HC Deb 26 June 1925 vol 185 cc1959-67

The Amendments which stand in my name are all of a drafting nature. Assuming that all the Amendments be accepted, the Clause will then read: Where after the date of this Act coming into operation land which is not used for allotments commences to be so used, the gross value, or the gross estimated rental at which the land is assessed immediately before such user shall not be increased during the first three years of such user, and where the land so used was immediately before such user included with other land in one assessment, the gross value or gross etimated rental of the land included in that assessment shall for the purposes of this Section be apportioned according to acreage as between the land used for allotments and the other land. >This will give a clearer definition of what is meant than the original Clause 10.


Before the hon. Member moves his first Amendment, may I, on a point of Order, ask whether this Amendment will not deprive us of the opportunity of moving the Amendment which the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has handed in, carrying out the undertaking given to him earlier in to-day's Debate, when we did not move it as a New Clause?


I wish to save that Amendment, and I think it can be done if the hon. Member for Cirencester (Sir T. Davies) move his first three Amendments. As I was to follow the hon. Member's Amendment, it will read whether those words be left in or not.


I beg to move, in page 5, line 23, to leave out the word "From" and to insert instead thereof the words "where after".


I beg to second the Amendment.

3.0 P.M.

Captain BOURNE

I am prepared to accept all the Amendments standing in the name of the hon. Member for Cirencester (Sir T. Davies). They are purely drafting Amendments, and do not alter the effect of the Clause which was inserted in Committee, but will tend to make it clearer.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made:

In page 5, line 23, after the word "operation", insert the words land which is not used for allotments commences to be so used.

In page 5, line 24, leave out from the word "gross" to the word "shall", in line 25, and insert instead thereof the words value, or the gross estimated rental at which the land is assessed immediately before such user."—[Sir T. Davies.]


I beg to move, in page 5, line 25, to leave out the words "during the first three years of such user".

If any argument were needed to persuade the House of the necessity of this Amendment it was given by the hon. Member for Cirencester (Sir T. Davies) when he moved his very limiting Clause in Committee. He then told the Committee that the most irritating thing affecting allotment holders and small holders is the fact that immediately they enter upon a plot of land and begin to improve it and produce food and to do the thing that the whole nation is asking for, then comes along the Assessment Committee to impose other burdens upon the allotment holders, because they have improved the land and made it worth while. If it be the object of the Bill and the idea of the promoter to develop the allotment undertakings in this country, then this Amendment ought to be accepted. It is true that an improvement has been made upon the original Bill to the effect that no increase in the assessment can be made on the allotments for the first three years, but it is true to say that in the first three years when the man is turning over the rough he is working very hard and he scarcely begins to reap benefit from his efforts until the end of the first three years.

The principle of taxing an individual because he has effected improvements upon the land is wrong and ought not to be tolerated either by the promoter of the Bill or by Members of this House. When land has been taken over and human effort is put into it by individuals in trying to become food producers, and in occupying their time usefully, then encouragement and not discouragement should be shown to them. Temperance reformers and social reformers and others are all pleading for an extension of allotment work, and if we are sincere in our desire to develop allotments and small holdings we ought not to impose burdens upon people who are producing more food; whether it happens to be in a small sense or a large sense makes little difference, because the food produced is helping towards supplying our individual needs. I urge the promoter of the Bill not to be content with this limiting Clause merely preventing the imposition of an increased burden during the first three years.

The man who performs the manual work and makes the land produce food renders a real service to the State and he ought not to be further taxed on that account. For that reason, the limiting Clause of three years ought to be extended indefinitely. If the man puts a glasshouse or any kind of building on his allotment to make it more useful, or if he improves it in any other way, he ought not to be subject to having further taxation imposed upon him. The hon. Member might very well accept this Amendment and give real encouragement to allotment holders, instead of discouraging them by taxing the improvements they have made upon the land.


I beg to Second the Amendment.

Captain BOURNE

I regret very much that I cannot accede to the request of the hon. Member, because this Amendment goes a great deal further than he suggests. There is a great deal to be said, and much has been done by the legislature, for the principles of relieving the burdens on land, and it can be argued with a good deal of force that improvements on land which increase its efficiency for producing food, and buildings which are erected to enable more food to be grown and the land to be worked better, should not be rated. But I do not see that we can deal with what is a substantial alteration of the fundamental rating laws of this country by an amendment to this Bill. It is outside the scope of the Bill. It cuts right at the whole of the existing rural rating system in England. I cannot be expected to accept an amendment which deals with such a big principle in a Bill like this The real place for the Amendment is the Rating and Valuation Bill.


I support the Amendment. The hon. and gallant Member has told us that the real place for the adoption of this principle in the rating practice of this country is the Rating and Valuation Bill. I may tell the House that some of us have attempted to do that in Committee on the Rating and Valuation Bill, and there we have been told that that is not the place to do it. I suggest that the principle, which, I quite agree, cuts at the root of what are accepted principles of rating in this country, is an important one. But the Bill itself, with its three years' limit, already adopts the principle. What we are asking hon. Members to do is to have the courage of their convictions in this matter and to extend the relief which is given for three years. Those who have at heart the desire to increase the number of allotments, to enable allotments to contribute to the food supply of the country, and improve the economic position of the people who hold the allotments, should vote for this Amendment. I hope that hon. Members in the Division Lobby will show that they are in earnest by voting for the Amendment.


I support the Amendment. The hon. and gallant Member says that this is a question which ought to be dealt with in the Rating and Valuation Bill. I do not think, if I may say so with respect, that we could get very far along the revolutionary line proposed of changing the whole rating system under a mere machinery Bill. But the promoters of this Bill will appreciate what we claim here. They are promoting this Bill with a view to the development of small holdings in this country, but the reason why small holdings have not developed in this country is partly because of the penalising system of rating. I will give the House an illustration of what takes place. The Sleaford (Lincolnshire) Assessment Committee, on appeal from the Blankney Hunt, reduced the assessment of fox coverts of Lord Londesborough's estate from over £1 an acre to 5s. an acre. Compare that with the experience related by Mr. E. O. Ford-ham, of Cambridgeshire. The Cambridgeshire County Council acquired, at Soham, a farm of 660 acres, and it was leased to 27 smallholders. The land had been assessed for rates at £150 gross. The smallholders improved the land, and now it is assessed at £580. Those are bald facts relating to the rating system as now established.

The promoter of the Bill virtually admits the facts. He says that it is well that, if we are to develop small holdings, we should encourage the smallholder to put up his improvements, and we should do everything to help him to equip his improvements on the holding. Therefore, I appeal for some concession to be made here, if the promoters are genuinely seeking to develop the small holdings of this country. It is quite unnecessary in this House end at this time of day, in view of the unemployment and the necessity of trying to absorb men who are becoming demoralised by being compelled to walk the streets, to appeal to the promoters to consider the advisability of releasing the improvements and giving allotment holders every encouragement to go on developing their equipments rather than, as at present, penalising them for every improvement. Under the, present law, in the case of fox coverts, as I have shown, assessments are reduced, but when you turn land into small holdings the assessments are increased,


These cases were in different counties.


Surely hon. Members are not going to make the plea that the two assessments mentioned were in different counties. They were cases arising out of the operation of the law as it is now established. The law of England to-day with regard to rating is—do not use the land of England, no rates; use the land of England, heavy rates. We ask that the promoters of the Bill, in view of the present iniquitous system, will exempt a smallholder entirely from any penalty on his improvements, and will encourage him to make the best of his holding. You have already said that money will be advanced to help the smallholder, and you have taken the precaution that a certain security shall be there to cover the loan. What better security could we give the smallholder than that he should be encouraged rather than discouraged to develop to the full the land that he cultivates? I hope that what I am saying will have some weight. Sometimes, when one gets up in the House and makes an appeal, one wonders really whether it is only a matter of making a speech and walking out of the House again, having converted no one. I appeal to the promoters of the Bill, apart from partisan feeling altogether. I know the feeling of many hon. Members opposite. I have spoken to them individually on this matter, and they have admitted to me that the present rating system is a hindrance to the development of small holdings in this country. Surely we can set aside mere political feelings and make this necessary concession.


I believe every Member of the House will agree that the work which we want to see encouraged more than anything else in this country is allotment gardening. It is a form of production for which there is the greatest public demand, and everything that lies in the power of this House ought to be done to encourage it. We see in this Bill divers efforts made to improve that form of production, the chief of which efforts, in my opinion, is the proposal of Clause 10. Clause 10 as it stands, in my opinion, does more to encourage allotments than any other Clause in the Bill. Is it too much to ask hon. Members, therefore, to extend the principle of Clause 10? We all know that it is ridiculous to penalise the man who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before. Cannot we prevent that being done? The hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) is as anxious for this change as I am, but he says in effect, "This is all I can get from this Government. To make the proposed change would be going too far; we can get three years, but we cannot get more." The best way of bringing pressure to bear on the Government is for every Member who knows that the principle of this Amendment is right to put aside party and vote with us in the Lobby, not for the Opposition, but for an absolutely sound principle.

This proposal may involve a big change m the rating system in this country, but we are bound to make some sacrifice to encourage allotments. The provision of allotments may not be the sole solution of the unemployment problem, but it will go a long way towards helping to meet the present situation. Are we asking very much, when we ask that Members who have accepted the principle of three years during which rates shall not be increased should extend it further? In 1907 Parliament passed an Act which automatically made this provision for Scottish smallholders. Apparently Scotland can bring greater pressure to bear on the Government than the general agricultural interest of this country, and in Scotland smallholders can improve their properties without the rates being raised against them. When it is said that this is a revolutionary change, let us remember that in the present year this Government has introduced a Bill to do, in reference to certain sections of machinery, exactly what we ask should be done for allotment holders. Hon. Members know that to encourage allotments is even more important than to encourage the particular forms of manufacture which use that machinery. I ask hon. Members to think well and to think twice before they vote against us on a principle of this kind simply because they are told that it is a revolutionary change. We cannot get this Amendment into the Rating and Valuation Bill. This is an Allotment Bill, and its scope is wide enough to include Clause 10, and to include the proposed extension of Clause 10.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 100; Noes, 74.

Division No. 214.] AYES. [3.21 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Drewe, C.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Cobb, Sir Cyril Elliot, Captain Walter E.
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K. Fairfax, Captain J. G.
Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Falls, Sir Charles F.
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Cope, Major William Fermoy, Lord
Berry, Sir George Couper, J. B. Fielden, E. B.
Blundell, F. N. Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L. Forestier-Walker, Sir L.
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Forrest, W.
Brooke, Brigadier-General C.R. I. Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Foxcroft, Captain C. T.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks, Newb'y) Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton) Gates, Percy
Campbell, E. T. Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Dixey, A. C. Goff, Sir Park
Greene, W. P. Crawford Makins, Brigadier-General E. Spender Clay, Colonel H.
Gretton, Colonel John Margesson, Captain D. Sprot, Sir Alexander
Grotrian, H. Brent Milne, J. S. Wardlaw- Strickland, Sir Gerald
Gunston, Captain D. W. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Harrison, G. J. C. Moore, Sir Newton J. Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Hartington, Marquess of Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Haslam, Henry C. Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Hawke, John Anthony Murchison, C. K. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Henn, Sir Sydney H. Nuttall, Ellis Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.
Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A. Oakley, T. White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Pennetather, Sir John Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Hopkins, J. W. W. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Hume, Sir G. H. Price, Major C. W. M. Wise, Sir Fredric
Hurd, Percy A. Ramsden, E. Womersley, W. J.
Jacob, A. E. Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W.R., Ripon)
Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Knox, Sir Alfred Sandeman, A. Stewart Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Lamb, J. Q. Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Looker, Herbert William Slaney, Major P. Kenyon TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
MacAndrew, Charles Glen Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.) Sir Douglas Newton and Captain
McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus Smith-Carington, Neville W. Bourne.
McLean, Major A. Smithers, Waldron
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Ammon, Charles George Hayes, John Henry Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)
Attlee, Clement Richard Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Baker, Walter Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Snell, Harry
Barnes, A. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Stephen, Campbell
Batey, Joseph Kelly, W. T. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Kennedy, T. Taylor, R. A.
Broad, F. A. Kenyon, Barnet Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Bromley, J. Lansbury, George Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Cluse, W. S. Lowth, T. Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Conway, Sir W. Martin MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Thurtle, E.
Crawfurd, H. E. MacLaren, Andrew Viant, S. P.
Dalton, Hugh March, S. Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Day, Colonel Harry Montague, Frederick Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Duncan, C. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Westwood, J.
Dunnico, H. Naylor, T. E. Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Edwards, John H. (Accrington) Paling, W. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Foster, Sir Harry S. Potts, John S. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Windsor, Walter
Gillett, George M. Riley, Ben Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Gosling, Harry Ritson, J.
Groves, T. Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.) Scrymgeour, E. Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. T.
Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.) Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston) Henderson.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.


I beg to move, in page 5, line 26, at the end, to insert the words and where the land so used was immediately before such user included with other land in one assessment, the gross value or gross estimated rental of the land included in that assessment shall for the purposes of this Section be apportioned according to acreage as between the land used for allotments and the other land.


I beg to second the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.