HC Deb 11 July 1923 vol 166 cc1401-4

For the purposes of removing doubts, it is hereby declared that—

  1. (a) in the principal Act, as amended by this Act, the expression "allotment" includes an allotment garden within the meaning of the Allotments Act, 1922; and
  2. (b) in the Act of 1896, as amended by this Act, the expression "allotment" includes an allotment garden within the meaning of the Allotments (Scotland) Act, 1922.
Provided that nothing in this Section shall operate to extend the meaning of the expression "agricultural land" in the principal Act, as amended by this Act, so as to include a cottage garden not exceeding one-quarter of an acre, or to extend the meaning of the expression "agricultural land and heritages" in the Act of 1896 so as to include land occupied together with a house as a garden.—[Sir Kingsley Wood.]


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

This Clause is moved for the express purpose of removing doubts. A question has been raised in connection with this Bill as to whether the word "allotments" in the original Act includes allotment gardens. Allotment gardens, speaking quite roughly, are those allotments one sees up and down the country, which are giving work, I think, to 1,300,000 allotment holders. Those allotment holders are naturally concerned as to whether these particular allotments will have the benefit of this Bill. I do not think there is much difficulty about the matter, but it is important that it should be cleared up and expressly put on the Statute Book I know the Minister of Agriculture has always been sympathetic to the allotment holders. He has assisted them very much indeed since he has been in office, and I hope he will see his way, simply for the express purpose of removing a doubt, to allow this Clause to be incorporated in the Bill.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir JOHN GILMOUR

I beg to second the Motion. I would merely add that I trust that this will be made clear, not only from the point of view of allotment holders in England, but also of those across the Border.


I am quite ready to accept this Clause. I think it makes no difference whatever to the present position of the law, but if there be any doubt on the subject this will fulfil a useful purpose and will remove that doubt.


With reference to the statement of the Minister of Agriculture, I think there is considerable doubt on some points. I think I should be able, by documentary evidence, to prove to the Solicitor-General for Scotland that there is a doubt existing in the minds of the legal advisers. It is, as a matter of fact, the case that allotment holders are now outside the scope of the relief given by the Act of 1896. I should further like to draw the attention of the Minister of Agriculture to the fact that the relief given—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"]—under Clause 1, the expression is used "agricultural land." A holding means any land used for agricultural or pastoral purposes, or as market gardens or allotments. If the Minister, as I understand, accepts the Amendment put forward by the hon. Member for Woolwich, I think that clears up any latent doubt that does exist as to whether or not allotment holders will receive any benefit.


I wish to express a word of gratitude to the Minister for accepting this Amendment. I find it difficult to discuss it without bringing in other issues. There was doubt as to whether the allotment holders under the original Act, were going to have relief in respect of their rates. Whether this Bill will give the allotment holder further relief is, perhaps, a matter that might be well left for the future. I am satisfied to leave the matter there.


There is one point which has not been raised. A large number of allotments, which are held by the parish, are let by them directly, and the rates are included in the rent. I think it should be an instruction to the different councils that they should give the smallholders the relief that they themselves will derive under the Act, otherwise the smallholder will not get the benefit.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.


The new Clause standing in the name of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. C. Roberts)—(Exclusion of building land)—is beyond the scope of the Bill, and is, therefore, out of order.


On a point of Order. Might I urge that, in the first place, there is some precedent for this in the Debate on the principal Act in an Amendment which had a similar title and which was to exclude accommodation land? The matter was debated at considerable length in this House In fact the Amendment was accepted in principle by the Government of the day, and they subsequently ran away from it! What I attempt to do in this Clause is to suggest that if this Bill is intended to give relief to the occupiers of agricultural land, that there is a certain amount of land which cannot at present get relief under the principal Act and will not get relief under this Act, for it cannot really be called agricultural land at all. It is really building land. I wanted to exclude that and thereby diminish the charge.


I ruled the hon. Member's new Clause out of order, on the ground that it proposes to instruct assessment committees in the matter of the valuation of the land.


The reason for putting that in was that the Government, in Committee, objected to the Amendment on the ground that there was no machinery in it, and that some kind of machinery was required. Under those circumstances I put it in. But I shall be glad to move it without the suggested machinery.


I am afraid that in Committee upstairs the hon. Member fell into a difficulty other than the present one.


Surely it must be possible, in a Bill proposing to deal with relief of the rates upon agricultural land, to define "agricultural land"? The definition sought to be obtained in this Amendment is a definition as to what shall not constitute agricultural land. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"] Whether there is embodied in this particular new Clause or not any machinery for deciding how the valuation is to be effected, surely the question is whether certain land of a certain value is or is not to be considered agricultural land? That should be not only in the scope of the Bill, but a matter eminently desirable to debate?


Before you give a final decision, Mr. Speaker, may I draw your attention to another precedent, that in the Agricultural Credits Bill? The same language exactly is used. If it is possible to do it in one Bill, surely it is possible to do it in another? Surely if it was possible, and in order, to discuss it on the principal Act, it is in order to do it on an amending Bill?


I am dealing only with the Clause as presented to me. I shall be calling upon the hon. Member a little later in respect of an Amendment in Clause 1.

I do not select the first two Amendments on the Bill dealing with acreage.