HC Deb 11 July 1923 vol 166 cc1398-401

Where under Section twelve of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, a demand in writing for an arbitration as to rent to be Paid for the holding has been made and has been agreed to, the arbitrator, in determining what rent is properly payable in respect of the holding, shall not take into account any increase in the rental value which is due to the passing of this Act.—[Mr. Acland.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) will see, as I hope he will in a few moments, that it may be possible to do something for England corresponding to what has just been done for Scotland. The Clause I am moving is exactly parallel to that which has just been accepted for Scotland, and if the Minister of Agriculture is ready, not only to accept it but to improve on it, as his colleague has promised in regard to Scotland, those who have been concerned with myself in putting this down will be more than pleased. I am rather glad at the turn the Debate on this matter is taking, because it has appeared to many persons that it has been beyond the wit of man to secure by legislation that the relief which we all desire in this Bill to obtain for the tenant shall not be transferred to the landlord. The case which my new Clause brings up is, of course, a limited one, but it is an important one. It is confined as drafted, and I understand that my wider attempt in another Amendment to go further will not be in order. This Amendment is drafted simply to deal with the case in which a landlord wishes to increase the rent to his tenant. If he simply asks for a higher rent, there is the liability, under the law as it now stands, that his tenant will say, "I shall treat this as notice to quit," on which he gets a year's rent for compensation, or possibly up to two years.

Under the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, we have laid down a way in which a landlord shall be entitled, if he has a good case, to raise the rent, namely, that he can only do so if he proposes that the matter shall be referred to arbitration. If the tenant does not agree to that, he can give him notice to quit, without paying a year's rent. If the tenant does agree, he goes to an arbitrator, who is instructed, under Clause 12 of the Agricultural Holdings Act, not to take into account the improvements which the tenant has himself made. I suggest that in addition to the instructions not to take into account the improvements, the arbitrator shall have a parallel instruction also not to take into account the relief which the Bill will offer to him if it passes. This will have the effect of retaining the relief under this Act to a tenant which, I am sure, is what is really desired in all parts of the House. I was very glad to have been the humble means of persuading you, Mr. Speaker, that that would be in order, owing to the fact that the Government, in the last words of the Schedule, proposed to give the relief of this Bill to a certain class of crofter holdings in Scotland, and to secure it to them in the fixing of their rent by the Crofters' Commission, the argument being, of course—which the House will accept as fair—that if the Government propose that the Crofters' Commission should be instructed not to allow the landlord to transfer to himself the relief given by this Act, but that that shall go to the tenant, it would not be quite fair to deprive private Members of the opportunity of making the same submission, when we have also in England a statutory provision for fair rents being fixed by a definite authority. I hope, therefore, as the cases in England and Scotland appear to be quite parallel, that the Minister of Agriculture will be able to accept the Motion. I would not dream of suggesting that it would be otherwise than in accordance with the general wishes on this Bill, namely, that the relief shall remain in the tenant, and not be transferred to the landlord; but I hope, if he is able to add to the Motion in any way by extending to it the case of the smallholder, or anything of that kind, he will indicate as much so that it may be put in in another place.

The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Sir Robert Sanders)

I am going to accept the Clause. The Government desire that the advantage of anything under this Bill should go to the tenant, and this makes it very clear, in particular cases, that it should be so. With regard to adding to the Clause, I was only aware about 10 minutes ago that it was in order, and I am afraid I have not had time to look into that. If there be any suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman would like to make to me before this Bill goes to another place. I will not go further than to say that I shall be quite ready to accept it.


There should be no misunderstanding about the effect of this Clause. I think it is satisfactory, within the limited sphere and in the particular cases we are allowed to discuss. So far, so good. What the effect of this Clause will be on the ultimate working of this relief is a totally different matter. That, I understand, we are not to discuss at the present time, and therefore I cannot go into that point. All I wish to say is that this amount of protection, though I am glad to have it, is only confined to a very limited class of cases, and the Government must not ride off by saying that they have now established a dyke which will confine the relief in all cases to the occupier. In the ordinary working of economic laws it will ultimately go to the landlord, though temporarily, no doubt, it will go to the occupier. Of this particular Clause, and because there is now to be an additional statutory provision for it, we are glad, but we must remember it only applies to a particular class of cases, and confines the subject to a particular statutory machinery. Therefore, it does not give anything like complete protection on this point.

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