(4)The compensation payable under this Section shall be a sum representing such lose or expense directly attributable to the quitting of the holding us the tenant may un avoidably 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—
(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 pay able notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary.
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CAUTLEY
From the farmer's point of view, so far as one aspect is concerned, there is no doubt that the larger the amount of compensation that is fixed by this Bill, at first flash the better. Therefore, I can understand many taking the view that it is better that there should be compensation as provided by the Bill than as provided by the Amendment. I do not think that is by any means conclusive. The reason for giving compensation at all is, as I understand it, that the landowner, exercising one of the powers given to him by the contract of tenancy, determines the tenancy in the interest of the State, where the production of food is concerned, and it is held that, to deprive a tenant of his holding and of his home, he should receive compensation for being so turned out. If ho is to have that compensation—and it has been decided that he is—it is clear that the expenses of his removal would be naturally one of the items which would be included in the amount of compensation. Then we go further, and provide that he is to have any cost he has sustained owing to the removal, that is to say, ho may be obliged to have a forced sale You are then to fix a method of compensation that is uneven in its incidence, more difficult to estimate and may be very far-reaching in its results. I have nothing whatever to say against the principle of compensation. It was given some years ago in the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1908, but I do think the House should bear this in mind, that we have never hitherto appreciated what the figure may amount to. All the time that Act has been in operation we have had steadily rising values and rising markets, and it is by no means certain that the full limit that would be awarded to a tenant who receives notice in this way has been arrived at. To my mind, it has not, and when on the top of all that it is now proposed to give a further year's rent, it does seem to me to the interest of tenant farmers themselves to consider whether it is desirable to ask Parliament to fix such large sums in contemplation as this does.
I repeat, we are not dealing with capricious eviction, which stands on a 2211 totally different footing, and I want to make it perfectly clear that that is not entering into our consideration at the moment at all. If that is so, and the, compensation is greater than is necessary, is it desirable that we should provide it in this Bill? It can only have one result. I said before, and it will bear repetition, that you cannot have a tenant unless you have a landlord, and you ought to take care that you do nothing to make people give up the business of landowning. One of the greatest calamities to a tenant, in my experience—and I am old enough to have seen the old system of yeoman farmer give place to the new class of tenant farmer—is that a tenant farmer should be compelled to buy his own holding. It cripples him and his capital, which would be better employed in tilling the land. Very few tenant farmers can pay off the mortgages on the land they are compelled to buy, and bring up their families and leave the land clear for one of their children when they die. I am anxious really, from the tenant farmer's point of veiw, to see that we do nothing more than is necessary to secure him reasonable security in his holding. I have no objection to landowners selling, so long as you do not cripple the use of the land, but if you are making it inadvisable to invest their money in land for the purpose of letting it to tenants, you are crippling the use of land, and you are limiting the number of persons who will buy it, which, I think, is a very undesirable thing, and I cannot help thinking that in some way or other the compensation provided in respect of reasons inconsistent with good estate management is too high and unnecessary to secure the object we have in view.
I am aware that there are several different ways of limiting this compensation. I am not quite prepared to say at the moment that the present Amendment is the best. I am rather inclined to think it is, because it has the advantage of making a certainty, and making the people know what the time will be and what the liability will be. They can calculate within a reasonably definite sum how much they will have to pay if a landowner does wish to exercise what is his right, and what is desirable in the public interest, to change a tenant for reasons consistent with good estate management. If that is so, the question really for us to settle is whether the 2212 limitation of a year's full rent is sufficient. I, personally, am inclined to think it is, having been a tenant farmer for over 30 years, and had to pay rent.
§ Major WHELER
On a point of Order. I have an Amendment further on the Paper of a somewhat similar character. Supposing this Amendment is negatived, will all these other Amendments be cut out or not?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think so. The Committee, I believe, spent four and a-half days on this matter, and the House has already spent a day on it. I think that should be quite sufficient, and that we should pass on to something else.
§ Mr. C. WHITE
I have an Amendment down to leave out "one year's" and insert "two years'." Will that be ruled out also? It raises a new issue, that is, to increase the compensation.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Might I ask if you would preserve my Amendment, namely, that the words in reference to one year's rent should be omitted. I should not propose to discuss it, because it has been fully discusesd already, but I should like it negatived or divided upon.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think we have had a discussion on the year's rent compensation, which, as I have said, has taken four and a half days in Committee and a day on Report. We shall have had quite enough of it when we have disposed of this, and must pass on to something else.
§ Mr. G. EDWARDS
We are told, on one hand, that this Amendment, if passed, will increase the burden on agricultural estates, and in the next breath we are told that it will make very little difference, and will confer no benefit on the farmers, because there are so very few cases of eviction. I have gone very carefully 2213 through this, and in my own judgment, if this Amendment is passed, it will make the Bill absolutely useless so far as the tenant farmer is concerned, and especially the arable farmer. It is well known, I think, by those who understand arable farming that no man who invests his money in land can get any return for it, under the four-year system, for four years. Therefore, if there is to be a danger of his rent being raised, or of his having to leave his holding, I think one year's rent is not sufficient compensation. I take quite a different view from some hon. Gentlemen opposite. If agriculture is to be put on a proper footing, if the land is to produce the food that it can and ought to do, then a man who invests his money, the tenant farmer, must be given some encouragement and some security that he will get a proper return for the money he invests. During the Debate last evening some hon. Members were very anxious about the agricultural labourers, especially those who might become farmers in the near future, and as to what their opinion of this particular Amendment was. I think I know something about the agricultural labourer and his feelings and wishes on this matter. The agricultural labourer who is anxious to become a farmer or smallholder would, I am perfectly satisfied if he had the opportunity to express himself, say that the adoption of this Amendment would make this Bill useless to him. The one thing he would want when he became a smallholder for his little capital and labour would be security of tenure, so that if he had to leave he would be amply paid for the capital and labour he had put into the land. Therefore, in the interests of the farmer, and particularly the small farmer, this Clause must be passed as it stands or very nearly so. I hope, therefore, that the Government will reject this Amendment at all costs so that the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will do something for the tenant-farmer and those engaged on the land, so that the land may be able to produce the food which is necessary and to employ labour.
§ Major HOWARD
I think the House should not lose sight of the fact that what is underlying this Clause is increased production. It is believed by the country and by the Government that the production of cereals can be increased. They have put the farmer under certain con- 2214 trol. Whether that is right or wrong is beside the question. The State has come forward and guaranteed the farmer certain prices. The House, I am sure, will agree that under those circumstances the farmer is entitled to receive from his landlord security of tenure or compensation for disturbance. I do not think there is much in this Clause as it is which the good landlord has to fear, because it will be very seldom, probably not more than once in a lifetime, that he will want to take a farm into his own hands, and it is only on that occasion he will have to pay compensation. At the same time, speaking as a farmer, I think we ought to be fair. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Pretyman) who moved this Amendment has a subsequent Amendment to leave out the words "also a sum equal to one year's compensation." If the Amendment under discussion and that Amendment were carried, the farmer would only get one year's rent for the removal of all his implements of husbandry and tho quitting of the holding and the losses which he might incur in sales. I do not think that would be quite fair, and the farmer would be in very little better position as regards compensation than he is at present, but if my right hon. Friend would limit the compensation which is to cover the cost of removal and loss on safe to one year's rent, and preserve a sum equal to one year's rent for disturbance, I would not object to the Amendment. I think landlords are entitled to know what they are likely to be called on to pay. As the Clause stands it is very indefinite, and the land lord might be called upon to pay a very heavy sum, and one out of all proportion to what I think the framers of this Bill or its supporters thought he would be likely to be called upon to pay.
§ Mr. JAMESON
The hon. Member for Norfolk South (Mr. G. Edwards) reiterated a very old fallacy, and I would ask the House to disabuse its mind altogether of that fallacy. He said that we were discussing here the question of compensation to a tenant farmer who has put money and capital into the soil, and who finds himself at the and of his tenancy, a contract tenancy, deprived of that money in capital. That is not the question we are discussing in this Clause. He gets that in the first part of this Clause, to some extent, and he gets it 2215 under his right to compensation for unexhausted manures and improvements under the other Agricultural Holdings Act. So that it is drawing a red herring across the track of this discussion to represent the holder of this Amendment and those who support it, as wishing to deprive the agricultural tenant of his right to compensation for money and capital that he has sunk in the soil. "What we are discussing now is whether at the end of his tenancy, contract tenancy, he is entitled, not to compensation for his monetary loss in capital and his loss for disturbance, but whether, in addition to that, he is entitled to a premium or bonus to be paid out of the landlord's pocket. I do not apologise for intervening at this late hour and after a full discussion, because I do wish to appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture not to adopt the line that he himself and those who support him had to close their ears to the voice of reason and justice, because they had come in some other place to an agreement between the parties. I am still rather vague as to what that agreement is, and where it was made. According to some poeple it was made in Committee. Some of the Members of the Committee got up and indignantly denied that they were any parties whatsoever to the agreement. This was carried against their opposition, and that at least nullifies the idea that there was agreement. As far as the Committee was concerned, this was a contentious Clause carried against opposition. The lion's share of agreement seems to have been taken by the National Farmers' Union. It is quite right for the Government to consult the various interests concerned, but it is out of the question for the Minister in charge of this Bill to come down here and say that after a pow-wow with the National Farmers' Union the discussion in this House-is to be rendered nugatory because an agreement has been come to with that union. There is too much tendency on the part of the Government to fix up matters with some outside body and then come down to this House and say that an agreement has been fixed up, and all they want is that the House shall register the agreement. That is not our conception of the duty of Parliament. I do not think the Minister in charge of this Bill 2216 ought to take up the position that he is precluded from listening to our arguments on account of an agreement of this sort.
I am not a landlord now, thank goodness, but I am acquainted with a number of landlords, and I know they have had nothing to do with this agreement. The hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Wood) has represented this Bill as a sort of eironicon which is going to make peace in this matter for ever. I am no longer a landlord, but I am a lawyer, and I say that this Bill bristles with beautiful legal points which are bound to open a wide vista of litigation, and ft will provide a magnificent battle-field on which landlord and tenant will go on fighting and fighting. As for this Clause being a message of peace and goodwill between landlord and tenant, it is nothing of the kind, and such a statement seems to me to be nonsense. This House ought not to allow itself to be intimidated into any sort of agreement by reason of any alleged arrangement that has been come to either with the Farmers' Union or with any other body.
You have fixity of tenure provided because the landlord is already intimidated by a threat which must be effective against him. In order to fix a fair rent which is the actual corollary you have set up arbitration. Personally I think even one year's rent is an injustice, but four years' rent, apart from compensation altogether, that is a four years' premium at the end of a tenant's lease, is quite out of the question. I do not believe this Clause will make a single blade of corn grow where it did not grow before. I object to any such phrase as "whittling down compensation" because you are giving the tenant farmer an enormous right which he had not before. I do not want to be too severe in my criticism of this Clause, but I do think that as it stands it will inflict a very great injustice upon the landlord. I think that is admitted by the Government Amendment which has been tabled to a subsequent Clause, where it lays down that the private landlord shall be mulcted in this compensation while the local authority or the Government Department shall not be so mulcted.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
The hon. and gallant Member is now roaming over the whole Clause. I think there was a long discussion yesterday on the Clause, and we are now dealing only with this particular Amendment. I hope the hon and gallant Member will be good enough to adhere strictly to the Amendment which is before the House.
§ Mr. JAMESON
My point is that one year's compensation at the termination of the tenancy is sufficient injustice to inflict upon the landlord and that four years is too much, and accordingly I think it should be limited to one year. Under this proposal it might go on for any amount of years, and I shall support the Amendment which limits and fixes the landlord's liability.
§ Mr. TURTON
The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken has rather implied that, on the one side, you have those who shut their minds to reason and justice, and, on the other side, you have those who support the Government, and who suggest that they do so because some compromise has been arrived at. I have been no party to any compromise. I have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary that certain discussions took place before the Committee upstairs. We have also heard it stated that if the National Farmers' Union were prepared to support the Ploughing up Orders they would get the support of the Government with regard to Clause 7. Whether it was a compromise or not that was come to does not matter to me. I support the Government in regard to this, and I oppose the Amendment on grounds of reason and justice. There is no Clause in the Bill to which I attach more importance than Clause 7 now under discussion. It is far more important than any of the other Clauses which have been passed, because, unless you give the farmer security of tenure in his holding, it is utterly unreasonable to expect you are going to get any increase in the production of food. We have on our estates farmers who have been on the same land for a great number of years, and I cannot imagine anything more harrassing to a farmer than the present unrest and insecurity which he has on the land. A recent speaker alluded to the four-shift 2218 system. Not only in regard to that system, but practically in every other relation of farming, you are bound to take the long view. You cannot possibly go on farming from year to year or from hand to mouth. You must look ahead. What has been happening all over the country? Fanners and their forbears, who had been on the farms for generations, are now turned out, and there is a feeling of insecurity all over the country. I can speak for Yorkshire. It is a great hardship on the farmers who have been turned out practically without any compensation whatsoever.
The question of course under this Bill is, how are you going to get it? My hon. Friend the Member for Sudbury (Major Howard) said you would get no increased production and would not attract farmers with capital and with a knowledge of farming pursuits to remain on the farm unless this Clause is passed, and that men who have made a certain amount of money on the farms would retire from the business. That can only be avoided by giving compensation as proposed under this particular Clause. I do not understand the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pretyman), who proposed this Amendment, to say that no compensation whatever should be given.
§ Mr. TURTON
On all sides we are merely discussing what amount of compensation should be given, and I would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that if his Amendment is carried it will be an entirely retrograde move and will mean in fact setting aside the Agricultural Holdings Act.
§ Mr. TURTON
Yes, and if the right hon. Gentleman will bear with me I will endeavour to make that point clear. Under the law as it is to-day, if you discharge a tenant, unless you want the farm for yourself, or unless he is bankrupt or has not paid his rent, he is entitled to compensation for disturbance. Hon. Members apparently do not agree, but I repeat that if you discharge your tenant, unless it be for the reasons given—that he is a bankrupt, or has not paid his rent, or is not farming properly, or that you want to occupy the farm yourself, you have to pay compensation. Cases of that sort have already gone through the 2219 different courts and have been before the arbitrators, and my point is this. In those cases where compensation has been given the compensation for disturbance for the tenant's removal has amounted to more than one year's rent. It is perfectly well known that if you pass this Clause in its present form the tenant will get one year's rent, and, in addition, the costs of removal, which will make it a year and a half or two years' rent. My hon. Friend the Member for Sudbury (Major Howard) suggested that there should be a maximum amount fixed, and I anticipate that the Parliamentary Secretary, when he gets up to reply, will not turn a deaf ear to that suggestion. It is not unreasonable that there should be a maximum amount fixed. The hon. Baronet who seconded the Amendment referred to some very extreme cases. But it would not be fair that because of one extreme case the landlord should be under an unlimited liability. It seems to me that the amount suggested, one year's rent, is totally inadequate for the purpose for which it is intended, namely, for the purpose of giving security of tenure. I am not discussing any question of fixity of tenure, but I am going to support the Government in regard to this matter. Personally, I think my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has not shown that amount of backbone which one would have liked him to show in connection with this Bill. I am sorry he has given way on several points. I am sorry he did not agree to fight out the question of the ploughing up order. I am extremely sorry that those tenants who received notice on the 6th of April last are to get no compensation under this Clause. But, be that as it may, I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to be firm on this occasion. I believe it is one of the very best Clauses in the Bill, and if the Amendment is carried then the sooner the Bill is thrown over and no further proceedings taken the better.
§ Mr. J. GARDINER
I will try to confine myself to the Amendment. The first thing I would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pretyman) who moved this Amendment is this, that his statement that the landlord desires to know the exact sum he is to be liable for is not given effect to by the Amendment, which merely provides that the amount shall not exceed one year's rent. 2220 The sum may be very much smaller, and therefore the landlord does not know the exact amount of his liability. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment desires to do what is fair both for landlord and tenant, and that the expenses directly attributable to the quitting of the holding when assessed properly by a competent body should be paid; the right hon. Gentleman would not desire that any man entitled to a greater sum than one year's rent should be defrauded of it. Take the case of removals. The other day I had a number of things taken a considerable distance on the railway, and when I got the account it was over £7—considerably more than I had expected. I can therefore imagine it would be quite easy for the cost of removal to exceed in many cases one year or even two years' rent. Of course, in many other cases it would be a much lesser amount. I do not think it would be fair, however, that the tenant farmer should be limited to one year's rent. He only asks what is fair, just and reasonable. He desires to be paid his actual loss in this respect, and it has always been agreed that any loss sustained by a tenant farmer in virtue of his quitting his holding should be recouped to him. In answer to the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Jameson), who referred to the Agricultural Holdings Act, and to the possibility of getting some recompense under it, I have said before in this House, and I want to repeat, that the only class of persons who are benefited by the Agricultural Holdings Act are the members of his profession. The sums that have been paid have not been paid to the tenant farmers who made the claims, but to the legal gentlemen who acted on the one side or the other in the references. If this Bill is to be as productive of litigation as the hon. Member suggests, it will be a windfall to the lawyers and a bad business for all agriculturists. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will adhere to the position which he took up in Committee. Although many things have been said against the compromise that was there arrived at, I want, as one who happened to be present, to pay a tribute to the Gentlemen on the other side who took part in the negotiations, and to say that I am absolutely certain that they had the best interests of landlords and tenants at heart, and at that time made a compromise which was 2221 essential if this Bill was to go through. Although the tenant farmers did not receive by the arrangement all that they expected or would like, the compromise was a fair and honourable one, and I, for one, will do my best to maintain it.
§ Captain HOTCHKIN
I think we are all agreed on one point, namely, that one year's rent is a fair and reasonable compensation. The reason for the present Amendment is the fact that the compensation payable on quitting is an unknown quantity. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider this point very carefully, and see if he cannot make the amount definite. It is suggested that it should be limited to one year's rent, which I think would be fair. We have been talking about big landlords, but at the present moment there are hundreds and thousands of small men who are landlords. I, personally, am much interested m smallholdings, and I could give instances in which smallholders have saved sufficient money to buy land, and have let it. These men have had sons come back from the War, or sons growing up, and they wish, perhaps, to get back their farms for their own use or for their sons. It cannot be said that this is an unreasonable desire, on their part. If they know that they have only to pay one year's rent, they know where they are, but on the top of that there is an unknown quantity, and that is not satisfactory. In the case of a smallholding, say of 20 or 30 acres, where a man has gone in for pigs or prize poultry or some other speciality, a year's rent may, perhaps, be somewhere about £50; but when you come to the unknown quantity of compensation you do not know what that is, and that little man, in order to get back his holding, might have to pay £200 or £300. That is not fair. We are talking about hitting the big landowner and the big farmer, but do not let us bother about them. Let us look after the little man first, and then we shall get what is wanted in this Bill. T do press upon my right hon. Friend that he should consider the question of definitely fixing an amount to represent the total compensation that can possibly be paid in any of these cases.
§ Colonel Sir A. SPROT
This Amendment, so far as I understand it, relates only to the first and most justifiable case in which an owner desires to resume possession of a farm; it docs not refer to 2222 those cases in which his action is unjustifiable or capricious. That being so, I wish to impress upon the House how severe is the penalty imposed upon the owner. Under the present law, when the tenant gives up his holding, he has to receive compensation for unexhausted manure, and for feeding stuffs used upon the farm within a certain period. Let me try and put a figure upon that. In a case that came to my notice quite recently it amounted to rather over a year's rent of the farm. That has to be paid to the tenant in any case. There is also, under the present law, the expense of removal, which, of course, is a very indefinite sum. It is now sought, in this, the most justifiable case, to impose upon the owner an additional penalty in respect of loss on the sale of stock and so forth, as set forth in this Sub-section, and also one year's rent. If we try to put a figure upon the loss on theo sale of stock, there also we are met with the difficulty that it is too vague and indefinite. I think, however, that I may assume—and I am supported in this by what has been said by the hon. Member for West Perth (Mr. Gardiner)—that you can put that also at a year's rent; and on the top of that the owner would have to pay a year's rent in addition. That is to say, in this, the milder and more justifiable case, the owner would have to pay, in all, three years' gross rent in order to get back possession of his own farm.
I have the authority of some of my colleagues opposite from Scotland for saying that they would not entirely approve of all the provisions of this Bill, and would not be satisfied with the provisions of this Section. I shall, therefore, leave them alone. I represent, however, a good many small owners. The County of Fife has very few large landowners, but it has a largo number of small owners—men drawing an income from the ownership of land of £1,000 or £1,200 a year. Those people own the land, and the rents they receive amount to a very small return upon the expenditure which has been incurred in the erection of farm buildings, the drains, and the fences, and other equipment of the farm. What are we asked to do under this Sub-section? What is the justification for the extra year's rent which is being put upon the top of those two other items, each amounting to a year's rent? There is a justification for the claim for unexhausted manure, 2223 because the tenant has put that value into the soil, and it remains in the soil. There is a justification also for his claim for the expenses of removal. But what is the extra year's rent going to be paid for? That is what I should like the right hon. Gentleman to explain to us. I am asking the Minister in charge of the Bill, and I challenge him to give me an explanation of this. What is the justification for imposing the penalty of an extra year's rent? It is all the more unjustifiable when we consider that the rent itself in almost every case amounts to less than the ordinary interest upon the capital expenditure which has been put into the building and equipments of the farms. That is to say, under this Clause you are asking the owner to give to the tenant a year's interest on the buildings which the tenant has occupied during the whole of his tenancy and has made use of, and you oire now asking the owner to pay him back the mere interest upon the expenditure. This is entirely unjustifiable, and the penalties which are being imposed in this, the minor case, are far too severe, and for that reason I shall support the Amendment.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. C. WHITE
I have two Amendments further down the Paper, but Mr. Speaker says I had better take part in the general discussion without moving them. My first Amendment was to increase the compensation for one year to two years' rent. My second was that in the case of a capricious eviction the minimum compensation should be the two years' rent. So far as compensation is payable at all, I support the Bill, except that I want to get that increased. Yesterday we had two Amendments on the Paper to which my name was attached, which were ruled out of Order because of the Motion of the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) to delete Clause 7 altogether. So that it is somewhat difficult for me to speak as I might have been able to do had I been allowed to move my Amendment yesterday or these two to day. I am not a practical farmer. I know very little about agriculture. The right hon. Baronet, I heard yesterday, in the autumn of his days can act as a shepherd. I should have liked to see him advocating the deletion of Clause V in his shepherd's dress. It would have had a very great effect on the House. In my younger days I did a little bit of farm- 2224 ing, and that is all I know about agriculture. The point I wish to make is that there is no security of tenure in the Bill itself. I have heard so much about Caxton Hall that I dare not mention it again, but this was promised by the Prime Minister in October of last year, and it is no good saying, as one hon. Member said, that this was a speech of a Welshman who, in his exuberance and natural flow of oratory, really did not mean exactly what he said. It is not often that one hears the Prime Minister repudiated by his own followers. We who read the speech took it textually and literally, as we used to take the Prime Minister's speeches, and looked upon it a3 a promise that there should be real security of tenure. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Fitzroy) yesterday said the Prime Minister, through the hard work he had been doing, was somewhat confused in his meaning.
The right hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Boscawen), in the Committee upstairs, of which I was a member, advised us to oppose fixity of tenure, but to vote for adequate security for capital. There is no real adequate security of capital for the farmer as the Bill stands at present. In my constituency there are many hundreds of small farmers with small holdings, from £20 to £50 a year. It does not give them the security they expected, after the speech of the Prime Minister last year. They get their £50, I know, if they move across the road, and they get the other small advantages which are to be obtained under the Bill, but surely it will not be contended that £50, if he is paying £50 a year rent, in addition to the other advantages, is adequate compensation or real adequate security for the capital which he had invested. That is the crux of both my Amendments, that this is not sufficient security of capital, especially for a small holder. It is not a sufficient set-off to being deprived of that security of tenure which was promised to him and which he expected to get under the Bill. The foundation of the Bill itself should be based on that speech of the Prime Minister in October last at a place which I will not mention again. This compensation has already been whittled down in Committee. There is a combined effort again downstairs to whittle it down again to the very narrowest possible margin, 2225 and in that I was pleased to see the Parliamentary Secretary last night take up the position he did and say it should not be whittled down any further than it had been up to the present.
I should like to say a word about the arrangement which was come to by the National Farmers' Union and some other gentlemen sitting on that Committee. The Committee itself never really got all these discussions before them which had taken place between the Fanners' Union and the other gentlemen representing the landed interest on that Committee. We were told the arrangement had been come to and we discussed the arrangement when it had been made, but I am sure the doorstep of the Board of Agriculture was almost as much worn as the Downing Street steps are in the course of Labour disputes sometimes. I objected upstairs and I object now that we never had a fair discussion until things had been settled between the two interests upstairs. Again I have the evidence of hundreds of smallholders in my constituency that they are entirely dissatisfied with what the National Farmers' Union have done in this matter. I cannot move my Amendments, but I sincerely hope the Parliamentary Secretary will stand by the attitude he took up last night and not allow this to be whittled down, as it is intended to be, by the combined effort that is being made opposite. I do not often vote with the Government—I do not suppose they lose very much by that—but I shall vote with the Government for once, for about the second or third time in two years, because I cannot get anything better, to keep the position as it is and not be whitled down by these Gentlemen opposite who seem to be making a determined effort to render Clause 7 nugatory as far as possible and not to give adequate security of capital to make up somewhat for the security of tenure which has been denied to the tenant farmer in this Bill.
§ Major WHELER
The hon. Member who has just sat down said he was not a practical farmer. It is a pity that he did not hear the words of a practical farmer a little earlier in the Debate, who took a much broader view of the situation and admitted that the burden put upon the landlord was likely to be, especially in the case of the small man, a very heavy and crushing burden. Being aware of the hon. Member's past 2226 record I knew that landlords would get no mercy at his hands.
§ Major WHELER
I think we can discountenance his remarks, because he has admitted that he is not a practical farmer. Having an Amendment of my own on the Paper, which I should liked to have moved, I am in a difficult situation, but I realise that this is the only opportunity we shall get of voting against the Clause as it stands with regard to the question of compensation. I am not at all satisfied with the settlement as to compensation, and as I was not called upon to agree to the compromise which was made upstairs by hon. Friends of mine, who were perfectly justified in doing what they thought best, and I shall support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman). We are not dealing with cases of capricious disturbance, but with cases consistent with good estate management, and there are cases to which I should like to call attention of the House. Take the case of the email owner who wants to bring his son on to a farm on his estate. An hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Cornwall said last night that the universities are getting many young men, more than they have ever had before, who are anxious to take up farming, to learn farming, and to be able to take a part in the management of the estate. Therefore, you will have more and more a desire by the owners of small estates to give their eons a chance of putting their knowledge to practical use. What will be their position? If the land is taken possession of they will have all these heavy and indefinite burdens to bear, and on the top of that there is this one year's rent fine, for it is nothing less than a fine. That will be an enormous deterrent to the owners of these small estates in getting their sons into agriculture.
While we are considering the case of the farmer, and what compensation he should got, we have here a case of a type of landowner who did his duty well throughout the War, who has not, in most cases, had any increase in rent, and who may have a perfectly genuine reason for wishing to get his son on the land, but who will have to pay this heavy burden of compensation before he can get possession of a farm. I do not believe 2227 that the vast majority of tenant farmers in this country agree with that. I do not believe that the action of the National Farmers' Union and its Executive represents the feeling of a vast number of the tenant farmers on this matter. I have in my possession resolutions, not on this point, from branches disapproving of action that the Executive in London have taken. Here is a case where the negotiators on behalf of the National Farmers' Union who negotiated this compromise, to which they are standing so firmly, do not represent a very large number of the members of their union, who, I am sure, want to see justice done to the type of man I have described when he wishes to put his son on the land. This young man who may wish to go back on the land, very likely has returned from the War and has gone to the University to be scientifically trained, and he has just as much right to be put on the land as any of the ex-soldiers whom you are trying to settle on the land to-day. Yet you are treating him in quite a different way. The estate is to be penalised to this very heavy extent if the landlord desires for perfectly legitimate reasons to get the land and put his son on it. I urge the Solicitor-General to consider that point. It is a genuine case, which will be an increasing case on account of the increased interest taken by a large number of young men in scientific agriculture, and the desire they have to take possession of a portion of their father's estate and put their knowledge to practical use.
There is also a hardship from the knowledge that this one year's rent has to be paid as a fine, and its effect upon the owners who are compelled to sell their estates. There are a large number of estates which have to be sold because they cannot be carried on owing to the difficult time. The owners are forced to sell, and they will have to take a decreased value for their estates, because the people who buy them will realise that if they want to get rid of the farmers on the land, they in their turn will have to pay this heavy compensation. Many of the people who are selling estates are doing so not because they wish to do so. I know of estates the owners of which are parting with them to their bitterest regret because they cannot carry on. These people will have a loss of at least 8 or 9 2228 per cent, of the capital value of their land because of this one year's rent which has to be paid for compensation. I hope hon. Members will have some sympathy for the small type of men who have done their duty in the past, and who under the operation of this Clause are going to suffer in ways which are very unfair. I should have liked to have moved my Amendment, but I understood from Mr. Speaker's ruling that this is the only opportunity we have of registering our protest. I trust that those who agree with me, that the hardships which certain classes of individuals will suffer under this Clause are very severe, will take the opportunity of registering their protest, and support the Amendment.
I wish we had a few more Members present to hear the excellent arguments that have been put forward. I regret the action taken by the Minister last night. It is most unfortunate that when the Government introduce a measure of this sort they should ask Members to curtail their criticism. After all, Members representing agricultural constituencies were not fully represented on the Committee which discussed this Bill, and in that Committee things were done which were not known to this House and the House should consider fully such an important question as this. I am glad to see the Solicitor-General in his place. I hope that he will give attention to what has been said on all sides, and not take up the line which was taken up last night by the Minister in charge of the Bill that we are to sit down and accept whatever the Government offer. I am not in any way averse to a settlement of this point, but Members are not to be told simply because a thing has been agreed to elsewhere, and that the Government looks upon this as a fair and just agreement, that we should accept it.
An hon. Member has said there are many small men in his constituency with a rent, say, of £50 who did not think they were going to get enough security if they were only to get the cost of quitting and £50. Theirs is one of the cases which prove the difficulties which arise under this Bill, because I rather agree with the hon. Member that when a man who has got a small holding and is working it well is turned out a much larger amount of compensation might be paid. But we must not judge this case as an exceptional case. In framing legislation 2229 such as this we are going to inflict hardship if we lay down the compensation which is going to be paid under this Bill. While I agree largely with my hon. Friend on that point, I trust he will be equally ready to agree that it would he very hard lines on the small landlord to have to pay three years' rent on a farm of, say, 500 acres. That is £l,500, which would be a very big item out of a man's income if he wishes to regain his own property. Perhaps the Government will give some reasons to show that they have thought out these different instances. I have listened to nearly the whole of this Debate and the arguments from the farmers' representatives. I believe it is not on the big estates that the insecurity of tenure is most felt. I am quite willing to admit that legislation already passed by the Government, and which was called for from the most extreme sections of this House, has added greatly to the insecurity of tenure. That is not the fault of the landlords. Personally, I should support anything that would add to the security of the tenant without putting an immense handicap on the landowner, who in the past has done as much for agriculture as any other section of the commuuity.
As regards security of tenure, I believe that the good tenant has very little fear of disturbance on estates. The trouble is that by giving this compensation under the Bill you are blocking the way of many men who at present are being educated to agriculture and you are also stopping the promotion of men who started as agricultural labourers. The Minister has told us that ho is anxious to get men back to the land, and the best way is that the man who starts as an agricultural labourer should have the prospect of becoming the tenant of a farm. The best method would he for him to start as an agricultural labourer, learn the work thoroughly, then find himself foreman on a farm, and in that way arouse the interest, very possibly, of the landowner, who would put him on a farm. In that way we could give encouragement to men to go on the land. At present there is an absolute block under the existing system with the very high minimum wage—I do not say it is high in comparison with other occupations—with the result that a man sees that he is in a cul-de-sac, and this does not tempt people to go on the land. Therefore, we do want to be 2230 very careful in giving security to the bad tenant or even to the indifferent tenant I do not wish to see anybody turned out I wish to see a man get ample remuneration for anything which he has put into the land. Under the present compensation, there is nothing to prevent a man, if he is turned out of his farm, from getting what he has put into it. You are imposing on top of that a fine, but why the landlord should pay the fine, I do not know. I would ask the Minister of Agriculture to give us a considered speech as to why he wishes this compensation, and not simply to say, as was said last night, that he wishes to stand by it and will not listen to argument.
§ Brigadier-General WIGAN
I shall support the Amendment, because it clears up the vague and indefinite wording at the commencement of this Sub-section. It is vague wording of that sort which almost invariably leads to litigation. How are you possibly going to compute the expense to which tenants may be unavoidably put owing to the cost of removal? And I should like to ask what limit there is as to how far a tenant may move? Presuming that he is disturbed owing to the exigencies of good estate management, may he remove from the South of England to the North of Scotland, and will the landlord be liable for the expense? Is the move confined to the United Kingdom, even? Why should he not go to New Zealand or Canada? There is no limit whatever. It is wholly unbusinesslike, and it is not equitable, to make anybody liable by Act of Parliament for an unlimited liability. On these grounds I shall most certainly support the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) in the Division Lobby. I should, however, like to say that I am not able to agree with him that the Amendment to delete the words "and also a sum equal to one year's rent of the holding" is in the least consequential upon the present Amendment. That altered sentence seems to me clearly to define the amount of compensation which a tenant will have for disturbance, and, whether the tenant is disturbed for reasons of good estate management or otherwise, the fact remains that he is interfered with in his means of livelihood, and I am, therefore, of opinion that he is entitled to the substantial compensation which he gets under the Sub-section. I believe other Members beside myself 2231 are in favour of the Amendment now before the House who would disagree with the so-called consequential Amendment, which seems to have for its object the reduction of compensation for disturbance, and with that I do not agree.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I listened to the discussion of this Amendment last night and for three-quarters of an hour this afternoon. At first I thought it was intended only as a demonstration, a light skirmish, but the discussion has been so prolonged, and the Members taking part have shown such earnestness, that I think a section of the House does clearly intend to press it, with all the consequences that must be involved if it were carried. I agree with those who have argued that we are not bound here by any agreement come to upstairs, especially behind the scenes upstairs, but it seems to me that the position of the Bill on this matter is quite critical. I think the strength of the Bill and its weakness rests in this, that the different parts of it are very closely inter-related and that you cannot go far either in whittling away or increasing the force (in operation) of one part of the Bill, say with regard to control or guarantees, or this Amendment in regard to compensation, without doing away with the balance of it and the inter-dependence of it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS
The first part of the Bill is a temporary measure, and the second part of the Bill is for all time.
§ Mr. ACLAND
No, that is not so. The Bill now hangs together. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes. Parliament cannot now present a petition against the guarantees unless they are also willing to present a petition against the Agricultural Wages Board, against control, and against the other parts.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Yes, I beg your pardon. To that extent, at any rate, we have not got what we started with, that Parliament can get rid of the guarantees and leave the other parts of the Bill. They are related. However, I do not think that argument comes to much. Hon. Members know well enough—they are doing it quite deliberately and perfectly legitimately—that if this Amendment is carried, this part of the Bill giving compensation to the tenant will not be worth 2232 the paper it is written on. The balance of the Bill will be wholly destroyed from the tenant's point of view. Though I supported control, I am very doubtful whether control is anything more than a handmaiden and a help, and an indirect help, for it is quite impossible to do much through control unless you have got other provisions in the Bill with regard to the guaranteed minimum price and compensation which will make the farmers feel they have got a real interest in putting all their money and effort and work into their farms, and it is no use trying to hide from ourselves that if this compensation Clause were largely cut down, as is proposed by this Amendment, instead of having, let us say, the modified goodwill of the farmers behind this Bill, you would have their distinct illwill. In this matter we cannot blind ourselves to the fact that an arrangement was come to, and that the only thing which is really going to give the Bill a real chance of helping agriculture is that there should be the goodwill of the great bulk of our farmers behind it. People say that the Farmers' Union is not representative. I think they would jolly soon find out how representative it was if this were torn up, this arrangement that has been made with their representatives. Nothing could more enormously increase the power of these unions than for us to try to break away from arrangements made with them on the ground that they are not representative. Therefore I can echo what was said by the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. E. Wood) and the hon. Member for Thirsk and Walton (Mr. Turton), that this must be regarded as a Second Reading point, and that Members who support the Government, and even I, who do not support the Government, but want to give a reasonable chance to the Bill, must feel absolutely bound to support them in this matter.
On the merits, of course, there is a very great deal to be said against it. As the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. E. Wood) said last night, you can argue a great deal on this line, that it is rather indefensible that you should hit the landlord so hard without giving the farmer anything that he can really call security, because undoubtedly, in spite of his year's rent, land will change hands. Owners will be bound to sell, and in many cases 2233 farmers will continue to feel that they have not got real security; and the alternative to this is to go much further, and the next thing would be rent courts, and dual ownership, and nationalisation. You cannot get away from that. I feel that hon. Members who are still in the main supporters of the general policy of the Bill will realise that this is an absolutely vital point, simply because the Bill will have no chance whatever unless, when it is passed, you can get, not all perhaps, but a large majority of the farmers, to say, "Well, that was a genuine attempt, lot us try to work it, let us see how we can get along even with control, let us try to make the county agricultural committees at any rate working bodies expressive of the best farming opinion in our counties, and let us see whether we cannot help the nation in general to get a really high standard of production and to realise that we are doing our best, as citizens of the country, to help it in the need that is before it." If it went forth that compensation had been practically halved, as this Amendment would make it, it is absolutely good-bye to any feeling of trust on the part of the agricultural community and of willingness to try to make the Bill a success.
§ Mr. LANE-FOX
I wish to add my vote in support of the Government against my right hon. Friend who is moving this Amendment. I do not attribute very much importance to this Clause. I think Clause 4 is far more important and drastic. There has been a certain amount of exaggeration about this particular provision. The Member for Thirsk (Mr. Turton), who is a keen supporter of the Government's policy, talks as if thousands of farmers were being dispossessed in Yorkshire from their farms. He knows perfectly well that farmers who are leaving their farms in Yorkshire will be accelerated by this. In spite of that there is no doubt that the House is perfectly free to repudiate any arrangement, especially such as has been made. It is perfectly clear that at the time and even now the arrangement constituted what seemed to be a fair settlement between the parties. I would like my hon. Friends to cast their minds back to the time when the Bill was a very much worse one than it is now. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) said that all that happened was that four or five wretched little words were taken out, but those 2234 wretched little words meant thousands of pounds loss, endless years of litigation and huge fees to the counsel of the country. A great deal was given up when the farmers agreed to that and a very considerable change took place in the Bill.
The particular arrangement emanated from the Surveyors' Institution, and was agreed to by the great majority of the members. I agree there is no special merit in a hard and fast sum like, one year's rent. It is illogical, may mean injustice, and may be thoroughly unsatisfactory, but the farmer is not a very clear thinker. He likes something ho can see and get hold of. He knows a year's rent is something definite. Everything else represents to him possible litigation. That is the reason for which he is prepared to give up much larger possibilities. This does give a possibility of some sort of satisfaction for both sides. I regreet we in the agricultural interests appear before the community as being unable to settle our differences. I would like to see a lasting agreement. There is a tendency in some branches of the Farmers' Union to talk of this as an instalment. That was not the attitude of their leaders, but of some of them, and it does more harm towards the cause of peace than anything else they can do. After all, this Bill dons do a great many things for those of us who are landowners. In the case whore the landlord has a fair claim to make against his tenant, it gives him more opportunities than he had before, and I think it is a settlement.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The right hon. Gentleman for Camborne (Mr. Acland) alluded to Part I and contradicted my hon. Friend. In Part I it is laid down that unless both Houses agree there can be no alteration unless the Wages Board goes, something else goes, and the guaranteed prices go. He believes that the guaranteed prices must remain according to the conditions of this Bill if it should become an Act. Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows better than that. He knows perfectly well, supposing this Bill becomes an Act, and supposing in a year's time the guarantees are operative, and supposing hon. Gentlemen representing town constituencies say, "We do not choose to be taxed for the benefit of the farmer. We do not 2235 choose to have our food indirectly made dearer for the benefit of the farmer," that all these safeguards are merely waste paper. There is nothing to prevent any Government coming down and passing an Act and repealing part of this Bill.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Of course it has. What is the use of saying it has not, and that if the Bill becomes an Act that part which is supposed to be an advantage to the farmers will remain and the others will not? Everybody knows that should these guarantees become operative, it is ten to one that in six months they will be reduced. Even if they become operative, the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well they apply only to wheat and oats, and the majority of the oats grown on a holding are consumed on the holding and, therefore, the price does not matter in the least. The only thing which is going to be attained under this Bill is a price for wheat which in the majority of cases is only grown once in four years.
I should like to say a word upon the suggestion that because the Government has made an arrangement, everybody is bound to act by it. Supposing the Government made an arrangement in the House of Commons with this House itself, it does not follow by any means that everybody is bound to agree with it. How can it be said that an arrangement made with the Committee upstairs, where there are probably 30 or 40 out of the 700 Members, and very likely 20 out of the 30 or 40, binds all of us who were not members of the Committee, who knew nothing about it and were not in any way parties to the arrangement. An arrangement was made by three hon. Members. These hon. Members only represent themselves. I am a Member of the Agricultural Committee of this House. I knew nothing whatever about it, I never heard anything about it. I did not attend every meeting, but I attended a good many of them. I did not attend every meeting because I found my hon. Friends had no courage whatever. All that they desired to do was to go cap in hand to the Farmers' Union and say that," Can we have a little left 2236 of what belongs to us and which never belonged to you, and ought never to belong to you?" Under those circumstances, I thought it was no use going when tactics of that sort were going to be carried out. That is the position. It is equally as ridiculous to say that this House is to be bound by what three or four Members choose to think was the right thing to do. Possibly I am wrong and they were right. It is equally absurd to say that we should be bound by anything they did as to say that the Farmers' Union in any kind of way bound the farmers. I do not believe the majority of farmers know anything whatever about this. It is human nature, that if you offer somebody something belonging to somebody else, he would like to have it. He gets it for nothing.
What it seems to me we are considering at present is whether it is right or wrong that property belonging to A or B is to be handed over, say, from A to B to conciliate—as it is termed—B, and so prevent him endeavouring to take more of A's property than he might otherwise be disposed to take in a given period. Some farmers, it is said, regard this as an instalment. Of course they do! The history of this kind of legislation shows that it is always considered as an instalment. Look back to the Irish Land Acts. Go back to 1870. Mr. Gladstone said then: "Nothing further will be done." This was in those days considered a matter on which it was supposed the Irish farmers could be conciliated and so the thing make for peace. But did it? Wore the Danes conciliated when they came over to England, and the English kings bribed them to go away? They came back again, and again, until King Alfred rose, a king who had a little courage and backbone, who said: "I am going to stick up for what belongs to me." That, is the kind of courage we want at the present time.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
Before the House gives its decision on this point—and after the long debate we have had I hope we will go to a division shortly—I should like to say one or two things In the first place exception has been taken to some observations of mine yesterday in regard to the agreement, and the advice I ventured to suggest to the House—that they should follow the lines of the agreement that had been made. It may be that 2237 I expressed myself badly. Certainly I did not for a moment desire to suggest that the House was in any way bound by that agreement—certainly not bound by any agreement made privately. It is not bound by the decision of the Committee. The House is perfectly free to review the decision of the Committee, and to come to any decision it likes. At the same time, having regard to all the circumstances, and the history of this question, I do hold, and I hold now very strongly, the view that the House would be wise to confirm the arrangement which was come to in Committee.
What happened? When this Bill was originally introduced, it went much further than this Clause goes to-day. Certain negotiations took place, first of all, without my knowledge, between certain Members of the Agriculutral Committee of this House, and certain members of the National Farmers' Union. A suggested arrangement was made, a compromise. It was brought to my notice, and I gave the fullest consideration to it, and I thought it was a fair compromise. Amendments were put down, and the matter was discussed at great length in Committee, considered fully from every point of view, and at the end of the Committee adopted the proposed compromise. It was adopted following one of the principal divisions, by a majority of 56 to 4—a very large majority in a Committee of that kind. Under these circumstances, and having regard to the fact that this matter was thought out carefully, talked over and considered from every point of view, I ventured, and I see no reason whatever why I should vary the opinion that I then formed, to think that this was a fair and equitable compromise, and one I subsequently recommended the House to adopt. That is all I wish to say upon that point, but if I in any way led the House to suppose the House was bound by that agreement, or that I had turned a deaf ear to any argument, no doubt it was due to the fact that very often when one is working at rather high tension, as I have been doing of late, one possibly expresses oneself not exactly in the way intended.
The gist of this Amendment is to substitute for an indefinite charge for the cost of removal a fixed sum of one year's rent. It has been argued that this is fair, because the cost of removal is intended, and it has been suggested by 2238 some hon. Members to-night that it would not be possible to estimate it. That is not the case at all. It is done now. Under the Act of 1908, where there is capricious eviction, the costs of removal are granted in each case. It has been done over and over again. Only this morning I was going through a list of cases where compensation for the cost of removal had been obtained under the Act of 1908. When my right hon. and hon. Friends think this will be an enormous charge, let me tell them that certainly in nine cases out of ten the cost of removal awarded under the Act of 1908 has been considerably less—often very much less—than one year's rent. Out of about 30 cases I was going through to-day, there was only one where the cost of removal amounted to more than the rent. If you put in one year's rent as a figure to average the cost of removal, I think it is very likely that the maximum will become the minimum, that it will become so in every case, and that one year's rent will be paid. In that respect the tenant farmer will get rather more than under this particular Amendment. I realise the Amendment is intended to go further. It is confining the whole compensation to one year's rent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes," and "No."] Yes, if it is read in connection with the other Amendments. I think my right hon. Friend will say I am not misrepresenting him.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
That is the intention of my right hon. Friend. If, then, that is the case, I say, having considered the matter very carefully I consider, under the circumstances, that would be totally inadequate compensation. Because of the various circumstances I have stated, I do not see my way at this stage to agree to any further reduction. I hope, therefore, the House will confirm what the Committee decided upstairs. One word further. I think my hon. Friend (Mr. Lane-Fox) put forward the importance of making this a real and lasting and final settlement, so as to get rid of the difficulties involved, and the trouble which might arise between landlord and tenant. I entirely agree. We want this to be a lasting settlement. If it is proved that certain branches of the National Farmers' Union have taken the line that this is only to be regarded as an instalment, then, so far as I am concerned, I condemn their attitude 2239 quite as strongly as I condemn any attempt on the other side to whittle away the compensation. I hope this may tend to a lasting settlement. I believe it is a fair and equitable settlement. I believe what my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Acland) said is perfectly true, that unless we, under this Bill, pay substantial compensation based upon what I believe to be a fair principle for disturbance, we shall be up against very much bigger demands for fixity of tenure, Land Courts, and so on, to which, so far as I am concerned, the Government are entirely opposed. I agree that this is really the solution which is necessary under the present circumstances of unrest which prevails owing to the land sales and other causes, and I certainly do not turn a deaf ear to reason, but having considered the matter over and over again, and having consulted all the persons interested in this question, I have no hesitation in asking the House to reject the Amendment and confirm what was settled in Committee upstairs.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BILLING
On the Second Reading I moved that the Bill should be taken in Committee of the Whole House, and I think about 20 Members supported the Motion in the Lobby. I personally regarded this Bill as a matter of such great importance that I considered it should be dealt with in Committee of the Whole House, and, indeed, very important decisions were taken by majorities such as 26 to 4 in Committee upstairs. That only represents half the Committee, which consisted of 60 Members, but there are 707 Members of this House, and are 707 Members to be swayed by the decision of 26 Members in the Star Chamber upstairs? If every Member of this House had a right to attend in one of these Committees upstairs, then I should say that we as a House should be bound by their decisions, but it is only the privileged Members who are allowed to attend these Committees. Personally, I have had the honour of being a Member of this House for a number of years now, but on no occasion have I ever been invited to attend any of these Committees upstairs. Possibly the Government have a very good reason for taking that position, but that in no way debars me from taking every opportunity I can of trying to have the interests of the farmers of Hertfordshire discussed on the floor of 2240 this House. I consider that unless security of tenure is guaranteed to a farmer you will never get good farming. I do not make any suggestions as to how you are going to do it. I do not want to stir friction between farmer and landlord, but what commercial proposition would be possible under the conditions under which the average farmer lives? Farmers, unlike the Government, have to look ahead. Farmers, unlike the Government, cannot afford to be opportunists. Take the question of manuring a farm over a period of five years. What politician ever thought five years ahead? But on a farm, in between the first and the fifth year, there are all sorts of occasions which have to be considered before-hand and dealt with. A good farmer has got to look ahead, and you cannot tell me that any farmer who holds a farm at the caprice of a landlord can possibly seriously look ahead, or ever become a good farmer. I am not suggesting that all the landlords of this country should hand over their farms to the farmers in the interests of good farming, but I suggest that everything that tends to make it more difficult for a landlord to remove a tenant makes it more difficult to sell the farm over his head. If a farm tenant could be got rid of as quickly as the tenant of an ordinary shop, the farm would be more readily saleable, but when a man is going to buy a farm he wants to know when he can get possession, and if he cannot get immediate possession the proposition does not attract the gambler in land so much as if he could get immediate possession. The Government have taken power in this Bill to do everything possible and, I may say, a good number of things which will prove utterly impossible. They can make a man plough his grass land, they can make a man keep cattle when he does not know how to keep cattle, and if he does keep cattle they can make him grow corn. They can do everything by the medium of their committees, and if you are going to do that, how much more necessary is it to tell the farmers of this country that they have certain security of tenure, and anything that tends to do that should, I think, be strongly advocated by hon. Members of this House. You could not float a farm as a commercial proposition. Who would subscribe for shares for 100 2241 acres of corn land? There is no money forthcoming from the public, and farming as it is to-day is not a commercial proposition. I suggest to the Government that you must make farming a commercial proposition. It cannot be done by a Government subsidy, because all forms of Government subsidy are unsound and uneconomical, but you can make farming a commercial proposition by giving security of tenure, and anything that tends to give that, even by the instalment principle, will have my support and, I trust, the support of all the Labour Members and all those people who work by the sweat of their brow.
§ Mr. WILSON-FOX
The speech to which we have just listened approaches the subject from a point of view which certainly appeals to me. The hon. Member said you cannot improve farming unless you make it a business proposition, and with that I entirely agree, but my hon. Friend confined his remarks to one branch of the subject, and what he seemed to forget was this, that the capital side of it is at least as important as the farming side. What I am afraid of is, as has been pointed out with great force by my right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Prctyman), that the tendency of this proposal for this very heavy compensation to the farmer will be to prevent capital being at the disposal of the farming industry at the old rates of interest to which they have been accustomed in the past. The tendency of what is being done is going to be to compel further sales of land on a greater scale than we have been accustomed to, and it is going also to restrict the supply of capital which in the past has been placed so freely at the disposal of tenant farmers. We are told that farmers must Have security of tenure if the object of this Bill is to be carried out; but this Bill does not give security of tenure at all in the sense in which it has been asked for. This is an attempt, by some sort of cash dole of an uncertain character to induce them to stay on, and also to frighten the landowners from giving notice to their tenants. It might also have the effect of permitting largo numbers of tenant farmers, who are not good farmers, to he left in possession of holdings they had much better not be left in. I understood all through this Bill that the test of any particular proposal contained in it was. 2242 Is it, or is it not, likely to increase the production of food in this country? I have been very much surprised that in the discussion of this Amendment a wholly new issue has been introduced. It seems to me that the discussion has ranged round an assumed state of ill-feeling between landowners and tenants throughout the country which it is necessary to allay. It has not been until the last two days that one has heard anything about that. I doubt very much if this feeling of ill-will does exist throughout the country, but if it does exist I do not believe this excessive corn pensation, which has been arranged in a sort of hole-and-corner way upstairs, is going to get rid of it.
I ask myself, as a business man, what is going to be the effect of this particular proposal for compensation? It is a matter of degree. What we have to decide is, is it too much or is it too little? If too much, then, in the interests of the industry, we ought to reduce it, because it may have the effect of frightening capital away. That is the test I apply to this proposal, and I think that the full year's rent, plus full compensation for removal, and so on, is too high. I think it would have a very bad effect on the industry, and would frighten capital away. For that reason, I prefer the Amendment, the intention of which, I understand, is to pay one year's rental, and, if it is really going to be a fixed sum always payable, so much the better. I do think that is a sufficient deterrent, if a deterrent is needed, to prevent land-owners from disturbing tenants lightly, with the further deterrent that, if they act capriciously, they will have to pay even higher compensation. But I think, in ordinary cases, the deterrent of a year's rent will prevent them from removing a tenant who ought not to be removed, so that in those circumstances it seems to me that the proposal of my right hon. Friend is a business-like and proper proposal. Ws have not to go further and consider this question of allaying ill-feeling, which I do not believe exists. For these reasons, I shall support the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the words 'not exceeding one year's rent' be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 27; Noes, 165.2243
|Division No. 364.]||AYES.||[10.9 p.m.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Wheler, Lieut.Colonel C. H.|
|Cautley, Henry S.||Jameson, J. Gordon||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Lloyd, George Butler||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Lorden, John William||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Courthope, Major George L.||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Morrison, Hugh||Wintringham, T.|
|Hogge, James Myles||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander||Mr. Pretyman and Lieut.-Colonel Royds.|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Starkey, Captain John R.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. F. D.||Graham D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Parker, James|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. C.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Allen, Lieut.-Colonel William James||Gregory, Holman||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Greig, Colonel James William||Perring, William George|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Grundy, T. W.||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Barnett, Major R. W.||Guest, Major O. (Leic, Loughboro')||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hartshorn, Vernon||Purchase, H. G.|
|Barrand, A. R.||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Rae, H. Norman|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Billing, Noel Pemberton-||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Hinds, John||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Hirst, G. H.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Royce, William Stapleton.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Holmes, J. Stanley||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hood, Joseph||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Brown, Captain D. C.||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Howard, Major S. G.||Seager, Sir William|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hurd, Percy A.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Cape, Thomas||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Jephcott, A. R.||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Johnstone, Joseph||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Kenyon, Barnet||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Swan, J. E.|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Edge, Captain William||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lawson, John J.||Turton, E. R.|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, South)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Waddington, R.|
|Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Lindsay, William Arthur||Waterson, A. E.|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tlngd'n)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Finney, Samuel||Lunn, William||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(Midlothian)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Wilson, Lieut.-Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Wilson, W. Tyson (Westhoughton)|
|Forrest, Walter||Moles, Thomas||Wise, Frederick|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Worsfold, Dr. T. Cato|
|Gardiner, James||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Murchison, C. K.|
|Glanville, Harold James||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward A.||Neal, Arthur||Lord E. Talbot and Captain Guest.|
§ Amendment made: In Sub-section (4), leave out the words "or his" ["or his implements"].—[Sir A. Boscawen.]
§ Sir A. SPROT
I beg to move, in Sub-section (4), to leave out the words, "and shall include any expenses reasonably incurred by him in the preparation of his 2244 claim for compensation (not being costs of an arbitration to determine the amount of the compensation)."
I do not see any justification for this charge. There is no corresponding charge on the other, and as it is an arbitration, the two parties should 2245 share the expenses. I chink the words ought to be omitted.
§ Amendment not seconded.
§ Major M. WOOD
I beg to move, in Sub-section (4), to leave out the words, "sum equal to one year's rent of the holding; or, whore the notice to quit is given without good and sufficient cause and for reasons inconsistent with good estate management, such sum."
By the Bill as drafted the tenant must get one year's rent and if he is the subject of capricious eviction it can be increased to a sum limited by four years' rent. The definition of capricious eviction is so wide and vague that it is almost impossible for a farmer to prove that he has been evicted in that way. We can judge from the Act of 1908 how often it is that a farmer is able to prove that he has really been capriciously evicted. It is one of the rarest things possible to find a farmer getting compensation for that reason. Capricious eviction is defined by that Act and in this Bill as eviction without good and sufficient cause and for reasons inconsistent with good estate management. There are many cases where the landlord has exercised his powers of eviction partially and needlessly which do not come under the category of a capricious eviction as thus defined. In these cases the farmer might well make up a good case for getting more than the minimum amount of compensation which is given to a farmer by a landlord who has not been at fault in any way. This Amendment seeks to make out that the farmer shall get his one year's rent, but he may get any sum between that and four years' rent, as the arbitrator may think fit, taking into consideration all the circumstances of the particular case. Then he will be able to give consideration for any element in the case which makes him think that more than the minimum is necessary.
We have had some experience already in Scotland, and it was held in one case that was heard in the Court of Sessions that it was consistent with good estate management if a landlord gave notice to a tenant merely for the reason of putting up the rent. If that is so, and if that is held to have general application, it means that a landlord can always keep himself out of the category of capricious eviction by merely saying that he wanted a higher rent. That case is well known to all the 2246 farming community, and so long as it stands without being overruled, it means that the farmer dare not come forward to make out a case for capricious eviction because it seems to him an almost impossible task to undertake. I move this Amendment in the belief that it will lead to a fairer adjustment of compensation than is possible under the Bill as it stands.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
The effect of this proposal would be that in all cases, as well as capricious evictions, the compensation would not be merely one year's rent, but anything from one to four years as the arbitrator might decide. I think that is going much too far, and, as far as my knowledge of the National Farmers' Union and farmers generally goes, they have never asked for this provision. Therefore, I cannot see my way to accept it. We hold that there should be a distinction of an ordinary case of a notice to quit and a capricious eviction, and in the latter case we think there should be additional compensation which is really in the nature of a penalty or a deterrent. My hon. Friend justified his proposal by saying that it is so difficult to prove a capricious eviction. I do not think it is. I have been going through a large number of cases where capricious evictions have been proved, and where considerable sums have been paid by way of compensation for removal. Therefore, I do not think that this difficulty does exist. If my hon. Friend really considers that the cases are few in number, then the answer is that where capricious eviction really does take place there has been no difficulty in proving it. I therefore cannot agree to extend the higher form of compensation to the class of non-capricious cases.
§ Mr. GARDINER
May I ask the Secretary for Scotland whether or not the decisions referred to by the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment as having been given in the Court of Sessions have laid it down that it is consistent with good estate management to get rid of a tenant merely because it is desired to secure a higher rent?
§ Mr. GARDINER
In reference to this Amendment, in view of the fact that the words immediately before those suggested to be deleted are "Without good and sufficient cause," someone might suggest that this is quite sufficient to differentiate between one year and four years' compensation. The words "For reasons inconsistent with good estate management" have been constantly used in this Debate, and I should like to know what they really mean. The "rules of good husbandry" and "good estate management" seem to be very flexible terms, and most difficult to distinguish, but, after the explanation I have received from the Secretary for Scotland personally, I do not propose to make any move in support of the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir A. SPROT
I beg to move, in Subsection (4), after the word "year's" ["sum equal to one year's rent"], to insert the word "free."
In this Amendment I propose that the expression "rent" shall be read to mean such rent as the owner receives after deducting the proportion which is paid to the Church. I have another Amendment later on to meet the case of Scottish rents which are subject to local rates payable by the landlord. The object of this Amendment is that the year's rent payable to the tenant on quitting his holding shall be the gross rent of the farm minus the proportion paid to the Church. In Scotland the stipend of the parish minister is payable by the landowners in the parish. If we assume that an owner of an estate has three farms, that he has to pay £300 a year to the clergyman of the parish, and that the farms are all of equal value, that would mean that he would pay £100 a year to the clergyman in respect of each farm, and my argument is that, where he is to be mulcted in a year's rent on his tenant's quitting, that should mean the rent minus what is paid to the clergyman of the parish.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think that, if the Government accept it, it will have to be modified slightly. 2248 As far as I know, there is no such provision in England. Sometimes the tithe is redeemed, but in the majority of cases the landlord has to pay tithe, and it does seem rather hard that the tithe should not be deducted from the rent in considering what is an actual year's rent. I think my right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Pretyman) said that a year's gross-rent was equal to four years' actual rent. I do not think that that was the intention of the Government, and therefore, if they are prepared to accept the words moved by my hon. and gallant Friend, other words would have to be inserted rendering the Amendment applicable to England as well as to Scotland.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I think it would be exceedingly difficult for the Government to accept this Amendment. As the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) appreciates, the Amendment as moved would apply to England as well as to Scotland, and I am not aware of any justification for that proposition. But I am looking at it from the Scottish rather than from the English point of view. Probably my hon. and gallant Friend may think proper to renew his Amendment upon the Scottish Clause, and if so I shall deal with it at that stage. But, as I understand his proposal, he suggests that the additional compensation which is to be paid shall be based on the free or net rent, that is to say, after deduction of tithe or other burdens, rather than upon the gross rent. I think I am right in saying that the gross rent has always been accepted, roughly, as the basis upon which the farmer's profit should be calculated, and if that be so, it seems, primâ facie, to be a fair basis upon which to calculate his loss. I would point out a further difficulty in the way of accepting the Amendment, namely, that its administration in practice would, as I am assured by those who are familiar with such matters, be exceedingly difficult. Even under Schedule A, the definition of net rent would be a subject of constant disagreement and argument, and I do not think that is a desirable prospect to which to look forward. What my hon. and gallant Friend really has in mind is the Scottish case. In Rule IV of Schedule A of the Income Tax Act, 1918, the Commissioners of Inland Revenue are directed to give relief to a landlord in Scotland in respect of certain burdens which fall upon him and 2249 which do not fall upon the English landlord, such as public rates, taxes, or assessments. These, as I undertand, fall upon the occupier in England, but in Scotland they fall half upon the owner and half upon the occupier. I think that that is the point which my hon. and gallant Friend has in mind. I would point out, however, that that relief is given rather by way of deduction from the assessment or by repayment of the tax, and that being so, it does not reduce the assessable rental. So that my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment would not achieve the result he desires. I would therefore suggest to him that between now and the time when we reach the Scottish Clause he should reconsider the matter in the light of the observations I have addressed to him, and if he puts his Amendment down again, I shall be prepared to consider it at that stage.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I do not pretend to have any knowledge of Scotch law, but I am going to support the Amendment, and to move an Amendment to it to insert the words "one year's rent of the holding, less the tithe, or, in the case of Scotland, the free rent of the holding as the arbitrator may think proper." I did not gather from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Munro) what the law of Scotland is. In our law, I think it is under an Act of 1880, the whole law of tithe was altered. At or about that date the provision that existed in English leases, that the tenant should pay the rent and the tithe, was abolished in regard to new leases created after that Act. But in regard to then existing leases, the tenant had to pay the tithe. The result is that in England at this moment, I suppose I am right in saying, there is probably no lease under which the tenant pays the tithe at all. The landlord has fixed his rent on the assumption that he, the landlord, pays the tithe, and we know what an important charge that is. Out of the rent the landlord receives he has to pay the tithe. It would be grossly unjust that the landlord should be saddled with paying compensation to the tenant upon the basis of tithe, which probably is now, something broadly, about 4s. 6d. in the £ on the original value of the tithe. I do not think anyone proposes that the landlord should pay as compensation that which in fact he does not, and never can, receive.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot move a second Amendment. The Question is to insert the word "free."
§ Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS
I think it is quite understood by all my hon. Friends that any compensation which is payable should be clear. We pointed out that one year's rent is the equivalent to the owner of land of four years' income. Therefore, if the owner of land was to pay to the tenant in England what is called a free rent he would only pay £25 out of every £100. That would be the total sum. But that would be misleading altogether. I quite admit it is grossly unfair to insist on such heavy compensation. It is not compensation, it is fines and penalties. The point is whether, by the imposition of these fines and penalties, you will get security of tenure. We consider that if the tenant is removed a moderate fine is reasonable to pay the cost of moving. That is the object of the Amendment. If that is whittled tdown to the free income of what the owner gets, it will be very misleading. The tenant may in some cases get a large part of it, but in the bulk of cases he would not get one quarter of what he expects. We ought to know quite clearly if we are to pay anything what we are going to pay. It is only fair to the owner and to the tenant,
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. HOHLER
I should like to move an Amendment, in Sub-section (4), to insert after the word "rent" ["one year's rent of the holding"], the words "less tithe." I have already given my reasons, and I submit that the Amendment is in order.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think the House has just decided that they will not have anything to do with "free."
§ Major M. WOOD
I beg to move, in Sub-section (4), to leave out the words "and for reasons inconsistent with good estate management."
The objection I have to the definition of capricious eviction is that it is so vague and wide, and that it is almost impossible to prove that it took place in any particular case. If we leave out the words "and for reasons inconsistent with good estate management," it will be up to the landlord to prove that he has good and sufficient cause for turning out a tenant 2251 in order to bring him within this category. The Sub-section without these words is wide enough for all purposes, and the intention of the Bill would be fully met.
§ Mr. ACLAND
I beg to second the Amendment. I am afraid these words will be difficult in interpretation. I think my hon. Friend has made out a case for leaving the matter rather more free to the arbitrator, without putting down a phrase which will be difficult to interpret and may lead to litigation in regard to the exact meaning.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL (Sir Ernest Pollock)
I cannot help thinking that the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment have overlooked the fact that the words which they propose to leave out are at present in Section 11 of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1908. The present Bill amends that Act, and it would be very unwise to try to alter words which are at present working, and which have held the field, so to speak, for twelve years. To suggest now that there is any particular difficulty in understanding the words or using them is to overlook the fact that they are part of Section 11 of the Act of 1908. Further, by Sub-section 7 of this very Clause, the landlord has to give his reasons for which he is giving the notice, and, therefore, any difficulty in ascertaining what are the reasons inconsistent with good estate management disappears.
§ Major M. WOOD
My information is that these words have not worked without difficulty in the Act of 1908, and because of that fact I have put down this Amendment. I have already referred to a case in which it did not work well, and the Secretary for Scotland said that that particular case was not of general application. But no case is. Every case is decided on its merits. But in this case the Court held that to give notice to a tenant merely in order to raise the rent made that case come within the category of giving notice for reasons consistent with good management. If that is to be the case, the landlord often will be able to bring himself within this category merely by saying that he has decided to raise the rent.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not aware that 2252 this point was the subject of very long discussion in 1908, and that these particular words were put in by the Government, I think, after we had a whole day's discussion. I think I can see the Attorney-General of that day writing out the Amendment on the blotting-pad on his knee, while we of the Opposition, on the other side waited for the words to be produced. As far as I know, these words have operated well. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman says that there was one case in which they have not operated well, if he means that they prevented a tenant receiving compensation to which he was not entitled, I do not agree with him.
§ Major WOOD
I did not say that there was one case in which they did not operate well. I said I knew one case m which the court held that to give notice merely to raise rent was giving notice for reasons consistent with good estate management.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It is quite possible that the Court was right. Many people, during the last few years, have said that one of the causes of bad farming was low rents. It is quite probable that rent is so low that, in the interests of the community, it should be raised so that the farmer should be obliged to take a little more trouble to farm his land better in order to pay his rent. If the Court held that view, I am inclined to think that the Court was right. Because of that one cause the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes to make a change in the law, which has been in operation for twelve years. I am very glad that the Government refuse to accede to his suggestion.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I beg to move, in Sub-section (4), to leave out the word "four" ["four years' rent"], and insert instead thereof the word "two."
Four years' rent, in addition to all the other things granted, is a very large sum, and if we accept the standard that the House, has generally accepted it would be 16 years' income in respect of that particular farm plus the year's rent for the compensation which has already been decided upon. I do not think that anyone wants to stand up for capricious eviction, and where we could be certain that 2253 the case was wholly capricious and unfair, I do not think that it would matter much what penalty was imposed. The Selborne Report which dealt with this question recommended one year, and my right hon. Friend has founded himself very frequently upon that Report. In this case double the compensation suggested by the Selborne Report is proposed in my Amendment. It seems to me that two years' rent, plus the other compensation, is sufficient to meet a case of this kind.
Sir A. BOSCAWEN
The mover of the Amendment did not make it clear that this four years' rent is only a maximum. There is no suggestion of four years' rent in every case; it may be anything from one year's to four years' rent. I agree that capricious evictions are very rare, and that it is very unlikely that the arbitrators will, in the majority of cases, go up to the maximum, but I do not think that that is a particular reason why we should reduce the maximum. I must ask the House to adhere to the arrangement proposed in the Bill.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS
There is one aspect of this case that has not been brought with sufficient clearness before the House, and that is how far a provision of this character, which may impose a fine of four years' rent, in addition to other payments, may affect the credit of land, and the borrowing power of the owner of land, which is a most important point. I would like to read a letter I have received from a firm of solicitors in the East of England.We fear the supporters of the Bill do not thoroughly appreciate the practical effect it will have upon investments and the free markets in land. Within the last few years our firm, as country solicitors with a large experience in farms in East Anglia, has conveyed several hundreds of farms, and nine out of ten of those who have purchased have required financial assistance in the shape of mortgages, usually to the extent of two-thirds or more of the purchase money. This has probably been the proportion of borrowers and amount advanced throughout the Kingdom. The moneys have been advanced by way of mortgage either by trustees (under the Trustee Act) private individuals or/and banks.The position of trustees and mortgagees is a most serious one and likely to entail heavy loss, as they, in case of default by borrowers, will not be able to realise their securities without paying the borrowers' tenants the suggested two to four years 2254 rental, plus compensation for disturbance and removal, thus materially depreciating the value of the security. This may not be all, as their securities (unless they increase their loan by moneys paid in compensation to tenants) will be unrealisable, as no one would be willing to purchase and wait four years or more to get possession. We do not think the members having charge of the Bill realise the position of mortgagees, who are ns numerous as the farmers, and others who have taken mortgages and invested their savings or funds to assist farmers in buying their farms, and it is unlikely that any such assistance will be forthcoming in future.Unless the Bill is modified in such form as will protect the interests of mortgagees we shall be reluctantly compelled to advise those whose financial interests are safeguarded by us to take immediate steps to call in the moneys advanced. This step will inevitably be simultaneously taken by every firm who have financed the purchasing farmer and the results therefrom must entail disaster to those of limited capital.The House are passing this Clause for the benefit of farmers—it does not matter whether they are tenant farmers or farmers—who have purchased their farms. It is notorious to everybody that a large number of tenant farmers have now become occupying owners. A large number of them have borrowed money on mortgage of their lands. Is it not a matter for this House to consider in the interests of these people whether by making it possible to impose a fine of such a heavy amount as four years' rent we shall not be alarming the mortgagees and causing the money to be withdrawn? Here, at any rate, is the opinion written to me quite impartially by this firm. I myself have been in the habit of advancing very large sums on mortgage of land—several millions being on loan at one time.
I do not think it has been sufficiently appreciated by this House that if you once hit the credit of agricultural land you are doing more to damn and injure the industry than by any other step. It is simply imposing heavy fines on "occasions"; whenever a particular thing occurs, or notice is given, you impose a fine, it may be big or small. If these fines and penalties are unfair and hit the credit of land, the owners of that land, be they great or small, will not be able to attract capital to it and borrow money on its security.
Look at what happened in the case of the land values. You there put fines on "occasions," exactly the same thing. You 2255 thought that houses were going to spring up. Exactly the reverse took place. The sum available for building houses was withdrawn, credit was destroyed, and you are now having to pay hundreds of millions of money because of the Act. You have dealt with urban land in that way. You have had that experience, that lesson, and now what is the House of Commons doing? In a minor degree you are attempting to do the same thing with regard to agricultural land. I would ask this House to pause before they inflict this blow on the credit of agricultural land, which ought to be the finest security in the world.
§ 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.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, PURSUANT to the Order of the House of 19th October, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at One minute after Eleven o'clock.