cannot get fixity of tenure we must deal with the matter in the other way. We must deal with it by giving security to the tenant farmer for the capital he has invested in the soil, and we think if we do that we should give him an inducement to put as much capital as possible and the best possible work and skill into the soil, and we do that in this Clause by adopting the principle of compensation for disturbance and in all cases except where the tenant is himself at fault or in default, in all cases where there is a notice to quit, there will have to be compensation for disturbance. It may be said the tenant farmer already, when he has to go by notice to quit, gets compensation for his improvements; but there is something wanted besides compensation for improvements. The tenant farmer is not only entitled to what 1974 is in, or on the soil when he goes, but he is entitled to compensation for having to leave his home, compensation for having to give up a valuable connection, compensation for having to leave a farm every field of which he knows, the particular qualities of the field, the class of crops it will grow, the sort of work that is necessary upon the field. He has to leave a farm which he knows, and he has to take his chance in a new farm which he does not know, and for these reasons he is certainly entitled to something over and above mere compensation for improvements. That is the principle of compensation for disturbance which is adopted in this Bill.
My right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) says this involves a breach of contract, because he says when the tenant enters into his farm these conditions did not exist. But his argument would be an argument against any kind of change, and I am not sure that he is not quite logical and consistent with his general policy. Every change dealing with such a question as land tenure must in theory involve some changed conditions. The Act of 1908 for the first time gave compensation for capricious disturbance. There was no such thing when many of those tenant farmers entered upon those farms, and my right hon. Friend's argument is not merely an argument against our proposal, but against every Agricultural Holdings Act which has ever been passed by this House. So I say we are justified in proposing compensation for disturbance in order to give security of capital to the tenant farmer. Incidentally, it gives security of tenure. A landlord will think twice before he unreasonably or lightly, even though it may be in the interests of good management, gets rid of a tenant, because it is going to be a much more costly operation than it was before.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
The incoming tenant will not pay the compensation for disturbance. He may pay the compensation for improvements, because he gets the improvements. The compensation for disturbance will be paid by the landlord.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
It must confer greater security of tenure for the sitting tenant, for if, notwithstanding our Bill, he is still dispossessed he will receive a sum of money which will be a great help to him in going to another farm, and it will be a compensation for him if he is disturbed and has to leave a farm which he has farmed for many years and knows thoroughly. Therefore I say we are committed to the principle of compensation for disturbance. The terms of it have been criticised. They are set out in the Clause which I ask the House to discuss. They were settled in Standing Committee. The terms in the Bill to-day are very considerably different from what they were in the Bill as originally introduced. They have been made less favourable to the tenant and less onerous to the landlord. My own view is that the present solution is a fair one. I know the difficulties. We have tried to hold the balance fairly and squarely between the conflicting interests of landlord and tenant. We wish to do justice to the tenant and at the same time we do not want to put such a burden upon the landlord as will prevent the flow of capital to the land. When we come to the terms we may discuss them, but I would say one thing in response to the speech of my hon. Friend (Captain Fitzroy). The terms in the Clause now were the result of a compromise arrived at in Committee by agreement between him and some of his friends, between representatives of the National Farmers' Union and the Government. I think those terms are fair and right, and though, of course, I do not for a moment suggest that any Member of the House except those who entered into that agreement are bound by its terms, we consider that that was an honourable understanding and a fair solution and, we shall propose, when we reach that part of the Clause, to adhere strictly and in every detail to the terms then arrived at. Having said so much I would appeal to hon. Members on both sides. They will have ample opportunities of discussing these points in detail. We are really beating the air in prolonging the discussion on the Clause as a whole. I do not think there are many Members who wish to vote for the deletion of the Clause while many of them wish to speak and to vote on its details, and I hope therefore without much more delay we may be allowed to settle this Amendment, allow 1976 the Clause in general to stand and proceed to particular Amendments.
§ Mr. GARDINER
I am sorry that I cannot acquiesce in the desire expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, because there are several points in relation to this Clause which have not yet been stated. I look at this Clause from a peculiar angle. Having been born on the land, reared on the land, and having to live by the land, I may look at this matter from the point of view of the tenant farmers, and possibly not from the landlord's viewpoint. I trust I shall be absolutely fair and impartial to all classes who are interested in the land and who desire the best for the industry. We have heard much about the old landlords, and the very good relationship which existed between the landlords and tenant farmers. I should be the very first to confess that that is a fairly accurate description of the relationship. Lest there should be any idea that I have any personal feelings in this matter, I may say that I have one of the best landlords in the country, and that on the estate where I farm I have never known a notice to quit given to any tenant farmer.
We want to think about some of the arguments that have been adduced from the other side of the House in criticism of this Clause. As we have been assured that the landlord has never in the past suggested the eviction of a tenant, why should we suggest eviction in the future? What does this Bill do to induce a good landlord to turn out a good tenant? I do not know that it does anything at all in that direction. It is true that in this Clause there are certain penalties attached to eviction, but from the Scottish point of view we never desired these penalities, but we certainly desire not what the Minister calls fixity of tenure but security of tenure, which I could show is something very different from fixity of tenure. The Scottish Farmers' National Union and the Scottish Chamber of Agriculture accept the Bill, not in full, as was suggested in the speech of the Prime Minister, but as a fair and reasonable solution of the problem. Therefore, I am not opposing the Clause. If there is no reason for the tenant being turned out, the necessity for these penalties does not arise, and I hope that the good relationship that 1977 has existed between landlord and tenant in the past will continue in the future. I hope there is nothing in this Bill that will change the hearts of men, and put in bitterness where formerly there was sweetness.
We are told that this Bill will cause renewed selling of land. If there is to be selling of land, those who will be selling the land will not do badly. Land is not selling at a bad price to-day, and the men who are selling the land are getting a fair and reasonable figure for it. Is it always an unmixed evil that land should be sold? Is it in the best interests of the country that we should have very large landed estates? I have heard some hon. Members describing the owning occupiership of the land as the real solution of the landed difficulty, and that we should have far more owners of land. Possibly there may be much to be said for that position. There is an old book, which is not much held in regard in some quarters, which says, "Woe unto the man who adds field to field." I do not think there is anything wrong about selling land in a legitimate manner. Another argument is that capital will not be invested in the land. Years ago the holding of the tenant farmer, the stocking of the tenant farmer, did not amount to very much in value, but the position to-day is absolutely reversed. I could take hon. Members to many farms where there is four or five times as much capital invested in the stocking of the farm as the farm is worth. Therefore, the farmer has a far bigger investment in the land than the owner. If you argue that economically the present system is a sound system, but that ownership to-day is not an economic position, I am prepared to accept that statement. The landlords have not received an exorbitant return for the land. They have been exceedingly loyal and patriotic, and during the War, so far as my knowledge goes, they have not raised rents. That is all to the credit of the landlords. So far as capital is concerned, a good many years ago the pouring out of capital began to cease, and we have not had as much money invested in improvement of estates during the last 10, 15, or 20 years as existed formerly.
If this Bill does nothing else, if it will cause the tenant farmers to do their duty in a way that they have not done it in the past, it will be well. Possibly 1978 there has been as much room for complaint about the farming of land as the owning of land. The argument used on the other side of the House has been that the difficulty about security has only arisen owing to the sales of land. I am thinking possibly more of Scotland than England, but I am certain that a movement has been in existence at least 100 years in favour of security of tenure. In connection with one of the principal agricultural bodies of Scotland recently, there was a meeting which approved of this Clause for security and compensation, and one of the gentlemen present said, "I am glad that, although I was in a minority of one 50 years ago, you have now unanimously agreed to the principle of security and compensation." For the last 50 years the agitation has gone on. We have had the Scottish Smallholders' Act brought in. Was it not brought into being because there were hundreds and thousands of evictions, because the landlords of those days—I do not say that they had a bad disposition, or any desire to do anything that was not in the best interests of the tenant— from a mistaken idea of what was best for the men on the land, turned them adrift. The men want to be secure in their holdings. It is not the money that is involved in this Clause that I am thinking about so much, but it is the possibility of remaining in the old homestead. It is true that many of the largest landowners have been in possession of their estates for hundreds of years, but we have also tenant farmers in a similar position. One was evicted a few days ago whose family had been 310 years on the holding. Do you think that that place was not as dear to that man's heart as if he had been the owner of it? We want to look above the pounds, shillings and pence and to think of the aspirations of those concerned. Many people think that the men who are occupied in the cultivation of the land are clodhoppers, having a soul big enough to consider nothing outside the farm on which they cultivate, but there are men on the land, men who were born in low estate, who have never known what it is to be rich in this world's goods, who have a heart and aspirations bigger than many of those who have been brought up in the lap of luxury and wealth.
It is because I want to see done that which is best for my country and best for agriculture that I support the Clause, 1979 although I would much have preferred that there had been security of tenure, pure and simple, without any conditions attached. Two months ago I had the privilege of being present at the unveiling of a war memorial in one of the districts from which many men were dispossessed many years ago, and amongst the names on that war memorial were the names of four boys who came and died for the old country, the country from which their forefathers were evicted. There was no bitterness in their hearts, but there was love for the old fatherland, and they gave their lives to protect the old land. If I thought that this Bill or this Clause was going to be a deterrent to the best possible farming, I would not support it. We have been looking at the landowners' and the farmers' interests. What about the farm labourers' interests? If there is to be compensation, what about the labourers? If compensation for the labourer is based on right principles, I welcome it. I want to see the farm labourer placed in the best possible position that a farm labourer can occupy, and to see everything done to raise him from his position to a higher and better position in life. Not only are these different classes interested, but what about the community, the consumer? In Scotland security means that we have 19 or 21 year leases, and in England you have yearly tenancies. What happens in Scotland is that you get a man in possession of his farm. He farms well, for 12, 13 or 14 years, and for the remainder of that period he takes out of the land everything he has put into it in order to ensure that at the end of the tenancy the rent shall not be raised. Is that in the national interest? No. If we are going to produce more foodstuff, and we can do it, if we are going to cultivate intensively in the interests of the nation, we must be made secure. If this can be done by this Clause, I will not stand in the way of the Government getting the Clause, although I know that there is a better way and I would have preferred it.
§ 7.0 P.M.
Captain STANLEY WILSON
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether Crown tenants come under this Clause There are in my constituency a very large number of Crown tenants, and I have received information from thorn that they do not come under this Bill. They have a very vivid recollection in the Holder- 1980 ness Division that upon the foundation of the Patrington Crown Colony, one or two tenants were treated in a very bad manner. There is a considerable amount of anxiety among the Crown tenants as to what their position is going to be. I cannot see why the Crown should be treated in a different manner from all other landlords. The attitude of the Government on this question appears to be that they will give security and compensation to all other tenant farmers, but that their own tenant farmers are to receive nothing of the sort. If it is correct, as I understand that the Crown stands above the law in this respect, something ought to be done to bring the Crown within the scope of the measure so that the tenants shall receive similar fair and just treatment to that which is meted out to other tenant farmers. As to the Clause itself, I find myself in complete agreement with the remarks of the right hon. Members for the City of London and Chelmsford. I hold that the Clause goes a great deal too far, but I hope that my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) will not press his Amendment to a Division. The Clause wants drastic amendment, but I feel that I ought not to vote against it at this particular point.
§ Mr. JAMESON
The Minister in charge might give us more information on this Clause. He has had a very difficult task to make this Bill, particularly Clause 7, palatable to any section of the House. The universal condemnation which this Clause has received, both from the landlord faction and the farmer faction, might make him pause before putting this Clause finally into the Bill. He has said that the one thing he wanted to avoid in this Clause was fixity of tenure, which he said was productive of a great part of the evils from which that distressful island which lies to the west of us has suffered. If the object of this Clause was not to set up fixity of tenure, what was its object? He said that it was to give security for the capital of the farmer. There is hardly a word about the capital of the farmer from beginning to end of this Clause. It is dealt with to some extent in Sub-section (4), but as regards compensation for capital, the tenant farmer has security in a series of enactments which give him compensation 1981 for unexhausted manures and all sorts of improvements These are really his charter of security as regards capital. The whole point of this Clause is the words in the fourth Sub-section, and in other parts, which provide for the year's rent compensation running up to four years' rent compensation upon disturbance. In dealing with that the Minister in charge confessed that that was not compensation for capital at all, but was compensation for inconvenience for going out of his home. That is an entirely different thing, which you cannot justify as a means of giving reasonable security to the farmer, and reasonable compensation for the actual money he has put into the soil. This Clause is fixity or nothing.
The right hon. Gentleman said that fixity of tenure had brought upon Ireland all the troubles of dual ownership and a land court. What is Sub-section 2 of this Clause but setting up a land court? The landlord says, "The value of money has gone clown and something or other has happened, and I want a bigger rent." The farmer says, "You are not to get a bigger rent under the threat of giving me one to four years' compensation for disturbance," a threat which no landlord, unless he is a very rich profiteer, can possibly fane at this time. Then you have to go before what is really a land court, and they have to fix a fair rent. It is called arbitration, but it amounts to a land court. So you have in the Clause all the paraphernalia of a land court and fixing fair rents. If you are going to have security at all, that proves, if anything were necessarry to prove it, that what this Clause provides is fixity of tenure. Reference has been made to certain people who are fixity-of-tenure proof, the profiteer who has bought the land and makes it simply a hobby, and does not mind paying four years' rent and throwing out the tenant farmer. That does not apply to the vast majority of landlords. They have got to yield to a threat like this.
One hon. Member said that one year's growth rent was practically four years' net rent. That is the fact, as anybody who knows anything about land can say. It is a threat that cannot be resisted by a landlord, and under that threat and the compulsion of what amounts to a land court he is saddled with practical fixity of tenure. The only justification for fixity of tenure is that somehow or 1982 other you must bribe the farmers of this country to produce more and the corollary to that is that you must bribe them out of the landlord's pocket. What the right hon. Baronet objects most to is bribing any class of the community out of the pockets of another class of the community. Some cynical historian has said that the main difference between aristocracy and democracy is that under aristocracy you bribe the electors out of your own pocket and under democracy you bribe the electors out of somebody else's pocket. Judged by that standard this is a really democratic measure indeed. You simply bribe a section of the community to produce more and bribe them out of the landlord's pocket. I recognise, as has been said by one hon. Member, that praise has been showered on the landlords in the course of this Debate. It has been said that they are splendid fellows who did well in the War and always stood by their tenants. The attitude of the Minister in charge of this Bill reminds me if—I may quote from the classics— of the person of whom it was said:I weep for you, the Walrus said. I deeply sympathise.With tears and groans he sorted out Those of the larger size.Keeping his pocket handkerchief Before his streaming eyes.The main argument used was that the landlord has had so many troubles and wrongs heaped upon his head in the shape of bigger rates, bigger expenses, bigger everything, that a lot of them have been forced to sell their lands, and in consequence it is to be deduced that another grievous wrong in the shape of this Clause should be put upon the landlord's back, so as to break the camel's back altogether. One hon. Gentleman opposite said, and truly, that perhaps the only consolation in this Bill is that it forces all the landlords to sell, and this Bill will put the landlords out of their pain. For it is a very great pain at the present moment. In bribing one section of the community at the expense of another section the section which you are going to benefit is a section which has really done very well. It is one of the sections of the country that have not suffered in the War. It has made out of the War. Round about the southwest of Scotland I know the farmers very well. Very good fellows they are. They are making no complaints of the situation at present, and they have no reason 1983 to make complaints. They all go about in motor cars, whereas the landlords go about there in small pony traps, if they can afford it, or take to what we call in Scotland shanks' mare. On the other hand, the section of the community from whose pockets you were taking the money is the section that has suffered most in the War. As the right hon. Baronet has said, it has been broken down by the burden of the War. Tithes are practically doubled, and there is an enormous burden of rates and Income Tax, whereas the farmer gets off about three-fourths of the Income Tax which he ought to pay.
Finally, and worst of all, you have the terrible burden of repairs. Because everybody knows that if a landlord has to put up a new barn or even a new good-sized shed, it runs away with the whole year's rent of the farm. I hope that the House has got sufficient sense of justice left to take a fair and square view of the situation. The argument in the Caxton Hall speech was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) tabled a very stringent and drastic interpretation of the coupon, and he threatened us Coalitionists with the direst penalties if we diverged from his very judicial interpretation of the coupon. He said we are absolutely bound to vote by the Prime Minister's pledge. I do not recollect the Prime Minister's pledge. I have forgotten the Caxton Hall speech altogether. No one has greater admiration for the Prime Minister than I. I regard him as the greatest public servant that the Empire has ever found in the hour of its need and peril. For that reason, if he did give such a pledge, I would like to rescue the Prime Minister from committing a great wrong. He really has no power to bind any other Member of the House than himself, and I am bound to say I am getting a little tired of Ministers' pledges. We in this House are always bring told that we cannot go this way because such and such a Minister at the Guildhall made a pledge to India and another Minister at another place made a pledge to Egypt and another Minister at another place made a pledge to Crete. We have pledges all round the place. The proper doctrine is that these pledges should not bind anybody but the Minister himself. He is bound to go into the 1984 Lobby and vote for his pledge, but no other Member of the House is bound to vote for it too. I am sure that, in speaking as I have done, I am interpreting the wishes of the hearts of the right hon. Gentlemen in charge of this Bill. This may be the result of an agreement, but it is a very unfortunate agreement. There are very many ways in which you encourage production, and the best way to encourage it is to make it worth while for a tenant to produce. I do not think he will really encourage production by giving him a bribe in the shape of an Act of Parliament. But whether he will or not, I do not think this House has any right to try and encourage production at the cost of any other class.
In conclusion, it is absolutely certain and it has been admitted on all sides, that this is done at the cost of a certain class of people. I am very glad to say I am no longer one of that class, the landlords. But I do not like to see injustice done. It is a popular cry to cry against the landlords, but it is a very unworthy one. There is no doubt that this diminishes their estate. If this Bill passes it will take perhaps one, two, or three years' purchase off the value of an estate. On the other hand, it puts up the value of the farmer's asset because it gives him what is practically tenant's right. That really means confiscatory legislation, and accordingly I feel it my duty, and I hope the House will feel it their duty, to give their voices against this very vicious legislation.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL (Sir Ernest Pollock)
I rise, only for a moment to give an answer to the question put to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness. If he will allow me to point out, the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1908 applies to the Crown and Duchy lands. By Section 37, that Act applies to land belonging to His Majesty by right of the Crown. By Section 38 it applies to land held under the Duchy of Lancaster, and in Section 39 to the land belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall. The part of the Bill we are now on, page 10, is on the "amendment of the Agricultural Holdings Acts," of which the 1908 Act is the chief; and he will find on page 21 of the Bill, by Section 25, Sub-section (5), "references to the Act of 1908," that is to the Agricultural Holdings Acts, "or to the Act of 1917," and so on, "shall be construed as referring to that Act or 1985 to that provision as amended by any other Act including this Act." Thus making this Bill read together with the 1908 Act, under which the lands in respect of which he put the question are bound.
§ Major MACKENZIE WOOD
This question is of great importance, and I think that I have a right to say a few words on the subject. It is over a year ago since we had a speech from the Prime Minister in which he said that in certain cases, at any rate, he proposed to give security of tenure. I do not know what cases he referred to, but I am quite certain that this Bill gives security of tenure in no cases at all. We in Scotland never had any doubt as to what the meaning of security of tenure was, and no suggestion as far as I know was ever made about the meaning until the introduction of this Bill. Since then we have had a great deal said about the meaning of the pledge given by the Prime Minister. Ail sorts of interpretations have been given as to what the Prime Minister really meant, but not a word has been said by the Prime Minister himself, and I think it a pity that all this time should be allowed to elapse without a word from him as to what he really meant when he made that speech. No one is in a better position to tell us than he is himself. I think we ought to have something from him.
What I complain of in the speeches we have listened to from hon. Gentlemen opposite is that they have, none of them, seemed to recognise the grievances which farmers have. They do not even attempt to disprove it, but the farmers do have a grievance, and it will not meet their case if nothing is said about it. The farmers allege that they will never work their farms as long as they have not a proper guarantee that the effects of their labour will remain with themselves. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelmsford said that he would be quite prepared to give security of tenure to farmers if he was satisfied that farmers really wanted it. I wonder what he would take to be evidence that farmers really want security of tenure. We have already had a number of resolutions by farmers' unions in which they declare they desire the security of tenure, and they can sec no other way by which agriculture in this country can be put on a proper footing. Is that no evidence that they desire 1986 it, and if it is not what does he desire before he will be satsified that they want their security of tenure? After saying that farmers did not want security of tenure he brought out a letter, in which he gave some resolutions passed by a certain number of farmers, in which they said they did not want this Clause 7. I am not surprised they do not want Clause 7, but that is no evidence that they do not want security of tenure. I will take the liberty of quoting from a letter I have received from one of my constituents. He says:Generally speaking when a person takes a farm he finds that it is in poor condition, the waygoing tenant having during the latter years of his lease taken everything he could out of it and given it as little work and manure as possible. During the first half of the new tenant's lease he improves the farm, but as he has no certainty of renewing the lease he also, during the latter half of his lease, runs the farm down again, and so on the process has gone and will go on until real security of tenure is given. Security of tenure and fair rent are all a farmer requires to enable him to successfully carry on his business, and had they been given 50 years ago the land of this country would to-day be producing double what it now does. It was fully expected from Mr. Lloyd George's utterances that such an indispensable provision would be included in the Bill, and agriculturists are greatly disappointed with his attitude.That is the view of every farmer that I have discussed this question with on the North of Scotland. I quite agree that there are certain objections to security of tenure. It dons, undoubtedly, bring in a sort of dual control which is regrettable, but if the right hon. Gentlemen opposite object to that, it surely lies with them to suggest a better solution, and they have not in any way attempted to show how he can provide for this undoubted grievance that farmers have, as if they worked their farms well they increased the value of their farms, and are liable to have the rents raised on these improvements. If they do not consent to the higher rents they are liable to be turned out. It is suggested that if you give security of tenure you are going to bring into this country all the evils which are alleged to exist in Ireland. I should like the House to realise that at the present there are over 50,000 landholders in Scotland having this very security of tenure which farmers all over Scotland desire. If they have this security of tenure, on what grounds can it logically be denied to the larger farmers? It was 1987 suggested by the right hon. Gentleman that this security of tenure was only enjoyed by men of a few acres. Indeed, there is no limit to the size of the farm which may enjoy the security of tenure as long as the rent is not above £50. On the other hand, if the acreage is less than 50 there is no limit to the rental, so it is a great mistake to imagine that security of tenure is only enjoyed by men who are farming a few acres. I do not for a moment consider that this Clause is a satisfactory one. I believe it is going to militate in many ways against the tenant, especially the new tenant, because it will require an enormous amount more capital to go into a farm now than it did before. The right hon. Gentleman said that this compensation which was going to be given by Clause 7 would be paid by the landlord. It need not be paid by the landlord at all. We know that there is a likelihood that in all cases there will be an agreement between the landlord and the incoming tenant whereby the incoming tenant will have to take on the liability which arises under this Clause. An Amendment has been put down to make it impossible to pass on that compensation, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman may consider it, but unless this Amendment is accepted, I am quite certain that this Clause will result in the compensation which is payable under it being eventually paid by the incoming tenant and not by the landlord at all. Indeed, I feel quite certain that, in the long run, this Clause will really lead to an increase in rent, and the amount of excess above what it would otherwise be would be something in the nature of insurance premium, in order to compensate the farmers who are dispossessed. If that is so, if I am right in my interpretation of what is going to happen under this Clause, the result will be that the compensation will really be paid by the farmers themselves, and I firmly believe that would be the result. It will be, perhaps, a little better than the existing situation, because the man who is evicted will get some compensation, and it does not matter to him where he gets it from, even although he has contributed somewhat to it himself. Like every other Member who has spoken, although I do not agree with this Clause, I think if an instalment which leaves the position 1988 better than it is, and if we cannot get better terms, of course, I will accept it; but I think it is a bad Clause, and eventually, whatever you do, you will be landed in something in the nature of security of tenure.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
From what I have heard, and I have heard every one of the speeches since I moved the Motion to leave out the Clause, with the, exception of the hon. Member for West Perthshire, there has not been a single Member who has agreed with the Clause. It is quite true that my hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Lieut.-Colonel A. Murray) said he should not vote against it, but he went on to say that he did not like the Clause for some reason or another, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down said exactly the same thing. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that, with the exception of the hon. Member for West Perthshire, nobody likes the Clause, but for some unknown reason would rather not vote against it. Perhaps it is because they expect that the Government will accept an Amendment or Amendments to be moved later on, but the Government have told us that they do not intend to accept any Amendments —at least that is what I understood— and that they are going to abide by the Clause.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
No. My hon. Friend is not accurate. I said with regard to the particular amount of compensation, that a certain agreement had been made, and on that I propose to adhere strictly to what was done in Committee, but that docs not cover the whole Clause.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It is not always that my right hon. Friend adheres to what is done in Committee. Only yesterday he did not adhere to what was done in Committee.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Perhaps that might be a reason why I should not put the House to the trouble of a Division, if there is a possibility of some of these Amendments being accepted. At the same time, I do not wish to withdraw, and I would like to have the Amendment negatived. Before doing that I would just like to say that I feel quite sure, as 1989 the hon. Member who sits for one of the Divisions of Edinburgh said, that this is practically dual ownership, and the beginning of a principle which will injure, not only the land, but every other form of property.
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out to the word 'whether' [Sub-section (1) "whether before or after"] stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS
I beg to move in Sub-section (1) to leave out the words "whether before or after the commencement of this Act," and to insert instead thereof the words "after the twentieth day of May, nineteen hundred and twenty."
In the first Sub-section of the Clause it provides that where compensation is payable it shall apply in respect of any notice given before or after the commencement of the Act. My Amendment restricts it to notices which were given after the 20th day of May, 1920, the date on which the Bill was introduced into the House of Commons. After that date everyone would have had due notice of what was intended, but it would be unfair to saddle persons who had given notices earlier with liability for the pains and penalties which are provided for under the provisions of this Section. I hope the Government will see their way to agree to this. It seems to me a very reasonable proposal to make.
§ Mr. E. WOOD
I second the Amendment for these reasons: As the Bill at present stands it will apply to all notices that become operative after the Act comes into operation. I will assume for the sake of my argument that the Act will come into operation on the 1st of January next year. In that event the effect of the Bill as it stands is to bring within the scope of the Compensation Clauses all notices that mature after 1st January, which, of course, include notices expiring at Candlemas and at Lady Day, 1921. These notices will have been given last Candlemas or last Lady Day, at least two months before the Bill was introduced. I suggest that it is really a very pernicious principle to pass retrospective legislation in such a matter. I do not conceal from myself that it will be said that if this Amendment be passed it will inflict hardship on farmers who have had hopes of compensation held out to them, because they would find that 1990 after all they were not covered, but I would invite hon. Members to be very careful in applying this retrospective principle. I find it difficult to see whore hardship lies in the fact that a particular law was not passed early enough to benefit a particular section of the community. The scope of that doctrine might be a very wide one. There is really no limit to it. You might apply it to all schemes of social reform, or anything else, and say that because the particular people of a certain day did not comee under them those people have suffered an injustice. We are all of us creatures of the times in which we live, and we cannot put back laws to fit human beings. I would like to know what the National Union of Farmers would think if it were suggested that Wages Board wages should be made retrospective?
I cannot conceive of any proposal that would rouse more indignation from the whole farming community than a suggestion that when the Wages Board made an award it should run from 12 months back, yet that is exactly the proposal that the Farmers' Union are anxious to put upon us at this moment. One word more upon what I know my right hon. Friend will say in reply. I know his argument is going to be so fallacious that I am sure he will permit me to say this in advance. He will say that, with great generosity, he has met this whole difficulty by an Amendment, which he proposes to move under Clause 7, page 10, line 28, to permit a landowner to withdraw a notice, and if the tenant unreasonably refuses to avail himself of that withdrawal no compensation will be payable. I took the liberty of pointing out in Committee, and I was sanguine enough to hope that I had made some impression upon him, what the difficulty that would be produced would be even in June or July, for everybody knows that as soon as a notice has been given a regular turn round goes on amongst farmers in the reshuffling over new takings. As soon as one man has been given notice and a farm is known to be at liberty, some other farmer applies for it, and gives up his own. Following on this, C., D., E. and F. all go shuffling round to new farms. If that was going on in June and July, how much more is it going on in November? Yet as soon as I sit down my right hon. Friend will be telling me quite seriously that his Amendment 1991 has quite provided for this difficulty. He may have other arguments, but if there are they will be new ones that he has not given us before, and unless he can produce some better scheme than this I hope he will allow me to suggest to him that it would really be the sounder plan to go on what is a fair compromise, namely, the date of the introduction of the Bill. I quite admit that after landowners had seen the Bill and seen the provisions of it there may have been a certain amount of inclination to say, "Let us give notice now and avoid compensation." I am prepared to meet that, and I am prepared to go back to the date of the introduction of the Bill, which, as it happens in this case, is nine months earlier than would have been the case under most laws, which do not come into effect till they are passed. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend, after he has heard the reply from my right hon. Friend, if it is not satisfactory, will press his Amendment to a division, and that hon. Members will support it.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
The plan of the Bill as it stands at present is this, that the compensation Clauses for disturbance will apply to all notices terminating after the Bill becomes law, whether they were given before the Bill became law or not. In the case of 12 months' notice given for Candlemas, which I think is quite a common practice in Scotland, or for Lady Day, which is the common practice in England, notices given last Candlemas or last Lady Day will be affected by the Bill and the Clause will apply. As the Bill was ordinarily introduced it was expected that it would come into operation on the 1st September. In that case it would have applied to 12 months' notices given at Michaelmas, 1919. As it is, those are cut out, because the Bill cannot obviously come into operation on the 1st September. We hope now that it will come into operation on the 1st January and I have been very hard pressed by a great many tenant farmers (who have been grievously disappointed of the expectations raised in their minds that the compensation would apply to them, but who, owing to the postponement, will lose that opportrunity) to make the Bill retrospective so as to cover all who would have been covered if the Bill had become law on the 1st September. I do not feel 1992 inclined to do that. I do not think we ought to do that.
In the case of tenancies that have already terminated arrangements have been made, compensation has been settled and we cannot possibly re-open the question, but while I have decided to oppose that strong request put to me by a great many tenant farmers all over the country I am not inclined to make a further concession. What I feel we ought to do is to steer a middle course and to say that the Bill shall stand as it is to-day, that is to say, that if it becomes law on the 1st of January it shall apply to all notices expiring after the 1st of January, whether the notice was given before or after the Bill was passed. I think there is very good reason for this. My hon. and gallant Friend suggests we should take the 20th of May and I agree that something can be said for that, but at the same time is it not true that ever since the Caxton Hall speech every owner of land has been perfectly well aware that legislation [Laughter]
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I have ample confirmation of what I have been saying. My hon. Friend knows perfectly well that ever since the Caxton Hall speech, the author of which momentarily appeared on the scene—
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
There has been full and ample notice that legislation very much on these lines was going to be introduced. You may say that the actual terms were not present to the minds of landowners, but the fact that there was going to be legislation was apparent ever since the Caxton Hall speech. If you pass this Amendment it would deprive many tenants of compensation who have received notice in the last few months, or may receive notice in what remains of the present year. Ordinarily the notice is twelve months, but there are many estates where it is much shorter. I came across a case the other day where the landlord had the right to give a notice of one month, and notices, subsequently withdrawn, were given to every tenant In that case this Amendment would deprive such tenants of notice, and it might so happen between now and the 1st of January.
§ Mr. E. WOOD
The Amendment provides that the Compensation Clauses are to apply to any notices given after the 20th of May.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I was thinking of another Amendment and I apologise and withdraw what I said on that point. Apart from that, we are in the position that we did originally say in our Bill that it would apply to notices terminating at Michaelmas. The effect of the Amendment would be to cut out of compensation all those who received notice' between the Caxton Hall speech and the 20th of May. The seconder of the Amendment said that I would refer to an Amendment I have put down which provides that the landlord may offer to withdraw a notice, and if the tenant unreasonably refuses to accept the withdrawal and insists on going, then in that case the landlord shall not be liable to pay compensation. I think that does meet the case very considerably. I know it does not meet every case, but it does enable notices given before the Bill becomes law and terminating afterwards to be withdrawn. I know that in many instances arrangements may have been made, but I think my subsequent Amendment goes some way towards mitigating any hardship. Having regard to that fact, and I think the House will accept the Amendment, and that by this Amendment you would be cutting out a large class of tenant larger than those already cut out, I would ask the House not to accept the Amendment.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
I am not surprised at the Prime Minister's disappearance the moment he heard mention of the Caxton Hall speech. I welcome the attitude taken by the right hon. Gentleman on this Amendment. He has well expressed the feelings of disappointment of a very large number of tenant farmers that the Bill was not passed by 1st September. If it had been there were many notices to quit which would have come under it, and which do not now come under it. It would be a great injustice if the right hon. Gentleman accepted this Amendment, and thus did not bring in a very large number of notices which have been given. I hope he will adhere to the attitude he has indicated.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I have been blamed for supporting the Government on this Bill, but in this instance I support the Amend 1994 ment. You are not going to give compensation to the Michaelmas notices of 1919, and why should you differentiate between them and the case of the Candlemas and Ladyday notices of 1920? There have been notices given after the Caxton Hall speech and before the introduction of the Bill, but it is necessary to prove that those notices were given because of the Caxton Hall speech, and that they would not otherwise have been given, and that they were given in order to escape from the compensation to be given under this Clause. I do not think that has been alleged. An enormous number of notices were, of course, given all the time, but land has had to be, sold as never before, and changes are taking place as never before. I do not think it can be successfully alleged, and I never heard it alleged, that landowners took advantage of the Caxton Hall speech to give notices in order to escape compensation. Let us take the middle course suggested by this Amendment by making the date the introduction of the Bill. In normal legislation you would never dream of making it operative in the past. There are three courses which you can take. You can take a course which would be the normal course and say that the Act shall operate when passed and not sooner, or you can say that it shall apply to all notices after the Bill was introduced, or that it shall apply to all notices terminating after the Act is passed. I think it is a very bad doctrine to say that, because a certain statesman has made a certain speech, therefore people knew what was coming. I think that the most that is justifiable is to say the date when the Bill had been introduced. The whole point of the Bill is not with regard to giving compensation to people who have done nothing whatever to deserve that extra compensation. No farmer has ever been able to point out why the landowner should give him this compensation. The whole of the point of the extra compensation is to encourage people to put more capital into their farms and more work. The landlord has got to be penalised in the national interest in order to create an extra feeling of security. But these are notices to quit, and there is no question of security or of encouraging extra work or more capital in those cases. The men have got to go and they have made arrangements. Why, in that case, when you are not going to encourage a single pound of capital, 1995 should you make this provision retrospective in regard to these particular notices? I do beg the Government to reconsider the position and not to adopt what is a very dangerous principle. I think the middle course suggested by the Amendment is fair all round.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MURROUGH WILSON
I should like to go one step further than the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. He spoke about putting capital into the land. We are told that the idea of this Bill is to produce more corn. By not agreeing to this Amendment are we going to produce an ounce more corn than would otherwise be the case? The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the Prime Minister's speech at the Caxton Hall and said that practically owing to that a certain amount of land was sold, presumably because the landlords who sold were frightened of something which was going to be done. I suggest that the most that landlords expected was legislation founded on the Selborne Report and that they never expected the provision as to compensation laid down here. The right hon. Gentleman spoke also of hardships which were going to accrue to tenants, but are those hardships anything to the hardships which certain small men I know of are going to suffer owing to the way the Bill is now drafted? We are often inclined to look after the case of the big landlords, but the cases which are almost more intimately concerned in this particular instance are those of men who have come back from the War, who owned land before the War, and who now want to get a chance of getting their small holdings back. It seems that hardship is going to be done somewhere, and apparently the right hon. Gentleman prefers to put an extra hardship on the landlord, who has made no money at all during the War and has scored nothing in the last few years, rather than put it on to certain tenants, who have absolutely nothing to complain of in regard to what has happened to them in the last few years.
§ Mr. ROYCE
I support the Amendment largely for the reasons stated by the last speaker. There are many men who have served in the Army who, during their absence, left their smallholdings to other occupants, and who will be penalised if this Clause is carried into 1996 effect by having to pay compensation to the people who have held their land during their absence at the front. There are other cases in which land has been bought by small men, men who have saved a little money, and who, not knowing at the time of the purchase that they would be confronted with the necessity of paying compensation to the outgoing tenant, are now confronted with that possibility. In a good many instances also, purchases which have been contemplated have had to be abandoned in consequence. Really, to assume that certain people took certain action because certain very prominent and great men suggested certain things is too ridiculous for words. I do not believe the Prime Minister's speech at Caxton Hall influenced the sale of a single acre of land, but even if it did, to pass legislation on that is wrong. I cannot conceive of the possibility of this House passing into law something that will penalise a man for doing what at the time he did it was a perfectly legal action. If a man on the 6th April last gave a tenant notice to leave, and his notice will not expire until the 6th April next, under this Clause he will be heavily penalised, and what was perfectly legal at the time now becomes an offence for which he will have to pay a heavy cost. It is a most extraordinary state of affairs to attempt to make this retrospective.
I know what the reason is: it is the Farmers' Union want it. We know it is a very important body, and I would be the first to acknowledge it, and a very highly organised body, and the War has not been too unkind to them. They are able not only to organise, but to employ some of the most talented officials in their respective areas, and they have an organisation in London, and some of the Ministers worship at their hack-door. They receive a very large amount of consideration and have a fine organisation, and they have a perfect right to organise and to employ means to obtain the best terms they can, but, like a good many other newly-rich people, they become rather exorbitant in their demands, and this is one of the cases where they ought to be told that they must halt. I know one concrete case in which a farmer has bought land specially for the purpose of selling it in small parcels to ex-service men. These ex-service men know now that 1997 if this Clause becomes law, they will have to pay compensation to a very rich farmer, and they cannot do it. Therefore, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider this. No injury is inflicted upon anyone by fixing a date for this Bill to come into operation. None of the men who have been dispossessed of their land from one cause or another suffer, because they can recover all that they are entitled to under the Agricultural Holdings Act. Any unexhausted fertility owing to manures and so on is compensated for. They never expected this, and until now they have never asked for this, but we get a complacent Minister, who is anxious to placate ail sections of the community, and he introduces a Clause like this to make this provision retrospective. It is hopeless. Seriously, I do not doubt the authority of this House to pass any law it likes, but I do doubt whether you would find judges to carry that law into execution, because I think the question of equity will come in here. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] After all, you cannot coerce judges altogether, and the question is whether it would be possible to make what, at the time of its commission, was a perfectly legal act an offence nine months afterwards. Therefore, I hope the Minister will reconsider what I hope was not his decision in this matter. I hope he desired only to feel the pulse of the House and that before this Debate is finished he will consent to the Amendment.
§ Mr. HAYDN JONES
I hope the Government will adhere to the terms of the Bill. Speaking as a Welsh Member, I know that the effect of accepting the Amendment would be that most of the tenant farmers who are under notice to quit at Lady-day next will be dispossessed of compensation under this Clause. I have attended meetings in my constituency of farmers, and their view with regard to this Bill is that Clause 7 is the vital Clause so far as tenant farmers are concerned. Any modification of Clause 7 would, in my opinion, make the Bill absolutely valueless from the tenant farmers' point of view. I would point out that it is open to any landlord to withdraw a notice to quit, and thereby avoid liability to pay the compensation provided under this Clause.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I wish to bring a concrete instance before the right hon. 1998 Gentleman to show that injustice may be done by this proposal of the Government. I had a case brought by one of my constituents, a minister of a small parish in Scotland, who depended very largely upon letting his glebe. He let this glebe for £42, and the farmer who occupied it was making during the whole of the War hundreds of pounds. Some time ago the minister resolved to give notice of raising the rent, but he put that off for some time because there happened to be illness in the farmer's family, but he did give notice early this year. Now he has given this notice he is told that he must pay compensation for so doing, and that owing to some operations carried out on the glebe, which do not add to the value of it at all, he may be liable to pay four years' rent as compensation, making a total of £400. It is just as possible for this poor minister to pay £400 as it is for him to pay £4,000. He is prevented from resuming his glebe because he happened, out of consideration for his tenant, to have been a little too late. What did he know about the Caxton Hall speech. He knew nothing about it. He did not guide himself by the speeches of the Prime Minister, and he now finds himself a hapless victim saddled irretrievably with this debt of £400. I thought it worth while to bring before the House this concrete instance which has been brought before me by a constituent, to show that the injustice will not be all on the side of the tenant farmer, who has profiled very well during the last few years, but sometimes will fall upon a very much poorer and more suffering landlord.
§ Major MACKENZIE WOOD
The hon. Member for Holland (Mr. Royce) had a great deal to say about the landlord being penalised for doing something which was not an offence when he did it, but there is no question of an offence in this Clause at all. The compensation which is being paid is not a penalty, and the giving of notice is in no sense an offence. The right hon. Gentleman always insisted that this compensation is to give a farmer security for his capital. It is a return for his capital which has been sunk in the land, and that capital is being sunk now, and has always been sunk, and no compensation has been given before. It is therefore quite right that it should act retrospectively. A great deal has been said— 1999 and the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) has reverted to it—about notices not having been given after the Caxton Hall speech. The right hon. Gentleman, I feel sure, is not in touch with the farmers as I have boon, for if he were I am certain he would not have made the speech he has made.
§ Major M. WOOD
We have to deal with the general case. I am prepared to believe that some of these ministers may be under difficulties, but I am certain that in no sense would they have to give the compensation the right hon. Gentleman referred to. He took it he will have to give four years' compensation, but four years' compensation, in my opinion, will practically never be given at all, and it certainly will not be given by that minister unless he misconducts himself in some very material way. All this year, every time I have met farmers—and during the recess I saw a great deal of them—the question they always put to me was this: "Will this Bill come into operation before 28th November? 'because, they said, immediately the Caxton Hall speech was delivered, notices to quit were sown broadcast over the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] That is my information, and I notice, in a circular issued by the English Farmers' Union, that a complaint of the same kind is made. Notices to quit were given immediately after that speech in anticipation of the Bill being passed into law, and now, if this Amendment is going to be accepted, these landlords are going to benefit by the fact that they put in the notices at once with the definite and single view of evading the compensation which they should pay under this Clause.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
At an early point in this Debate my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. E. Wood) interrupted me and said that the case I had suggested of a landlord giving a month's notice or very short notice at the present time, or any time before the passing of the Act, would be covered by his Amendment. If he looks at the Clause he will see it says:Where the tenancy of a holding terminates after the commencement of this Act.2000 Therefore a notice given even after the 20th May, if a short notice of one month, or three months, or six months, which terminates before the commencement of the Act would do.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I merely mention that because at the moment I thought I was in error, but as a matter of fact, after all, I was correct, and my hon. Friend was wrong.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
However, I do not press that point. I do think it is unfortunate, after the Bill has been introduced in the form in which it is, that first of all tenants whose tenancy terminated last Michaelmas should be deprived of this compensation, and now a number of Amendments are to be introduced depriving tenants who had 12 months' notice of compensation. At the same time we are not legislating for actual individuals at a given moment. We are setting up a scheme of legislation for the future, and for the future the policy of the Bill is as set out in this Clause, namely, that there should be compensation for disturbance. So far as I am concerned, I prefer the middle course I have sketched out, namely, refusing to ante-date the Bill to cover last Michaelmas tenancies, at the same time refusing to postpone it so as to cover tenancies to terminate next Candlemas or Michaelmas. I have been convinced, speaking generally, that from totally different quarters of the House there has been a strong inclination to prefer the middle course proposed by my hon. Friend to the slightly different middle course followed by myself, and I cannot say the Government attach the greatest importance to the point. Under those circumstances I should be prepared to meet my hon. Friend and his supporters who are not confined to this side of the House, and, if he desires to press this Amendment to a Division, I shall not oppose it.
§ Mr. GARDINER
The position is simply this. The Prime Minister makes a speech at Caxton Hall. The moment that speech is made notices are served ad libitum. I heard of a case in which only last week 60 notices were served. It only means that these unfortunate 2001 people are to be excluded. I do not believe the Government ever intended anything of the kind and, if they accept this Amendment, I think these men will suffer very unfairly.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Major STEEL
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1, a), to insert a new paragraph—(b) had prior to the date of the notice contravened or failed to observe the rules of good husbandry and had in consequence deteriorated the holding as at the date of the notice.As the position stands at present, the tenant has only to show at the date he received the notice that he is cultivating the holding according to the rules of good husbandry, although during the currency of his tenancy he may have farmed it very badly indeed. I think these words ought to be inserted to insure that the farm has been properly cultivated during the whole tenancy.
§ Mr. W. R. SMITH
I should like to raise the point whether or not this Amendment does not seek to introduce the same principle into the Bill which we have just negatived. Is not this making it retrospective in regard to the action and conduct of the farmer and can it be defended on any logical ground?
§ Major HOWARD
I do not know how far this Amendment would go. I do not know whether the tenant would be held liable, say, for 15 years before the giving of the notice, but if that is the case, I hope the House will see that it is brought within some, reasonable period, say, a couple, of years before the expiration of the notice. I would not object to that, but certainly, as the Amendment stands, it might be any date previous to the expiration of the tenancy, or the giving of notice. It is going too far and leaving the thing too vague. No farmer would know how he stood if this Amendment were Introduced into the Clause.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I should like to know what the effect of this Amendment would be if the notice was given subsequent to 20th May, the introduction of this Bill, in a case where the landlord believed the tenant was farming badly? For a notice given when the Act gets into operation he would be able to 2002 get a certificate from the county committee which would be final. But in this other case he gave the notice off his own bat, and without an Amendment of this kind—I do not say these exact words, for you cannot carry this back to an unlimited point, and I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend thinks it desirable to do so—what I understand him to mean is that you must safeguard the notice given in the period between 20th May, the introduction of this Act, and the period when the Act comes into actual operation. Where notice has been given, say, this Michaelmas, because that man was farming badly, on what proof can the point be raised when next Michaelmas he leaves and has to claim compensation under this Clause? The landlord will say, "Oh. no; I gave you notice because you were farming badly." What test is going to be applied? How will this interregnum work in with the Act?
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
The question raised as to what is to be the situation in the interregnum is a matter which may have to be considered when the Bill shapes itself as a whole. I do not think it is possible in this Clause to deal with this temporary matter. This particular Amendment introduces a great uncertainty. You are going to introduce an uncertainty based on something which lakes place certainly before the date of the Act. Just let me examine the. Amendment—had prior to the date of the notice, contravened or failed to observe the rules of good husbandry.Suppose it happened in the course of time that the man had brought back his system to one of good husbandry, is he liable to be placed in a position of disability for a lapse which has already been corrected? That will not do. I do not think that is what my hon. and gallant Friend means to do. You cannot, so to speak, carry forward a fault which has been overcome and atoned for, and treat it as if it were an existing fault. Then we come to the second part of the Amendment—and had in consequence deteriorated the holding as at the date of the notice.That means that because of bad husbandry in the past the holding was in a state of deterioration. If it was in my hon. Friend's mind to try and get that remedied, then it is really covered by 2003 paragraph (a), and that point is really met. When closely examined the Amendment is open to two objections. It is unnecessary, because it is covered by paragraph (a); if, on the other hand, it is intended to carry forward some past but not existing fault, then it is going to antedate the penalty, to carry that back which we do not desire to do, and to say that someone who has sinned in the past is never to have an opportunity for repentance! I feel sure that is not what is really intended. If the House really looks at the Amendment they will see that it is one that would not be wise to accept.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1, b), to leave out the words, "of any term or condition of the tenancy."
§ Major M. WOOD
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Have you not passed over my Amendment to leave out paragraph (b)? It does not seem to be consequential.
§ Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Sir E. Cornwall)
The proposed Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman is consequential. It would not be in order to move to omit paragraph (b). He might propose to amend it.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
This Amendment is to carry out a personal undertaking given to the Committee. I propose later to move to insert other words.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman has got his other words inserted "of any term or condition of the tenancy consistent with good husbandry," who is to decide what is consistent with good husbandry? An agreement is made, and is in existence, which the tenant is bound to abide by. Who is to be the judge to define a breach of one of the terms of his agreement? All he has got to do is to plead that that particular part of the agreement was not in accordance with the rules of good husbandry. Will the matter be decided by the arbitrator?
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
I beg to move in Sub-section (1, b) after the word 2004 "remedied" ["capable of being, remedied"] to insert the words "of any term or condition of the tenancy consistent with good husbandry."
We have arrived at the condition to be observed, and we think these words have a somewhat more limited effect than the others. We are bringing this paragraph (b) into accord with the system under which paragraph (b) deals, and not seeking to introduce the wider conditions, which may be in the tenancy, but which do not form any necessary part of good[...] husbandry.
§ Major M. WOOD
This Clause, as it sands and as it will stand if this Amendment is accepted, will be far from satisfactory. Take, for instance, a farmer who goes out of his farm, and after he has gone out it is found that he has not cleared out, say, some of his ditches. That may thereby effect waste to the extent of £10. If this remains in as it is the result will be that he will be penalised, not to the extent of £10, but to the extent of a whole year's rent, and that seems to me to be most unfair.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will just read the Clause—(b) had at the time of the notice failed to comply within a reasonable time with any notice in writing by the landlord served on him requiring him"—to do so and so. The first notice requires him to expend £10. He does not do that which can be very easily done, and brings down upon himself a second notice. If, as suggested, he is a bond fide tenant, then, under the notice, he has power to put himself right.
§ Major M. WOOD
That is just what I was saying. If, by an oversight, he omits to carry out these improvements, and does damage to the extent of £10, he will be mulcted in the whole year's rent. If he does damage to the extent of £10, make him pay it, but do not make him lose the whole benefit of the Clause simply because of what might be only an oversight. I think it would be much better to have the whole Sub-section struck out.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Major WOOD
I beg to move, in Subsection (1, c), to leave out the words "a person who had become bankrupt or 2005 compounded with his creditors;" and to insert instead thereof the words "an undischarged bankrupt."
A person may be perfectly solvent at the time he receives the notice, but if at any time previously he may have been bankrupt or have compounded with his creditors, he will get no compensation under this Sub-section. I cannot believe that that was the intention of the Government. The real object of the Sub-section, I suppose, is to prevent the landlord having to pay compensation if it is not going to the farmer, but is going to go to some third party who has not earned it. If a tenant has become bankrupt and his debts have been incurred, perhaps, in obtaining manures and other things for benefiting the land, I think the creditors should get the benefit of the capital sunk in the land in that way. I have left out all reference to compounding with one's creditors. I think this is a most reasonable Amendment, and I hope the Government will accept it.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
I quite appreciate the grounds on which this Amendment is put forward, and perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend has made out a case for examination, although I do not think he has made a case out for his Amendment. We have to remember the purpose of this Clause. It is intended to give compensation in cases of disturbance. We are giving compensation to tenants if they are disturbed unless the landlord has got the right to serve notice. We have to hold the balance fairly between the tenant and the landlord. Let us see whether the Clause as it stands is right or whether it would be fair to restrict the powers of the landlord only to the case where the tenant is an undischarged bankrupt. My hon. Friend would restrict the right of the landlord to cases where the tenant is an undischarged bankrupt. At present the landlord may have very good reasons for doubting whether a man who has become bankrupt, or has compounded with his creditors, would be a tenant who was likely to be able to still continue a system of good husbandry or likely to get the best results out of the land. It may be that he has escaped the full penalties of bankruptcy by a composition or has secured his discharge, but, in either case, a person who had got into the position that his capital 2006 was much reduced might have his power of doing his duty by the land circumscribed if not altogether imperilled in that way. Are you going to say to the landlord, although you are asked to secure that the tenant shall be one capable of exercising good husbandry, and although the whole purpose is to secure efficient production from the soil, are you going to say it is necessary that the present powers of the landlord should be so circumscribed that he cannot serve a notice on a person who has became bankrupt?
§ Major WOOD
No one suggests that the landlord should not be entitled to serve a notice on anyone. The question is whether in the event of a notice to quit being served, compensation will be paid. I say that a man should get his compensation, although he had been bankrupt, say, 50 years ago.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
I quite appreciate the hon. Member's point without his second explanation. A man who was bankrupt 50 years ago, if there was any disability attaching to him would not be admitted as a tenant. We have to foreshadow the actual circumstances of estate management. I say to the House that one has to contemplate the possibility of good husbandry and effective production from the soil, and it would be quite unfair to say that the power of giving notice, or a notice which carried with it the right to receive compensation, should be restricted only to where a man was a discharged bankrupt and not to a case of inefficient management. I hope I have made my meaning plain to the House, although the hon. Member seems to think I have not appreciated his point. I think it would be much better, under the circumstances that the Clause should remain as framed.
§ Major HOWARD
Suppose a man was bankrupt five years ago and was accepted by the landlord as a tenant after having got his discharge. Suppose, too, he farmed well. Would the landlord be able to turn him out without giving him compensation, simply because he was a bankrupt before he was accepted as a tenant?
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
I think such a case is quite remote from the real facts, and we need not therefore worry about it.
We are anxious to protect from hardship persons who ought 2007 not to be subjected to it. The hon. and gallant Member for the Sudbury Division (Major Howard) has indicated a case in which hardship might be caused. There is no desire on the part of my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment to place the landlord in a position into which he should not be put, of having to retain a tenant who has become bankrupt through inefficiency as a farmer when his retention might result on a really vexatious claim for compensation, or a claim for compensation which would be not for his benefit but merely to put further money into the pockets of his creditors. We recognise that it would be very improper to put any such provision as that into the Act. We do not want to enable the creditors of a bankrupt to put any sort of pressure upon him to get compensation from the landlord merely in order that it may go into their pocket. That would, we agree, be quite wrong. But I would ask the Solicitor-General to bear in mind that there may be cases where an unfortunate person has arrived at a position of bankruptcy, not because he is an inefficient farmer—for he might be a perfectly admirable farmer—but for quite other reasons, for having, for instance, involved himself in liabilities for considerations purely sentimental. Our Amendment contemplates the protection of tenants who, although they have been bankrupt, have got their discharge, and farmed their holdings well. We are anxious to protect them. This may not be the best plan. We ask the Solicitor-General if he can suggest a better form of words which would prevent hardship to a man who is a perfectly efficient farmer, but who, through circumstances quite extraneous to his business, has fallen into a position of bankruptcy, but has extricated himself subsequently by getting his discharge. It would be unfortunate if, in addition to the misfortune brought upon him by reasons for which he might not really be culpable, he should lose what otherwise he would be entitled to. I think the Solicitor General dismissed rather too quickly the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sudbury. There is something in the point. I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will not give an absolute refusal to the consideration of this matter. Perhaps he can assure 2008 us that in another place some attempt may be made to mitigate what may be an undoubted hardship, and if we get that assurance we may not press the matter further now.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
Perhaps, with the leave of the House, I may answer that. I understand the general sense of the House is that there is no desire to do more on one side or the other than to safeguard bankruptcy cases in which there remain what I may call the possibilities of good husbandry; to safeguard, in fact, the man who becomes bankrupt (a) through some untoward event which is no way is connected with his good husbandry and (b) where he has been bankrupt a long time ago. I am much obliged to hon. Members of the House who have directed by attention to this point. I am rather inclined to think that some words ought to be found to make it plain in the Bill that that is the intention of the Bill. The hon. Member who spoke last was anxious that I should suggest alternative words. All I can say is I am quite ready to consider the matter, and, if possible, find words which will express the intention which I gather is that of the House, and to which I have no desire to run counter. Indeed, my desire is to make the Bill meet the exact views of the House.
§ Major M. WOOD
I am much obliged to the Solicitor-General for what he has said. May I point out that if this Amendment is not accepted, and if the Sub-section is passed in the form in which it appears in the Bill, it will mean that no farmer who has ever been a bankrupt will get the slightest benefit under Clause 7? As has been pointed out, many farmers become bankrupt for reasons entirely unconnected with farming, and they are going to be penalised under this proposal. I am certain the House would not desire that any such injustice should be done.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir HARRY HOPE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1, c) after the word "creditors" to insert the words "or had been during the tenancy convicted of serious crime or had acquired habits or been guilty of conduct prejudicial to good estate management."
2009 This Amendment applies to persons who clearly ought not to be entitled to the benefits of the Clause, and my desire in moving it is to ensure the smooth working of the Clause by excluding clearly undesirable persons.
§ Sir B. STANIER
I beg to Second the Amendment.
I think that this matter is one which ought to receive the serious consideration of the House. I regret to say that on my own estate I had such a case, and the other tenants sent mo a resolution asking me to end the tenancy of that farm. I did that, but if this Bill had been then an Act I should have been penalised far doing so. I do not think that any landlord ought to be so penalised.
§ Mr. WHITE
Surely this Amendment is not going to be pressed? If I remember rightly, it was moved in Committee by another hon. Member and was negatived there. The Parliamentary Secretary promised, if possible, to examine the question and to do something on Report. I have here a document, headed "The Agricultural Bill," in which it is stated that an unofficial Committee of the House of Commons recommend the following, upon which this Amendment is based:After the word 'creditors,' insert 'or who has at any time during the two years then last past been convicted of a civil offence, or been guilty of immoral conduct, or at the date of the notice is a persistent drunkard, or is otherwise undesirable.'Surely we are not going back to the mediæval days in this matter! I remember, although I am not an old man, a state of affairs in the villages in my younger days when tenants were penalised because, perhaps, something had happened in their lives, and they could be turned out without compensation. To introduce a private matter of this kind, however, into a Bill which has for its main object the greater production of food is one of the most amazing and if I may say so with all respect, most impudent things that I have ever heard brought before this House.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
This Amendment was discussed somewhat fully in Committee, and my right hon. Friend expressed sympathy with the point of view from which it was presented. The hon. Member for Ludlow (Sir B. Stanier) has referred to a case in which he himself 2010 found a difficulty, and I understood him to say that he was asked to give notice to some particular tenant who was certainly undesirable.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
I can quite understand that such cases may possibly arise, although he would be the first to agree that they are, I will not say comparatively rare, but absolutely rare. My right hon. Friend has carefully considered whether or not he would be able to put in some words which should safeguard the position with which it is the purpose of this Amendment to deal, but great difficulty arises in dealing with this Section. If a controversy arises, and there is a dispute, it has to go before an arbitrator, and I am quite sure that an arbitrator would not be an apt tribunal to try a dispute upon a point of this sort. If one body of tenants, or the landlord, affirms, and the tenant in question himself denies, that he has acquired habits or been guilty of conduct prejudicial to good estate management, that is a matter which really ought to be dealt with, as it was in the particular case mentioned by my hon. Friend, by the Court. I do not think that a question of that sort can be left to an arbitrator, and, as at present advised, my right hon. Friend has not seen any method by which he could introduce words for the purpose of dealing with this difficulty. If we did introduce or accept any such words, it would be unsatisfactory to the landlord, and certainly unsatisfactory to the tenant, to leave such a matter to be determined by the arbitrator who is the tribunal dealing with controversies that may arise under this Section. Therefore, I am unable to accept this Amendment. If some proposal could be made of a different nature for dealing with the point, I am certain that my right hon. Friend would consider it, and it might be dealt with in another place. At the present moment I feel sure that the House would not be right to accept an Amendment of this nature, having regard to the structure of the Clause, and to the fact that the tribunal would be a very inappropriate one to deal with such cases.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I think there is great force in what the Solicitor-General has said, and I must say that I think this Amendment as it stands goes a little too far. I also agree that the arbitrator dealing with cases under this Clause would not be the right tribunal. I think that the Amendment should be confined at any rate to convictions for crime, which is a question of fact, and not one that would have to be decided by the arbitrator, and also that it should be limited to a conviction within the year in which notice is given. I think it would be monstrous that a man should be deprived of the benefits of this Bill, so far as they go, simply because, at some previous time, he happened to have some black mark against him which had long ago been condoned. It. might be used merely as a means of escaping the payment of compensation. If notice is really given simply because of a conviction for some disgraceful offence which has just immediately occurred, say within the year in which the notice is given, I think it would be all right.
This Amendment raises a rather serious matter. It must be remembered that we are legislating, not for a fine for an offence committed by the landlord, but for compensation which has to be paid even where the notice is given in accordance with the rules of good estate management. Therefore, we have to consider that there may be exceptional cases in which this compensation ought not to be given. What would happen, for instance, in a case of lunacy? Suppose that a tenant, through no fault of his own, lost his reason and had to be taken to an asylum. His tenancy would not end; it would be carried on by someone on his behalf, and it might be very bad for the estate, and very hard on the landlord who gave notice under these conditions, that he should be required to pay heavy compensation, when he was doing what was obviously for the benefit of everyone concerned. I think this point wants wider consideration than it has got. There may be other cases, but we are legislating here for the man who does his duty to the estate and the country, and will have to pay very heavy compensation. Where the tenant is in no way responsible for that he ought to get compensation in any case, but where the notice is given clearly through some action of the tenant, even though it may be no 2012 fault of his own, and on account of bad health, or for any reason beyond his control, it becomes necessary to give him notice in the interest of the country, I do not think compensation ought to be paid, and if the Amendment is withdrawn the right hon. Gentleman ought to consider that point before the Bill goes to another place.
§ Mr. W. R. SMITH
I hope the House will hesitate before it permits a provision of this kind being inserted in the Bill. After all, the laws of the land apply to any offence a man may be guilty of, and if he is tried in the Courts and punished, what right have we, in a Bill like this, to add to the penalties which may be inflicted upon him? That is really what it amounts to. If you are going to protect the landlord against the farmer, we may have to ask for the farmer to be protected against the landlord, and where are we going to end in the provisions we are going to insert in legislation of this character? This Amendment, as it stands, is certainly most outrageous. The question of habits —how far can that be carried? A person who attends the Primrose League instead of some other organisation may be held to have acquired habits prejudicial to the estate. It is almost impossible to say to what extent a provision like this may not be utilised, and people may incur expense and personal inconvenience in having to attend arbitration proceedings, or what not, merely because of a difference between themselves and their landlords on a matter which the average person would hold to be of no importance whatever. I can imagine a tenant becoming involved with his landlord in a question connected with the Game Laws. Is he to be penalised to the extent of being deprived of the legitimate benefits of the Bill because he may have shot a pheasant or done something in infringement of the Game Laws, and may have been prosecuted and convicted of it? I can remember a case where a labourer was prosecuted and severely penalised for stealing a pheasant. He denied it, but was punished for it, discharged from his employment, and prevented from getting employment in several villages in the district where he had been previously employed. People who hold strong views to that extent against labourers might hold them just as strongly against tenant farmers. It is ridiculous for the House 2013 to be asked to pass legislation of this kind in a Bill which was framed for an entirely different purpose. I hope the Government will hesitate before inserting a provision of this kind.
§ Colonel GREIG
I entirely agree with what the hon. Member has said. Look at the words of the Amendment. "Had been during the tenancy convicted of serious crime." What crimes are serious and what are not? You will be immediately plunged into investigations which certainly no arbitrator is capable of undertaking. This is obviously in addition to something else that is in the Clause. What are the other things which take a man out of the right of getting compensation? They all relate to good husbandry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Bankruptcy?"] A man who is bankrupt is not likely to cultivate his tenancy properly. A man may be a perfectly good farmer and yet have committed some crime which the arbitrator might think to be a serious crime. On the face of it it will not hold water, and I hope the Government will not put anaything of the sort into the Bill.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendments made: In Sub-section (1, d), leave out the word "fails" ["or within a reasonable time fails"] and insert instead thereof the word "failed":
Leave out the words "subsequent to" ["subsequent to the date of the said demand"] and insert instead thereof the word "at."—[Sir A. Boscawen.]
§ Mr. E. WOOD
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1, d), to insert a new paragraph—or,—(e) had at the date of the notice unreasonably refused or within a reasonable time failed to comply with a demand made to him in writing by the landlord requiring him to secure conditions in connection with the tenancy or cultivation of the holding reasonably necessary in the interests of good estate management.The object of the Amendment is to endeavour to meet cases which might arise in which tenants might unreasonably fail to comply with a demand made in writing by the landowner to secure conditions either in the absence of a written agreement or conditions which are generally acknowledged to be reason- 2014 ably necessary in the interest of good estate management. When the Bill was in Committee it was generally acknowledged that there was what I think was described as a gap in regard to the cases covered in the exceptions in paragraphs (a) and (b) in which it might be perfectly legitimate by general agreement to give notice to the tenant and which ought not to be liable to compensation, and the kind of case I have in mind is the case of a tenant who might, for example, have been perpetually quarrelling with his neighbours or perpetually drunk or doing something generally acknowledged to be undesirable and it would be a perfectly proper thing that the landowner should have the right to give such a man notice and it would be quite improper that if he gives that notice he should be liable to the compensation provisions under this Clause. In drafting the Amendment I have made use of a word which has found its way into the Bill in more than one place and that is the word "unreasonable." I am well aware of the objection which may be urged in some quarters against the indefinitencss of the word. I am not committed to the wording of the Amendment, but it is an honest attempt to fill a gap which I think my right hon. Friend recognises exists. If he can suggest better words I shall be extremely ready and anxious to meet him and consider them. But unless we have something of this sort it is quite evident that you run a very great risk of imposing an unreasonable liability upon a landowner where, in the general interest of the neighbourhood as a whole, there would be general agreement that such action should be taken. The only objection that I can imagine might be raised is that it might be used as an engine for extorting unreasonable increases of rent, but hon. Members will remember that that danger, if it exists, is safeguarded against by the provisions which deal with that subject. I commend the Amendment to my right hon. Friend, in the hope that he will be prepared to consider the advisability of meeting us in the same reasonable spirit that he has been good enough to display on other occasions.
§ Captain FITZROY
I beg to second the Amendment. Everyone who is in any way acquainted with estate management must know that there are occasions on which in the best interests, not only of the estate itself, but of the neighbourhood it is de- 2015 sirable that the tenant should have notice to quit. In these instances it seems, to say the least of it, unreasonable that the owner who is put in that position should be called upon to pay the somewhat heavy penalties which are provided under this Clause. I fully realise the great difficulties there are in meeting in an Act of Parliament a case such as my hon. Friend has suggested may occur, but we are dealing with very difficult questions, and the Government ought to realise that such cases do occur, and they ought to do their best to meet such cases in the best interests of estate management and the production of food in this country.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I understand the meaning of the Amendment and the object of my hon. Friends is to cover cases where there is no written contract of tenancy or where the document is an informal contract. The condition of tenancy is largely covered by custom, and it is here intended to secure that if the landlord insists that a proper contract of tenancy is to be drawn up and the tenant unreasonably refuses, that in that case there should be no compensation for disturbance. I agree that there may be cases where some such action is necessary, but I submit that this Amendment is far too wide. I can hardly conceive what it might not ultimately cover. It might be construed to enable the landlord to force the tenant to agree to any fresh arrangement as regards his holding which might be held to be necessary in the interests of good estate management, and that if the tenant did not agree he might lose compensation for disturbance in the event of his refusal being held to be unreasonable. That goes too far. It would open the door very wide. Therefore, though I agree that it is possible that some words might be inserted to cover the particular case of the absence of a formal agreement, I cannot accept these words, but I will call the attention of the Minister of Agriculture to the point and we will see whether some words can be discovered in another place to meet the point. The words of the Amendment as they stand are far too wide and too vague.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I suggest that the far better course would be to accept these words now on the understanding that if upon consideration it is found that they go further than is advisable, the 2016 Minister of Agriculture in another place could amend them in that sense. It is far better to have something on the Paper which we can be certain will be attended to in another place than merely to abandon the Amendment, which my right hon. Friend says has some foundation, on the understanding that in another place the matter may be dealt with, if it is not forgotten. I do not say that my right hon. Friend would purposely forget, but with the vast amount of work he has to do, he might forget. I am certain that if I were in his place I should forget. I have not too great confidence in the judgment of the Minister of Agriculture. He is very likely to take a view which even my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment would consider too extreme. The Minister might say: "I have considered this matter. I do not think it is a proper Amendment. I do not see any words which can be put in which would make it a proper Amendment. Therefore, I shall not introduce it." The result would be that nothing would be done. If these words are put in the result will be that when the Bill gets to another place the Minister seeing them in the Bill will have to give his reasons if he considers that they are impossible or that they require amendment. We should then make certain that this case for which the right hon. Gentleman admits there is a foundation will be considered. I am told that my right hon. Friend is in a conciliatory mood, and I appeal to him to show it by accepting my suggestion.
§ Major HOWARD
There may be, probably there will be some cases in which we may want something of the sort moved by the hon. Member for Ripon. But I do hope when the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill is considering that he will be very careful not to introduce any other interference with the cultivation of the holding. We heard a lot yesterday from a great many of my hon. Friends who are so concerned about the farmer being under control in cultivation by the Minister. Now it is suggested in this Amendment that the tenant is to be under another control by his landlord as to cultivation. Cases might arise in which I, as a tenant farmer might get notice from the Ministry to cultivate in one way and notice from the landlord to cultivate in another way. If I did not cultivate as the landlord told me I should be liable 2017 to lose compensation. If I did not cultivate as the Ministry told me I might have penalties imposed under the Act. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make sure before inserting anything in another place that the farmer is not to be put under another system of control.
I have no wish to speak from the landlord's point of view or from any point of view except in the interest of agriculture. But, as regards the Amendment before the House, I do think that it might be worth while for the Minister in charge of the Bill to consider whether there might not be some words to say that, in cases where the landlord wishes, in the interest of the estate, to change the cultivation, this may be done. We may find passed into law this Bill, which, in my opinion, will give far greater fixity of tenure than many hon. Members imagine, and there may be cases where a man wishes to give up a tenancy for some reason and he does not until he gets notice, because he knows that if he gets notice he is to get compensation. He then proceeds to be practically a public nuisance, and the landlord should be protected where he is really given notice for the advantage of the State and the country as a whole. The Bill is taking a great deal from the landlord, but there ought to be some approach to fairness, and words should be put in to protect the landlord in cases such as I have described.
§ Mr. C. WHITE
The Amendment which we have just negatived was very clumsy indeed. This Amendment is so beautiful in its simplicity that it needs a little examination. The hon. Member who moved it moved the Amendment in Committee upstairs which seems to be based on these Amendments which I hold in my hand, which have been prepared by a very clever draftsman, who was employed by this Committee to draft Amendments to the Agricultural Bill. It seems to me that the same thing may apply in this beautifully simple Amendment as in that which we have just negatived. I am told that this very clever draftsman can produce such a simple, innocent-looking Amendment, which may cover a tremendous lot of important matters. It seems to me that he has done it here. Suppose a man were guilty of unneighbourly conduct, which is mentioned in these very clever 2018 little Amendments which have been drawn up upon which these two Amendments are based. If he had been guilty in the least part of the then two years, or persistently guilty, of unneighbourly conduct, I want to know if he is in the position of a man who might be written to by the landlord to ask him to comply with something in connection with the tenancy which might be prejudicial to good management? It is altogether too vague. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will have nothing to do with it, and will negative the thing altogether. This is not a court of morals. We have no right to inquire into what people do in their private life, and the House of Commons should have nothing to do with Amendments such as these.
§ Mr. E. WOOD
The hon. Member (Mr. White) tried to impute to me motives of which I am not conscious. I do not need to follow him through the picture which his fancy painted of other Amendments on which this is supposed to be based. The House is concerned with what it has before it at present. My right hon. Friend said he thought that there was some substance, in this Amendment, but it was unnecessarily wide and went a little further than those who support it might intend. The last words read "reasonably necessary in the interests of good estate management." If that is thought too wide I would remind him that on that point, as on all others in this Bill, it would be open to the tenant to apply to an arbitrator for their interpretation. Therefore, I do not think that the danger which is supposed to lurk in those words, in fact, does so lurk. It is not intended to, and, in my view, the Bill safeguards by the provision of arbitration any such danger. The hon. and gallant Member for Suffolk thought that the Amendment might contain the danger of a landlord interfering with the cultivation of the tenant. I think that we have heard enough on the subject of interference to feel confident that we should not have any such interference as is referred to. All that is proposed is that the system of cultivation is within the contract of tenancy. The only object of these words is to safeguard the landlord in the right that he always had, the right to find fault with a tenant if he is cultivating badly, inasmuch as his interest in the land is permanent, whereas the tenant's is tem- 2019 porary. I would wish my hon. Friend to have gone a little bit further than he has gone. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) was quite right when he said that it is not very satisfactory when we move Amendments in this House that are admitted to have substance and then the whole venue is transferred to another place. We lose touch with the whole Bill once it leaves this place, and we have no guarantee at all as to what happens in another. I do not want to put the House unnecessarily to the trouble of a Division, but if that is all my hon. Friend will give me, I shall not divide, because I know I should not beat him. I hope he will not merely formally confer with his Noble Friends, but do so with some firm practical intention of bringing his good resolution to a true issue, and finding words that will meet the point which he admits is of some substance.
§ Amendment negatived.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the wordsProvided that compensation shall not be payable under this Section in any case where the landlord has made to the tenant an offer in writing to withdraw the notice to quit, and the tenant has unreasonably refused or failed to accept the offer.This is an Amendment which I spoke about a little while ago, providing that compensation shall not be payable in any case in which a landlord has made a tenant an offer in writing to withdraw the notice to quit, and the tenant has unreasonably refused or failed to accept the offer. This Amendment was primarily put down to meet the case which now no longer exists of the Bill applying to a notice to quit given before the Bill came into operation, but expiring afterwards. It does still apply to notices to quit given after May. Apart from that, I think there should be power to withdraw in any case even if the notices are given long after the Bill becomes law. I think it is reasonable that, having regard to the heavy compensation which will be payable under this Bill, landlords should have the right to withdraw the notice, and if the tenant unreasonably refuses to accept the withdrawal and insists on going this compensation shall not be payable, and whether it applies to the temporary cases 2020 which arise between the 20th of May and the passing of the Bill or in future cases, I think in either case these powers should exist.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), after the words last inserted, to insert a new, Subsection—(2) The agricultural committee for the area in which a holding is situate may, on the application of the landlord of the holding and after giving the tenant or his representative an opportunity of being heard, grant to the landlord a certificate that the tenant is not cultivating the holding according to the rules of good husbandry, and any such certificate shall for the purposes of this Section be conclusive evidence of that fact unless the tenant, within such time as the Minister may prescribe, requires the question as to whether he is cultivating the holding according to the rules of good husbandry to be referred to arbitration and the arbitrator determines that the holding is being so cultivated.This is an Amendment which is on the same lines as an Amendment put down by my hon. Friend the Member for Ripen at an earlier stage. It will enable a landlord who wishes to give a notice to quit, on the ground that the tenant has been cultivating not in accordance with the rules of good husbandry, to go to the agricultural committee and obtain from them a certificate that the holding has not been properly cultivated and that, if the certificate is given, it shall be held to be absolute for the purpose of conclusive evidence of the fact that the holding is not being properly cultivated. It is true that an appeal to an arbitrator can be made by the tenant, if he so desires, from the decision of the agricultural committee. I think something of this sort is absolutely necessary. If a landlord gives notice to quit on the ground that the land has not been cultivated in accordance with the rules of good husbandry, there is always a danger that the arbitrator might subsequently hold that the conditions did not prevail, with the result that the landlord might have to pay compensation, and pay compensation on the higher scale, on the ground that the notice had been given not in accordance with the rules of good estate management. But if the landlord, in the first instance when he gives notice, obtains the certificate from the agricultural committee, that certificate is to be conclusive evidence, and the danger that 2021 the landlord will run will be considerably minimised. It is a fair proposition. It has been put down, not only by myself, but by other Members of this House, and I think it should be added to the Bill.
§ Captain FITZROY
I think this is a very important Amendment, indeed. It carries out the intention that myself and one of my Friends had in an Amendment which we put down earlier on the Paper. Keeping in mind the object of this Bill, which is to increase food production in this country, the great danger of this particular Clause, in giving compensation where a tenant has been given notice to quit, is that we are liable to fix on the land bad or indifferent farmers. That is the great difficulty of this Bill. I know there are provisions made for it, but it will not be so much to get rid of a notoriously bad farmer as to get rid of an indifferent farmer. I hold the opinion that if we are ever to be successful in increasing the food supplies of this country, it is absolutely necessary that nothing but good farming should take place on the land, and it is very necessary that ample opportunity should be given to owners to get rid of bad and indifferent farmers. For that reason difficulties may very often arise. It is necessary that there should be some means of getting a certificate from some other authority to prove and to give the landlord justification for giving a bad or indifferent farmer notice to quit without having to pay compensation.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I should like to ask a question as to the reading of this Amendment. The House will see that the word "may" occurs in the first line. The Amendment reads:The agricultural committee for the area in which a holding is situate may"—Supposing the agricultural committee, on the application of a landlord, say, "No, we do not choose to investigate the matter at all." What is going to happen then? I quite see the difficulty of substituting the word "shall." The effect of that might be held to fee that the agricultural committee should give this certificate without having taken any steps to ascertain whether or not they were justified in giving it. Of course that would not do. That is not the intention of the Government, and would not be the intention of anyone. But I think that 2022 something must be put in, some words which would substitute for "may" something of this sort: "shall, after examination, if they then think proper." That would ensure that if the landlord does go to the agricultural committee they shall take some steps to do something. Unless this is done, the Amendment may be merely waste paper. I would like to know what the Solicitor-General thinks. I am afraid my words are not sufficiently known to the law, but I would like him to say whether it would not be possible to introduce some words to carry out my meaning. I think I have made it clear to him.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
The right hon. Baronet, as always, has made it perfectly clear, but I am astonished that he should oven put the question, because he is such a distinguished and able lawyer himself that I should have thought he would be able to answer it himself. He knows as well as I do what the difference between the word "may" and "shall" is. If you entrust duties to a public authority you rely upon them to fulfil them, and when you say "may" you mean this: that on a proper occasion, where the subject-matter is brought within their jurisdiction, then they will do so, and are are to do so. If you say "shall" you might force them to act where their jurisdiction is not properly invoked. But given the proper circumstances, and the proper jurisdiction or a proper occasion, "may" is quite sufficient to ensure that they shall carry out the duty.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Suppose I go to an agricultural committee and say, "I ask you to examine a certain holding and to inform me whether or not you think you can give me a certificate," and they say, "No, we shall not examine it," would this Amendment give me power to compel them to go and examine it?
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
I am not prepared to say that a mandamus would lie. The right hon. Gentleman is so familiar with legal terms that I will not say more, and I do not want to detain the House. I am not prepared to say a mandamus would lie to the Agricultural Committee, but all the other, words that he has suggested— "a proper occasion," "if the matter is brought to their attention," "if it is one that falls within their jurisdiction"—do fall within the word "may," and I think, therefore, the other suggestion he has 2023 made is very unnecessary. All are included in the word "may," which gives them a certain amount of latitude on the question, but insists that that discretion shall be properly exercised.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the word "may" ["in which a holding is situate may"] and to insert instead thereof the word "shall."
I desired to raise this very question before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London had risen and I am not at all satisfied with the answer of the Solicitor-General. I think the language is far from clear. The Solicitor-General knows quite well that the word "may" is purely permissive, though it may be construed "shall." What really is required is certainty as to whether the notice, if given, will be effective when it expires. Neither side can desire for a moment to be landed into litigation. I would suggest that this Amendment would be made quite clear by some small modification and alteration, and I would suggest that the words should read as follows:The agricultural committee of the area in which a holding is situate shall, on the application of the landlord of the holding, and after giving the tenant or his representative an opportunity of being heard, hear the application, and may grant the landlord a certificate that the tenant is not cultivating the holding according to the rules of good husbandry, or may refuse the same.I have had some experience of litigation of this character. It is what every landlord and every tenant desires to avoid, and I am sure the House will appreciate this, that lawyers will not get much money after this Clause is passed.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I am very anxious to meet the wishes of the House, and, as far as I could gather, the words read out by my hon. Friend would meet the point, but it is a very inconvenient plan to ask us to accept verbal Amendments at the last moment. I hardly think it is necessary, but, as far as I can gather it, it may meet the point, and, therefore, I would be willing to accept the words; but it must be clearly understood that they will have to be looked at 2024 carefully in another place, for otherwise we may be making some mistake we do not realise at the moment.
§ Major M. WOOD
May I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that these agricultural committees are not statutory committees in Scotland, and it seems rather out of place to place a duty of that kind upon a committee which may not exist at all?
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
That is just one of the reasons why we must look carefully at it in another place. In any case, I would suggest that if we put in anything here which is inappropriate to Scotland it could be amended on the Clause applying the Bill to Scotland.
What will be the effect, as far as the tenant is concerned, if the landlord applies to the agricultural committee for this certificate, and fails to get it? Will that be, in effect, giving the tenant a certificate that he has been cultivating according to the rules of good husbandry? If that is so, should he not get a certificate of that kind?
Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments to proposed Amendment made: After the word "heard" insert the words "may hear the application and may." After the word "husbandry" ["husbandry, and any such certificate"] insert the words "or may refuse the same." — [Mr. Hohler.]
Proposed words, as amended, there inserted in the Bill.
Further Amendment made: In Subsection (2) leave out the words, "subsequent to" and insert instead thereof the word "at".—[Sir A. Boscawen.]
§ Major HOWARD
I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), after the word "demand" ["where the demand"], to insert the words, "if made later than six months after the commencement of this Act."
This Amendment is intended to meet this position. There are tenants whose rents may be raised after the passing of the Act, by arbitration, and who cannot go again for two years. In the case of good landlords rents have not been put up in anticipation of this Act, but other tenants of land speculators and of landlords not of the character we know in 2025 this House, have had their rents raised in anticipation of this Bill. Without some provision of this kind, I am afraid these men will not be able to go to arbitration for two years after their rents have been raised. I want to put those tenants whose rents have been raised this Michaelmas on the same footing as the tenants will be who have their rents raised after arbitration.
Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER CLAY
I beg to second the Amendment. It is an Amendment of substance and one which is very much desired by farmers throughout the country.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I agree, and I think there are cases where undue pressure may have been put in anticipation of this Bill. In such cases the rent would not be reviewed until two years had elapsed, and, as I understand the Amendment, that limitation of two years will not apply if application is made within six months after the passing of the Bill. I think that is a reasonable proposal, and I am prepared to accept it.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Would the object not be better met by saying six months from the time the rent has been raised. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no!"]
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
We want to give it reasonable period after the passing of the Act during which the review can take place, and therefore I think these words are quite suitable.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I beg to move, in Sub-section (4), after the word "sum" ["sum representing"] to insert the words "not exceeding one year's rent."
This Amendment raises a question of considerable importance, namely, what should be the amount of compensation awarded under this Clause. Sub-section (4) provides for compensation for10.0 P.M.loss or expense directly attributable to the quitting of the holding a3 the tenant may unavoidably incur upon or in connection with the sale or removal of his household goods or his implements of husbandry, fixtures, farm produce or farm stock on, or used in connection with the holding, and shall include any expenses reasonably incurred by him in the preparation of his claim for compensation and also a sum equal to one year's rent.That may be a very large figure. The first part, as to the sale and removal of 2026 household goods, stock, and so on, opens up a very big vista of litigation and possible subject for arbitration. The price of stock, particularly at present, varies very much, and the value at the beginning of the year may be very different from what it is at the end. If the price fell, would that be a loss? I cannot say what the arbitrator might hold. Then there is the question of removal. A man may move a short distance or from one end of the country to the other, or from England to Scotland or from Scotland to England, and in that way you may have great variation. Nobody likes a liability which is indefinite. People would sooner have oven a somewhat heavy liability if it were definite rather than be faced with the prospect of an indefinite liability. I must say that I think this, in addition to the year's rent, makes a very heavy burden indeed, and if you take it that the average sum which may fall to be paid in compensation under the first part of the Clause would amount to a year's rent, that would mean two years' gross rent. There has been general agreement that one year's gross rent is at least equal to four years' net income, and therefore two years' gross rent is eight years of the landlord's income from a farm. That seems to me to be an unduly heavy burden, and it will give a great advantage to the wealthy landlord who may desire to part with a tenant from perfectly good motives. The Prime Minister considered it quite legitimate that a man might wish to occupy a farm himself or to put a member of his family into it, but he has to pay compensation. Would it be reasonable, in a case of that kind, for a rich man, who can afford to forego eight years' income from his farm, to take the farm himself, whereas a poor man, who could not afford to give up eight years' income, would be deprived, merely by that fact, of the right of entering upon his own farm and cultivating it for himself?
We have the national desire at the present moment that land should not be tied up any more than is necessary, and we have recently passed several Acts to enable land which is required for public services and for the settlement and use of people in the towns, whom we all desire to see spread out over a larger area, to be acquired more cheaply and to prevent the landlord having anything more than the barest compensation for such land. In this Bill we are tying up the 2027 land in the opposite direction, and whereas the owner of the land is to be cut down to the barest possible limit, we are imposing a heavy additional burden in the shape of compensation to the occupier of the land. Therefore, from that point of view, it is desirable that the compensation should be no more than is fair, and I venture therefore to press my Amendment, which, together with one later on the Paper, if given effect to, would limit the compensation to a maximum of one year's rent. I have already read out to the House a Resolution from a very important branch of the National Farmers' Union in Lincolnshire, who say that, in their opinion as practical farmers, that would be the highest point to which it would be fair to go in the interest of the tenant, of the landlord, and I believe also of the nation. I think that would be a fair compromise. I personally would be prepared to go as far as that, but no further in the national interest. The tenant must remember also that whatever compensation is given in this Clause to the tenant, the tenant will also have to pay to the labourer. I believe the National Farmers' Union take up the attitude that their view of the advantages of this Clause rather depends on whether you can whittle down the compensation which is to be given to the labourers below that which can be given to the farmers. That is not the view which is taken, I believe, by farmers generally, and, to use a common phrase which springs to everybody's mind when this point is raised, "what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander."
It seems to me that instead of looking round to see where we can make exceptions, what we want to get at is the fairest general standard of compensation which can be given, and to apply that all round, without exceptions either in one direction or the other. When we come to an Amendment which proposes to exempt local authorities from the provisions of this Clause, I shall oppose that, and I hope we shall have an opportunity of dividing against it. I do not want to see a tenant deprived of any compensation which is reasonably due to him any more than I wish to see a landlord, or a public authority, or a tenant himself in regard to the compensation which he has to pay to a labourer, or above all the public forced to pay a higher compensation than 2028 would really meet the fair demands of the ease. It is really a question of degree. We have already discussed the general question of whether compensation shall be paid or not, and the House has decided that compensation is to be paid. Taking that decision, the next most important thing is to decide what the amount of that compensation should be. I am strongly of opinion—and I think all moderate men are of opinion, and I believe the large majority of the farmers of this country are of opinion—that the compensation now proposed in this Clause is more than is necessary. It should be mentioned that this is only in reference to notices given in accordance to the rules of good estate management, and if my proposals are carried out, the compensation, instead of being the double compensation stated in the Bill, will be the single compensation, with the limit of one year's rent. It may be said that if you make that a maximum it will tend to become a minimum, but I am prepared to take that risk. Really I would prefer to see this given than to see a lot of money spent on litigation and arbitration, and I think a case might very commonly occur where, if you went to arbitration over the point, you would get a sum which would be something rather less than one year's rent, but the difference between the compensation you obtain and the sum total of one year's rent would be more than swallowed up by the cost of arbitration and litigation. I think it would be better for both parties—better for the landlord to pay one year's rent in full in compensation to the tenant, than for the tenant to get a little less and for the costs of arbitration to swallow up the difference. Therefore, taking it from the point of view of the nation as a whole, I do earnestly impress upon my right hon. Friend and the House that this should be the measure, and the highest measure, of compensation which we should award.
§ Sir C. WARNER
I hope the Government will seriously consider this. It is not a question of one year, but a question of it being a definite, fixed rent, which is so important. I think my right hon. Friend has moved an Amendment of very great value. I do not think he has put one point where there might be extra ridiculous compensation, and that is the case where the farmer has a pedigree herd of cattle, perhaps worth £500 each. The difference between the value of these in, perhaps, six months might be 2029 thousands of pounds, and a great deal more than the whole farm. In some cases it is quite possible that such a farmer would be sacrificing a great deal of production of the land. With the object of keeping a large number of cattle, he would have a good deal of land for grass which might otherwise be ploughed up. Whore a good landlord, no doubt, would naturally want to keep up the amount of arable land for the sake of the population in that district, you might have a pedigree-stock farmer laying down grass, and have no remedy, because the landlord would be afraid to touch him because of the enormous expenditure he would have to pay in the variation of the price of cattle.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
This is the first of a long series of Amendments which have been put on the Paper, all having the same object, although proceeding by different methods, the object being to reduce the amount of compensation to be payable for disturbance in which I may call non-capricious cases. There are other Amendments to reduce the compensation payable in capricious cases. We will deal with non-capricious cases first. As the Bill was originally introduced, the compensation in non-capricious cases consisted of three items: first of all, expenses due to removal; secondly, other expenses directly due to quitting; and, thirdly, one year's rental. When we got into Committee, very long discussions took place, and it was held that the compensation proposed was excessive. As a result, a series of conferences was held between certain of my hon. Friends on the Committee and the National Farmers' Union and myself, with the result that an agreement was arrived at that the compensation should be reduced by leaving out the second item in the previous three items, namely, "other expenses directly due to quitting." The result was we left the compensation in non-capricious cases as it stands now in the Bill, the cost of removal, plus one year's rent.
That arrangement, which was arrived at by my hon. Friends and myself, was ratified by the Committee, after very long discussion, and, so far as the Government are concerned, we feel ourselves bound by that decision, and we do not propose to vary from it one iota. The arrangement went beyond the actual case of the amount of compensation. It 2030 included also certain exceptional cases, all of which now appear in the Bill. In view of the fact that this arrangement was come to, was regarded as a fair compromise and ratified by the Committee, I really do not see how we can be asked further to whittle down the compensation at this stage. I really do not know where I should stand if I accepted that view. In Committee I was asked to come to a fair compromise. I came to what I believe to be a fair compromise. Then my right hon. Friend asks me here to come to another fair compromise and further to whittle down the compensation. If I agree, I have no doubt that when we come to another place that still further compromise will be suggested with the result that compensation for disturbance would be whittled down to a figure which practically would be of no value whatever. Therefore I feel absolutely bound, and I feel sure my hon. Friends will agree with me in this matter —in fact, I know they will—to adhere to the arrangement made. I cannot entirely understand some of the arguments put forward in favour of this particular Amendment. We are asked to get rid of the actual sum which is due to the cost of removal and to average it by putting in one year's rent. But another Amendment is on the Paper, to leave out the one year's rent and simply to put in the actual cost of the removal, and—
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I am not referring to the Amendment of my right hon. Friend. I was referring to another Amendment in the name of the hon. Gentleman behind me (Major Wheler) which proceeds on the opposite line.
§ Major WHELER
On a point of Order. May I be allowed to point out that I put down this Amendment entirely on my own initiative? I believe I am entitled to do that without consulting anybody.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I am not complaining of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's action, but what I am objecting to is that at one moment I am asked to put n a sum not exceeding one year's rent, and when that is rejected, we have another Amendment which brushes aside the average sum of one year's rent and puts in the actual expenses due to quit- 2031 ing. I say we came to a certain arrangement in Committee. I think it was a fair arrangement, and the House ought to adhere to it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Surely I can express my own opinion. I say in my opinion the House ought to support what is agreed to in Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear," and "No, no"!] Hon. Members are entitled to say "No, no," and to vote as they please. I am entitled to express my opinion. I entirely decline to be driven from pillar to post, and from compromise to compromise. Having arrived at what I believe to be a fair arrangement in the Committee I shall certainly ask the House to support that arrangement.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
There is one thing I disagree with in the particular point of view that my right hon. Friend has put forward. I desire to enter a caveat against any sort of suggestion that this House on Report stage has not complete liberty in a matter of this sort.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
May I interrupt? I do not suggest that the House on Report stage has not a complete right to do what it likes, but what I say is that so far as I am concerned I shall ask the House to support the agreement.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am very glad that has been made clearer, because these matters must be kept very clear, especially in view of the fact that so very few Bills have the opportunity and advantage, as I think, of a discussion in Committee on the floor of the House. Having said that, just by way of warning, as I think is one's duty from this side of the House at all times, I express my hearty agreement with the attitude which my right hon. Friend has taken towards this Amendment. As he truly said, once you commence to whittle down the compensation which is included in Clause 7, he will have an extraordinary difficult duty to maintain in resisting others. The slippery slope of compromise on this matter is one which, as he enters upon it, his pace will get more and more rapid. I will just say this to my right hon. Friend who moved this Amendment, that I regard this as one of the most dangerous steps, even in his own interests, which he could take, because, as far as I am entitled to join 2032 in representation from the farmers of Scotland—and I have a very large number of farmers in my constituency—I will say that they regard the provisions of this Bill as it now stands as falling very far short of security of tenure. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Well, I am only expressing the opinion of a large number of gentlemen I happen to know. It falls very short of the security of tenure which they expected under this Bill. If this Amendment be carried, I am quite sure they would think that the Bill would be, very shortly, not worth the paper it was written upon. I therefore simply say that as far as I am concerned —and I think I speak on this occasion for nearly all the hon. Members on this side of the House—we congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the decision he has taken, and we hope he will be adamant on this matter right through the remaining stages of the Bill.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS
While we all wish to regard the interest of the farmers, we have other interests to consider as well as those of the farmer. My right hon. Friend who spoke last spoke entirely from the point of view of some farmers which he represents in his constituency. He said they would be exceedingly disappointed if this Clause was whittled down in any way. Has he been asking what the labourers in his constituency think of it, because this- is a Clause which affects the labourers very materially? Certainly in my county, and, I think, in most counties in England, agricultural labourers look to rising to being farmers through small holdings. There is a continual flow of labourers becoming farmers, and that is going on the whole time. I made at one time a rough estimate, and I came to the conclusion that of the farmers of England one-third to one-half had been either labourers or the sons of agricultural labourers. If that be the case, how does this Clause affect them? Here you are trying to fix up for all time existing sitting farmers on the farm, and making such an amount of compensation payable as would exclude for all time the labourer from becoming a farmer. That is the plain English of the whole thing. You are thinking of nothing but the tenant farmer and trying to rob the landlord. You are trying to fix it for all time, and I am astonished that the right hon. Gentleman, who calls himself a Liberal, 2033 should regard from such a very narrow standpoint the interest of the tenant farmer.
I wish to regard this from the very natural standpoint of all interests, and I think that is the standpoint from which he ought to consider it, and therefore, supporting as I do the Amendment of my hon. Friend, I am supporting it because I believe it to be perfectly fair in the interests of all. I recognise one thing, that where a farmer goes for reasons consistent with good estate management, or because the owner wants to take the land into his own hands, if he is in no way at fault but goes at the request or by the direction of the owner of the land, it is reasonable that, when he quits his home, he should have some compensation over and above the ordinary tenant right. But we must be very careful indeed that that compensation does not amount to such a sum as would become in any way unreasonable. I would like to remind the Parliamentary Secretary that in the Memorandum which he issued with it he said that Part II of the Bill is founded generally on the lines of the recommendation of the Reconstruction Committee presided over by Lord Selborne. The Prime Minister came down to the House two days ago and asked it to regard the consideration of this Bill in the light of the recommendation of the Selborne Committee, particularly as regards Clause 19. In view of the right hon. Gentleman's Memorandum, and of the urgent appeal of the Prime Minister that we should turn to the Selborne Report and look at their recommendations on this subject, I got the Report, and what did I find was the recommendation as regards security of tenure for the farmer? These are the words:—As regards ordinary farming and the majority of tenancies there is evidence to show that the tenant farmer possesses a much greater security of tenure than would be warranted by the fact that in England, at any rate, by his own choice his tenancy is usually an annual one. We do not therefore consider that any general measure conferring security of tenure on the existing occupiers is called for in order to meet these exceptional cases.That is the recommendation of the Selborne Report. But my right hon. Friend who has moved this Amendment goes further than that, for he offers to give to the tenant any sum not exceeding one year's gross rent in cases where notices are given consistent with good estate 2034 management. I need not say what the Committee recommend in cases inconsistent with good estate management. I want to know why the right hon. Gentleman put this Memorandum at the beginning of the Bill, declaring that the measure was drawn on the lines of the Selborne Report, and then, at the very first Clause, totally ignored that Report and came down and said we must be bound by what he calls a compromise made in Committee. May I remind him that when he explained it in Committee I immediately jumped up and said I disagreed with it, and would oppose it to the uttermost of my power? I certainly am free, and every other Member of the Committee is free, with the exception of three of my hon. Friends, who, I am quite sure, did what they considered to be best at that time.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
The Parliamentary Secretary has referred to what passed in the Committee on this subject, and to what he called an agreement on the part of certain Members of the Committee and others representing the National Farmers' Union, and I think it may be well to draw the attention of the House to what exactly did take place in the Committee. The hon. Member for Faversham (Major Wheler) said, I think, that he had put down his Amendment on his own responsibility, and it was naturally open to any hon. Member to bring forward on Report the same Amendment that had been discussed in Committee. When, however, this question was discussed in Committee I see that the hon. and gallant Member for Daventry (Captain Fitzroy), after the Parliamentary Secretary had explained an Amendment which he proposed in a subsequent part of the Bill to meet certain of the points which had been put forward, and with reference to the discussion that was taking place outside, used these words:Naturally I can speak only for myself and one or two of my friends, and any arrangement that we have come to is in no way binding on the Committee.That, of course, is as it should be. The hon. and gallant Member went on to say:But I should like to express on what very friendly terms the right hon. Gentleman has met us, and the Amendments which he has put down to the Clause fully meet the case with regard to the exceptions which I mentioned last Thursday.2035 Therefore I assume that, on this Amendment, the hon. and gallant Member for Daventry will vote with the Parliamentary Secretary. But the hon. and gallant Member for Grantham (Lieut. -Colonel Royds) also had something to say. With regard to the Amendments which the right hon. Gentleman proposed and are now in the Bill, and which were being discussed, he said:I think the Amendments proposed by the Government are a very great improvement.I should not have gathered that from his speech to-night.
At any rate, in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's view, they were a great improvement. He then went on to say:I would like to point out that for the first time we are now agreeing, if the Amendment is withdrawn, to pay compensation of one year's rent plus all the cost of moving in every case where an owner gives notice to quit for reasons consistent with good estate management other than those exceptions included in the Amendment which my right hon. Friend has put down.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS
I said that in order to make it quite clear to the Committee what they were doing, and to warn them of what they were doing.
At least the hon. and gallant Gentleman said that they were very great improvements on the original. I do not put it any higher than that.
I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman finally opposed the Amendment, but he said later on:I am not opposing the Amendments—I very much approve of them—but I think they ought to be extended.That was his opinion, and that was the decision to which the Committee came. The arrangement at that time was a com- 2036 promise, and was a much better arrangement than that originally in the Bill. If this Amendment were accepted, it would whittle down that compromise, and therefore I sincerely hope the Government will stand by the Bill as we have it at present.
§ Mr. E. WOOD
I do not think I should have intervened if it had not been that I was one of the Members concerned with the compromise which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred to. My hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Colonel Royds) expressed surprised that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir D. Maclean) should dare to call himself a Liberal. I am half afraid he will express even more surprise that I should dare to call myself a Conservative or a Unionist, owing to my inability to support my right hon. Friend who moved the Amendment. Those who were a party to the compromise made upstairs are, of course, honourably bound to adhere to it as they firmly intend to do. If hon. Members who have followed the fortunes of the Bill for the last three months will cast their minds back to the situation in June, when the Bill was in Committee, if they found themselves in the position in which two or three of us found ourselves, of being invited to act a very invidious part as negotiators between conflicting interests, almost everyone of them would have arrived at substantially the same decision that we then arrived at. That course does not preclude the House from being entirely free, which it always is, or individual Members from being entirely free, which, of course, they are. I only want to tell my hon. Friends why I am bound, apart from the agreement to which I put my name, to support the Government in this matter. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Pretyman) reminded us that now we have got past the question of the general principle of compensation, and we are now on the question of amount. I am bound to express my own personal view that some of the statements—not those I have heard to-night, but on other occasions—are somewhat exaggerated. I do not take the gloomy view that we heard in an earlier stage of my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury). I am inclined to have the view of my hon. Friend (Captain Fitzroy) and to take rather a more optimistic view of the position than that. It is quite obvious that the whole genesis of this demand for the 2037 compensation Clauses arises from what is in fact a revolution in the system of land tenure in England which is going on, of course, before everyone's eyes at present. There is a good deal to be said for the view expressed by the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), that with the landed system of England in such a state of flux as it is at the present time, it would amount to temerity to try to lay down, hard and fast, the mould in which you are to attempt to cast it for generations to come, while it is still flowing hot and molten. The point is, exactly what is the amount to which we shall go. The House is aware of the compromise to which my hon. Friend and I came. I am aware of all that can be said against it. You may say that it is rough and ready, that it acts unequally as between tenants on different farms, that one farm is higher rented and another lower rented, and that it imposes a particular hardship upon particular individuals. All that is true; but I ask my hon. Friends to bear in mind that their alternative is indefinite, while this, at least, has the merit of being definite. Those who share my view must remember that in this matter the National Farmers' Union—of whom many hard things have been said, and about whom I have said some hard things— have also been running considerable risks. The compromise upon which we stand at this moment represents the middle ground between two extreme opinions. It is no secret that the National Farmers' Union wished very much more, and that I and others wished much less. We came together and arrived at a middle ground, for which both sides were willing to take considerable risks. I and my friends were influenced in coming to that decision by the fact that when you had stated all the objections to the year's rent, and when you had made your case as forcibly and as reasonably as my right hon. Friend (Mr. Pretyman) put his case, we were left with this alternative: do you prefer to face the risks of disagreement and of continuing disagreement between the two main productive interests in the agricultural industry, that of farming and of land owning, or would you rather secure agreement even at the expense of economic logic? Between those two alternatives I have never had any doubt that the most vital thing of all to secure, if you can, is agreement between the two main 2038 interests even at the expense of what I have called economic logic, and by what may be called rough and ready methods. You are more likely to secure agreement by this compromise than by any other which I have yet seen. It may be that the right hon. Member for the City of London may be able to find a compromise for the tenant farmers which they would prefer to the one which has been arrived at. If so, no one would be more willing to support him than I; but until someone provides a better compromise that offers a more reasonable chance of achieving agreement than the one which we have produced, I and my friends, apart from the obligation under which we lie to the word of our pledge, are prepared to support our compromise on the basis of the agreement which it appears to hold out.
Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER CLAY
I agree with the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Wood). I was not one of those who engaged in negotiations between the Farmers' Union and certain groups on the Committee, but we were in close touch with those who were negotiating. As the hon. Member has just said, there were many things which neither side liked. It is true that this puts a very heavy burden on the landlord, but I do not think that hon. Members remember what the Clause was when it was brought up to us in Committee. All this was carefully considered. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, with considerable tact and his usual ability, managed to get this agreement, which was almost unanimously passed in Committee, and though I was not present at the negotiations I feel myself bound to accept what was agreed to.
§ Mr. ROYCE
I was not one of those who were parties to the agreement, and have always felt that something in the nature of a fixed sum would be better than to leave the question indefinite, but I realise the concession which the right hon. Gentleman has made. We do want to do all we possibly can to secure the interests of tenant farmers. I do not think that the fixed sum of one year's rent is sufficient compensation, especially when you take into consideration some of the circumstances which have been outlined by other Members with regard to those farms which are held for a special purpose. I shall support the right hon. Gentleman if the Amendment is carried to a Division.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
I appeal to the House to come to a decision. The matter has been debated at some length, and the Debate this afternoon also covered the ground. The issue is perfectly clear, and I would ask the House to come to a decision.
§ Sir HARRY HOPE
I do not rise to say whether the compensation is too big or too small, but whether it is or not, this House would be doing an unwise act if it made the sum more definite than the words provide for. The Clause says that compensation will be paidin connection with the sale or removal of his household goods or his implements of husbandry, fixtures, farm produce or farm stock on, or used in connection with the holding.On this question you will have an enormous amount of different awards given in different parts of the country, according to the opinions of the arbitrators, and that will create much uncertainty. Therefore I urge the Government to accept an Amendment which would make the compensation more definite in character.
§ Mr. HOHLER
This Amendment seems to me to be entirely unjust, because this limitation is really a penalty upon the tenant. My view it that fair compensation ought to be paid. May I call the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary and the Solicitor-General to something which they appear to have lost sight of. What are tenants' fixtures? Now we have to deal with fixed machinery, and the tenant really gets nothing. I want the right hon. Gentleman to carefully consider what is the meaning of fixtures, so that this point may be amended in another place, in order that justice may be done to the tenant. I object to this Amendment on the ground that such a limitation is quite unjust.
§ Lieut.-Colonel COURTHOPE
I am sorry to be the means of taking this question over to another day, but I think some further opportunity should be given to discuss it. I want to give a word of warning to the Parliamentary Secretary and to many hon. Members who are extremely anxious to see that the claims of tenant farmers are met as far as they reasonably can be. Do let us be careful in this desire to look after their interests that we do not unwittingly do the tenant farmers of the future a great injury. I 2040 find, day after day, a growing feeling amongst rural owners in the country that if this Clause and others affecting the position between landlord and tenant reach the Statute Book in their present form, landowners will be afraid ever to let their farms again once they come into their hands.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ The remaining Government Orders were read, and postponed.