HC Deb 23 November 1920 vol 135 cc359-79

(1) The provisions of this Act as to compensation for disturbance in the case of a holding shall apply with the necessary modifications in the case of an allotment garden, but subject to the provisions of this Section.

(2) Where the tenancy of an occupier of an allotment garden is terminated by reason of a notice to quit which is less than one year's notice, the compensation shall be either such an amount as is payable under the provisions applied by this Section or such an amount as represents the benefits which would have accrued to the occupier from the occupation of the allotment garden on the terms of the expired tenancy during the period between the date of the expiration of the tenancy and the end of one year from the date on which the notice to quit was given, whichever amount is greater.

Provided that this Sub-section shall not apply where possession of the land is reasonably required for naval, military, or Air Force purposes, or for building, mining, or other industrial purposes, or for roads necessary in connection with any of those purposes.

(3) Compensation under this Section shall not be payable in the case of an allotment garden provided by a local authority for the purposes of The Small Holdings and Allotments Act, 1908, where the occupier is resident more than one mile out of the district of the local authority.

(4) Any question as to whether compensation is payable under this Section, or as to the amount payable, shall be determined under and in accordance with the provisions of The Allotments and Cottage Gardens (Compensation for Crops) Act, 1887, in the same manner as the amount of compensation for crops or other matters is determined under that Act, and the compensation under this Section shall be in addition to any compensation payable under that Act.

(5) So much of the last-mentioned Act as provides that that Act shall not extend to the Metropolis is hereby repealed as respects any tenancy which terminates after the commencement of this Act.

(6) In the application of this Section to Scotland the expression "allotment garden" means an allotment under The Allotments (Scotland) Act, 1892, as amended or applied by any subsequent enactment, and a reference to The Small Holdings and Allotments Act, 1908, or to The Allotments and Cottage Gardens (Compensation for Crops) Act, 1887, shall be construed as a reference to the said Act of 1892 as so amended or applied.—[Sir A. Boscawen.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

Allotments are dealt with in this Bill in two ways. First of all, there will be compensation under Clause 7, where plot-holders are disturbed from their allotments. We do not propose to alter that in any way. The first paragraph of the Clause I am now moving makes that quite clear. It says: The provisions of this Act as to compensation for disturbance in the case of a holding shall apply with the necessary modifications in the case of an allotment garden but subject to the provisions of this Section. That means that where a plot-holder is disturbed he will get compensation for disturbance, which is one year's rent plus the cost of removal. In the case of an allotment the cost of removal will be very small, and one year's rent in most instances will probably be in the neighbourhood of 10s. It is also true if the disturbance is capricious that it may be as much as four years' rent. Allotments are also dealt with in the Bill in Clause 22, which lays down the general principle that in the case of all holdings, including allotments, twelve months' notice shall be necessary. That particular Clause as it stands is singularly ill-appropriate to allotments. In one respect it goes too far In the case of Defence of the Realm Act allotments, where land was taken during the War for allotments for temporary purposes—land which was required for building, and would have been used for such but for the War—twelve months' notice would be necessary. That would stop a great deal of housing, mining, and industrial work generally, and would mean that an enormous sum of compensation would have to be paid

It would be very hard also on those who during the War were willing to lend land temporarily for allotments which otherwise would have been used for building. In land wanted for building or other similar purposes, there ought to be means whereby the resumption can be obtained more quickly. In that respect the 12 months' notice given goes much too far. In another respect Clause 22 (notices to quit) is quite ineffective from the point of view of the allotment holders. What would be the result of that? As regards future contracts care would be taken to put in these special reasons for which the tenancies could be resumed, and in that case 12 months would not be applicable in the case of allotments. Therefore the Government came to the conclusion that it would be far better to deal with the case of allotments in a special Clause, which special Clause I may say I have carefully considered. It has been placed before the Members of this House who are interested in allotments, and I think it generally meets the situation, and is a great improvement on the present position from the point of view of the allotment holders.

What we propose in the new Clause I can sum up in a very few words. We divide the case of allotment holders into three. First of all, where allotments are not properly cultivated. In that case there will be no compensation at all for disturbance. The new Clause, I may say, goes on the principle of compensation for disturbance, giving special compensation for disturbance for less than 12 months' notice. In the second place, if the notice is reasonably given for any purpose which is recognised as a good purpose, for example, naval, military, or air force purposes, or for building, mining, or other industrial purposes, or for roads necessary in connection with any of these purposes, there will be compensation under the Bill, namely, one year's rent and cost of removal. That will be given whether the notice is 12 months or less, equally that compensation will be payable.

There is this further. Notice may be given to terminate the tenancy on which there are allotments for purposes for what I may call more or less arbitrary purposes, that is to say, not for good reasons. For example, a man may wish to add the allotment to his own private garden, or he may wish to make a tennis court, or to use the ground for some other sporting purpose. In these cases, if the notice is less than 12 months, there will be special compensation which will amount to the value of the beneficial occupation which the allotment holder would have had in it if the full 12 months' notice had been given. That is a new provision, and, I think, a very valuable one. It will have the effect of diverting landowners from turning down allotments under 12 months unless there is some specially good reason for so doing, because the compensation in that case will amount to a very considerable sum. We may reckon that the value of the beneficial occupation for a year will be about £7. I am only taking an average figure. It may be more or less. You may have 16 allotments to the acre. That would, therefore, mean that if notice of less than 12 months is given for the purposes other than those purposes provided in the Bill, namely, naval, military, and air force purposes, or industrial purposes, compensation may amount to as much as £112 an acre. That would be a very great deterrent to the landlord giving notice except for the very good reasons which are defined, and it would give a security of tenure to the allotment holder that he certainly does not enjoy at the present time. The proposals we have made, I think, are fair. I think they meet the point that in many cases we must get the land back quickly for important purposes; at any rate, it does make it an expensive process to get rid of allotments for inadequate reason, and it will have the effect of giving the allotment holder a much better security.


I want, first of all, to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary for the pains he is taking to deal with this subject. He has met Members of the House interested in allotments, and although he cannot give them all they want—for allotment holders want a great deal—


And they are quite worth it!


I agree. Yet, on the whole, the provisions of the Bill in regard to allotment holders do put them more or less on parallel lines with the farmers, and I think the right hon. Gentleman has met us in a reasonable way. But it cannot be too often or too strongly observed, I think, that nothing in the way of compensation will really satisfy the allotment holder. What he is out for is security of tenure, and he feels the position even more than the farmers do. My right hon. Friend has gone a reason- able way in devising what can be done on the basis of compensation, but it is security of tenure that is required, for under no circumstances will the allotment holder lose the little piece of land he has, and which is the only thing which will make the allotment holder happy. But the allotment holder has got to admit, and he will not admit it—though it is, unfortunately, true—that a great deal of the land that he is most anxious for absolute security in connection with is land taken for the purpose of allotments during the War, under the most distinct and explicit understanding that it would be taken back and was not going to be used permanently for allotments. It is also true that many private owners gave land which was waiting to become building land, and within a reasonable area for building, and gave it up temporarily for allotments, and to help the nation in its food emergency.

It would be, I am afraid, impossible, however great the sympathy we have with the allotment holder, to say that that land, if taken by the Government under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, and also given by the private owner for temporary use as allotments, should, because of the various reasons advanced, become permanently allotment ground We have got to look at this Clause as being simply what it is, a Clause dealing, not with the question of security, but of compensation. From that point of view, things are on the whole fair. It is, first of all, I think, right—I think it was I who raised the particular point—that the tenant of allotment land should have the same rights as the tenant of an agricultural holding, if he is given a year's notice. That may be quite considerable in certain cases. I know a good deal of allotment ground, for which the allotment holder pays something like £8 an acre, and that will give for an ordinary tenure compensation on the basis of one year's rent, or 10s., and it may go up to £2 if the notice is a capricious one. That is not a very great deal, but in some respects it is something quite considerable, and it is only right if the allotment holder has to go that he should get the same basis of compensation, that is the year's rent and the cost of removal, just the same as the larger man. It is also reasonable to have special provisions for the cases where the tenure of thy allotment holder is terminated in less than a year. I do not think you can devise anything more likely to be just than to give the allotment holders the benefit of an option either to take what would have been the benefit he had secured if he had continued to cultivate his allotment or to take the cost of removal and from one to four years' rent, whichever of those two options give him the most. That is a perfectly genuine attempt to meet the case of disturbance at less than a year's notice.

10.0 P.M.

The most difficult point is the special proviso in the new Clause which restricts the choice of methods of compensation. In the great bulk of cases where the allotment is needed for naval and military or air force purposes, or for building, mining or other industrial purposes, or for roads, that is not entirely inclusive. It will be under that provsio that a great deal of the allotment land will be resumed, and has been resumed. It seemed to me at first that the man who had notice to quit of less than a year when his land was wanted for these purposes would get no compensation, but I think that is wrong. He gets the expenses of removal and one year's rent, which is the ordinary compensation the farmer gets if he has to go after one year's notice. That at any rate is something, and the only point to be made is that the allotment holder under that proviso gets just the same compensation if his notice to quit is a year or a period of less than a year, and it may be a week. You would expect if the notice was shorter that the compensation might be greater, but that is not provided for. All the defence the allotment holder has is that contained under the word "reasonable." He will have the right to call in an arbitrator, and if he decides that the notice is given unreasonably, and that the land is not being reasonably required, he will decide that the proviso shall not operate, and in that case the allotment holder will have this option, and will be entitled to the larger compensation estimated on the basis of the loss he has sustained by not having a year's occupation. In the case of a very short notice the arbitrator may say it is not reasonably given and the allotment holder will then have the greater compensation. That is the only safeguard. I will conclude by saying that it has been in the House throughout our discussions rather fashionable to upset agreements come to upstairs, but I do not think that we who are interested in allotment holders want to do that in this case. My right hon. Friend represents the Allotments Committee which consists of hon. Members who work in connection with the National Union of Allotment Holders, and I represent the Agricultural Organisation Society, and we all want to help this Clause through and not overthrow it.


I am authorised to say on behalf of the National Union of Allotment Holders, that they accept this Clause. My right hon. Friend knows, however, that it is with a certain amount of regret in the minds of the members of the Union, and I believe also in the minds of a large number of Members of Parliament, that we are to-night discussing the question of compensation to these allotment holders who have had to give up their holdings. The position of the allotment movement in this country at the present time is a very serious one. All over the country thousands of notices to quit have been given to allotment holders in various districts, and as my right hon. Friend knows full well, no amounts of £7 to £14 or even £100 can in any way be commensurate with the ideas of the movement, or the ambition of the allotment holders themselves. What they desire is to continue the national work they are doing, and while they accept this Clause they all know that my right hon. Friend simply regards this as a temporary Measure, and as by no means dealing with the future of allotments generally in this country.

At the end of this year some thousands of allotment holders in London have got to give up their holding. I myself believe that is a matter of great regret, and I believe it is to the national disadvantage that that should be done. I am afraid this Clause does not deal with that position. We have had recently discussed in this House the question of the allotments on the Wanstead Flats. In this case there is an immense amount of acreage of land available for this important movement, and yet, despite the representations of the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Agriculture, these allotment holders have got to give up their holdings at the bidding of an authority which appar- ently is not subject to the jurisdiction of this House. I am making these observations not by way of criticisms of this proposal but in an endeavour to indicate to the House that this Clause, whilst going a considerable way in dealing with the difficulties, by no means solves the present problem which is before the allotment holders of the country. I only wish to say in conclusion that the allotment holders believe they have in the right hon. Gentleman a true Friend, and I hope he will be able to indicate at the close of this discussion that he is prepared to meet the representatives of the allotment holders of this country with a view to coming to some more satisfactory solution of the problem than is foreshadowed in this Clause, and with a view to making the allotment movement a permanent one, and one that is not subject to the capricious wishes of certain local authorities up and down the country.


Listening to the two right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side I have been forced to the conclusion that neither of them realises the real value of the allotment movement from the social and economic aspect. They devoted their remarks to the question of compensation, a trumpery two penny-halfpenny matter which concerns allotment holders very little indeed. The Minister in charge of this Bill met a deputation from the National Union of Allotment Holders and offered them this Clause as the best he could do in this Bill. For that we thanked him, and we accepted it as the best he could do in this Bill, but in accepting it as such it was with an understanding, given by the Minister at the time, that after this measure was through the House he would again meet the deputation, and go more thoroughly into the whole question of allotments, with a view to possible legislation next Session, if found necessary. Under these circumstances it would be wrong of me to oppose this Clause in any way, but I do want to point out that it is not even half a loaf, not even a crust, and it goes a very little way indeed towards satisfying the hunger of the thousands of allotment holders who are being dispossessed, and of the thousands of other people who are hungering for allotments and cannot get them. This is a very important and valuable movement from a social and economic point of view, and it will have to be inquired into very thoroughly, and the Minister in charge of the Bill, and others who pretend to be, and I believe are interested in this movement, must approach this matter from a different point of view. I am grateful for this Clause in so far as it goes, which is a very little way indeed, and I hope that when the Minister again meets the deputation we shall go very thoroughly into the whole matter, and get some legislation next year to do some good.


Adequate consideration has not been given to allotment holders, having regard to the service they have rendered to the community. Every consideration ought to be given to allotment holders before they are given notice ac all. If we are to encourage working men to take allotments, then something substantially more than the 12 months ought to be the consideration. In the urban district council area in which I live, in fixing the terms for allotments due to past experience, the least we would take is 14 years, because we are conscious that if a man is to get a return for his labour, and all the digging up of the soil, taking off turf, he must have a long period in which to recoup himself, and 12 months is not anything like sufficient. Good service was rendered to the country at a time when there was a demand for food. Allotments were the means really of saving families from starvation, and to take away these allotments will mean reducing substantially the standard of living of a number of families, and before the allotments are taken away greater consideration ought to be given to the possibility of getting land elsewhere for building or for factory purposes. What is meant by the compensation that is offered? Assuming a man built himself a hut for his tools, or put a rose-bed upon his garden, will he get compensation for all this work and expense? Thousands of men in the county of Durham have gone to that expense, and now, after they have had their allotments for three years, this Bill come along and says that if a farmer or a public authority or someone else wants the land they will get 12 months' notice to quit. It is very unfair both to the individual and to the community that a man's labour should be thrown to the winds in this way. There is no analogy between the case of the farmer and of the allotment holder. In the case of the latter you have had intensive cultivation. You cannot measure the labour that a man has put into his allotment; maybe he has put in the whole of his week ends, and the efforts of the whole of the family may have been put into the land in order to get the best out of it for himself and the nation. It is ludicrous in the extreme to compare the farmer with the allotment holder. Will compensation for removal mean compensation for his bushes, his tool-house and his greenhouse?

Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY

I am very sorry to see that this Clause neglects to give security of tenure to the allotment holder. That is the only thing which is of value to the allotment holder, and the only thing he is really working for. It is said the allotment holder wants a good deal. As far as I know, and I represent a good many, they do not want a great deal, they are extremely reason able people. If the land is needed for housing purposes or for any other purpose, and there is no other land avail able in the district, they are quite willing that their land should be given up, but they are not willing to give it up when it is not really needed. I know of a case in my own constituency where 600 allotment holders have been turned off land for the sole purpose of building working-class houses, although the plans for the houses have not yet been passed, and they will not be put on that land for another year. It is in such cases as these that the allotment holder wants to be protected. He only asks for one year's security of tenure, and that the notice shall take effect only between October and February. That gives him one clear year. I maintain that in a locality where they are letting land for allotments, they know what building schemes they are going in for, and have made up their minds when those schemes are to be put in operation; and they ought not to offer the land to the allotment holder unless they can give him security. A question has been asked as to the meaning of the compensation that is to be given. Does it mean that if the allotment holder has spent money on manure, seed, and fencing, and has built his little hut on his allotment, he will be compensated for all that? If he is not going to be compensated for that expenditure, but is only going to be paid one year's rent and his expenses of removal, it is not worth the paper it is written on.


Perhaps I may shorten the discussion if I explain that now. The compensation proposed in this Clause is in addition to the compensation to which allotment holders are already entitled under the Agricultural Holdings Act. For all crops on the land, for unexhausted manure, and so on, they already receive compensation, and that is not taken away by this Clause. The compensation for disturbance which we give in this Clause is in addition to that. As regards the question of the removal of a tool-house, that, undoubtedly, would be one of the costs of removal, for which there would be compensation under this Clause.

Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that information, which, I am sure, will be received with approval by all allotment holders. I should like to ask, however, even at this late hour, whether it is not possible to insert in this Clause another proviso giving to the allotment holders one year's security of tenure. If this could be done I am sure it would be to the advantage of the whole country. We have been told that this country must produce the greatest possible quantity of food. The allotment holders are producing a vast quantity of food, and, unless some security of tenure is given to them, we shall see thousands of them thrown off their allotments before the end of this year. I am quite sure that it will be most regrettable if that happens.


It seems to me that doubts might arise as to whether the Clauses under discussion apply to the Irish allotment holder. My reason for making this suggestion is that apparently these provisions come under Part II of the Bill, and Part II deals principally with compensation for disturbance. By these new Clauses, for the first time, the principle of compensation for disturbance is applied to allotment holders. Since 1870 we have had the principle of compensation for disturbance in the case of farms, and the law with regard to it is well established. We have also machinery for enforcing awards in respect of disturbance, and we have well-settled machinery for calculating the basis upon which that compensation is to be awarded. Allotments are of recent growth in Ireland, as they are in this country—they are more recent there, if anything—and it seems to me that if Parliament is going to give statutory effect to provisions for the compensation of allotment holders for disturbance in this country, the Irish allotment holder has even a stronger claim, seeing that the Irish landowner and the Irish farmer were able, if necessary, to claim compensation long before such a claim received statutory recognition here. Therefore the Irish allotment holders would value an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that they are within the scope of these Clauses. I agree that it might be necessary to make some consequential Amendments in the definition Clause, applying the measure to Ireland, in view of the fact that Part II of the Bill does not apply to Ireland. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can give me an answer at once so as to shorten the discussion.


As the Clause is drafted now it will not apply to Ireland.


This is rather a serious matter. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman treats the point I raised in a hostile manner. It occurred to me that it is simply a draughtsman's oversight and that as the provision for awarding and calculating compensation is under Part II of the Bill, which applies solely to England, that it was an oversight that similar provision was not made in order to apply these provisions to Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman gives me an assurance that he will modify Clause 27 in the necessary particulars I am sure it will not be unreasonable.


I cannot do it at this stage. That is impossible. But if there is a desire that this allotment Clause should apply to Ireland—I have no means of ascertaining that at present—I will take care that Clause 27 shall be modified in another place.


I put it to the right hon. Gentleman on the ground of ordinary justice, not on the ground of the demand whether it should or should not. Is it just that an English allotment holder should have compensation for disturbance? If the Committee say it is, why should they say it is not just that Irish allotment holders should have similar compensation? I appeal again to the right hon. Gentleman. Is it not perfectly simple even at this moment to draft a Clause to the effect that the Department of Agri- culture may make such orders as they think fit to enable these New Clauses to be applied to Ireland with the necessary Amendments? It could be done in two lines. If necessary I will undertake to hand in an Amendment to that effect before the discussion closes, but I think it is up to the right hon. Gentleman to see that it is done. What is the objection?


I have no objection. I have tried very hard to meet the hon. Member, but he does not seem to respond to my advances at all. Far from it. I have told him it cannot be done at this stage. It has to be done on Clause 27, which has not been recommitted, and therefore we are powerless to do it at this stage. But if the matter is generally desired, I will take care that it is done in another place. What more can I say?


I want the right hon. Gentleman to say it will be done.


I should be very sorry to say what another place will do to this Bill.


I do not want a provisional guarantee. If the right hon. Gentleman says he will have an Amendment made in another place that is the most I could ask for, and I think it is the least the right hon. Gentleman ought to offer.


I will not follow the hon. Member into the abstract requirements of justice. I am content to leave that point, as the right hon. Gentleman has left it, in his hands. I do not want either to follow those hon. Members opposite who have spoken on the general value of allotments, because that is a subject on which they are preaching to the converted and on which there is a very substantial body of agreement. I would enter a caveat against some statements made by hon. Members, who said, I have no doubt with great truth, that the real claim of the allotment holders was for complete security of tenure. I think it ought to be remembered that there are two sides to that question, and, although security of tenure might be desirable, it might also result in difficulties as to the provision of allotments at all. Those who had land suitable for allotments would be likely to think twice before granting land for allotments if in so doing they were precluding themselves and the community from early resumption for purposes for which it was even more urgently required. We all know it is extremely difficult to reconcile these conflicting claims. Our sympathy for and our sense of the value of allotments may be as high as you like, but we must ultimately recognise economic factors, and in attempting to divert land we may be likely to land ourselves in an economic quagmire I rose to refer to another point which, I think, should be borne in mind for possible consideration in another place, it was raised on Clause 7, and left, I think, in a rather indefinite position. That point is, what is to happen in the case of a landlord who let land to tenant A, who in turn has sub-let, without the landlord's knowledge, for allotments to various sub-tenants. If the landlord gives notice to tenant A, he should not be involved by virtue of that notice in any necessity to give compensation to the allotment holders, who are in reality subtenants of A, and have never been accepted by the landlord. It is a point of some substance, and I raise it so that it should not be overlooked. Some Amendment of the Clause may be required to safeguard the interests of the principal owner.


In connection with the proposal to allow compensation in respect of having to give up allotments, I may put the case of my own town where the Corporation laid out the public park for allotments, and they have been kept going ever since. Recently I understand that notice has been given that the land is to be restored to its original purpose as a public park. I would like the hon. Gentleman to tell me whether in a case of that kind the Corporation will be entitled to pay these allotment holders who received the ground on the understanding that it was solely for the purposes of the War? Near where I live the owner of a property kindly let out his grass land for the purpose of giving allotments to the people, on the understanding that so long as the War lasted these men would have the ground for cultivation as allotments. Some of the holders have refused to give up their allotments, though asked to do so. Is that man to be asked to give compensation? One of the best things that ever happened in this country was the giving of allotments during the War. People are now working shorter hours, and many of them are anxious to give all the time they can to allotments, and it is a good thing to give them the opportunity of doing so. In Scotland many houses have very large gardens. When a man leaves a house he leaves the garden. Is compensation to be given in future for gardens as well as for allotments? If so, up will go the rent. While encouraging allotments care must therefore be taken not to make things harder for others. In districts where there are mines allotments have often to be used while the crops are on it for boring to see whether minerals are there. In such cases there should not only be the ordinary compensation, but also compensation for the manure and other things that the holder put into the ground.

Sir J. D. REES

The provisos in this Bill as regards compensation are exceedingly stiff and with reference to this proposal to extend compensation to allotments, I would ask if allotments in public parks and gardens are affected? This is not quite like the case to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred. As I understand, there are allotments in Kensington Gardens, for instance, and the tenants there are tenants of the Commissioners of Works, who represents the Crown—that is to say, the public. If compensation is payable the public would be paying compensation, in addition to having been deprived of the amenities of the gardens for the years of the War and two years after the War. If this provision applies to Richmond Park and Kensington Gardens, and just outside to a beautiful piece of formerly almost rural ground, it is time to oppose the provision. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will say that that is not so. The Committee is agreed as to the utility of allotments, but their beauty is not equal to their utility, and we must remember that we are dealing with the immemorial rights of the public, which have been mortgaged with very slight advantage to a very few members of the public to the disadvantage of a very large number of members of the public, who are deprived of the health-giving properties of these areas How detestably undemocratic it is for a few to get all these things at the expense of the community, and that subsequently compensation should be leviable on the community on behalf of those few! Sub-section (2) proposes that the provision will not apply where there is a notice to quit which is for not less than one year. I do not know whether these particular allotment holders have always had a running notice to quit, and have sat as yearly tenants. Even in that case I believe that in agriculture, if you have a tenant, it is almost impossible to get rid of him in less than two years. Therefore, it may be that, in spite of this provision, these allotment holders may be more firmly planted than the Committee believes. Does Sub-section (4), which provides for additional compensation to that payable under this Act, apply to the allotment holders in Richmond Park and Kensington Gardens? Sub-section (5) increases my perplexity. I confess that I do not understand it. The proviso to Sub-section (2) states that the paragraph shall not apply where possession of the land is reasonably required for Naval, Military, or Air Force purposes, or for building, mining, or other such purposes, or for roads in connection with any of these purposes. I agree in approving that, but why does not that apply as regards the parks which are the lungs of London, and which have been temporarily handed over for this use? It is laid down that compensation shall not be payable on the grounds of health convenience and public requirements, and surely the parks with their health-giving properties should also come within the exception. It is somewhat difficult to speak on this particular matter, as nobody seems to realise how irregular is the position of a handful of men camped in a park which has belonged to the public for centuries, and how necessary it is that they, for democratic reasons, should be ejected without compensation as soon as possible. I ask the Solicitor-General whether or not these particular allotment holders come under this Clause.


We have had a very long discussion on this Clause, and practically every Member who has spoken has approved it. A certain number have said that they wished it had gone further, but they agreed that, as far as this Bill was concerned, it is the utmost we could do, and that the general question of allotments could not be raised now. I have already said in reply to a deputation that if they accepted this Clause I would later on consider what further Amendments could be made to the general law regarding allotments. But that matter cannot be raised in this particular Bill, and I hope therefore that the House will shortly come to a decision on this Clause. My hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Wood) asked what would happen in cases where tenants had sub-let their allotments. Would the landowner be held responsible? I think the landowner would not be responsible, but difficulties might arise, and I should like to consider what would happen under these circumstances. Then I was asked by the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) whether compensation would be payable in the case of land temporarily taken in the public parks for allotments. Yes, it would be, and I think quite rightly so. I do not think that an allotment holder who is dispossessed of his holding in a park is less entitled to compensation than any other allotment holder. He was asked to take an allotment and grow food during the War, and, as a general rule, it was very well done It is perfectly true that we are bound, since the parks are dedicated to the general public and are required for recreation and fresh air, to resume the land there and not allow the allotments to continue for ever, but if the allotment holders are dispossessed they are certainly entitled to compensation, and unless 12 months' notice is given they would be entitled to compensation on the higher scale. My hon. Friend asks why such a purpose as public recreation should not be a purpose like naval, military, or air force purposes, or building, for which the lower scale is paid. The answer is this: When land is wanted for naval, military or air force purposes, or for building, it is presumably wanted at once, and therefore, in order that the work may be got on with, the lower scale of compensation is paid, but really it cannot make very much difference, if land in the parks has been used for allotments, whether that land is resumed for the general public this year or next year, provided it is done within a reasonable period. I hope the Committee will now come to a decision on the Clause.


I want to ask one or two questions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide"] I do not know why hon. Members are in such a very great hurry. The Eleven o'clock Rule is suspended, we are discussing an extremely important Clause£I do not think we began to discuss it till five minutes past ten£and therefore it is perfectly in order and necessary that those of us who require some explanation of certain words in this Clause, which may lead to a very considerable amount of litigation, may be allowed to ask the Solicitor-General, who is now in charge, what the result of these words will be. We are in a little difficulty, because the hon. Gentleman who speaks for the allotment holders on this side has made a certain statement, and an hon. Member opposite, who also says he speaks for the allotment holders, has made another statement. So far as that goes we are not assisted in any way. An hon. and learned Member (Mr. Inskip) pointed out a short time ago that the previous Clause was unintelligible. What is going to happen under Sub-section (2) of this Clause, which reads: Where the tenancy of an occupier of an allotment garden is terminated by reason of a notice to quit which is less than one year's notice, the compensation shall be either such an amount as is payable under the provisions applied by this Section or such an amount as represents the benefits which would have accrued to the occupier from the occupation of the allotment garden on the terms of the expired tenancy during the period between the date of the expiration of the tenancy and the end of one year from the date on which the notice to quit was given, whichever amount is greater. I presume that means that if an allotment holder is told to go on the 1st March of any given year, and, if he had had a year's notice, he would not have gone until the 1st October of that year, then he is to be recompensed for the loss which would have occurred between the 1st March and the 1st October, presuming that he had been in occupation of that allotment during that period. What he would have gained if he had been in occupation of that allotment during that period would depend upon two things: first of all, upon his own personal exertions, and, secondly, upon the weather. Who is going to decide whether or not, between the 1st March and the 1st October, there are going to be hailstones or frosts or something which would destroy the produce which he would have put into the garden if he had been in occupation, which he was not? That is one of the conundrums which will have to be put to whomsoever has got to decide upon this particular Clause; and the second one is, who is to decide what the exertions of any particular person would have been? One knows perfectly well there are a certain number of people who are extremely capable in gardening, whether it is floral gardening or growing vegetables, and there are other people who are certainly not so capable, and how are you going to decide whether this particular person who is not in occupation, but might have been in occupation, is a capable market-gardener who would have taken advantage of fine weather, or would have taken care to guard against the ravages of frost in cultivating his market-gardeen? What is the good of putting in a provision in this Clause which nobody can possibly interpret? Coming to the proviso in Sub-section (2), what are "other industrial purposes"? It is extremely difficult to know. There again, we are left with vague words, which it is impossible to interpret. I do not know why Sub-section (5) should be put in. The Parliamentary Secretary did not tell us, but my own belief is that the Metropolis is so dealt with because a good many of the allotments in the Metropolis were in the public parks. They were granted under the stress of war, and it was never intended that they should be used for the pecuniary benefit of any particular class. I really do think we ought to have had some explanation of that. I noticed the extraordinary acquiescence of the right hon. Gentleman when an hon. Member opposite, who has been conspicuous by his absence from this House, got up and said he wanted the Clause extended to Ireland. There were one or two Ulster Members in the House, and they did not express any desire to have the Clause extended to Ireland, and I do not know whether they desire it or not. But if there were one thing we thought we were going to gain by the passing of a Home Rule Bill, it was that Irish legislation would be excluded from this House, and I cannot quite see how Irish legislation, whether it is good or bad, can be introduced into a Bill in this House.


I have every desire that those who cultivated allotments should continue to be encouraged in every possible way, but there have been two classes of allotments discussed in this Debate. In the case of those established in public parks for war purposes only, it was never intended or expected that they should continue after the War. They might very well be given up after 31st October in any year. Before the Government decides that they are going to impose a charge on public funds they should examine and consider their Financial Resolution, to see whether under its terms they have the power to impose such a charge. It is quite hopeless to ask the Government to pay any attention at the present moment to a charge on the public rates, but this is really a special case. Not only does this Government intend to give the allotment holders compensation which they never claimed, but they are going to force the authority to make a charge to restore the ground to the condition in which it was in before it was turned into allotments. Thus, there will be a double charge imposed. Incidentally allotments in the public parks are not entitled to compensation. These are matters for further consideration, and if it is too late now I hope the Government will give it attention in another place.


I want to appeal on behalf of the people in a number of moderate-sized boroughs of the county who, at the beginning of the War, gave up their parks for allotments. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide."] It is all right for London Members to shout "Divide," but there are other boroughs represented in this House besides the London boroughs. Why has the Minister in charge of the Bill specially singled out the London boroughs in order to help the London rates, when there are a very large number of hon. Members who are very much concerned at the rising rates in the smaller boroughs in the country? I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in another place, he will see that the same law shall be made to apply to the smaller boroughs all over the country as that which will apply in London, so that these boroughs, which gave up their parks in this great national service of allotments, Should—


That does apply.


If it does apply I am satisfied. I understood it did not. I only want to make 11.0 P.M. certain that the smaller boroughs or cities are not penalised as against the London boroughs.


The right hon Gentleman has told us that compensation is to be paid in respect of allotments in public parks. Is compensation to be paid for allotments on commons, and, if so, by whom is the compensation payable, especially in the case of regulated commons, for the Conservators have no funds for the purpose? May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give me an answer?

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill