As from the fifteenth day of May, nineteen hundred and twenty-three, and during the continuance of this Act—
§ Mr. FALCONER
I beg to move, in paragraph (1), after the word "leviable" ["rates leviable by"], to insert the words "on occupiers."
It will be necessary, in order to understand the nature and effect of the Amendments which we intend to propose, that I should explain, briefly, the system of rating in Scotland as far as its bearing upon this Bill is concerned. It is entirely different from the English system. In considering what is right to do in Scotland hon. Members must, so far as possible, leave out of account the conditions which they have in England. In Scotland the local rates have been borne, I was going to say from all time, half by the owner and half 1432 by the occupier, while in England they are borne entirely by the occupier. The system in Scotland has been approved on a number of occasions. It was expressly approved by Lord Dunedin's Committee, which reported recently on the subject of local taxation in Scotland. Accordingly in 1896, when an Act was passed for Scotland practically at the same time as the English Act dealing with the question of relief of agricultural rates, the relief which was given by the Scottish Act was limited to occupiers. No relief was given to owners.
This subject has been considered over and over again, and in no case, so far as I know, has it ever been proposed by any Commission, Committee, or Member of Parliament, or other person, in all the Debates that have taken place, that it would be justifiable to take the taxpayers' money and pay the rates of the landlord to any extent. Under the Act of 1896 what was done for the occupier was that he was assessed on three-eighths of the rental value of his holding, as appearing on what we call the valuation roll in Scotland. That is to say, the occupier paid three-eighths of the rates levied on him. He was relieved to the extent of five-eighths. The owner was not relieved at all. With regard to the deficiency which arose through the relief of the occupier to the extent of five-eights, it was provided by the Act of 1896 that that should be met by a grant from the Exchequer. That grant was estimated according to the state of affairs existing in 1895. Some adjustments were made afterwards. Ultimately, what happened was that the amount to be paid by the Exchequer in Scotland, by way of making up the deficiency, was fixed at £180,000 a year.
Time went on and rates rose and have continued to rise until now the deficiency is £700,000. The difference between the £180,000 and the £700,000—£520,000 a year—is now borne by the other ratepayers in the district, so that the occupier is at present relieved to the extent of five-eighths of his rates, and the deficiency to the extent of £180,000 is met from the Exchequer. The balance of the deficiency, £520,000, is met by the other ratepayers in the district. That is a grossly inequitable arrangement. It was never intended. It was a blunder on the part of the Government of the day, that they should in that way impose for all time the burden of making good the deficiency in 1433 the agricultural occupier's rate on the other ratepayers in the district. I agree that in England they have suffered in the same way, but I am dealing now with Scotland.
Coming to the proposals of the Bill to meet the situation, a sum estimated by the Government at £480,000 is to be provided out of the Exchequer. Of that sum, no part is to be applied towards meeting the deficiency and rectifying the blunder under which the burden of £520,000 a year was placed on the shoulders of the other ratepayers. What is proposed is that the £480,000 should go, to the extent of something between one half and two thirds, to the relief of the landlords, and that only one third should go to the relief of the occupier's rate. As regards the parish rate. I understand, though there are some adjustments, into the intricacies of which I do not ask the House to go at present, that there again two thirds are to go to the relief of the owner's rates and only one third to the relief of the occupier's rates. But there are some adjustments, and it is something rather more than one third which goes to the occupier and something rather less than two thirds which goes to the owner.
The object of this Amendment is to limit the relief which is given under Clause 7 of the Bill, so far as Scotland is concerned, to the relief proposed by the Government to be given to the occupiers. This Amendment raises a very important question. It is not necessary, and I do not propose to enter into questions as to what is the ultimate destiny of the relief which is given to the occupier. All I would say is that from my experience there can be no doubt that on the first occasion when the rent comes to be reconsidered, both landlord and tenant will take into account the amount of the outgoings and the rates. Neither landlord nor tenant is such a fool as to fix the rent between them without taking that into account. I have been surprised to hear that the amount of outgoings from a holding is not taken into account when rents are adjusted, but I am not going to discuss that. Able and more authoritative men than I have pronounced very strongly on the subject. The present Secretary for Scotland, who, I suppose, so far as Scotland is concerned, is responsible for this Bill, used language in 1896 which makes me surprised that he should 1434 be to-day a partner in this Measure. I believe that Mr. McKenna also expressed himself on the Act of 1896—
§ Mr. FALCONER
I pass from that to the clear object of this Amendment. Are there any good grounds to justify this House in taking the taxpayers' money and applying it towards the payment of the rates of owners of agricultural land in Scotland? That is the real issue. The Government are putting their hand into the pockets of the taxpayers to pay directly to the landlord a proportion of his rates. There is no precedent for that and no authority. Of all the people who have considered this question of agricultural rates not one, so far as I have been able to find out, has been bold enough to say that it is justifiable to pay the rates to the landlord. If this proposal is supported on the ground of the hard times suffered by those engaged in agriculture through depression or legislation, that does not apply to the landlord. On the contrary, the legislation which has led to so much injustice and injury to some farmers has been to the advantage of the landlord. He has been selling his farms, raising his rents, and taking advantage of the temporary guaranteed prices, and if that is the case, why are you now to relieve him of his portion of his rates? The farmer may ask for some help, because Parliament has injured him, but the landlord can make no such claim.
But there is another point. This payment of rates to the landlord is not going to benefit the industry of agriculture. If you pay the landlord's rates no part of that will filter down into the pockets of the farmer or the farm servant. He will be entitled to keep it all himself, and he will do so. Then there is another point. Consider the injustice which is going to be done to other ratepayers in the district. The main ground upon which the landlord or tenant farmer can appeal for relief from his rates is that at the moment the local authorities are performing services which are of a national character, and the burden of providing for them should be borne to a much larger extent than it is at present by national funds. But that applies to every other ratepayer in the district, as well as to the owner of agri- 1435 cultural land. The owner of a house has to pay his road rate, his education rate, and all the other rates, in just the same way as the owner of an estate or a farm. There is no ground for discrimination. It has often been said that the rental of a farm is not a fair indication of the income which a farmer gets from his farm, but in the case of a landlord that does not apply, for the rent which the landlord receives, less the outgoings for repairs, etc., which are allowed under the Scottish Act, is a true and just indication of the income which he gets from the farm. On that ground there is no reason for dealing with the owner's rates differently from the rates of other property in the district. Nor is there a material difference between them as to the benefit of the service received in respect of the rate. The owner of agricultural land gets as much benefit as the owner of other property.
Let me put another aspect of the case The country now cannot afford to make payments of this kind to owners of land. On the Scottish Estimates recently we debated all day how money could be got for ex-service men. Would any landlord or any supporter of landlords get up in public and say that the landlord's rates must come first, and that land for the ex-service man must come second? Such a thing could not be stated. Are education and all the other services to be set aside for the benefit of the landowner? Must the public services be starved, and cannot the landlords wait even until the Commission to be set up reconsiders the whole scheme of local rating? Let me deal with answers which have been given to my proposal, so far as I have received answers at all. In the first place it is suggested that the day of great estates is passing away. I really cannot see how that affects the argument at all. But the statement has been put forward by the Scottish Office time and again. Whether you have the estate in one large block, with hundreds of farms, or whether you have individual farms, of course you have an owner and a tenant, and equity remains the same.
Another suggestion made is that there is a partnership between the landlord and the occupier of the farm, and sometimes even the farm servant is drawn into the partnership. That is the sort of thing that it is very nice to say at a gathering 1436 between landlord and tenant, but there is no substance in it. There is none of the elements of partnership in the matter. I am not dealing with a limited definition of partnership. If the owner of a house fits it up for any purpose, whether that of a grocer or draper or a public house, and lets it to a tenant in order that that tenant may use it as business premises, no one suggests that that makes the owner a partner in the venture. It is the same in the case of a farm. The one thing that the tenant has to watch carefully is to protect himself against being involved in payment of too heavy a rent, or against agreeing to terms which are in the interests of the landlord and not in the interests of himself. There is a constant conflict of interests to that extent. We have in our minds the fact that in hundreds and thousands of cases the landlords have been turning out their tenants in order to sell the land. Is that the Act of a partner? If there were a partnership which came to an end in ordinary law, and one partner tried to take advantage of the other, any lawyer would say that that would be regarded as a fraud upon the partnership, and both partners would be bound to deal fairly with one another on the termination of a partnership.
There is no business interest of the landlord, so far as the tenant is con corned, except to see that his land is well cultivated and that he gets payment of his rent. Therefore, I hope that we shall hear no more of this theory of partnership as between landlord and tenant. One of the greatest mistakes that the farmers of this country have made is that they have not treated their arrangements as matters of hard business, and have not protected, themselves as they ought to have done in questions with the landlord. If they had done so they would not have been compelled to turn out now or to buy their holdings as they have done in recent times. Another point raised was as to what would be the position of the owner-occupier in Scotland compared with the owner-occupier in England. In England the owner-occupier, of course, gets the whole of this relief. In Scotland, on the other hand, under the scheme which I have indicated, the owner-occupier would receive the five-eights relief, or six-eights now, in respect of his occupier's rate. He would also have to pay the owner's rates, and 1437 instead of one-fourth relief from that he would have to pay in full. When these men bought their holdings they bought them on the basis that they would have to pay the owner's rates. I do not know what the exact figures are, but I think that not one in ten of the holdings of the country is run by an owner-occupier. Are the Government, for the sake of doing something for the owner-occupier, to which he is not entitled except as a matter of generosity, to throw away public money in paying the rates of the other nine-tenths? Having regard to the obligation to use public money prudently and with discrimination, it is impossible to justify the proposal.
Let me say how I propose to deal with the money which would be available if the landlord's rates were not relieved. There would be a sum of something like £300,000 a year. The first claim upon that sum is that justice should be done to the other ratepayers of the district. They have been bearing for years a great burden and a much more serious injustice than anything which has been done to the owner or occupier of agricultural land. The first duty is to put right the blunder committed in 1896. A very large part of that relief will go to the agricultural owners and other owners of property, and the rest of it will go to the occupiers. In that way the agricultural landlords will be getting their fair share, with other people, of this fund, and approximately equal justice will be done between them to that extent. I cannot discuss the subsequent Amendments which deal with matter, because that would be out of order. I think that as a matter of policy this proposal of the Bill is most unwise. If the landlords, when they have their party in power, are to get their rates paid, what answer are you to give to the farm servant when he asks for money to be put into his pocket out of the Exchequer? I think it is all bad.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
I beg to Second the Amendment.
My hon. Friend has explained the situation in Scotland with regard to rating, and I do not propose to go further into that aspect of the question, but rather to support some of the arguments for the acceptance of this Amendment. I regard the proposal of the Bill to introduce for the first time a new 1438 principle of relict of rates for a certain class of land owners as one of its greatest defects, though I agree that the principle of the Bill is open to challenge in many other directions. We, as a House of Commons, are asked to give a decision upon a new proposition which has never yet been submitted to the House in the form in which it is in this Bill. It is proper to consider that since the 1896 Act there have been quite a number of opportunities for the reconsideration of the whole question of local taxation, and during that period every aspect of this question has been very fully discussed. It is, therefore, all the more mysterious that we should be faced at this moment with a proposal which has never yet had shape in the minds of those; who have devoted an immense, amount of research to the question in past years, and which has, indeed, been rejected by them when it was actually brought forward. The Royal Commissions and Committees included the Royal Commission on Local Taxation of 1896, which reported in the year 1902. In considering the situation in Scotland, particularly with regard to agricultural rates, it reported as follows:We think that the provision contained in the Agricultural Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act, 1896 (which has been continued to 1906 by an Act of 1901), whereby the occupier of agricultural lands and heritages is exempted from payment of rates upon five-eighths of the annual value of those properties, should be continued.The Report also stated:The agricultural owner does not, however, enjoy, and we do not propose that he should be granted, any such exemption.That makes it quite clear that this was a matter which the Commission had carefully considered and rejected, six years after the Act of 1896 had come into operation. I would point out to the Solicitor-General that he was wrong in the view he expressed in a former debate, that the matter had not been reconsidered during that period, as the Commission had been asked to consider and deal with it. Then we had the Departmental Committee of 1912, which never put forward this proposal at all but which submitted the view that the Act of 1896 should be continued. In 1916, we had the Selborne Committee which dealt with the matter very fully and which, in turn, substantially agreed that the only improvement under the existing system 1439 was to see that the gap was filled up and that no additional burden was thrown upon the ratepayers in respect of the relief which was granted. Last year two other important bodies reported upon this matter. The tribunal of investigation set up to deal with the position of the agricultural industry submitted proposals entirely different from the proposals in the Bill, and their suggestions cannot be regarded as having been met in any degree by the Measure which is now under consideration. There was also the Report of the Departmental Committee on local taxation in Scotland—the Dunedin Committee—which reported last year. It is quite true they regarded themselves as precluded from dealing with the question of extending the amount of the Imperial grant in relief of rates, but notwithstanding that, they carefully considered the position in which agriculture was placed at the time and they say, referring to the high profits of the War period:It is true that for a period during the War the farmers had a term of exceptional prosperity. That has now passed and the situation from this point of view is in no way superior to the pre-War period.They do not suggest it is any worse, and they proceed:We are therefore of opinion that no change ought to be made.It is quite obvious from both the majority and minority Reports that the whole question had been carefully considered by the Committee as to whether there should be some change. Therefore, instead of proceeding on the lines of any considered view of any body which has discussed this matter during the years since the Act of 1896 came into operation, the Government are proceeding directly in the teeth of any recommendations which have been made by introducing the proposals which we now challenge.
I regard it as most unwise and undesirable, in view of the pledge which the Government have given to this House, namely, that they are immediately about to introduce legislation of a comprehensive character dealing with the whole question of rating reform, that they should here and now commit us to a new principle, which will have to be very carefully considered in regard to its further extension. I would refer to the actual words used by the Minister of Health on the Second Reading of the 1440 Bill. He referred to the pledge given in the King's Speech, with which we are all familiar, and he went on to say:Hon. Members will be interested to know that our examination has now progressed so far that I hope very shortly to be able to circulate a draft of a Bill on valuation and rating reform to the local authorities and to ask for their observations thereon with a view if possible to introducing the Measure itself next year.The right hon. Gentleman was asked, would that refer to Scotland, and he said "Yes, probably," adding:That Bill will contain permanent provisions in regard to the rating of agricultural land."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th June, 1923; col. 1796, Vol. 164.]In view of those statements the Government have no right to ask us to insert this provision in this Bill at this time. Why have they not circulated it along with their proposals to the local authorities? Had they done so they would have received a very quick answer. We have had representations from parish councils, and other bodies in Scotland, indicating that they regard it as a great injustice that nothing is to be done to fill up the gap created owing to the deficiency in the 1896 Act before any steps are taken to deal with further relief. The Government are committing the country to a principle which may be extended in connection with the permanent relief of agricultural owners in respect of rates. Do they propose that this proposal is to be made permanent? Is it part of their permanent scheme? Are we not entitled to know just as well as the local authorities, to whom the Bill is to be circulated, what the permanent proposals are to be, and whether or not this is one of them? If they intend to commit themselves to this principle, it is a matter on which the House is entitled to information. I have good authority for the view that in the introduction of a new principle, such as the relief of landlords' rates, you should act very cautiously. The Secretary for Scotland, when a Member of this House, referred to this question of doles specifically, and during the Debate in 1896 he said:A dole was to be given to agriculture to enable it to tide over the time before the Government inquiry into the burden of local taxation was concluded. But that was not the way to begin a permanent reform of local taxation—to give a dole for five years and rigorously exclude that class from benefit which paid the taxation.1441 That is exactly our case to-day. You are dealing with a limited class of landowners and excluding those who should be considered in relation to general relief. I have no desire to exclude any landlord from any fair reduction of rates. I think they deserve it along with other members of the community, but they should not be placed in a privileged position. There are many other classes of landlords besides those who own agricultural land. There are men who own houses and other forms of real property, and it is most desirable that in these matters there should be a sense of fairness and justice all round. I think I am not exaggerating the case when I say that if the question were put to many agricultural landlords themselves, as to whether they desire to take a preference over other classes of landlords or ratepayers, the answer would be that they would consider it a great mistake to do so. If I may trouble the House with another quotation, that view was very strongly expressed by the present Secretary for Scotland when in this House on the same occasion to which I have already referred he said:He objected to this dole in his own interest as a landowner as well as in the interests of justice.We all recognise that he was a very good landlord, and therefore this opinion comes from him with all the greater force.He believed the landowners of Scotland had endeavoured during the past 20 trying years to do their duty by the tenants and on the whole, he thought they had done well …. but he did not think that their character would be raised by the receipt of this relief. Their public character was of more importance than 5 per cent. on their rents. He did not think the grant would give any real relief to agriculture.That view would be reflected by a good many other landlords who believe that they are being put in an unfortunate and false position in regard to the public and the ratepayers generally by this proposal. I do not think this is going to be a form of relief which will benefit agriculture in the way intended. We have no security that the money is going to be applied towards the industry or towards the relief of the occupier or the farm servant. There are many other ways in which the industry could be benefited, but it would not be in order to go into them now. I might however suggest that the crying need of the industry is that there should be something in the form of security of 1442 tenure for those engaged in it and there is also the question of reduction of transport rates and of wasteful public expenditure involving heavy taxation. I content myself with this concluding argument. If you do as the Government proposes and raise an issue before the country as to whether the landlord class—those who represent agricultural land particularly—are to receive a special privilege while the ratepayers are still to bear the heavy burden of the deficiency which they carry at the present moment, you will then challenge an issue which will arouse opinion from one end of the country to the other. We had the experience the other day of what happened in connection with the Land Valuation Clause of the Finance Bill. To-day you are loading the dice again and you are loading them on this occasion in favour of the agricultural landlord. By so doing, you are in breach of your trust towards the ratepayers and taxpayers of this country, whose interests should be considered together, and in seeking to secure the friendship of a particular class who may give you support at the moment, you have alienated the feelings of a much larger class who believe that an injustice is being done to them.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I am not going to detain the House for more than a few minutes. Indeed, although I have been a Scottish representative here for a period of 40 years—with a brief intermission—I have never, I regret to say, shaken off the congenital inability of an Englishman to tread with anything like a sense of security amid the treacherous morasses—indeed, I might almost say the bottomless abysses—of the Scottish law of rating. It is a sealed book, and though I have tried my best, in the interval of other occupations, to acquire a little knowledge of it, I should be sorry to submit myself to examination on it by any competent authority. The issue raised here does not, however, depend on technicalities of Scottish law. I remember very well the Debates on both the English and the Scottish Agricultural Rates Act, 1896, and I believe I took part in them. We opposed that legislation at the time, and I do not think it has been of any real permanent advantage to agriculture in any part of the United Kingdom. At any rate, one thing is clear so far as concerns Scotland where 1443 the rates—which is not the case in England—have from time immemorial been divided between owner and occupier. So far as Scotland is concerned—and the question can only arise in Scotland—there was no proposal then, and there has, been, so far as I know, no proposal since, to give relief to the owner. The occupier got his relief, I quite agree, in a fixed sum. If the policy is to be continued and is inadequate to the altered circumstances of the case, there may be—and I will assume, for the purposes of my argument, that there is—a case for adding to the relief to which the Scottish occupier is supposed to be entitled; but my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. D. Millar) has shown, in, I think, a very conclusive speech, that this matter has been inquired into over and over again, both before and since the Act of 1896, and I am not aware that any among the various Commissions and Committees which have investigated the case ever made any such proposal as that which is contained in this Bill.
I doubt very much whether the Scottish landlords themselves, the landlords of agricultural land in Scotland, desire anything of the kind. I remember very well that my Noble Friend, as he is now, Lord Novar, when he sat with us on the Opposition side of the House, himself a Scottish landowner of large possessions, disclaimed any such desire on the part of himself or the members of his class. I do not think there is any demand from Scottish landlords, nor am I in the least satisfied that the money which it is proposed to hand over to them will of necessity go to the benefit of agriculture. This is not a case such as might be put forward in regard to England, where you have to trace the ultimate economic incidence of relief granted in the first instance to one class and distributed over a number of classes. This is a direct and absolute subsidy. It goes, without any possibility of interception, straight, into the pocket of the agricultural landlord. You have no security whatever that it will be spent for the improvement of agriculture, or that it will become part of the common fund of this imaginary partnership, which is always trotted out on these occasions on the Floor of this House, between the landlord and the farmer, and in which, I observe, the labourer is very rarely included; it is 1444 difficult to see how he is going to benefit from this subsidy.
I represent, as the House knows, an urban constituency, and my constituents are not interested in this matter as ratepayers, or, indeed, as agricultural owners—so far as I know, the amount of agricultural land which is within the ambit of the Parliamentary burgh of Paisley is not very considerable—but they are interested as taxpayers. That is the common interest which not only Scotsmen but Englishmen share, and if instead of making a gift at the expense of the taxpayer to a limited section of Scottish landlords, it is far more in consonance with the principles of equity and the real interests of agriculture, amongst other interests, that it should go to the relief of the other ratepayers, if, indeed, you will not expend it, as you might very well do, upon purposes such as that which has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Forfar (Mr. Falconer), a purpose which is very urgent and which has been grievously delayed in Scotland—namely, the settlement of ex-service men on the land. I regard this—and I have risen to make this brief protest because it seems to me to be a very serious matter of principle—as a flagrant violation of the rights of the taxpayer in the interests of a small and limited class, from which I cannot see—I have read the Debates and listened to them—that anybody has pointed out that any real advantage is likely to accrue to the community at large. Therefore, I think it is a waste of the taxpayers' money, and it is the duty of the House of Commons, as the custodian of the taxpayers' interest, to record its solemn and emphatic protest.
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
After the very clear and explicit statement of the intricate methods by which this proposal is arrived at, given to the House by the hon. Member for Forfar (Mr. Falconer), I do not propose to attempt to cover the same ground. It was all argued out in the Standing Committee. The Government, through the Solicitor-General for Scotland, has admitted the facts, and there is no purpose served now in confusing either English or Scottish Members about the three-eighths, and the two-eighths, and the one-fourth, and so on. The naked fact is this, that under this Bill as it stands now, the landlords of 1445 Scotland are going to get a present of £300,000 per annum out of the £480,000 which the Government allege that they are giving to the relief of agriculture. That is the cold fact of the matter. The farmers, the agricultural occupiers, who up to now have thought they were going to get some relief, are going to get relief to their local rates to the extent of only £180,000 out of the £480,000 that the general taxpayer is finding. The landowner gets £300,000 per annum, which is just the amount of money you have taken away from the education of the children—£300,000 as a gift to the landowner, and only £180,000 to agriculture. I do not suppose that on the Report stage it would be in order to trace where that £180,000 will ultimately go, but I think the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) gave a hint as to where he thought it would go, and I agree with him that the £180,000 will sooner or later go into rent.
There is no doubt whatever about it. It may go indirectly. It may be that the landowner will now say to the farmer, "You are relieved of your rates to the extent of £180,000; you will therefore undertake the repairs to the farmsteading yourself." It may be done indirectly, but when the lease runs out and new arrangements come to be made, undoubtedly all past experience teaches us that the £180,000 that you are giving nominally to the agricultural occupier will find its way into rent. But what justification have you for giving £300,000 directly to the landowner—£300,000 per annum to the most useless social class in the country? It was argued by the Solicitor-General for Scotland in the Standing Committee that the landowner provided capital. I agree that he drains the land sometimes; he fences sometimes; he repairs the steadings sometimes; and sometimes he does not, but there is no distinction drawn in this Bill by the Government between the landlord who provides capital and the landlord who does not. All have to come into the bank. It is: "So long as this Government last, come with open hands, for the treasure is here. Come and take your share of it. Come where the booty is easily accessible so long as a Conservative Government are in power." If you had a Scots National Parliament, the Solicitor-General for Scotland and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Scottish Board of Health, the 1446 two Scottish representatives now on the Government Bench, would not dare to go to a Scottish National Assembly with a proposal such as this. They do not dare take this proposal to a Scottish Grand Committee of this House. They tack this surreptitiously on to an English Bill—because it is an English Bill—in the sure and certain knowledge that if they did not do that they would never get it through a Scottish Grand Committee.
I cannot understand whether the deer forest proprietor is to share in this swag. [An HON MEMBER: "Of course he is."] Well, the Solicitor-General for Scotland says not. If the deer forest proprietor winters sheep on his deer forest, does that deer forest become an agricultural subject? Does it then entitle the deer forest proprietor to come in for a share of the £300,000? If I know the landlords of Scotland—
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I know something about them. I did not know there were deer forests in Hanover Square, but if we in Scotland know anything whatever about the landlords of Scotland—and we know something from cruel past experience—we know that this £300,000, some of it immediately, but all of it ultimately, will land into that omnivorous maw. During the sheep boom, land rents rose in Scotland from 600 to 800 per cent. Did they ever go back when the boom was over? The poor peasants of Strathnaver were sent out to unreclaimed land at £2 10s. an acre, and when they reclaimed that land the Sutherland family jumped the rents to £20 an acre. During the Highland clearances, when the land was cleared for sheep, the rent in 32 years jumped from £700—
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I beg pardon; I meant a holding, and if I said per acre, I was wrong. I ought to have said that the peasants who were sent out to the unreclaimed land at Strathnaver paid £2 10s., not per acre, but for their holding, and when they reclaimed this land the rents of their holdings were jumped 1447 by the Sutherland family to £20 per holding. That is a fairly good jump. On the Glengarry estate the land rent was jumped from £700 to £5,000. On the Sutherland estates in 1862 the land rent was £35,000, and in 1882 it was £73,000, but it never went back. During the Napoleonic wars the land rents in Scotland rose, but there is no instance known to us where the land rent ever went back, and there is no evidence whatever that as a result of the remission of rates given by the Act of 1896 the landlords of Scotland were one whit more considerate of their tenantry than they were before. Two hon. Members behind me have referred to the fact that the Government had no warrant from any Committee whatever for these proposals. If they had any warrant, it was not from the Dunedin Committee. I hold the Report of that Committee in my hand, and the summary is even stronger than the words quoted by the hon. Member for Forfar (Mr. Falconer). Page 31 of that Report recommends that the Agricultural Rates Act should remain in force without alteration, but that the exemptions from rates should not be extended. That is quite definite, and that is the report of the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the circumstances of local taxation in Scotland. That Committee has reported, but its Report has not yet been acted upon. We are waiting for the Scottish Office to act on that Report, and to bring in a Measure for redressing inequalities of local taxation in Scotland. This little £300,000 trick is inserted in an English Act.
There is other land beside deer forests about which we should like to have information, and there are other people who are holding up land. For instance, are people who are holding up land for the more or less hypothetical Forth and Clyde Ship Canal to get relief; is that land agricultural land? We ought to have a definite answer to that. We ought to be told exactly what proportion of this relief is going to land in the neighbourhood of the big towns. Up to now we have been told nothing, and we only screwed the information out, as a result of cross-examination in the Committee, that the sum which the owners in Scotland are to receive is £300,000. I should like the Solicitor-General for Scotland 1448 or the Under-Secretary to come up to Scotland and attempt to justify that policy in any constituency. They cannot do it, though, as an hon. Member says, we will pay their fare.
There is simply no public opinion whatever in Scotland in favour of this thing. The landowners have not had the fairness to come out and argue in favour of it. All that has been done has been that a surreptitious dive has been made at the national Treasury. If there is any independence of spirit, or any real desire in this House to safeguard the national Treasury, then the Clause as it stands will not be approved, but the Amendment of the hon. Member for Forfar will be accepted. It is impossible, on the Report stage, to say all that one would care to say about the demerits of this particular Clause, but I should like to ask the Solicitor-General for Scotland why it is that this proposal has never been publicly made in Scotland; why no attempt has been made to justify it by any Member of the Government at any public meeting; why the newspapers have been silent about it; and why we can only wring out the information about what I would call class graft in the Committee room upstairs? No defence whatever has been attempted in public of this action, which I regard as the most barefaced dive at the public funds that I have seen in my day or generation.
§ Mr. J. HOPE SIMPSON
I feel rather an interloper in entering the field when a Scottish Debate is in progress. There are, however, one or two points of general interest, and we English Members are interested in this matter because this £300,000, which is going to the Scottish landowner, is coming from the British taxpayer, and our duty, as guardians of the public purse, is to see it does not go to the wrong quarter. There are two possible reasons why this relief should be given to the Scottish landlords. One is, that where he is himself the owner and occupier, as occupier he requires relief. The other reason is, that his rent roll has decreased very much, while his expenses have been increased. I have taken out the figures of rent rolls for England and Scotland since 1895, and I find that the rentals in England of agricultural land have fallen by 10 per cent. between 1895 and 1915. The figures for Scotland show that they have fallen in exactly the same 1449 proportion—10 per cent.—so that, if you put the reason for relief on the ground of a fall in rental, then the English landlord has exactly the same claim to consideration as the Scottish landlord.
I tried to get the figures for the owner-occupier, but I could not get them for Scotland. In England, as we all know, the owner-occupying area rose from 2,750,000 acres to 5,000,000 acres, out of 26,000,000 acres, between 1914 and 1921. This year, in the last Return, it had fallen by about 1,250,000 acres, to 3,750,000 acres, out of 26,000,000 acres. Therefore the area held by the owner-occupier in England is between one-seventh and one-eighth. If we take the same percentage for Scotland, the problem of the owner-occupier is comparatively a small one, and in order to give the relief required to the owner-occupier, you are going to give six-sevenths of the relief to the landlord. It would seem a much easier proposition to give your relief to the owner-occupier and to exclude the landlord. There is no reason why it should not be given to the owner-occupier, if it be desirable, but I am quite certain that the House, on Second Reading, had no idea at all that anything up to £320,000 per annum—not a lump sum—was to be given to the Scottish landowners out of public funds, and, as an English Member, I desire to protest most strongly against that being done.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I am moved to intervene in the Debate, not because I have any knowledge, and still less because. I have any interests in this matter. I have no interests, either as a landlord or as an occupier, but I cannot listen to the arguments which have been put forward by hon. Members opposite, some of which I am certain are fallacious, without making some protest. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Simpson) spoke of the great increase of the owner-occupier in England, and jumped to the conclusion that the owner-occupier had increased in a similar proportion in Scotland.
§ Mr. SIMPSON
I do not think I said that. I said the only figures I could give were the English figures, and that if one could accept that proportion for Scotland, the result would be so and so.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
Even if the increase of owner-occupiers were the same in Scotland, the hon. Member has quite left out 1450 of account the fact that an enormous amount of land in Scotland is held by smallholders and crofters, where the burden on the owners is quite beyond, anything that is known in England at all. I myself have known in the olden days many instances of landlords who have been very greatly overburdened. The burden of education is tremendous, and it falls, nominally, half on the occupier and half on the owner, but in the case of the crofters it falls entirely on the owners, because the crofters do not pay anything. So much was this so that I remember on one occasion that a landlord, the owner of one of the islands, came to me and said, "I should be only too delighted to help you in carrying on this education work and to give up my property altogether if you would take the burden of it off my back." That is not a fable; it is a fact. I know of other persons I could mention, both men and women, landed proprietors, whose burdens are unbearable. There is Lady Gordon-Cathcart who, from her island property, draws no rental whatever, and who, if she were not the owner of a large city property in Edinburgh, could not carry on. Some hon. Members think you would get a better economic system if you abolished the landlord altogether. Where would the burden of the rates in those districts then fall? [HON. MEMBERS: "On land values!"] It is utterly impossible for the crofters to bear them. The burden on the landlord is incredible, and, after all, the idea of an agricultural agreement between the landlord and the tenant has been scoffed at by the Mover of the Amendment, by the Seconder, and by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). They really think there is no such thing as a common interest between the landlord and the tenant.
One landlord told me that he knew he had not been able, as a landlord, to carry out his proper duty in regard to repairs, not because he was not willing to do so, but absolutely because he had not got the money. He said, "I cannot find the money to carry out the repairs, which I know I ought to do. If I get the relief under this Bill, I shall feel it my duty to devote at least a large part of it to proper repairs." Is it not likely that the ordinary law of supply and demand will operate here? If a landlord is known not to carry out his repairs, after this 1451 relief, then his tenants will go away and find another landlord. There is much more competition for tenants than there is for landlords, and if a landlord who has hitherto, by reason or the heavy burdens which have lain on his estate, been unable to carry out the repairs which, from time immemorial have fallen on the landlord, now that he gets this relief, does not carry out his duty, I am quite sure that a neighbouring landlord, who does his duty, will carry off his tenants. If the landlord and the farmer tenant in the long run share the benefits which accrue to one another, the law of supply and demand will act. It is not fair that hon. Members opposite should shut their eyes to the fact that there is and there has been for some years a burden of unusually heavy loss falling on the owners of these vast, thinly populated districts where the profits of farming are very small indeed, and where the landlord has been obliged to put his hand into both pockets to carry out what is necessary. I have no interest personally in this matter. I never had an acre of land, but I have watched the economic position as much as I could do, and I am perfectly certain that those who look at the matter fair-mindedly will be bound to realise that landlords of recent times have had very severe pressure.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), who has been for so long a Scottish Member, has confessed that as an Englishman he has found it hard to understand the intricacies of Scottish rating. I have had to give some little study to this matter and I know that there are certain parts of our rating system not easy to understand, and that are certainly hard to explain in a clear manner to any audience, however keen and quick-witted. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Simpson), speaking as an English Member, asked me by what right was this money going to Scottish landowners when none was given to English? That is a highly illuminating observation and shows the difference that, in my view, has vitiated all the discussion this afternoon, for in England all the rates are paid by the occupier, while in Scotland they are paid, half by the owner and half by the occupier. If you do not keep that conseideration closely in view while dealing with this matter, I do not think you are 1452 in a position to reach a very satisfactory conclusion. The grant has been referred to as a class grant. It is stated that silence has been maintained in Scotland with regard to the proposals of the Bill. My noble Friend the Secretary for Scotland made a speech on the matter in Edinburgh. The hon. Member has surely forgotten that? He also said that the Scottish Press had been silent in the matter. I was fortunate enough to read a very illuminating article in the "Glasgow Herald," which dealt with a letter that my hon. Friend had written to that paper, and the article pointed out in a very clear way how unfair it was to state that two-thirds of the money of the new grant, or the new fund, was given to the landowners without keeping in view also that under the law existing till now the owner got no relief at all, and the occupier only paid rates on three-eighths of his rateable basis. Subsequently also in the "Scotsman" I read another article, so that, so far from the Scottish Press having been silent on a question which is, I think, of some benefit to the agricultural interest of Scotland, the matter has been closely canvassed.
Under the law as it now stands the agricultural owner pays rates on the full amount of his valuation, and the agricultural occupier pays only on three-eighths. What our proposals in this Bill amount to are that in future the landowner is to pay on three-quarters, and that the occupier is to have his rateable basis reduced from three-eighths to two-eighths. In order to do this more money is required. The final result will be that the owner only gets relief on a quarter and the occupier on three-quarters. That is the final result, that the occupiers of Scotland, the farmers of Scotland, are in a better position than the agricultural occupier in England. In England the occupier gets a rebate of three-quarters of his rates on land only; in Scotland he gets the relief on the three-quarter basis both on the land and the buildings. I desire to make these points clear.
It is perfectly idle to criticise the Bill on the ground of the new grant without keeping in view the position of the law at the present moment, otherwise the criticism is not, in my view, fair. It seems to be the view of the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Falconer) that while 1453 the rates are paid half by the owner and half by the occupier that the owner's rates do not affect the agricultural industry at all. Therefore, it seems to me that the English system of rating the occupiers is a profound mistake. If all the rates in England could be shifted from the occupier to the owner the agricultural industry would be free from all burden whatsoever. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, that would be the result as some hon. Members conceive it, but surely it is absurd to contend that rates imposed on the owners of agricultural lands do not affect the agricultural industry, and are not a burden on it. It has been said that there is no interest of or partnership between the landowner and the tenant, but it seems to be obvious that there is. The landowner provides the buildings, he has to do the drainage, and the fencing. If his means are straitened, then that cannot be adequately done, and the whole industry of agriculture suffers. The landlord has to pay his rates out of the rents which he receives.
References have been made this afternoon on several occasions to the reports of the Dunedin Committee. They point out very clearly the general effect of the increase of rates in Scotland. Then they go on to say:Besides what may be termed the general pressure which affects all occupiers as well as owners, evidenced by such figures, it may not be amiss to show how this increase presses on particular classes of owners. In the appendix will be found a table showing the effect on owners of agricultural estates in various counties in Scotland. As the rise in the rates there shown synchronises with the rise in the public burdens also shown in the table, and with the rise in imperial taxation, the increased cost of upkeep, and the higher rate of interest on mortgages, against all of which there could be no increase of return from lands under lease, it is evident that the margin left on an agricultural estate is in most cases very small indeed, and that the great increase in rates presses very hardly on that margin.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND
They recommended that the Agricultural Rates Act, 1896, be continued. That is their view, but it was quite out of their purview to consider any relief of the owners' rates, as that would involve an additional charge upon the Exchequer. If any hon. Member cares to 1454 look at the terms of that Committee he will see that they are not entitled to make a suggestion which would involve a grant from the Exchequer. As regards the Royal Commission of 1902, it is true they do not recommend that there should be any reduction in the rating basis as regards owners. It was impressed upon them that the agricultural policy of the Agricultural Rates Acts of 1896 was a mistaken policy. They, however, expressed the view that considering relatively how heavy were the burdens on agricultural land as against other rateable properties that the Act of 1896 should be continued. There was a passage quoted by my hon. Friend which did not propose that the relief should be extended to the owners, but that was more in the nature of an obiter dictum in reference to the view pressed upon them that the whole system of the relif of agricultural rats should be abandoned.
§ Mr. MILLAR
Were they not considering whether or not there should be any alteration in connection with agricultural rating?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND
The question they were really considering was whether or not the policy of the 1806 Act should be continued, and, in view of the very heavy burdens which were imposed by the rates on the industry of agriculture, they unhesitatingly declared themselves in favour of the continuance of the policy of the Act. But, they added,They did not propose any further extension.As to the Committee of 1911, it is known that all they were appointed to do was to inquire into the changes which had taken place in Imperial and local taxation.
Let me now come to the question of the owner-occupier. It must be obvious to anyone, who has lived in Scotland of recent years, that there has been an immense amount of selling, and large tracts of land have been sold. The system of the great estate had many merits, was well carried on, and so enabled Scottish agriculture, as many hon. Members are well aware, to become better probably, I will not say than England, but better a great deal than the agricultural systems in many other countries in the world. That system has been largely replaced by a system of owner-occupier. In the 1455 Scottish newspapers we see reports of the sales of estates, purchased in many cases by the occupiers. My hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire does not propose to give the owner occupier qua owner any relief at all. He proposes that the owner occupier should as regards these rates which he pays as occupier be in the same position as we put in our Bill exactly, that he should pay on a one-fourth basis, but as we know, in Scotland, the rates fall half on the owner and half on the occupier. The owner occupier qua owner has to pay the full rates! Why? Do my fellow Scottish Members desire that the owner occupier in Scotland should be in a position substantially worse than the owner occupier in England and only get half the relief given in England? My hon. Friend's position is that the rates imposed on agricultural owners do not affect the industry at all. Let him go and say that to the owner occupier. Let him tell that to the man who has to keep his buildings in order and look after his draining and fencing. Let him go and say to such a man: "It is right we are going to give you relief to the extent of three-quarters on those rates you pay as occupier; it is true that you will have to pay full rates as owner" One has only got to look at the matter in that light and it will be seen that the rates imposed on the owner, whether it be on the occupying owner or the other owner, do fall on the industry, and if the landlord has no money, as shown by the statistics of many of these estates, to really keep the land up properly, then the industry of agriculture suffers. That can be tested very clearly by the position of the owner occupier.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL for SCOTLAND
I cannot give the area, but the last figures I have as to the numbers show that there were 7,800, an increase of a couple of thousand since 1914.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL for SCOTLAND
I am afraid I cannot. The purchase by owner occupiers is going on every day in Scotland, and if any class of the community is deserving of en- 1456 couragement it is the owner occupier. What has been the strength of France? It is because she has such a large number of owner occupiers. In our own country, with its immense urban population, we want to encourage the owner occupier to acquire the land and to settle on the land. Representing as I do the Scottish Office, I do not see why my hon. Friend should propose an Amendment which has the effect of allowing to the owner occupier only half the relief that his brother owner occupier in England gets. I am aware that any proposal of this kind as regards Scotland lends itself to an attack that the English proposals are not exposed to, but the reason is the difference in the Scottish rating system, a system which was favourably reported upon by the Dunedin Committee. If you are going to give Scottish agriculture the same amount of relief as you are going to give English agriculture as afforded by this Bill, then you must relieve the people who are paying agricultural rates, otherwise Scottish agriculture will not be receiving the same treatment as English agriculture, and it is obvious that the proportion of rates to be borne by the agricultural industry in Scotland, as in England, has been, and is, very excessive in proportion to their ability to pay. That is stated in the Report of the Dunedin Committee, and also in the Report of the Commission of 1902.
Let me take another point. A great fuss has been made of the fact that owing to our Scottish rating system of half-owner and half-occupier relief should be given in this way. What about all the grants given in Scotland such as public health grants, police grants and others. These go to relieve the ratepayers. Take for example the police grant. Each grant given by the Exchequer benefits owners as well as occupiers. The system is that the owner pays half and the occupier pays half. Every public health grant, and every grant for roads or police allows every ratepayer to benefit just in the same way as this grant benefits owners in Scotland. In Scotland the police rate is raised in burghs from the occupiers and therefore the grant in regard to the police in relief of the rates is an advantage to the occupiers in the burghs. In the counties it so happens that fully 60 per cent. of the police rates is paid by the owners as ratepayers share in that. You cannot give any relief towards rates in 1457 Scotland without some of the relief going to the owners who are ratepayers. In looking at the report of the Dunedin Committee I find that in regard to the incidence of rating they declare that they found the matter very obscure, and after going thoroughly into the matter they say that they are unable to form any definite opinion. There is no question more difficult of ascertainment than the final incidence of an increase in a rate, or to find out where the benefit really goes when relief is given.
My hon. Friend the Member for Forfar (Mr. Falconer) proposes to deal with finis matter in a different way. He proposes to put the occupier in the same position as he is under this Bill, and to use the rest of the money for filling up the shortage created by the operation of the 1896 Act. The hon. Member explains that the grant in 1896 was fixed on the basis of the rates in that year, and that they have steadily increased, so that now there is a large shortage. My hon. Friend says that he will have two-thirds of the grant available to use for this purposes, and he proposes to use this balance to fill up the shortage. He can do that to the extent of 60 per cent. Take an average county with 64 per cent. of agricultural valuation. He now says that money is being put into the pockets of the owners, but he seeks to use this money in a way which will accrue to the benefit of the owners. The owners get some 60 per cent. of the money under his suggested proposals and the agricultural owner will get 40 per cent.
§ Mr. FALCONER
My point was that the owners would share along with the other ratepayers in the relief that would be got from the Act of 1906. I have no against the landlords, and I want them to get their share.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND
I am trying to show that, under the hon. Member's scheme, relief to the extent of 60 per cent. will go to the owner. I think I have gone over most of the points that have been raised in the speeches, and I ask hon. Members to dismiss prejudice from their minds, and keep firmly in view the difference between the rating systems in Scotland and England, and in doing that, to realise the heavy burden borne by agriculture according to its ability to pay. I ask my 1458 Scottish colleagues, in view of these facts, not to support a proposal which would put the agricultural industry in Scotland in a worse position than in England.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The Solicitor-General for Scotland has not in my opinion met the arguments which have been put before the House. The statement that was made, and the position put forward, was that this question differs entirely from the English question; that it means altering Scottish laws and in fact an alteration in the Scottish legal system. Instead of meeting that argument and dealing with it before the Scottish Grand Committee the Solicitor-General brings it before the Committee upstairs on an English Bill.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL for SCOTLAND
I think my hon. Friend has had this point explained to him before. The Parish Budget is made out at the end of this month; therefore it is necessary that this Bill should be passed into law before that date.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The Solicitor-General must realise as a Scottish Member and a Scottish Law Officer the difficulties of this problem, and he must know that any Bill of a controversial character like this should have been sent before the Scottish Grand Committee. He must realise that a question of this kind is a strongly controversial part of the Bill, and it ought to have gone before a Scottish Grand Committee. This matter of relieving agriculture has been in the mind of the Government for some time, and the usual excuse we get is that time is so short that we must get this Bill through by a particular date, otherwise it cannot be made operative. It is about time that sort of thing was stopped by this Government, and it is time they gave hon. Members an opportunity of considering such Bills properly, and particularly Scottish Bills.
Here is a Bill covering six and a half pages. Three of those pages are taken up with Scottish matters and three pages make alterations in already existing Scottish Acts of Parliament. You now propose to alter those Acts in an English Bill when they are Acts which went before the Scottish Grand Committee. You are now asking a Committee consisting mainly of English Members to vote upon questions which are purely Scottish. This is 1459 not treating Scotland fairly, and the Solicitor-General and the Prime Minister know quite well the reason why they did not send this Measure before the Scottish Grand Committee. Why was the reason not given to this House? The real reason is that such proposals as are contained in the section of this Bill referring to Scotland would never have got through a Scottish Grand Committee in this House. That is the real reason why these Clauses have not been sent before a Scottish Grand Committee to be discussed. This intricate system of Scottish rating the Solicitor-General admits cannot be understood by English Members, and yet he sends a question of Scottish rating before a Committee the majority of which is composed of English Members.
The Solicitor-General tells us that the owner-occupiers have increased very largely recently, and he gave us the figures, but those figures are of no use without the acreage, because they really convey no information. It is simply intimating to the House that so many more people have acquired land, and no statement is made as to the amount of land acquired by these people. We do not know whether each of these individuals has bought half an acre, one acre, 20 acres, 200 acres or 300 acres, and until we get the figures of the acreage that has changed hands together with the increased number of people who have become owner-occupiers, the figures which the Solicitor-General has given us are of no use whatever. Regarding the quotation he gave from the Report of the Dunedin Committee, he thought he had scored a point against hon. Members who had previously quoted that Report, but he forgot the recommendation of that Committee. In spite of what was said in the text of their Report, when they weighed up the pros and cons of the whole situation, they recommended no alteration.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
That makes our case all the stronger. If this involved an Exchequer grant, and was outside the scope remitted to the Dunedin Committee, then the Government, in bringing this in, is anticipating that which they themselves announced in the Speech from the Throne. They have broken their 1460 pledge, and they are bringing in an alteration in rating that is going to be applicable only to one part of the country, whereas their suggested method was the introduction of a Measure which was to apply to the whole country. They have broken away, in fact, from the programme which they outlined to this House at the beginning of the Session. It is quite true that the question of Imperial grants and Exchequer grants was outside the scope of the Committee. But is it not also outside the scope, to a certain extent, of this Government at the present moment.
Members of this House seated on the benches behind the Solicitor-General for Scotland have time and again denounced subsidies. When it was a case of a subsidy to a miner or a housebuilder they denounced it; when it was a case of a subsidy to this or that form of industry they denounced it; but to-night we find them rallying behind the Solicitor-General for Scotland and voting for a subsidy not because it is going to benefit agricultural labourers, not because it is going to give them the advantage of higher wages or better living accommodation, but because it means giving £300,000 to their own friends. Subsidies are bad when it is a question of handing them to workmen. In such circumstances they are evil, but they are all right when it means handing the money over to your friends, and that is what right hon. Gentlemen opposite are more concerned about to-day. They are not troubling about fostering agriculture. The Conservative party has always been a landlords' party; it has always played up the interests of the landlord as against the interests of those in the towns, and this particular Section of the Bill which we are now discussing is just another indication of the situation as far as the Government are concerned. They think we have got back to pre-War conditions when those who are in power can take advantage of their power to add to their possessions by robbing—because, after all, it is robbing—the people of this country for the benefit of the very small number of owners in Scotland at the present time. Indeed, they are not all in Scotland; some of them are absentee landlords in London, who spend only two months in a year on their Scottish estates. The and learned Gentleman has made some suggestion with regard to crofters. I 1461 want to know if the owners of land, upon which crofts are situated are to participate in this grant.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL for SCOTLAND
I pointed out in Committee upstairs that the estates were mixed and only in part crofts. They are of a varied character. In the definition Clause of the Act of 1896 it is stated that the Act does not apply to land used exclusively or mainly for sport.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
That is beside my question; I am asking if the landowners who have crofts on their estates are to participate in this grant. Suppose, for instance, an estate is composed half of crofts and half of farms. Is the owner of that land to receive a concession upon the whole of the rateable value of this land, or only on that part which is divided up into farms? Is that portion which is devoted to crofts to be exempted from the provisions of this Bill? If any portion of the land is let out in crofts is that portion to be exempted?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The owner of the land does nothing to improve the crofts; he does not fence or drain them; he does absolutely nothing to improve the land, and yet you are allowing him to participate in the benefits of this particular concession. You are making him a gift of money when he is doing absolutely nothing to improve agriculture or to help the work that is being done on the crofts. Hon. Members opposite object, possibly, to the strong terms we use when we describe this process as downright robbery. I say it is a sheer robbery of the people of this country; it cannot be described in any other terms. I am surprised that so soon after the establishment of a Conservative Government, the Government should show its hand so openly. It has so long camouflaged its purposes that one cannot help being surprised when it so clearly shows its hand. It seems to me that the Conservative, like the leopard, never changes his spots. [An HON. MEMBER: "He has no spots."] Then he is black all over, I suppose. I am glad to have that admission. I protest, as a Scottish Member, against, this robbing of the people of the country in the interest of a class. This is sheer 1462 class legislation. I suppose one cannot expect anything but class legislation from a Conservative Government. Hon. Members opposite complain about our preaching class hatred and class war. [An HON. MEMBER: "So you do."]
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am protesting against this Bill as a piece of class legislation and that probably led to an interruption by the hon. Member opposite. I am not concerned about that interruption; we can answer it on platforms outside, and dispose of it quite as readily as we would if the rules of Debate permitted us to deal with it here. We protest as Scottish Members against the manner in which this Bill is being brought in, and against the way in which what are conceived to be the constitutional rights of Scotland have been ignored. We protest against a Bill of this nature having been sent to a Committee composed mainly of Englishmen instead of to the Scottish Grand Committee. Our second point of objection is to the giving away of public money to people who do not deserve it or require it, the giving it away in a manner which amounts purely to a robbery of public funds.
§ Mr. HARDIE
While the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Johnston) was speaking he was interrupted by the hon. Member for St. George's, Westminster (Mr. J. Erskine) who suggested that my hon. Friend had perhaps never seen a deer forest. Surely the hon. Member for Stirling, coming from the district he does, is much more likely to have an understanding of what a deer forest really is than the hon. Member for St. George's. Let me refer to one illustration which will show why we so strongly oppose money being provided for people who have crushed agriculture in Scotland. Let me take the district of Loch Aline and the great Black and White Glens which used to be cultivated and to send their produce annually to the Finnary Mill to be ground. In those days hundreds of men, women and children were leading clean, healthy lives; to-day we are asked by this Measure to give public money to the owner of those lands, to the man who, the moment he became the owner, shut up both the Black and White 1463 Glens and crushed these particular people out into the industrial centres, and also closed down the mill. To-day what only a few years ago was the home of hundreds of people is closed up. I am surprised that any man claiming to be a Scotsman should come forward and seek to support a system whereby men who are destroying agriculture and are destroying the homes of the people are to be given a grant of public money. In the rivers Aline and Rannich which falls into Loch Aline anyone standing on the bridges can see the salmon fighting their way up stream, and yet the inhabitants of that district are compelled to eat tinned salmon which has been brought 4,500 miles across the sea because a Tory Government allows this man the right to deny to the local inhabitants the use of Nature's plentiful products, and to send the inhabitants themselves from their healthy lives and happy homes into industrial centres.
This Clause is an absolute disgrace to the whole Bill. It is a disgrace to think land, from which so much has been wrested by the application of labour, should be closed down in order to become the haunts of a few deer. It is interesting to note that the man who is responsible for the closing of the Black and White Glens—Mr. Craig Sellars—is the son of the man who was responsible for the Sutherlandshire clearances. It seems to run in the blood with them to lay waste all this productive land and these productive streams, in order that they may have a few deer for people like the hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, to shoot at during one or two months in the year. There is a Bill before this House for the humane slaughter of animals. I think that ought to be applied to some of the shots that go up to the North. I have often heard it said in this House in a jocular way that we are trying to blow out somebody's brains. You would need to be a good shot to blow out their brains.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Yes, that is too far away, but I was trying to reply to the hon. Member for St. George's, Westminster. It is generally the case that by the time 1464 you get in in this Debate, those who have preceded you have disappeared. While they are dining and whining, the people who have been thrust away from these beautiful glens are suffering. Yet there are people in Scotland who would support them, and I feel that shooting is too kind a thing.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I am afraid I do not possess the eloquence and power of my hon. Friends who have spoken, but I want to say at once that I agree with them in the very emphatic protest they have made against this Clause. I trust they will not consider me discourteous if I turn to another side of the problem, which was raised by the Solicitor-General. The most remarkable argument he used in defence of this Clause was when he said that it was like the system of percentage grants now in operation, as between the National Exchequer, on the one side, and Scotland on the other, where you get a 50–50 allocation, and the advantage of any deduction or increase in that allowance goes to proprietors and to tenants. I am astonished that the learned Solicitor-General should have used an argument of that kind, because in recent times that problem has been under consideration of a Committee of the Treasury. I cannot indicate what view will be taken, but I can make the statement with confidence at the present time that the Committee, considering the whole problem of percentage grants from this country, would differ at once and completely from the view of the Solicitor-General. There is no comparison whatever between the police and other percentage grants in this country and the proposal he is now defending.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and 40 Members being present—
There is no comparison whatever between the effect of the percentage grants and the effect of the proposal now being made to the House. The whole effect of this proposal is to confer an advantage in rating on a certain limited section of the community. I very much hope that that argument will not be employed. I venture to say that the Percentage Grants Committee itself would be the very first to denounce this proposal, and it has in effect in the proceedings which have taken place up to the present time associated itself with the Report of 1465 the Dunedin Committee and other bodies in urging strongly that there should be no interference with the allocation of rates in Scotland, and that no other special remission should be granted until the whole position has been reconsidered. The only effect of the Government's proposal in this connection is further to complicate an already complicated system.
The SOLICITOR GENERAL for SCOTLAND
I think this Bill is really a step forward towards rating reform in Scotland.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
I am sorry to differ entirely from the learned Solicitor-General. That is not the report of the Dunedin Committee and it is not the view of the Percentage Grants Committee. They have drawn attention to the fact that every fresh device introduced, whether for equalisation or anything else, is to be avoided until we have considered the problem as a whole. We are supporting on this side of the House an Amendment which in effect would place this advantage more particularly upon the occupier rather than upon the owner of agricultural land. I daresay I speak for all my colleagues and many other Members when I say that we are opposed to this proposal altogether. We regard this as a thoroughly unsound and dangerous Bill, but if the device is to be introduced let us try to be logical to this extent that the advantage is to lie where in existing circumstances, according to current argument, it is most required. The learned Solicitor-General has told us that certain sections of the Scottish landowners require this assistance. There is one section of Scottish landowner with whom I daresay many of my colleagues on these benches would probably have some sympathy. I refer to those owners who have consistently tried to do their duty by their estates and refrained from charging exorbitant rents, and who at the end of the day have found themselves in substantial difficulties. I have always admitted that these people were entitled to consideration, but I am afraid they are a minority in Scotland to-day, and there are two other classes of proprietors on whom our sympathy would be absolutely wasted. I refer first to that class of proprietor whose estates are burdened for family and other reasons, sometimes because of the squandering of 1466 family resources which I venture to suggest it is no part of the business of the taxpayers of this country to make good. There is another class of owner who has recently entered into Scotland on the basis of great wealth made in industrial pursuits or otherwise elsewhere. Does anyone suggest that the two classes I have mentioned are entitled to relief which may amount to a substantial proportion of this £300,000 at the expense of other classes of the ratepayers and taxpayers? I do not think a proposal of that kind could be defended for one moment.
I take frankly the view that we are not entitled, even as regards the occupiers of agricultural land in Scotland or England at the present day, to make any rate concession at all. At the present time we do not know the actual position of the farming community in this country, because we have not Schedule D returns showing the actual profits, but only one time the annual valuation for taxation purposes is in existence. It is a curious thing that although they enjoy the right to fill up Schedule D and show their actual profits, they have not, except in a small minority of cases, elected to do so. Surely it is absolutely wrong to give any money, I do not care what the sum may be, to people who have notoriously done well during the War, whose position you do not know in the absence of that return and whose position you have not sought to ascertain before introducing this legislation which you are asking the House to pass.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I rise only for the purpose of dealing with one of the arguments which the learned Solicitor-General indulged in. He attempted to justify this subsidy to the landowners of Scotland on the ground that the agricultural industry was in a very bad state and that consequently the landowners, themselves were suffering. I cannot understand why, if such be the case, tenants of agricultural holdings should be so anxious to become owner-occupiers. He told us in his speech, in attempting to defend the proposals of the Government, that the benefits would be largely derived by owner-occupiers, of whom there are a considerable number, a number which was being added to daily, as he understood was the case from the reports from the Scottish Press. If tenants of agricultural holdings were anxious to become owners, it was obvious 1467 that the owners' position would not be quite so bad as he attempted to make out. On the other hand, if there is a very large transference of agricultural holdings in Scotland so as to convert the tenant into an owner, then the agriculturists themselves cannot have suffered very severely, because otherwise they would not have been able to effect Such a transfer of property. I do ask the Solicitor-General to try and square these somewhat conflicting points of view. Unless he does so, there is very grave reason for doubting the efficacy, and, indeed, the wisdom, of the Government's proposal. There is another point which, I think, requires explanation before this proposal should be definitely accepted by the House, and that is with regard to the position of deer forests. As I understand it, the owners of deer forests will not benefit from this proposal unless it can be shown that those deer forests can come within the category of agricultural holdings. The question I put to the Solicitor-General is, When does a deer forest become an agricultural holding? Does it become an agricultural holding when a few sheep are placed upon it, and, if so, are those few sheep placed upon it to transfer it, for the purposes of the Government's proposals, into an agricultural holding, in order to derive the benefits with which the Government seek to endow such property in Scotland?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND
If the hon. Member will look at the definition Section of the Act of 1896, he will find that any question that may arise as to whether lands and heritages fall within the category of agricultural lands shall be determined by the Sheriff.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I think that that is likely to complicate the matter still further. In the first place, we are to have litigation, that is to say, we are to have a reference to a Court of law as to whether a deer forest is merely a deer forest for the purposes of stalking deer, or is an agricultural holding; and, in the second place, there are, so far as I know, no principles laid down in the Bill which will enable the Sheriff to determine the course he shall take. It is far from satisfactory in the absence of a clear definition. My final point is this: The Solicitor-General sought to justify this subsidy on 1468 the ground that there was severe agricultural depression to which the owners had been subject for some years. We have had the question raised in this House more than once of the position of the necessitous areas both in England and in Scotland, and also the question of the severe industrial depression in the industrial areas both of England and Scotland. If there is justification for the granting of a subsidy such as this to agriculture and to the owners of landed property in Scotland, then there is similar justification for a similar subsidy to business men and owners of industrial and other property in Scotland, but I do not know that the Government propose to extend this principle any further.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
That would be proper to the Third Reading, but at the present we must assume that there is to be a subsidy to agriculture, and the question is whether the owner should participate in that, or only the tenant.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I accept your ruling, Sir, but, since arguments have been adduced by the Solicitor-General which bear on this point, one cannot do otherwise than traverse the ground which he has covered. I will, however, content myself by pointing out that, if the principle is applied in the one case, it might very justly be applied all round, and, since there is no proposal of that kind, so far as I know, emanating from the Government, we are entitled to oppose this particular proposal. May I point out that what the Government are proposing to do is to confer an undoubted benefit of a very wide and liberal kind on some of their immediate and intimate friends? There is a very large and, I believe, wealthy landowner in my own constituency, who sits in another place and is a Member of the Government. I think he occupies the honourable post of Civil Lord of the Admiralty. He has in his possession something like 30,000 acres, and the Government are proposing here to hand out benefits to their own friends. Surely, it is a travesty of constitutionalism and a blot on stable government and right thinking in political life that the Government should hand out benefits of this kind to those who are entitled to sit on their own benches. I would remind the Solicitor-General and the Under-Secre- 1469 tary to the Scottish Board of Health, who sits beside him, and who has, I believe, a very great knowledge of agriculture in Scotland, that in the West Lothian constituency, which is very largely an agricultural constituency, while the farmers are entitled to some consideration—as to whether this is the proper consideration or not is another matter—the landowners in that constituency, of which the Noble Lord whom I have mentioned is one of the chief and most influential, and, I believe, most prosperous, are not entitled to any consideration whatever. For these reasons, and particularly because of the paucity of argument contained in the speech of the Solicitor-General—a speech which, I hope he will forgive me for saying, was, perhaps, one of the lamest from the point of view of justification that I have ever listened to in this House or elsewhere—because of the complete absence of argument of a sound, valid, and logical character, we are entitled to ask the Government to give us, at least, a more satisfactory explanation of the course they propose to take than has hitherto been presented to the House.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I want to analyse some of the arguments that have been used by the Solicitor-General. He seemed to hinge his case a great deal upon the owner occupier, and then he went on to advance the argument that rates upon the occupier fell upon him to the detriment of the industry itself. When he put it in that way, Members on this side said that they did not think so. If there is an occupier or an owner of land using the land, and the rate should fall on the owner or occupier in proportion to the uses to which they put the land, then, undoubtedly, such rates or taxes are a sort of detrimental brake on the progress and development of agriculture; but we have owners in this country, as we have in Scotland, and more especially in Scotland, who are of no service to agriculture at all, and supposing that all the rates and taxes fell upon what they get out of the land, it would be in no way detrimental to the development of agriculture. It was for that reason that we interjected, when the Solicitor-General was using this argument, that, even though the rates were heavy and fell upon the owner of the land, it would not, in the case to which I am referring, namely, 1470 that of the owner who contributes nothing to agriculture, act to the detriment of the progress of agriculture at all.
The Solicitor-General, however, became a little subtle in his arguments about the owner-occupier. He comes from Scotland, where subtlety is synonymous with learning, and he used the argument that the owner-occupier would be entitled to a reduction in his rates as an owner, and a reduction in his rates as a user of the soil. Whenever a protest has been made during the Debate against the advantages which are given to the owner, there has been this constant introduction into the Debate of the owner-occupier. I take it an owner-occupier is a man who is occupying the land for use, and I would advocate that that man should be freed from rates entirely. I am not saying that the site value should be free from rates, but that every encouragement should be given to him as the user of the land by reducing his rates. But as an owner-occupier he is in the position of receiver of the ground rent, and to that extent he has no more right to claim an exemption from the rates levied upon that part of the wealth which he appropriates as the owner of land than has his large comrade who owns vast estates. We are told we must not differentiate because really if we do and we tend to throw the burden of the rate on the owner, agriculture would be reduced to a sort of failure.
Perhaps the most illuminating speech which has been made on this Amendment came from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik). When I moved the rejection of the Bill I stated that any advantage from reduced rates would go ultimately to the owners of the land in rent, and any levying of rates would tend to lower the rents which the landowner would receive. The Minister said that was a figment of my imagination, and there was no reality behind it. Yet the Member for the Scottish Universities has told us in plain unvarnished language that it was ultimately the owner who paid the rates, and that any rates levied would fall ultimately upon the rent he received, and if the rates were high there would come a time, and he gave an illustration to show it, when the owner of land would be able to do nothing at all because he received no rent. That, in my opinion, gave away the whole of the case for the Government 1471 in refusing to accept this Amendment. It means, to put it in an extreme way, that even though you concede to the occupier and to the user of land a certain reduction in rates, according to the argument of the hon. Member it would ultimately go in rent to the owners of the land. I have only intervened to pursue these, as I consider, rather interesting incidents in the Debate so far, because they emphasise suspicions in our mind. One cannot take the wide field, restricted as we are to the ruling of the Chair, and bound to keep within the four corners of the Amendment. But this Debate will go on. You will get through the Report stage and it will become as clear as anything can be that this Bill, like many other agricultural Bills which have gone before, where you have tried to get round the difficulty of helping agriculture by reducing rates and giving subsidies here and there, will be as futile as those which have gone before it, because while the argument used is true that the way to encourage industry is to stop rating and taxing it, yet the principle behind this Bill, of relieving farmers and the occupiers, not upon their improvements and agricultural development, but merely in rates in so far as their land is concerned, in my opinion is only strengthening the hands of land monopoly, leading, as it will lead ultimately, to a slowing down of the development of agriculture. This Bill, like the other Bills which have gone before it, and the magnificent display the other day on the valuation—all these things are synonymous with the principles held dear by hon. Members opposite, and it is to be hoped that the public outside will get a clear understanding from all that has gone on to-day in this matter, as well as in other matters appertaining to land during the past week, and that it will not be long until some of us who mean to deal with this thing more radically will be on the other side of the House with power to do it without in any way strengthening the power of special vested interests.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think the present Debate should not yet come to a conclusion as this is the first opportunity the House has had of discussing a very important departure in relation to Imperial subventions to local rates. We 1472 have here a subvention to the agricultural industry which in Scotland for the first time makes a direct gift to the owners of land. On the Report stage of the Financial Resolution of this Bill the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Falconer) and some others with whom I was associated endeavoured to raise this matter and to make clear exactly what was being done to show, if we could, how much was going to the owners and how much to the occupiers. I made a calculation at that time on the basis of the White Paper which the Government laid before the House which showed, as I think I proved, that the owners were going to get twice as much as the occupiers. There was no reply from the Government. There was no attempt on the part of anyone on the other side of the House either to explain or to justify such an extraordinary transaction, and the only reply we got from the Government was that when the Solicitor-General for Scotland attempted to rise, the Minister for Agriculture closured his own colleague. That shows that there was something sinister going on—something that they wanted to hide. They tried to prevent these figures coming out, so that no one would understand them. In the Debate on the Second Reading not the slightest indication was given by any Minister that any such transaction was being carried out. We now know it is true. Attempts were made to deny it in the Press, but finally we have it now admitted from the Treasury Bench that in respect of the relief now being granted to Scotland the owners, who on the basis of the principal Act get nothing at all, who presumably on the theory practised by the Tory Government of 1896 did not deserve anything at all, are now getting twice as much as they ought to have.
We know that the basis is that while under present conditions the tenant pays in respect of three-eighths of his valuation, the owner pays in respect of the whole. That is their respective share of the rates. If this Bill passes the tenant's share will be reduced from three-eighths to two-eighths, while the landlord's valuation will be reduced from the whole to three-quarters, and the result in figures, so far as we can judge from the Estimate, is that of the £480 000 which is ostensibly going to the relief of agriculture in Scotland, £300,000 is going into the pockets of the owners and only £180,000 into the 1473 pockets of those who are really engaged in the industry as occupiers. I call that a disgraceful transaction and a travesty of justice, and when the people of Scotland get to know what is being done, as they will get to know, even the slender representation of Scotland which still supports the present Government will come to an end. It is not without interest to observe that in to-day's Debate the only speaker on behalf of this proposal has been the Solicitor-General for Scotland, apart from the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik). He is their last hope. He knows, of course, that as long as he desires he can get in under a system of proportional representation for the Scottish Universities. Therefore, he is immune from the fears of popular anger. Where are their other representatives? There is the hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Ford), who sits on the Treasury Bench. He is preserving the silence that becomes a Whip. The hon. and gallant Member for South Lanark (Captain Elliot) no doubt will endeavour before the Debate comes to a conclusion to give some philosophical defence of this extraordinary procedure. He will defend it, I have no doubt, on biological lines, in the same way in which he held his Fabian theories in the old days before he entered this House. Where are the others? Where is the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home)? He is not here. The hon. Member for Kelvin Grove (Mr. W. Hutchison) is not here. They are all away. [HON. MEMBERS: "Dumbartonshire!"] The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire (Sir W. Raeburn) was here for a moment, but he has also disappeared. Not a single supporter of the Government who has been in the House, except the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities, has spoken on behalf of this proposal. Could there be clearer evidence that not only is it without support in Scotland, but that in principle it is indefensible.
It is important to remember that in 1896, in the heyday of Toryism, in the heyday of the imperialistic reaction in this country, when Lord George Hamilton said the Government were going to look after their friends, both in office and out of office, they did not dare to do this thing. They put forward a much more moderate proposal. They gave relief to the occupiers of land, but none of it was 1474 to go to the owners. Even that proposal was opposed by the present Secretary for Scotland (Lord Novar). Lord Novar was against it, and made many eloquent speeches against it. The new Chancellor of the Exchequer—Mr. McKenna—whom we are shortly to see returned for the City of London, was against it. He made 35 speeches on the Report stage against the much more moderate proposal. Perhaps it is to save his face that the Government are doing this now. Perhaps that is why they are hurrying it through They do not want to have the right hon. Gentleman taunted with his old speeches when he sits on the Treasury Bench.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
No, I am dealing with the Amendment, and I am pointing out that on a much more moderate proposal, which did not include this complete departure from all precedent and practice in regard to the relief of rating, two Members of the present Government spoke frequently in opposition. We have had the experience of the 1896 Act, and there have been commissions and committees from time to time in the interval dealing with this topic. Not a single Commission or Committee, no matter by what Government it was appointed, recommended a proposal of this kind. The Dunedin Committee, appointed by the late Government, which was composed, in the main, of supporters of the present Government, did not make this recommendation. It is said that it was not open to them to deal with this matter in their terms of reference. There was nothing in the terms of reference to have prevented that Committee making a recommendation on this matter. Their terms of reference were:To inquire into the present system under which taxation is raised by local authorities for rating purposes in Scotland,. and to report whether the system is equitable and economical and, if not, to suggest what alterations in the system are desirable.Those terms of reference are sufficiently wide to have enabled them to inquire into anything in regard to local rating and to make any recommendations which they choose for the purpose of putting local rating upon an equitable basis. They made two significant recommendations. Their eighth recommendation was:That the Agricultural Rates Act should remain in force without alteration.1475 There was to be no increase. It was to be without alteration in this respect, that under that Act the whole of the relief goes to the occupier. Their ninth recommendation was that:The exemption from rates should not be extended,"—That could only mean that the relief should not be extended,but that matters should remain as they are.That is a general recommendation in relation both to exemptions and relief, and that there should be no change either in principle or in fact. When we remember what has been done in the past and what has been done by Commissions, it is clear that the Government have not the slightest shred of authority for the present new departure. Why is it done? We are told that it is a measure of justice, and the people who are going to get something out of it chee red that statement. How is it going to help agriculture, and particularly agriculture in Scotland, to grant relief in this way? If it was necessary for the purpose of granting relief to agriculture to help agriculture in this way, why was it not done in 1896? Why wait until now to find out this particular way of benefiting agriculture? The hon. Member for South Lanark shakes his head. A comparatively newly-fledged Tory like himself must admit that something has to be attributed to experience in these matters.
§ Captain ELLIOT (Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health, Scotland)
Hear, hear! Since 1896.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
We have had experience, and we have the Report of the latest Committee, which recommends that there should be no change in the principles of the Act of 1896. The argument as to partnership has been raised. It is said that the owners are partners, that the occupier is a partner, and the labourer is a partner. It is very interesting to observe in this Bill that the only person left out is the labourer. When we hear of class war and class legislation it is not inappropriate to remember that. What is the fact in regard to partnership in Scotland? The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities gave an argument in regard to the crofting counties. The argument was that in the crofting 1476 counties the rates had grown to an enormous extent, and had now reached such an excessive figure that many owners whom he knew were not getting a penny out of their property. But in the crofting counties there is no partnership in agriculture. The old partnership has come to an end. The owner has become purely a rent receiver. Nothing which he will get out of this will go to the relief of agriculture. In these crofting areas it is the occupier who makes all improvements, builds the steadings, makes the drains and fences, and, of course, the rates are on the value of the land. The important thing is, you are going to give a grant ostensibly for the relief of agriculture which, in all the crofting counties of Scotland is going into the pockets of the owners without doing any good to agriculture. I would ask the hon. Member for Lanark to refute that argument. Can he show how a penny that goes into the pockets of any landlord in the crofting counties will go to the benefit of agriculture?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It will be interesting to hear his reply. On all the land let to crofter tenants not a penny will go to agriculture. That is the far larger portion of the land. There is no deer forests land under that tenancy. We have the interesting point whether the deer forests will come in or not. The Solicitor-General, when asked about this, endeavoured to reply to the hon. Member for Linlithgow and said that the Sheriffs had to interpret the matter. I am not sure what the interpretation of the Sheriffs has been as a matter of practice under the Act of 1896, but it has been suggested to me that deer forests in which there are a few sheep are treated as agricultural subjects for the purpose of relief, and the owners of these deer forests, who get large rents for the forests as sporting subjects, will be able to get relief from the Exchequer to the extent of one-fourth under this Bill.
The whole thing is revealed without any disguise as a gift by the Government to their friends. They are making hay while the sun shines. They know that it is not going to shine very long, but they are going to get off with as 1477 much loot as they can. I admit that in some parts of Scotland there are landowners who have borne their part, in the partnership. Many landowners, to my own knowledge, have made improvements and have done a service to Scottish agriculture but they have got it in the rent. If they have made improvements, drained land, built steadings and done fencing—if you take the better agricultural land in Scotland—the owners have been getting a return in enhanced rent. Some of the highest rented land in the country is in these areas. These people are not suffering at present, nor have they suffered. So where there is a real partnership the relief is not required, but relief is granted where the spirit of the partnership has gone altogether and where the landowner who has obligations under the theory of our system of land tenure has not been fulfilling these obligations. That man will be able to get his share of the spoil.
It is making a very large demand on our credulity to ask us to believe that these landowners who have not fulfilled their responsibilities are going to spend the dole received, under this Bill for the improvement of agriculture. But not content with the partnership argument the Solicitor-General says you must remember the occupying owners. Are you going to relieve the occupying owners in England and not in Scotland? That would be a monstrous injustice to those people who have been increasing in numbers and spreading all over the land. The farms in Scotland have been transformed, the large estate is passing away, and we have now something like what exists in France, a great horde of peasant proprietors. Are we? Where are they? They are going to Canada so far as I can make out.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of HEALTH (Lord Eustace Percy)
You do not represent a Scottish constituency.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am not the only Scotsman representing an English constituency. I do not know that the Noble Lord can congratulate himself on the most recent acquisition to the representation of his own county, who is a Scotsman also. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The interruption was somewhat irrelevant, and even below the standard of the Noble Lord. We have got figures from the Solicitor-General of the occupying 1478 owners. They are 7,000. They have in creased by 2,000 since 1914, as the result of this great scheme of land settlement whereby the countryside was to be repopulated and the rural life of our country to be revivified by all these gentlemen who were to make a great agricultural new Jerusalem. There are 60,000 agricultural occupiers, so that instead of one in 12, as they were in 1914, we have now something like one in nine occupying owners, and it is for this slender remnant of 7,000 that we are to carry out this great change in the principle of a subvention to agriculture. Even the Solicitor-General can hardly be so innocent as to expect us to believe that that is the motive underlying this proposal. He desires, certainly, to impress the House with those merits which this Government has always claimed for itself. His honesty is verging on simplicity, and we are apt in these circumstances to be impressed with his ingenuous statement, but in this cass I do not think that even his innocence would impose on any hon. Member. The truth is that two-thirds of this subvention in Scotland is going directly into the pockets of the owner. I think that we can take as a proof of what is the real object of the whole proposal.
In form in England it is going to the occupier. In form in Scotland it is going partly to the occupier, but in reality and in the long run the whole thing will go into the pockets of the owner. It is true that the existing occupiers are going to get some moderate relief, and by the expectation of that relief they are induced to support this proposal, but in the long run it is going into the pockets of the owner. Two-thirds are going directly to the owner in Scotland. The Minister of Agriculture knows why that is done. This is to queer the pitch of any future rating reform. This is to create vested interests, to make sure that where any money has gone to once there it will stay. He said so himself. In one of the earlier Debates he said that the advantage of relief of this kind is that, once it is given, it cannot be taken away. That is what happened in 1896.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The contention of the Minister, that when such a grant is given 1479 it cannot be taken away, is an indication that it is the intention of this Government to lay hands upon the money of the taxpayer to endow their own supporters.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
I do not know whether my hon. Friend opposite looks upon me as in the category of the very simple. I have listened to some of this Debate, and what has struck me more than anything else is that to be a landlord is one of those things which ought not to be permitted on the face of the earth. I am a Scotsman and a landlord. I have to-day heard various insinuations as to where this money will go, and such like. But let us get back to what is the main issue in this question. It is surely that, owing to the differences in the rating systems of Scotland and England, if you are to give proportionate relief to agriculture in Scotland as compared with agriculture in England, you will have to do what to many hon. Gentlemen seems to be an outrageous thing, that is, give some relief to agriculture through one of the partners of agriculture, the landlord and owner of the land. I listened with amazement to the speech of the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). For many years he represented the county in which I happen to own land. He has told this House that in all the years that he represented a Scottish constituency he was never able to understand that there had been any real measure of co-operation between the tenant and the landlord. I am certain that any hon. Member who has followed the history of land in Scotland will agree that, while there have been good and bad landlords, as there have been good and bad tenants, the relationship, on the whole, and through the length and breadth of the country has been a measure of co-operation between the landlord and the tenant. Indeed, if it had not been so, there are many places where agriculture would have suffered gravely.
Let me come to the question of the agricultural occupier. It is true that there may not have been an enormous accession to the number of those who in recent years have bought land and have become owners of property, but in my own locality there are men who, having occupied farms for many years, perhaps for 1480 generations, have, out of sentiment to a great extent, on the break-up of great estates, invested their money in their farms. So far as I know, those men are likely to have increasing difficulty in carrying on their holdings in these properties. You may say that they bought the land at a time when it was dear. That is, possibly, true. But is that not all the greater argument why to-day in this Measure, which is a temporary Measure, we should do something to assist those men to meet their difficulties. I have talked with men who have bought their farms, and they are beginning to realise the immense burden of the upkeep of buildings and fencing. I know personally that there are some farms to-day that are visibly deteriorating in their fencing because these men are finding a difficulty of getting enough to meet these outlays.
I am told that much has been said with regard to the Highlands. It may be true that actual crofting areas will not get the full benefit of what may go to the landlord in this case, but there are very few estates in the North—I have no interest in any of them—which are confined entirely to crofts. They are estates which consist in some portions of crofts, and in other areas are farmed either upon large farming principles or are used wholly or partly for sporting purposes. Where they are used wholly for sporting purposes the landlord will get no benefit under this Bill, as I understand it. If these properties carry upon them sheep and cattle, in addition to such game as deer, and if they carry them in fair and reasonable proportion, which, I think, is a matter for settlement by the Courts if there is any question in dispute—under those circumstances what argument in equity should be advanced against dealing with questions of that kind? I, for my sins or pleasure, as you may look at it, am the proprietor of an estate. I do not like to speak of personal matters, but in deed and in fact, if I do my duty by my property, I see not a penny of my rental coming into my hands for expenditure upon living in London or upon buying anything for my own particular pleasure. It may be that there are landlords who do not carry out their full duties, as they ought to do, but I say without fear of contradiction, in Scotland or elsewhere, that the great majority 1481 of them are well aware of the responsibilities and the duty which they owe, not only to their tenants but to the country as a whole.
As far as I can see it would be a great mistake for Scotland at present, whatever the prejudice—there is a prejudice, born, I think, of misconception and ignorance in some part, and born out of realities in other parts, a prejudice against giving anything or voting to give anything to a class which is called the landlord class—it would be a lamentable mistake, from the point of view of agriculture as a whole in Scotland, that you should refuse to take from the Government a grant which is going to help agriculture throughout the country. I am a Lowlander and not a Highlander. I have the greatest sympathy with the Highlanders. I have the greatest desire to see men settled on the land in the Highlands, but agriculture is not confined to the Highlands, and our discussions in this House too often centre on the question of land settlement, important though it is, rather than upon the question of agriculture in the Lowlands and throughout the southern portion of my country. I welcome this temporary Measure in support of agriculture, and I feel that those who disagree with it are doing a grievous injury to the industry as a whole by the attitude which they have taken up and the proposals which they have made.
§ Mr. MUIR
Had it not been for the intervention of the right hon. Member for the Pollok Division of Glasgow (Sir J. Gilmour), I do not think I would have spoken in this Debate, but when he., representing the landed interests, intercedes on behalf of those interests, I think it is right that the points he has raised should be dealt with. He also advances the idea of a partnership between landlord and tenant. I do not know anything about the hon. Gentleman's own landowning, nor do I wish to criticise it, and there is nothing personal in the remarks I am about to make, but it seems to me evident that landlord and tenant are not on an equal footing. It is quite true that a landlord with enlightened self-interest realises that if he is to get anything out of his land he must keep his tenant going and must pay attention to his own duties in keeping his hereditaments in order. Otherwise, he is killing the goose that 1482 lays the golden eggs, for if he is left without a tenant there can be no income from his land and it is to his interest to play his own part. But there is no question of a partnership at all. It is the same thing in the case of the landlord who does not fulfil his obligations, who does not keep fences in order, drainage in good condition or farm buildings in proper repair. If this grant is given there is no penalty against those who fail to fulfil these obligations and there is no guarantee that the grant is going to be used for the fulfilment of their obligations by those landlords who are at present, either from inability or through deliberate intention, departing from those obligations. There is no guarantee that buildings will be put into repair or the land drained and fenced, in cases where those duties have been neglected. In the matter of housing, a 25 per cent. increase was allowed under the Rents Act for repairs, but in 75 per cent. of the cases the repairs were not done. In this case landlords who have been either unable or unwilling to keep their property in good repair are going to get a further relief, and that is all it amounts to.
The right hon. Member for the Pollok Division said there seemed to be a general feeling that to be a landlord at all was a thing that should not be permitted. He knows perfectly well that there has always been a strong objection to landlords, as such, and it is growing particularly in Scotland. It is not the case as the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) sought to make out, that the landowner, as such, contributes anything to agriculture. The landowner, as landowner, contributes nothing whatever. It is those who are tenant farmers, who maintain their own buildings, fences and drains. It has been argued, on the other side, in support of this grant that the owner-occupiers are already doing so, and if they are already doing so, why give a grant to the landowners who are doing nothing? I am not prepared to deny that the man who has come into possession of property during recent years and who may have bought it at the peak price, is in great difficulty at the moment. But is there no way of securing for those people some assistance on the same lines as those on which credit facilities have been given, instead 1483 of giving it on a flat rate to all and sundry and giving it to those who are holders of land and who contribute nothing to the industry—people who are barnacles on agriculture and who hamper the progress of the industry? We on these benches would not say that the owner-occupier who is in difficulties has no right to any assistance, but it does not follow that there is any sound reason for giving that assistance to the landlords.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
When the hon. Member says that the landlord is contributing nothing, does he realise that in Scotland all the farm buildings are erected and kept up by the landlords, and the fencing and drainage done by the landlords? In these circumstances, can it be said that the landlord contributes nothing?
§ Mr. MUIR
If that were the case there might be something to be said for the right hon. Member's view, but he himself has already admitted that he is only doing it himself with the greatest difficulty, in so far as he is doing it at all, and that he is getting nothing out of it. It is only a question of degree until he is unable to do it, and he admits that there are many now in the position of being unable to do it. While the right hon. Member might take advantage of this grant to put his buildings, drains and fences in repair it, does not follow that all the others will do so, and I see no reason why they should be given a free hand. In the case of the small holdings, the landlord contributes nothing and, as stated by the hon. Member for the Sottish Universities, in the crofting areas it is not the landlord who does that work at all. It is not the landlord who should get consideration but the producer who is working on the land. Hon. Members who advance the theory of the partnership in agriculture, omit the chief factor in agriculture. The labourer is never mentioned on the other side of the House and he does not come into this Bill at all. If there is any partnership, then all who take part in agriculture must be regarded as shareholders. If the agricultural labourers, who are numerically the largest number, are left out—
§ Mr. MUIR
While it is a common custom that agricultural labourers have their cottages as part of the appurtenances of the job, they are not all in that position, and those who are living off the farms have rates to pay, and are getting no assistance whatever. In any case, if they do not pay rates, if there is any reference made to a partnership, and if there is any hardship imposed on those who are parties to it, surely the Government and their supporters, who are so anxious about the well-being of the partnership, should also have concerned themselves with the condition of those larger numbers who are parties to the partnership. I support the Amendment.
§ Major McKENZIE WOOD
After the long and clear arguments that have been addressed to the Government, I think we ought to have some answer. [Laughter.] An hon. Gentleman opposite laughs, but he has just come in, and I am sure he knows nothing about what has taken place. I am not surprised, therefore, to find that he laughs, as he so often does, but this is a very serious matter for Scotland, and I think we are entitled to insist upon a clear answer being given. We have pointed out that by this Bill a large subvention is being given ostensibly to agriculture, and we have said that the greater part of it is going directly into the pockets of the landlord. We say that that will not help agriculture. The Government's case is that they say it is true that a large part of this subvention is going into the pockets of the landlords, but that in some mysterious way it will percolate down to the other partners, as they are called, in the industry; that it is going to help the tenant in that he will have lower rents and better equipped holdings, and indeed, as far as I can gather, the agricultural labourer is going to have higher wages.
§ Major WOOD
That seems to me to be implicit in the case that is being attempted to be made for this Bill, and if I am stating it wrongly, I should like the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary for the Scottish Board of Health to tell us whether I am wrong. A specific case was put from this side a moment or two ago, which, I think, deserves an immediate answer. It was 1485 pointed out that there cannot be any possibility of anything percolating through to the tenants and the workmen on a large area of land in Scotland which at the present time is worked under the small holdings system, because under that system at any rate, whatever may be the case in other parts of the country, there is no possibility of the landlord, even if he wished to do so, helping in the development of small holdings. He has no connection with them. He is simply there to receive rents, which are fixed by a land court, but he does not build the buildings, he does not do the drains, he does nothing at all in connection with the equipping of the holding, and I should like a specific answer on that point.
How does the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggest that any money which is given in relief of rates to the landlord of land which is farmed under the small holdings system can possibly get through to the tenant and to the labourer on that land? If it cannot go through, as I maintain it cannot, how can he say that that money will in any way benefit agriculture? That is a clear argument which has been put up to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and we ought to hear what he has to say upon it.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I think that, in common with many other Members of the House, we thought that the rodomontades that have come from the other side were for consumption in the Press, and not for answering here, as indeed is evidenced by the fact that the hon. Member who put a case just now immediately on making his speech went out of the House, and has not yet returned.
§ Major WOOD
He remained here a long time after he made his speech, and he went out, as he told me, to get his dinner.
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
May I point out that the specific case made by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) was also made in the Standing Committee, and was not answered there.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone, I think this explanation is due. It was not out of any discourtesy to the reply which he anticipated from the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite that he went out, but my hon. Friend waited until 9 o'clock to make that very valuable contribution to 1486 the Debate, and has now rushed out to get a snack of something to eat.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I am the last to wish to import any heat into the Debate, but I should have thought the answer to the complaint put forward was obvious on the face of it. After long debate, the case for the Government was put by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General for Scotland. It was completely covered by him. He gave the answer is as complete terms as it possibly could be given, and it would be wearying the House to repeat that answer. But my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen (Major Wood) has asked me how it was supposed that any of the benefit which was given to the landlords would ever penetrate to the tenants. We say that the landlord is carrying on with difficulty just now, and that it is becoming impossible for him to do his duty. That is the general case for the Bill, and I am sorry to repeat it again. Then we come to one specific case which has been put from various sides of the Opposition, with regard to somebody with a tenure under the Crofters Acts. In the general case of an estate, it consists partly of crofts and partly of general farming. One of the difficulties which we have been experiencing at this moment in the administration of the Crofting Acts is that the essence of those Acts is the breaking up of the big estates. One of the points we have been repeatedly asked to deal with has been the breaking up of the big estates, leading to great disturbances among the crofters. We are taking such emergency measures just now, to enable the large landholders to carry out their duty by providing a certain amount of capital. This will affect all alike—laird, tenant and farm servant—for, though the farm servant is not specifically mentioned, his welfare is more closely bound up with the industry than that of any other man. Now, through the breaking up of the big estates, the small holder finds himself placed in a dilemma which we see in practice, but which had not been previously contemplated by those who passed the very legislation under which it is occurring. One of the duties of the present Government will be to take further legislative steps to deal with that emergency. This Bill is one of the steps toward meeting the emergency, and, in that particular instance, the pre- 1487 servation of that system under which the small holder will get his benefit, and will receive as much as any other man in Scotland.
§ often. A man with a deer forest does not get a penny under this. If there be any dispute as to whether the estate is a sporting estate or not, it goes before the Courts of the country to determine, and that is a complete answer to the allegation.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 129; Noes, 190.1489
|Division No. 285.]||AYES.||[9.30 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Richards, R.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hancock, John George||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hardie, George D.||Riley, Ben|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Ritson, J.|
|Attlee, C. R.||Hayday, Arthur||Roberts, C. H. (Derby)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hemmerde, E. G.||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)|
|Barnes, A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Batey, Joseph||Herriotts, J.||Saklatvala, S.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hinds, John||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Bonwick, A.||Hirst, G. H.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Sexton, James|
|Broad, F. A.||Irving, Dan||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Bromfield, William||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Brotherton, J.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Buckie, J.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smillie, Robert|
|Burgess, S.||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Snell, Harry|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Snowden, Philip|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Kenyon, Barnet||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Chapple, W. A.||Kirkwood, D.||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lansbury, George||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Leach, W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Collison, Levi||Linfield, F. C.||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lowth, T.||Tout, W. J.|
|Davies, J. C. (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Lunn, William||Trevelyan, C. P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)||Warne, G. H.|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||M'Entee, V. L.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Duncan, C.||McLaren, Andrew||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Dunnico, H.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Ede, James Chuter||March, S.||Weir, L. M.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Middleton, G.||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Falconer, J.||Millar, J. D.||Whiteley, W.|
|Foot, Isaac||Morel, E. D.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Muir, John W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Gosling, Harry||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||O'Grady, Captain James||Wright, W.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Oliver, George Harold||Young, Rt. Hon. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Paling, W.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Groves, T.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Grundy, T. W.||Potts, John S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Pringle, W. M. R.||Mr. Phillipps and Major McKenzie Wood.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Bruford, R.||Cope, Major William|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Buckingham, Sir H.||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Butcher, Sir John George||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page|
|Berry, Sir George||Butt, Sir Alfred||Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Cautley, Henry Strother||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Davies, David (Montgomery)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Clarry, Reginald George||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Clayton, G. C.||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Dixon, Capt, H. (Belfast, E.)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Jephcott, A. R.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul||Robertson-Despencer, Major (Isl'gt'n W.)|
|Ellis, R. G.||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Rogerson, Capt. J. E.|
|England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Kelley, Major Sir Frederick A.||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.|
|Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Lamb, J. Q.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Russell, William (Bolton)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Flanagan, W. H.||Lorden, John William||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Lorimer, H. D.||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.|
|Foreman, Sir Henry||Lort-Williams, J.||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||McNeill, Ronald (Kent. Canterbury)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Simpson-Hinchliffe, W. A.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Singleton, J. E.|
|Gates, Percy||Margesson, H. D. R.||Smith, Sir Harold (Wavertree)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Mercer, Colonel H.||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth|
|Gwynne, Rupert S.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Molloy, Major L. G. S.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Morris, Harold||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Halstead, Major D.||Nall, Major Joseph||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Harrison, F. C.||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Tubbs, S. W.|
|Harvey, Major S. E.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Pattinson, R. (Grantham)||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)||Wells, S. R.|
|Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Hiley, Sir Ernest||Pielou, D. P.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Privett, F. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Raine, W.||Wise, Frederick|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Rankin, Captain James Stuart||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Houfton, John Plowright||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Hughes, Collingwood||Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Hume, G. H.||Remer, J. R.|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Rentoul, G. S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Reynolds, W. G. W.||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel the Rt. Hon. G. A. Gibbs.|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND
I beg to move in paragraph (1), after the word "councils" ["parish councils be held"], to insert the words:(with the exception hereinafter provided with respect to rates leviable under certified classifications).This matter is possibly one of some complication. There is existing in regard to parish rating a system of classification under which occupiers may be put into one, two, three, or four classes differently rated according to the purposes for which the property assessed is used. For instance, the owners of shops may be rated at the full rate; houses at three-quarters of the full rate; and the land, at possibly, one-half of whatever the rate was. That system existed in a considerable number of parishes, usually partly urban and partly rural in character. In 1896 it was provided that all classifications should be brought to an end, save such as were certi- 1490 fied by the Secretary for Scotland, to give terms as favourable to the agricultural occupier as the terms which were given by the Act of 1896, namely, that the agricultural occupier was not to be rated on more than three-eighths of the annual value. Those parishes which have, classifications were entitled, if so disposed, to abandon them. Out of 900 parishes, 160 had certified classifications in 1896, and since that date by abandonment of certified classifications the numbers have sunk to about 40 or 5 per cent. We thought all could be abolished without any alteration of the burdens of the ratepayers in any parish which possessed the system of classification.
It has, however, been brought to our notice that it would mean entailing certain alterations of the burdens on different classes of ratepayers, and it has, therefore, been thought advisable, so long as the education rate continues to be levied on the parish basis, not to effect the 1491 abolition of classifications altogether as was originally proposed in Clause 11, but to allow classifications to be continued, if certified by the Secretary for Scotland, in cases where the rates are not more than one-half of those which would fall on the agricultural occupiers under the present Act. My reason for saying that they would not pay more than one-half is that the provisions of Clause 7 do not apply. My Amendment foreshadows an Amendment to Clause 11 and cuts out of the provisions of paragraph (1) of Clause 7 those cases where the classification exists.
§ Mr. MILLAR
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give the House an assurance that the various parish councils affected by this Amendment have been consulted?
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I can readily give that assurance. We have only heard from one parish—Paisley—where they say it would mean a certain change of burden in respect of the rates. We have only forty altogether. We have not heard from the others.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In paragraph (2), after the word "council" ["or parish council"], insert the words "(with the exception aforesaid.)"—[The Solicitor General for Scotland.]
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The Amendment standing in the name of the hon Member for Stirling (Mr. Johnston), at the end of the Clause to insert a new paragraph (4), has already been dealt with as a new Clause. I understand that the hon. Member now desires to leave out Clause 9.