To move the following Clause:—
The right of a tenant to claim compensation under Sub-section (4) of Section ten of the Act of 1922 shall be exerciseable notwithstanding that it is otherwise agreed in the contract of tenancy in any case where the rent payable by the tenant under his contract of tenancy for the land exceeds threepence per pole unless, in the case of a tenancy existing at the passing of this Act, the council within three months after the passing of this Act gives notice in writing to the tenant that the rent of the land is as from the last preceding date for payment of rent reduced to a rent of threepence per pole or less.—[Mr. Edward Wood.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ THE MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE (Mr. Edward Wood)
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
Those Members who have had the opportunity of considering this matter in Committee will remember that this question, which is raised in Clause 9 of the Bill and concerns the degree of compensation for allotments, was discussed in Committee. We decided to leave the Clause in the Bill on the understanding that, between the Committee and the Report stages, those responsible for the Bill should endeavour to see what was the best means of arriving at as fair a settlement as possible between the different interests. It is a very technical subject, and I do not want to weary the House with information which those who are interested in the subject already possess, but perhaps I may say a few words to try to make the matter fairly clear.
There are two classes of land concerned. There is first, land let in the ordinary way as allotment gardens, and there is, second, unoccupied land which has been taken by local authorities under Section 10 of the Act of 1922. With regard to the first class of land the situation to-day is that the tenancy is 1898 terminable in two ways, either by notice to quit—which operates in a period outside the months between April and September, in order to avoid the cropping season—or by re-entry, where such power is given under the contract of tenancy. That distinction of treatment arose out of the report of the departmental committee that sat in 1922. It was a very powerful committee, representing all interests, and heard an immense volume of evidence from all those concerned, and it was agreed there, as part of the bargain, to include the question of compensation.
That was done more or less on these lines, that no compensation should be payable if the tendency were terminated by a notice to quit, for the reason that the notice to quit could not expire within the cropping season, and therefore no great hardship would arise, but that compensation should be payable when the tenancy was terminated by re-entry, which could operate at any time, and might therefore operate within the cropping months. Therefore on the whole no very serious hardship was inflicted in the case of the first class of land to which I have referred and it would be, in my judgment, a considerable breach of a formal bargain, arrived at in 1922, if the House were to upset the compensation provisions which were part and parcel of the arrangement. I think that I am fairly right in saying that the broad basis on which the bargain proceeded was security of tenure or compensation, and the bargain was struck on those lines.
But that is not the whole process I have had occasion to look into these matters rather closely, and I think that the great grievance on the part of the allotment holders, as far as I am able to appreciate it, is that the local authority very often charges them a full rent for the second class of land and—
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and 40 Members being present—
As I was saying when I was interrupted, I think that there is a real grievance in the fact that local authorities often charge allotment holders a full rent for the land which the local authorities take under the powers of the 1922 Act, and the allotment 1899 holders have a tenancy which excludes all right to compensation. There is something to be said from the point of view of the allotment holders. It is in order to try to compromise and meet this grievance that I have put this Clause on the Paper. The effect of the Clause is to enable the tenant who has paid rent in excess of threepence a pole to get the same compensation as a. tenant would receive if his occupation had been determined by notice. In cases where a purely nominal rent has been fixed, not exceeding threepence, the question of compensation will be dependant upon the nature of the contract of tenancy between the local authority and the allotment holder. I need only add that I have had an opportunity of ascertaining the views of those who represent the allotment holders, and, although I should misrepresent them if I said that they were totally satisfied with this Clause, I can with truth say that they appreciate the immense difficulty of upsetting the 1922 bargain, and that on the whole they are prepared to think that this is not an unreasonable compromise.
§ Mr. WOOD
This matter has been discussed with the representatives of the allotment holders, and it has been discussed by them in the light of the full discussions and known difficulties that revealed themselves in the course of the departmental committee's deliberations. My hon. Friend is as fully aware of the difficulties as I am. I can only say that this is the best attempt that can be offered to meet the difficulties arising on both sides, and it meets a real difficulty felt by the allotment holders.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
The right hon. Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) 1900 has two Clauses on the Paper, and I understand that he wishes to move the second?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
That is so. I wish to move the Clause relating to the compulsory acquisition of land for allotments.