HC Deb 23 November 1920 vol 135 cc283-7

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires— (3) The expression "agricultural committee" means the agricultural committee established for a county or borough under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Act, 1919.


I beg to move, at the end of paragraph (3), to insert the words "The expression 'rules of good husbandry' means the rules of good husbandry generally recognised as applying to holdings of the same character and in the same neighbourhood as the holding in respect of which the expression is to be applied."

I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is going to accept this Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

The forms of husbandry might be worse in one district than in another, and I think this is a very dangerous Amendment.


I do not think so. I think that it makes the Bill a little more precise. There are certain established rules, varying in different districts—largely because the character of the farming is different—which are generally recognised as carrying out what are known as the rules of good husbandry, and I think that what is applicable to one district should be made the standard for that district.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to insert a new Sub-section— (6) References to the terms, conditions, or requirements of a contract of tenancy of a holding shall be construed as including references to any obligations, conditions, or liabilities implied by the custom of the country in respect of the holding. This is the Amendment to which I made frequent references during the course of a Debate, and which makes it necessary to bring in the words "custom of the country." Custom of the country is understood to apply in all cases where reference has been made to the terms of a contract.


Has it been made quite clear that "custom of the country" will be meant in all cases where there are no agreements and no contracts?


signified assent.


It appears to me that the Clause requires at the end, "implied by custom of the country in the absence of an agreement," or words to that effect. The point is, if there is no contract of tenancy existing, as there is not in many cases, that custom of the country should apply in the future as heretofore. I am sure that is the intention, but I want to make it quite clear that that is the case.


I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "of" ["contract of tenancy of"], to insert the words "or of an agreement relating to."

The hon. Member has drawn attention to a point which ought to be met under this Clause. I think it quite necessary to put in a word or two to deal with the point. It might be met if I might move to put in, as an Amendment to my right hon. Friend's Amendment, after the words "contract of tenancy of," to add the words "or of an agreement relating to."

The Clause would then read: References to the terms, conditions or requirements of a contract of tenancy of or of an agreement relating to a holding shall be construed. When a tenant is holding a farm, although he may not have got a form of contract he is holding under some form of agreement. If you bring in some wording to show that the custom of the country applies to the agreement my hon. Friend's point would be met.

Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS

There is some little misunderstanding. A contract of tenancy does not mean a written contract. Every tenant of a farm who is tenant of a farm or of a house is under a contract. It does not matter whether it is written or not, the rent is fixed, the terms are fixed. It does not matter whether they are governed by the custom of the country. I think this term "contract of tenancy" is quite clear. Many farms have no contract at all.


I am ready to withdraw my Amendment to the proposed Amendment, but I hope hon. Members will make up their minds. When we refer to an agreement, as we do in another Clause, I think it better to put it in, so that we should have no doubt at all about it. If the hon. Member for Grantham (Lieut.-Colonel Royds) objects to my Amendment, I am willing to withdraw it. I carefully considered the matter this morning, and it occurred to me that it would be necessary to move those words. If it in any way disconcerts any of my hon. Friends, I am willing to withdraw it.


I do not understand why this Clause is necessary at all, and I should be glad if the Solicitor-General would tell me. Wherever you have a contract of tenancy the custom of the country is imported except where the terms of the written document exclude it. I should also like to ask the Solicitor-General what is the difference between the "custom of the country" and the "rules of good husbandry." In my view of the law there is imported to every contract to farm according to the custom of the country which is according to the rules of good husbandry appertaining to that particular locality, and I have not the slightest doubt that that is the law on both these points.


I have no doubt my hon and learned Friend is quite right that the custom applies in all the cases he suggests, and there is no difference between us on a point of law. The reason why this Clause has been moved is that from time to time during the course of the Bill the suggestion has been made that where we have used the word agreement or contract, or so on, in order to safeguard any doubt we should have put in the word "custom"; and we were asked to by a great number of Members to put it in. The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Hohler) was very insistent the other day that we should put it in. In my opinion and the opinion of the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Cautley) is that it was quite unnecessary. The Member for East Grinstead is making a point that it is quite superfluous; but at the same time in order to avoid doubt we are putting in this Clause because we wanted, if possible, to make the Bill such that those who are not experienced in the law, as the hon. Member is, might have no doubt on the point. Therefore my right hon. Friend moved this Clause. It is really moved in pursuance of an undertaking already given to this House.


I should like to know whether, if under the peculiar conditions of some particular farm, there was a contract of tenancy which was outside the custom of the country for some particular reason, and both parties agreed to it, in the event of an arbitration there would not be a conflict on this point?


No, because the agreement would exclude the custom of the country.


I hope the Solicitor-General will stick to what he has said, and put in some form of words to safeguard these tenancies which have neither contract nor agreement We have tenancies in the country which go on from generation to generation which have absolutely no written contract of any sort. The legal mind is much more subtle than mine, but I hope it will be clearly shown by the Solicitor-General, because this will be discussed by the farmers without legal assistance, and I hope he will insert those words.


I beg then to adhere to the proposal which I have made.

Major M. WOOD

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that the word "country" should be replaced by the word "district"? In many cases you may have a custom recognised all over the country but not—


It is really quite unnecessary. Custom of the country is a well known expression. It always refers to the custom of a locality.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.

Proposed words, as amended, there inserted in the Bill.