HC Deb 19 February 1926 vol 191 cc2353-82

Order for Second Reading read.

Commander FANSHAWE

I beg to "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

By the luck of the ballot I am able today to present to the House the Allotments (Scotland) Bill to amend Section 16 of the Allotments (Scotland) Act of 1922. This is a non-controversial Measure, and I believe it is the desire of all the Scottish Members of this House, and the great majority of the people of Scotland, that this Bill should become law with as little delay as possible. Last year a similar Bill was introduced for England and Wales, and the larger Bill has now become an Act of Parliament. This Measure has received the assent and the approval of the Scottish National Union of Allotment Holders, who consider that this short Bill satisfies all their requirements. The resolution which they passed at their meeting which was held at Dunfermline on Saturday, 13th February last, was as follows: That this meeting cordially and unanimously approves of the Allotments (Scotland) Bill introduced into the House of Commons by Commander Fanshawe, M.P., and expresses the hope that it will receive the support of all parties, and speedily pass into law. This Bill simply seeks to amend Section 16 of the Allotments (Scotland) Act, 1922, which is the Section that enables local authorities to purchase allotments if there would not be a deficit. This amending Bill enables the local authorities, should they think fit, to, levy a penny rate in the £ to cover that deficit. That puts the whole matter very briefly. I do not think any local authority can possibly take exception to this proposal, because it is not obliged to levy this penny rate, but this proposal enables them to do so should they so desire. It is quite obvious that if this Bill becomes law the whole allotment system of Scotland will be enlarged, and it would be enlarged for the general well-being of the people, particularly those who live in those undesirable houses in the large cities, in mining areas, and in the smaller towns. Undesirable houses which have no garden spaces making it impossible for those who live in them to grow anything for themselves, and they have to buy every thing they put on their tables in the way of food. The housewives have to provide the food for the home and balance their budgets, and very often their husbands are working short time. I know that in my own constituency many miners are unemployed, and when they have to balance their household budget they would most certainly prefer to have little plots of ground where they could grow vegetables and potatoes, and this would do much to help them over the bad times which they are now experiencing. When a man goes back to his home from his work he finds it quite a recreation to work in his allotment and raise crops for his own use. When I was serving officer I had an allotment in the South of England, and my greatest recreation was to work on my allotment in the evenings, when I was able to get ashore from my ship.

Then there is the question of the children and the danger of them playing on the roads in the country. The children very often run out where they have no gardens, and they play in the main roads, and frequently get under the wheels of a passing motor-car. Under these circumstances it is amazing that there are not more accidents to the children of the country. If the people had more allotments the children could play in safety for the benefit of their health, and they could at the same time be learning a certain amount of agriculture, while their fathers were planting potatoes and vegetables, because they could assist in the process. I think this would also be some incentive to the children to settle on the land. I would like to mention the case of a man who has served for many years in the army, as company sergeant-major, and he is just now leaving his profession. He has been employed as sergeant-instructor to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and he wishes to take up the profession of raising poultry, and he has written to the authorities asking for an allotment. This man has given all the best years of his life to the service of his country, and now he wishes to have an allotment. The more food we can produce in every way, whether in the shape of eggs, poultry or vegetables, makes it all better for the national good.

After the War, at the beginning of 1920, I went to Germany and stayed there three years, and I found that that country had bee], through a great measure of starvation. This was felt mostly in the towns, and it was due to the stringency of our blockade. All around the big towns of Germany I found allotment gardens well looked after, and many small houses built, so that the people could go and enjoy the sunshine and the pleasures of their allotment gardens. I do not say for one moment that we were reduced to the same straits. It is true that we were reduced, and it was absolutely essential that we should grow as much food as we possibly could. Our public parks and other places were turned into allotment gardens, but now they have gone back to their original purpose. That has given the people who had those allotments a taste for them and we want more of them at the present moment. The Government Report on Agricultural Policy says: The proposals for small and cottage holdings and the facilities for the provision of allotments, which have recently been extended, offer opportunities of advancement to workers on the land. Those proposals were extended to England and Wales, but this Bill seeks to extend those principles to Scotland and Wales as well. I hope that every hon. Member in this House who takes part in the Debate, and who represents an English or a Welsh constituency, will, if this Bill goes to a Division, vote for the Second Reading. All we want is that in Scotland we should now be allowed to enjoy what has been granted to England and Wales. And there is no reason why we should not have these allotments, and we must have them. If this Measure is not granted a Second Reading I believe that we shall not get it passed into law this year. For these reasons I hope the Government will extend every facility they can for the passage of this Bill, and I hope the Secretary for Scotland will see that it passes into law during the year 1926.


I have great pleasure in seconding the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill.

It is not an imposing Measure like the English Bill. Like our country, it is modest, and all we ask is that we should be allowed to help ourselves, which is all Scotsmen have ever asked, anywhere. I think that this Bill comes in time to save the allotment movement in Scotland. There have been many difficulties since the War, but there is still a faithful band of at least 20,000 allotment holders in Scotland who may be regarded as a permanent nucleus, unless they meet with difficulties which we hope this Bill will prevent. It is unnecessary, especially after the eloquent words of the hon. and gallant Member, for me to say anything in praise of allotment-holding as an occupation. Gardening is one of the healthiest exercises and benefits both body and mind. Secondly, it assists, as the hon. and gallant Member has pointed out, our national food supply. There are those in high places who at present are going up and down the length and breadth of the land pointing out the iniquity of our importing between £300,000,000 and £400,000,000 worth of foodstuffs. This Bill will make its modest contribution towards the solution of that problem.

There have been two main difficulties which have hampered the allotment movement in Scotland. One has been insecurity of tenure, and the other has been that economic rents have been too high for many prospective allotment holders to pay. As regards the first difficulty, it is quite well known that many allotment holders, after having worked hard at their little plot and after having got it into a condition so that they could take some pride in it; having erected, perhaps, some little structure below which they could sit, blowing their tobacco and surveying the wonderful results of their handiwork, have been ruthlessly evicted and have had to start making a beauty spot all over again somewhere else. There have been cases in which people have been evicted no fewer than three times in one year. Human nature does not stand a great deal of that sort of thing. That has been one reason why the allotment movement has suffered. The second class of difficulty has been found especially in Edinburgh, Gasgow and Dundee, where near the crowded centres, allotments are most needed, and where the available land is expensive.

The corporations have put forward schemes and have tried to get grants, but, as they were not successful, and the economic rent being too great for those who wished to take advantage of those schemes, they have had to be abandoned. We have an example of this in Edinburgh in the district of St. Leonards, the most densely populated district in the city. The corporation proposed buying land on the adjacent estate of Preston-field and giving facilities to a flourishing local allotment association which holds successful shows every year. It was discovered, however, that the economic rent would be such that the members of this society could not possibly pay it, and the scheme did not mature. The same thing took place in Glasgow and also in Dundee. The amount that would have been required from the corporation was a few paltry shillings a year per allotment, but it would have made all the difference. The corporation, however, could not give it according to the law. All that we are now asking is that allotments should be placed on the same footing as public parks, bowling greens, tennis courts, and so on, where it is not essential, although it may be desirable in some cases, to make them actual paying propositions.

It is also provided in the Bill that any expenditure which the corporation may incur must not be more than the yield of a penny rate. A deputation was sent hurriedly yesterday from the Sub-Committee of the Lord Provost's Committee of Edinburgh Corporation to oppose this Measure, under the impression that it was a compulsory Bill. I have seen that deputation, and I think I have managed to allay their anxiety and have pointed out to them that no corporation is compelled to accept the Bill or to act upon it unless their constituents desire it. There can be no great objection to the Bill at all. The only objection that I know of is that there is a natural hankering after that £4,000 which was supposed to have been provided under the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act, 1919. I have a very great sympathy with the feeling of those who consider that we have a grievance in regard to that matter, but that £4,000 developed a "Mrs. Harris" quality and gradually faded away like a beautiful dream. I do not think that there is any prospect of that beautiful dream ever becoming a reality under this hardhearted Government, therefore I have very great pleasure in seconding the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman as the best that we can do in the circumstances.


I need hardly say that I do not for a moment rise to say anything contrary to the excellent sentiments which have been expressed by my two hon. Friends on each side of the House. I only desire to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to be good enough to make quite clear, for the sake of that deputation to which nay hon. Friend has referred, the exact meaning of this Bill. I, too, have had a conversation with the deputation, and, while they expressed the utmost solicitude and desire to do everything possible to promote the allotment movement, they are perturbed because they think it is possible that some construction may be placed upon this Bill which may make it compulsory. They think that the word "may" may mean "shall," and they think that in law it is interpreted as "shall." I desire my right hon. Friend to be good enough to allay their feelings and to tell us exactly what is the meaning of this particular word. The corporation, in a letter which I hold in my hand, point out that it may mean a levy up to £19,000 upon the City of Edinburgh, and in these days when we are all most anxious to save even £200,000, when we think that it can be saved, the Corporation of the City of Edinburgh, too, think that they should look after the interests of that body who cheerfully and most willingly pay, but pay what they consider to be rates quite sufficient even perhaps for the most prosperous city in Scotland.

All of the Edinburgh Members wish to encourage the allotment movement, but we wish to exercise that carefulness for which our countrymen are distinguished. Perhaps I may presume to mention that I myself am the president of an allotment association in the South of Scotland, and I have, if, again, I may presume to say so, from my boyhood taken a great interest in the question of allotments. It was a near relative of mine who, in 1845, suggested to a very eminent Member of this House that he should bring in an Allotments Bill, and I have that particular Bill in my possession at this moment. From that day to this our party has been, rightly, the party that has encouraged the allotment movement, because it makes for contentment, and contentment makes for Conservatism.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

I am afraid I do not see the connection between the development of Conservatism and this proposed amendment of the Act of 1922.


I presume you do not want me to pursue that particular question of the growth of Conservatism, even on a Friday afternoon, so I will content myself with saying that I hope, after the explanation which no doubt we shall receive from the Secretary of State for Scotland, that this Bill will be passed.


I would like to add a word in favour of this Bill to what has been already so ably advanced. I would point out that in Scotland, where our local authorities have been accustomed to act on very secure and safe ground, under the present Act there has always been a tendency to doubt whether the necessary finances would be forthcoming to invest in new allotments, and, therefore, this new Bill, which allows a penny rate for meeting any deficit, will, I am sure, do a great deal towards advancing the cause of allotments. It seems to me that allotments are the best form of smallholdings for our people. The working population in our towns and cities are able, as long as they have suitable transport and it is sufficiently close to their homes, to cultivate plots of land to their great advantage, and in many ways this movement is better suited to our population than, in some cases, are smallholdings. I, for one, feel that the advancement of allotment-holding would be of great advantage to our population, especially when they have to go through hard times.

I have seen the advantages of the allotment movement round the cities in Germany, where the city workers are conveyed by trams and so forth out to their allotments at a minimum of expense and physical effort, so that in an hour or two each day, especially in the summer, they can cultivate their allotments. Again and again these people have told me, when I have had the privilege of talking with them on their allotments, that they owed their sustenance during the very hard times they have gone through in Germany to these very allotments. Therefore, it seems to me that we ought to do everything we can to help our various authorities in the towns and cities of Scotland to give this movement a very necessary fillip. I should like to point out that in some ways this Bill is better than the English Bill. We have an Act about which people know, and which they are accustomed to use. They are accustomed to its various terms, and this amending Clause which deals with Section 16 really improves the present Act, and allows people to work under the old conditions. I have very much pleasure in suggesting that this Bill should go through without any opposition from any Member in any quarter of the House.


I rise to support the Bill, and to say that it is a source of satisfaction and gratification to the allotment-holders of Scotland. As one of the representatives of a very large industrial constituency in the city of Glasgow, I think that that is peculiarly the case in a constituency such as mine, where, like some other Members who have spoken to-day, I am the honorary president of several allotment-holders' associations. It is very gratifying to know that we are to have the opportunity of obtaining the advantages to be conferred by this Bill. The Bill itself is a simple Measure to empower Scottish local authorities to provide allotments. It is in no sense whatever a compulsory Measure. That, I think, has never suggested itself to the minds of the Glasgow authorities, and I do not know why the sister city in the East of Scotland has been, perhaps, more careful. This Measure will remove a difficulty which was raised in connection with Section 18 of the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act, 1919, which was understood to provide a sum of £4,000 for the provision or assistance of allotments in Scotland, but which, by its phraseology, was found not to be applicable for that purpose.

The object of the present Bill is to remove that difficulty. It is a single Clause Bill, and is backed by Members of all parties. It is also in accordance with the wishes of the Scottish plot-holders and of the Scottish National Allotment Union. I hope that the Bill is intended to cover, and will cover, all the benefits that have been received by the English allotment holders under the Measure introduced last year by the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne), who then explained its terms in a most lucid way to the thorough satisfaction of everyone in the House, so that the Bill was passed without a Division. I presume we may assume that all the benefits which accrue under that Measure are to be received by the Scottish allotment holders under this Bill. The desirability of supporting and assisting allotment holders is not, I think, disputed by anyone, but is supported by Members in every quarter of the House.

Reference has been made to-day to the benefit of their health that the allotment holders derive from their work in the open air, but, in addition to that, there is the educational aspect, which may have been overlooked. For instance, there are the youths who come to assist their fathers and mothers in tending their allotments, because the allotment-holders are not only men. In my constituency there are some women allotment-holders, and I would like to mention to the House that it was a woman allotment-holder who won the first prize in the competition among the association of plot-holders in the North-West part of our city. These parents are accompanied by their children, who assist them in tending their allotments, and who acquire a taste for work on the soil and see there demonstrated in practice what they have learned in theory at school. They learn from nature that it is only gradualism that can achieve results, and that force and violence cannot lead to success. It will also engender patriotism. The cry of "Back to the land" and the scheme of emigration are useless without learning how to plant, how to hoe, and, to some extent, how to reap, and also the handling of tools, so that when the opportunity arises for them either to go on to the land in this country or to go to some of our Dominions or elsewhere, they do not go as strangers. Sending youths abroad without instruction of that sort is like throwing a man into the sea and expecting him to reach land without having taught him to swim. These, I think, can be taught very well by allotments. Allotment-holders, I believe, are also entitled to the gratitude of the general community for introducing a note of colour into the dismal surroundings of cities, which is very much appreciated.

The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) referred to some of them sitting under their own fig tree or vine. I do not know about fig trees, but I have in my constituency a vinery on one of the allotments in which a man can go if he likes and sit under the finest vines I have seen, bar none, in my part of the country. The money that may have to be spent in assisting allotments is well spent. It is not spent on sport alone, but it increases production throughout the country. It was said at a meeting of plot-holders in Glasgow that during the War the Glasgow section produced vegetables, flowers and fruit to the value of £30,000, which was a very considerable addition to the food required by the nation at that time. I would ask the House to support the Bill.


Surely there can be few occasions which afford a better illustration of the necessity for Home Rule for Scotland than this, and I rather gathered from a remark of the Mover of the Bill that some of that light was dawning on him. We have here a Measure agreed to in principle, and I trust in detail, by every section of the House. It concerns Scotland alone. It is purely a local authorities enabling Bill, and it has certainly been two years delayed. The hon. Member who represents Conservative contentment on the other side of the House said the allotment movement had been in existence, I think, since 1845.


Earlier than that.


It was considerably earlier than that. Legislation was passed in this House as early as 1819.


In 1603. Francis Bacon was a great advocate, of allotments.


I desire to confine my remarks, so far as possible, to Scottish affairs, and to cite only Scottish authorities, and I am surprised at an eminent archaeological authority presuming to cite a man like Roger Bacon.


No, Francis Bacon. He did it at the instigation of James VI of Scotland and I of England.


If I remember rightly, that was the gentleman who left Edinburgh to shed some radiance and light upon the English people, unlike a follower of his who left some centuries afterwards and came to this House and shed no radiance here at all. I support this Bill from a point of view somewhat different from that of the hon. Member. He said this would bring contentment to the people of Scotland.


What I said was that the allotment movement generally brought contentment to those who engaged in the occupation.


The hon. Member's correction suits me far better than the original statement I thought he had made. The allotment movement as a whole brings contentment to the people, and as a logical development of that, he said that led to Conservatism, and therefore he supported it. Every Measure brought into this House which would increase contentment among the people will, I am certain, be enthusiastically supported by every hon. Member opposite. It is contentment we are after, but as things are now it is discontent that makes the world go round. Discontent is a much more valuable asset in society to-day than a mere classic contentment with conditions that the hon. Member continues to support. One of the chief reasons why I have always supported allotments is this. I have seen strikes beaten for lack of food. I have seen lock-outs succeed for lack of food. I have seen strikes won after we got a large enough food production to enable the working classes to fight for a longer time those who sought to batter down their wages and conditions, and if I could see the mining areas, for example, producing food in large enough quantities I would have no fear whatever for the result when next an attempt is made to break down the miners standard of living. One of the strongest reasons for supporting a very rapid extension of the allotment movement is the fact that it puts some sections of the working classes into a better economic condition to resist aggression upon them.

The hon. Member made some complimentary remarks in regard to his party because of their activities in food production and allotments. He did not specify any occasion but threw a sort of general observation in the hope that it would get into the Scottish Press to-morrow morning. May I remind him that the Board of Agriculture for Scotland withdrew their compulsory powers under the Defence of the Realm Act, whereby land was compulsorily taken for allotments, and held for allotments, on the 25th March, 1921, whereas the English Board of Agriculture did not withdraw their compulsory powers until 1923. The Scottish Board of Agriculture was so anxious to smash up the allotments movement because it seemed to interfere with the rights of private ownership in land that they withdrew their compulsory powers and were the means of evicting I do not know how many allotment holders from the land.

I should be greatly obliged to the Secretary of State for Scotland if he could give the House some reliable figures as to the number of allotment holders in Scotland. We have never been able to get the figures. We get the figures for England only. The Departmental Committee on Allotments, whose Report I have before me, which was appointed by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Secretary for Scotland, give us the figures of allotment holders in England. The number of allotments in England in 1920 was 1,330,000, but we only get an estimate for Scotland based on returns received from town councils and 50 selected parish councils, the Committee pointing out that these returns must not be regarded as complete. They only give us, on page 10 of the Report, 40,525 allotments for. Scotland. That is a gross under-estimate of the number of allotments in existence, even around our big cities, and I think it would be very valuable if the Secretary of State for Scotland, in replying, could give us some authentic information.

I do not think that the option which is given in the Bill will move some of the town councils in the matter of providing allotments. A city council like that of Edinburgh is not likely to be moved. If a city council can send down a deputation from Edinburgh to lobby Members of this House against a very reasonable trifling Measure of this kind, what on earth are they likely to do when a definite motion is put before the Edinburgh City Council to levy a penny rate in order to extend the allotment movement? I do not think that this Bill will extend very greatly the number of allotments so long as there is security of tenure for the allotment holder, and so long as the Board of Agriculture in Scotland does not take an active part from the food production point of view in pushing allotments and compelling town councils, county councils and other authorities, to go in for allotments and, if necessary, to make it mandatory.

So long as the Board of Agriculture for Scotland does not take up this business seriously, only a comparatively small number of people will get adequate facilities for small holdings, at any rate in the neighbourhood of our large towns. I am not dealing now with the question of the £4,000; that is an old song. I think that episode is typical of the way in which the Board of Agriculture for Scotland allows itself to be, shall I say, browbeaten by the Treasury? Here was had a vote of £4,000 a year. I agree that technically it was for propaganda in regard to small holdings. It was voted by this House in an Act of Parliament, and we never got one penny of it. For five years that money has been in the hands of the Treasury, and the Scottish Board of Agriculture never came to this House for an amending Act. Protests and appeals from all sides of the House were useless. I suggest that that is typical of the attitude of the Board of Agriculture towards the production of food, either by small holdings or allotments in Scotland. I support this Bill and hope it will pass unanimously, but I trust the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose Burghs (Sir R. Hutchison) will not think that there is any agreement on these benches with the proposition he put forward that spare-time allotments on a small scale are any substitute for a vigorous development of a small holdings policy.


What I meant was that a first essential was the allotment, and then we could develop further small holdings.


I apologise if I misunderstood my hon. and gallant Friend. I have pleaded with this House and with successive Secretaries for Scotland to give the House a report on what has happened in the Orkney Islands, but I cannot drag out the information. I cannot get the information either by question in this House or in any other way. The hon. Member who represents the Orkney Islands, and those of us who have been there, can say what has happened, but we cannot get anything out of the Scottish Office as to why it is that agriculture and small holdings are prosperous in the Orkney Islands and nowhere else in Scotland, and as to why it is that when people begin to operate food production on a co-operative basis and do the thing in a really businesslike way they can capture markets and beat the Danes, as the Orcadians do, and as is done at Leith so far as eggs are concerned. We cannot get anything out of the Board of Agriculture, and we cannot get any propaganda push. If the Secretary of State for Scotland is looking for satisfactory methods of spending the £4,000 in propaganda, he could not do better than to popularise all over Scotland, and particularly the North-West of Scotland, the methods by which the Orcadians have risen from starvation to comparative plenty.


I should like to say a word in support of the Bill. When I heard that a Scottish Allotments Bill was to be introduced, I hoped that it would be on similar lines to the English Bill brought in last year, and when I saw this Bill I was in some respects rather disappointed with its shortcomings. The question of allotments has the hearty support of Members of all sides. I do not want to deal with the merit of allotments, as such, their value as a means of healthy recreation and also as a means of increasing the food supply. My reason for saying that the Bill does not go far enough is because of the lack of security of tenure. There was a meeting last Saturday of the Scottish National Union of Allotment Holders at Dunfermline. It represents about 10,000 members which, of course, is only a portion of the allotment holders of Scotland. The annual Report, which was presented by the secretary, conveyed the general impression of the position in Scotland as far as allotments are concerned; and this is what was said: There are probably fewer allotments than a year ago, not because allotment holders have given them up, but because they have been driven out, frequently in the most callous manner, by short-sighted and narrow-minded local authorities. The great obstacle to the development of the movement is lack of security. That, I think, is the problem. In my own constituency in Kilmarnock there are numerous allotments. The authorities there understand and take an interest in the movement, but it would appear, from what the secretary of the Scottish National Union said, that there are parts of Scotland where the same interest is not taken. As the Bill does not appear to make any provision to increase security of tenure, my first impulse when I read it was to move an instruction to this effect: That the Committee be empowered to incorporate in the Bill such provisions of the Allotment Act, 1925, and to make such Amendments to the Allotment Act (Scotland), 1922, as they may think fit. It, however, struck me that the Bill in its present short form would perhaps be taken up by the Government, and in that way become law, whereas if any attempt was made to bring it more into line with the English Bill of last year, our over-anxiety might have the reverse effect, and the Bill might never reach the Statute Book. The lack of security is not going to be overcome by this Bill, and, in my judgment, that is rather unfortunate. Let me just say a word about the problem of the penny rate which seems to have caused a certain amount of misunderstanding in the House, and also in Scotland as well. We all agree that it is very desirable all schemes of allotments should run on a paying basis, and it is also very desirable that a local authority should be encouraged to support a scheme, and, if it is not running as a financial success, to take a certain amount of money from the rates in order to meet the deficit. I doubt very much whether the whole rate of one penny would have to be levied for this purpose. It is very unlikely indeed. It seems very necessary to give local authorities some encouragement in this matter because the figure given last year, when the English Bill was introduced, was to the effect that there were double the number of allotment holders in this country since the War, whereas the acreage under allotments had only increased by 13 per cent. Anything that will encourage local authorities to increase the area for allotments is very desirable.

So far as the English Bill is concerned, there are other differences. For instance it proposed to give loans to associations; that is not of much account. Also they are to take note of town planning. The development of towns cannot be foreseen. In my own constituency there is one allotment garden which has long been going on, but the erection of high houses on the south side has depreciated it very much. Town planning must be a matter so much of conjecture that it is hardly a practicable consideration. I hope the Bill will get a Second Reading. I am sorry there is no provision to increase the security of tenure, but on the whole I hope the Measure will receive the support of Members of all sides of the House.

3.0 P.M.


There are just one or two points raised by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) with which I should like to deal. He referred to the success of the co-operative system amongst the farmers of Orkney. I have a little experience of the Orkneys, and I think I can explain why they have been so much more successful in the co-operative system than elsewhere. It is the same old story. Wherever you get a small community gathered together in a particular area producing primarily for export, and with one port of export, it makes co-operation so much easier. That is why they do it in Denmark.


Is it not the case that this success of the Orkneys is of comparatively recent date, and that before they began to co-operate in marketing their goods they were in the same degree of starvation as agriculturists are elsewhere?


I quite agree with the hon. Member; that is a fact. I am pointing out that it is easier for them to co-operate because they are producing primarily for export and because they are a small community. The other point which I would like to deal with for a moment is this. The hon. Member referred to the grant of £4,000 which was voted by this House about five years ago, and which has never been received May I point out that we have reason to be grateful to the Treasury for what it has done in connection with steel houses for Scotland. That was in the nature of a special grant. If the hon. Member is seriously contemplating conducting a campaign for the expenditure of more money by the Treasury in Scotland, he will have my willing co-operation. I should like to deal also with one or two of the implications of this Bill. I welcome the fact that no obligatory duty is imposed by it upon local authorities in Scotland. I think it should be left to them to decide individually how many allotments there should be and the methods under which the system is developed.

I think the Bill has an immense value in this respect. It may do something to develop that sympathy between town and country which is so sadly lacking in Scotland to-day. Those of us who represent both urban and rural constituencies know that there is a most unfortunate lack of sympathy, almost hostility, between those who live in the urban districts and those who live in the country. The urban inhabitant has no sympathy whatever with the farmer in his difficulties. He does not care what happens to the farmer. If it rains he does not mind—not much. I must say that I hope that in the early stages of this scheme the allotment holders will have a few set-backs. I hope that in the early stages their crops will be destroyed and wrecked by the rains and storms which we so frequently have in Scotland. Then they will be able to sympathise with the farmer whose whole crop has been completely wrecked by the storms and other inclemencies of the weather. After that sympathy, which is so desirable, has been gained, we shall all join in the fervent wish that both of them, farmer and allotment-holder, will be favoured by good weather and will be able to produce to the utmost.

This Bill may also have another very desirable effect. It may inspire in the town dweller such an affection for the country, and such a desire to continue his agricultural experiments, that he will ultimately be induced to abandon urban life altogether and to take to a country life. We might, therefore, have in future a drift from the town to the country, instead of the present lamentable drift from the country into the town. We have, roughly, a million allotment-holders in England to-day, and we consider that to be good. There are no figures for Scotland. But in France they have over two and a half million holders of holdings under two acres, which represents over 3,000,000 acres. We have a good deal to learn, as has been said, from the Continental system of small holdings and allotments. I think it would be well if the Ministry of Agriculture or the Scottish Office sent someone to the Continent to study the methods by which they keep these allotments going, and made that information available to the allotment-holders created under this Bill.

I agree profoundly with the remarks made by the late Solicitor-General for England, the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), when he spoke on the English Allotments Bill last summer. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the whole system of production was top-heavy on the industrial side, and that we must try to create a larger agricultural producing population in order to balance it. He pointed out the fallacy of the Liberal idea of wealth. He said that the Liberal thought that unless one produced something which could be bought by someone overseas, who then sent it back to us in the form of food, no wealth had been created. He held that that was not by any means the case, that anything which is produced and consumed in this country without its leaving these shores is so much wealth and so much productive power and so much value to the country, and that it is not in the least necessary that the thing produced in this country should ever go overseas or be sent back. I agree with the hon. and learned Member in that view. I hope that this Bill will give just a little further push to the rebalancing of the system of production in this country which must take place in the next 30 or 40 years. It is undoubtedly top-heavy.

There is one other aspect of this question which is intimately connected with the allotment movement. That is the continuing reorganisation of the heavy industries of this country, whichh has been going on during the last two years and Nvlhich will have to go on during the next 40 or 50 years. We are gradually approaching a system of specialised production in this country. To take an example from my own constituency, in a small town like Fraserburgh, you find one factory engaged in producing a special type of very finely wrought tool. It provides most of the pneumatic tools used in industry in this country and it is working about quarter-time at present. There you have a factory in a completely rural areas far apart from the smoke and the hurlyburly of the city, and as time goes on, I am convinced there will be a spread of industry and of factories outwards into the country. As factories become more specialised, they tend to move away from the towns where they are now huddled together, engaged in an almost hopeless competitive tussle, without any real organisation and accompanying this tendency we shall find an extension of garden cities and allotments. It was with this in mind that I pleaded with the Government the other day and asked them to consider in the future the extension of certain kinds of credits to industries which proposed to reorganise themselves on those lines. May I quote one remark which Mr. Henry Ford makes in his book published the other day. He says: When industry and farming are fully reorganised they will be complementary, one to the other. That is quite true, and we are gradually reaching the stage where we shall get more and more workers away from the filth and turmoil of the big cities where the housing conditions are bad, where there is no properly systemised production, where specialisation on proper lines is rendered almost impossible. You will have those industries extending to the country as I have described, and in that extension, the allotment schemes will be of immense value. In Scotland we are well favoured in that respect because we have longer light and when we have factories organised on the highest scientific lines and the workers getting free at five o'clock, they will have time to go to their allotments and take a practical interest in those allotments. It may be the means of increasing the production of this country three, four and even ten-fold. We ought to get in the not far distant future, a far greater measure of co-operation between agriculture and industry than that which exists to-day. I hope we shall see the day when the industrial worker will be able to spend a large part of his time in cultivating the soil as well as in attending the factory.

Every advance in mechanical devices for the production of specialised parts, is tending more and more in that direction. We want to reduce production to a fine art; we want to strike a balance between town and country and to instruct the worker in both sides of production. I believe we shall gradually do it and that this Bill is just another step—perhaps not a very large one—towards that ideal of an independent self-supporting property owning democracy which some of us in this House keep steadily before our eyes. It is an ideal that may not be realised for many years to come, but if we pursue it with vigour and courage I believe it will be realised before the end of this century.

Lieut. - Colonel HENEAGE

As an English Member I desire to support the Bill. It is a little unusual for an English Member to take an interest in Scottish affairs, but as we have recently heard Scottish Members showing an intense interest in matters connected with England, I think we are at liberty to take part in a discussion of this kind. The Bill has at least one very unusual feature. It does not seek to take any money from the English taxpayer, and as we have been accustomed since the days of King Jamie to various inroads on the English Exchequer, for that reason alone it merits favourable consideration.

The speeches in support of it have been of an unusual character also in that they have not contained a quotation from Burns. I desire to remind the House of the factors in connection with allotments which are of special interest to the allotment-holder. There is first of all the question of the value of foreign importation. Importations of eggs amounted to £16,500,000; of potatoes, £4,750,000; onions, £2,500,000; tomatoes, £4,000,000; and fruits, various, £32,750,000. I think the House will agree with me that anything that we can do to limit these importations from the Continent is of the greatest assistance, not only to Scotland, but also to England, because we are at the mercy of the foreign producer. We have no control whatever over him, as we should have if he were an English profiteer, at whom hon. Members opposite are always girding. These foreign producers are always outside our reach, and I cordially support anything which will increase allotments and, therefore, diminish the imports of foreign produce, over which we have no control, not only in regard to price, but also in regard to quality.

I strongly deprecate the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), when he supported allotments on account of their influence in favour of strikes. If you establish that as a reason for supporting allotments, it brings into an excellent movement the whole question of the bad relations between employers and employés, and whatever we do, either for or against the allotment movement, we ought not to introduce that kind of politics into it. It will do the movement incalculable harm, and for this reason I, for one, strongly deprecate any mention of strikes or industrial unrest being brought in as an argument in favour of the allotment movement. As an English Member who is very interested in English allotments, I beg to ask the English Members of the House to support the Scottish Members in getting their Bill.


I shall support this Bill for several reasons, firstly, because I have always advocated since I came here every conceivable method which would add to our food supply, and in so far as the extension of allotments will further that object, I welcome it most heartily. In the second place, however small it may be, it is another step towards the ideal of Home Rule for Scotland, which I hope is not very far away.

The hon. Member for Eastern Aberdeen and Kincardine (Mr. Boothby) referred to the recent book published by Mr. Ford. I should like to refer to a previous book dealing with the question as to how much time is required by an individual workman to produce the wheat necessary to sustain him for a year. Mr. Ford declared that 25 days a year were sufficient to produce the wheat for his bread supply for a whole year, and while I am supporting this Bill, I am not sup porting it because I think it is going to usher in the millennium, nor do I support it for the same reason as the Mover of the Second Reading. If I rightly understood him, he thought the ideal was to provide recreation for a man, after he had been ploughing for 10 hours in the day, in an allotment. My father happened to be a farm labourer, and in my earlier years I used to rise at half-past four in the morning and work till seven at night. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] I do not think there is very much to cheer about in that. I very often had to work in the garden until 10 at night, and think we ought to have reached a state of society in which that particular kind of ideal should not be pursued.

Some day, no doubt, we shall aim at the ideal, and realise it, of first ascertaining what are the needs of the nation, and then we shall endeavour to supply them, in so far as it is possible, from our own soil. I am satisfied that a very much larger produce can be obtained, and will be obtained, from the soil than we are obtaining at the present time. There is a very considerable demand for allotments in Scotland, a demand that has not yet been satisfied, and there is a very considerable quantity of land in Scotland that formerly produced foodstuffs but which is now out of cultivation. There is also a considerable quantity of land which has not yet been brought into cultivation, and we have a very large and serious industrial problem in Scotland. Therefore, any Measure, however small it may be, which will help to satisfy these demands, we welcome most heartily. So far as some of these smaller commodities are concerned, such as eggs, butter, cheese, fruit, vegetables and honey, I think they could be produced on allotments, and, if I may add, small holdings, to the satisfaction of all the people of Scotland and would reduce to a considerable extent the evils under which we are suffering at the present time. Therefore, I welcome this Measure to-day.

I agree, further, with what has been said by the hon. Member below the Gangway that we are very much lop-sided in our industrial system, that the whole tendency for the last 150 years has been to flock to the great towns and cities, and to leave the country. I think that at no very distant date we shall go back again in this respect, and allotments offer one avenue, at any rate, whereby men can obtain experience for the larger fields of the industry in the years to come. I do not see any signs of any vast improvement so far as solving the unemployed problem is concerned. In days gone by, in certain parts of the North of England, I well remember, when the miners were working two or three days a week, the men were often able to supplement their earnings to provide for their household needs, by working in their gardens and allotments, from which they obtained very high results. Indeed, I think it is true to say that the highest possible results from the soil have been obtained from allotments and small holdings. As a matter of fact, the men who have produced the largest quantities of potatoes per acre in this country are not the professional potato growers, but the miners in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and that is, of course, from allotments, gardens and small holdings. Therefore, I welcome this Measure.

Lieut.-Colonel SHAW

There is one point, I think, to which, perhaps, full notice has not been given this afternoon, and that is the trouble that local authorities have had in the past in dealing with their allotment questions. As a member of the Glasgow Town Council, I know we had continual trouble in getting the right class of peopla to take the allotments. By that I mean that when the council got certain ground, the people who were utilising that ground were people who could well afford to pay-for ground of their own, and the result of this Bill will be to give to the local authorities a chance to get ground, so that those who really require it in the very lowest parts of our big cities may be able to utilise and get the benefit of it. It seems that in Glasgow it is the case that the corporation are giving up the allotment ground in Queen's Park because the trouble is that the people who would benefit by allotments to-day have no chance of getting in.

I do think that this Bill, by giving to local authorities the power and right to rate will bring about a better condition in the allotment plans of the various cities. I do agree with previous speakers when they plead in this House, as they do elsewhere, that the facilities to give the people more land should be extended and given more consideration to. Those of is who are employed in labour know what a benefit it is for a man who has worked in a foundry during the day to be able to get out for a few hours in the evening, even if he does not work the land—to be able to sit whilst either his son, or daughter, or friends are working on their particular allotments. There is an atmosphere of peace that comes into his mind that cannot but affect his day's work. I am certain that all parties in this House will agree with this Bill, and the object of it. It will bring facilities to the people of this country to more and more appreciate what after all is the greatest benefit man can have, that is free open spaces. Therefore, I have great pleasure in associating myself with this Bill, and trusting it will go through.

Captain BOURNE

I feel some diffidence in pleading for what is a Scottish Measure, but, as the Member responsible for the Allotments Bill of last year, I would like to ask all parties to give the present Bill a Second Reading. It is within the recollection of the House that last year I stated that I did not feel competent to deal with this question of Scotland because there is a very great difference in the laws of the two countries. After hearing the speeches on this Bill, and after the conversations I have had with Scottish friends, I feel convinced of the wisdom of proceeding with the Bill. I am assured by the Scottish Association of Allotment Hollers that this Bill will, in fact, give a very great stimulus to the development of the allotment movement in that country. Anything that will tend to stimulate the movement for allotments is one that is worthy of the wholehearted support of this House. A previous speaker referred just now to the fact that our civilisation in this country, and also North of the Tweed, is getting rather top-heavy, and that we have in the last century developed a marvellous industry at the expense of the agricultural community.

If one looks at the Census Returns it will be noticed that the present agricultural population is very small, and has hardly altered during the last century. If you get a movement of "Back to the land," it is well to look on all sides, because it is no use whatever putting people on the land who have not really had any experience either of the hardships or disappointments which they will have to experience. The hon. Member who recently spoke on the opposite side put forward some of his experiences as a boy on the land. But I can assure the House that the smallholder will find life even more hard than suggested. It is a mistaken kindness to encourage people to go back to the land who have no idea of the hardness of the life, or not to let them know that they are going to endure long hours, mud, and bad weather, although there is the compensation and pleasure of by one's own skill getting something out of nature, and making two blades of grass to grow where one grew before, if they are prepared to face the dreariness and drudgery that that entails.

I feel the allotment movement may do something to encourage a love for the land amongst others of the population. It may act as a sort of sieve whereby we may find out which of our urban dwellers have a real taste for rural life and a real capacity for it, and which of them, under a system of small holdings, would make suitable occupiers, and would be likely to succeed and prosper. It is cruelty to send a man on to the land if he knows nothing about it, and it is worse than cruelty to send a man who does not realise what he has got to face, and who is likely to fail when he gets there. Possibly he has been taken from a job, at which he was successful, to be put on to one that may only break his heart. It is because it is through the allotment movement that we may build up in this country a peasantry which we do not possess at present, and which is at the bottom of the success of the agricultural systems of Denmark and other Continental countries, that I welcome the allotment movement, and I beg the House to support this Bill as being one more step towards reconstituting an English peasantry.

The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir John Gilmour)

In the first place, I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Commander Fanshawe) on his success in obtaining through the ballot an opportunity for this Bill. It is sometimes happily said of a Bill presented to this House that there is a very large measure of agreement about it. I am sure those who have listened to the Debate to-day will feel that this proposal to increase and encourage allotment holdings in this country will receive the general support of Members in all quarters of the House. This Bill is the outcome of a conference recently held in Edinburgh with the Association of Allotment Holders and representatives of all parties in Scotland interested in this movement. At that stage I was not able to say to them that the Government could introduce a Bill on this question, but I urged that the opportunity should be taken of the ballot to get a Bill presented by a private Member, and said that should that effort be successful I would do my best to carry the support of the Government. I am happy to say that I am in a position now to accord the fullest support of the Government to this Bill. It is a very happy circumstance that, following upon the Bill introduced last Session by the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne), we are now able to extend these provisions to Scotland. I am sure also that those who are interested in the allotment movement are under a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Oxford, because what he did certainly facilitated the handling of this problem by quickening an interest in it.

I trust local authorities in Scotland will realise, as hon. Members in this House have realised, the importance of this question, and that we will have their support and assistance in dealing with it. In our great cities there are many people who have not only obtained healthful recreation, but have brought some advantage to their families by the production of vegetables and other things on allotments. I hope that more and more of the great local authorities in Scotland will take stock of the situation, and will, when they are purchasing land and devising extensions of their cities, include in those schemes a provision for ground which may be worked as allotments. It is sometimes said that allotments are confined to one particular class, and are not available for the general community. On these grounds some local authorities are a little shy of spending the ratepayers' money. I think, however, that there are so many obvious advantages to be gained for the health and the contentment of the general community that this movement is amply justified, and should receive the support of the local authorities.

There is one problem which may have to be examined during the Committee Stage, and it is the question as to whether the penny rate is really an obligatory rate or whether it is permissive. I am not a lawyer, and I must depend upon legal advice as to the actual wording of this Section. It might well be that some local authorities would find, that the full penny rate was more than they desired to impose, or even more than was actually necessary, to advance the particular interests of allotments. Of course I speak with reservation, but I think it is a question which we must reserve for the Committee Stage, and there we must examine it very carefully indeed.

The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) put to me some questions as to the number of allotment holders in Scotland, but I am afraid I have not got any very recent figures on that subject. I find that in 1923 it was estimated, and I believe this estimate came from the Allotment Holders Association, that something like 35,000 allotments, covering some 2,000 acres of ground, existed in Scotland. It may be that these are not complete figures, and indeed it is extraordinarily difficult to obtain these figures except by the goodwill of the local authorities. If I may say so I think the passage of this Bill, and the more direct linking up of this movement with the local authorities, may enable us in the future to get more accurate figures than we have been able to do in the past.


Is this figure of 35,000 the number of allotment holders who are members of associations and who are linked up with this movement


I understand that it is an estimate of the total number of allotment holders, but. I am not certain. There is only one other subject which was referred to to-day to which I would like to refer, and that was the great advantage which had accrued in co-operative development in regard to the production of eggs and similar products in certain districts in Scotland. I am satisfied that in this case the people concerned have been most responsive to the efforts made to introduce the co-operative principle, and it is indeed one of the best object lessons in agricultural co-operation which we have had. I would only like to say in passing that, as one who has been associated for many years with the work of the agricultural co-operative movement, I would desire that this example would be followed in many other parts of Scotland. Indeed, on all sides of the House I am sure we are agreed that it is by the propagation of these methods that the small producer is going to get the best advantage from his labour and in that way he is going to contribute in a large measure to meet the needs of the people.


As that is now the right hon. Gentleman's attitude, will he undertake to publish the Report of the representatives sent by his Department two and a half years ago to the Orkneys showing the benefits of co-operative marketing?


I am not quite sure that I have that report—I believe the gentleman who went is very seriously ill—but I will make inquiries. At any rate, enough is known by those who are interested in this problem of the advantages of co-operation, and I am certain that the Debate in the House to-day has shown that on all sides there is approval of a Measure which is intended to assist, and which it is earnestly hoped will assist, in the future., all allotments in Scotland. As far as I am concerned, I shall do everything that I cart to facilitate the passage of the Bill.

Commander WILLIAMS

I hope that I may be allowed to say one or two words on this matter. In the first place, I think it is essentially a thing in which Scotland ought to be brought up to the level of England and have exactly the same privileges and advantages that we have in England to-day. My real reason for intervening, however, is that I believe I am the only Member of this House who has the privilege of serving on one of the committees of the Royal Horticultural Society. Possibly, therefore, I do knew something of the details about gardening in general at the present time, and I would like to emphasise the extraordinary work that these allotments have done in humanising many of our great town districts. We have has a wonderful example given us by the Mover of this Bill, showing how much good it has done him. I would like in just two or three words to say that I do hope that in looking into this question we will not always consider only the food-raising value of these allotments.

I want to see as much food grown as possible, and I want to see as much interest taken in allotments from that point of view as possible. But I do say that you can increase the prosperity and the desire for these allotments if you will also encourage people who have allotments to grow flowers as well. They can use them for brightening their homes and for growth of flowers and vegetables you can gradually get a movement which, if it is successful, can be used as a stepping-stone towards and for the further development of small holdings. For that reason, I welcome this Bill, and hope that it will have a most successful passage through this House.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time" Put, and agree to.