HC Deb 30 November 1926 vol 200 cc1037-78

I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, to leave out the words "buy or."

This Amendment raises a point of view which we on these benches feel most strongly of all in regard to this Bill. We are not against small holdings; indeed, some of us pride ourselves that in days of Tory lethargy we tried to rouse that public opinion which helped to bring about the Act of 1908. Far be it from any of us to hamper a genuine small holdings movement. I object to this Bill, because it is markedly a Measure for establishing owners. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear"!] I am very glad that is generally admitted. We need not waste time over that. I should be the last to attribute any unworthy motive, but it certainly appears to me that there is a marked bias, evident on every page of the Bill, in favour of creating owners, which does not seem to me to harmonise exactly with the pure desire to encourage small holdings. The bias is too evident. I shall have something to say on that side of the matter when we come to the Third Reading, but for the present I want to confine myself to the merits of the thing, and the desirability of devoting most of the machinery of the Act to encouraging owners. The State is to devote a very large sum to creating private owners, and the loss which is anticipated, and which probably will be something like three-quarters of a million will be borne by the taxpayer. Is it really fair that the taxpayer should subsidise a new class of private owners to this extent? We shall come shortly to the question of the basis of acquisition, the value to be given to the preceding owner, but it seems to me that at this moment we should rightly leave out this proposal to buy because it is wrong in principle. The freehold of the land, if we could get rid of prejudice and think only of the interests of agriculture, would he the property of the State. National land, whatever other objection you may have to it, is the obvious way to an efficient control of agriculture. I will not stop to argue that in extenso, but my experience leads me to believe it.

There is a more cogent and immediate reason why you should not encourage individuals to put their money into the purchase of land. In England you have a tradition of tenancy, and in that respect we have an agricultural asset of high value. In other countries you have a certain attachment to ownership. People cannot he led to keep their savings in order to put them into the capital required by the farm. Whatever they have is devoted to the freehold of the land as well as to the running of the farm. Surely it is a great advantage that we have available as farmers men who have not capital enough to buy the land, but who can afford to stock it. Your object is to turn that man with small savings not only into a small cultivator but also into an owner. If you do, you diminish the number of men who are available for farming as tenants, and you artificially encourage those men to put their savings into a smaller total farming outlay than they would if they were to proceed as tenants in the normal English way.

There is another point. If these men have money enough to invest in land, are they not able to get land in the open market? Must you bring in the taxpayers, and say that this, unfortunate class is to make a dofe to help these men who might by common admission get land in the open market, and induce them to become buyers from a public authority at great public expense? Everyone anticipates that in the course of time there will be a rise in the value of land. There are many reasons for anticipating that. One is the belief, on the high authority of Sir Daniel Hall and many other world's agricultural experts, that the orld's provision of corn will become less and less proportionate to its needs. You are probably in any case, for a dozen different reasons, going to get an increase in values, and von will have people come forward more and more for land, because of this prospective rise. Are you, instead of making land public, going artificially to arrange that this increment shall accrue to a large number of private individuals? My main feeling, and surely it is universal, is that you have certain customs in this country as the result of long experience. You have the English method of tenancy farming, and I do not like the idea of doctoring that English tradition in order by main force to create a class of small owners. Why not leave the normal English plan as it is and make the best of it? The fact that a desire for ownership is not felt has been overwhelmingly proved by experience in the past in regard to small holdings. It is hardly credible to the public that, out of the 30,000 statutory smallholders, not mare than 500 have become owners of the land. They do not want to be owners. I believe there are 20,000 outstanding applications for land at the present time. Under the old Act there was a provision which might have been used for this purpose, but there has not been a great demand for purchase. If there had been such a demand, the counties were in a position to meet it. I should like to know how many out of these 20,000 applicants have asked to become purchasers. I am told that in Scotland there are something like 10,000 applicants.

There is another strong argument arising out of the action of Conservative Governments in the past. Mr. Bonar Law appointed a Tribunal of Investigation, and the result was that it came down very strongly on the side of tenants, and surely the present 'Government cannot throw over the result arrived at by its own Tribunal. In short, you have a valuable asset in the rational qualities of the British cultivator, because he wants to save his capital for working the land, and he prefers to hire it. In these circumstances why do an un-English thing and throw away that valuable asset?


The right hon. Gentleman has recommended this Amendment on the ground that the Government proposals show a bias towards ownership. I do not agree with that argument. The Government proposals have, for the first time, offered equal facilities for renting or buying holdings. The principle of purchase in small holdings has been recognised in our legislation ever since the original Act, introduced by Mr. Chaplin, was passed in 1892. Each time this matter has been dealt with, more and more favourable terms have been given for renting, with the result that it had become practically impossible for the smallholder to face the unfavourable conditions which have been attached to purchase. The right, hon. Gentleman has told us that very little advantage has been taken of the opportunity of buying holdings under the previous Acts. Is that surprising, seeing that the smallholder had to buy, not at the written-down value which was the basis of the rent under the Land Settlement (Facilities) Act, 1919, but at the full market value, and seeing that in addition, under the 1908 Act, he had to pay a large sum of money down?


Will the Minister tell us what occurred under the previous Act, before the War?


The difference was in regard to the basis of valuation, but there was the obligation to pay down a very large instalment of 20 per cent., and that naturally would cripple a man starting for the first time on a small holding, because he needs all his capital for his farming activities. This Bill avoids the necessity of paying that instalment. We are hoping by this Bill to abolish this inequality, and make things equal between the tenant and the purchasing freeholder. We are not proposing to do this by imposing harsh terms on the renter, but we have brought forward a scheme based on what is called the full fair rent, and we have based on that the purchase instalments. The purchaser of these holdings will be able to obtain a freehold on the basis of 60 years' full fair rent, plus the addition of responsibility for keeping up the structure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northern Norfolk (Mr. Buxton) suggested that this arrangement would be very unfair to the taxpayer, but I do not think there is anything in that argument, seeing that it is going to cost the taxpayer exactly the same, no more and no less, than if the whole thing were dealt with on a rental basis. It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that this is a Bill that will establish owners. We do that deliberately, because we see the value to the State of peasant proprietors who know that their industry, the improvements which they make on their holdings, and the work which they put into their land are assured to themselves and to their children, and for these reasons we attach great importance to readjusting the scale on a fair basis as between the owner occupier and the tenant of the small holding.


I support this Amendment. The Minister of Agriculture has followed the line which he took when this Amendment was before the Standing Committee, where, either purposely or otherwise, he refused to face the main argument for this Amendment, and simply told us that so far as the State and the ratepayers are concerned there is no difference, financially or otherwise, whether we settle an occupying owner or whether we provide an extra tenant. That argument does not touch our case at all. Here we are, under the terms of this Bill, contemplat- ing the provision of something in the region of 8,000 small holdings during the next four years, and the State will be called upon, according to the financial statement issued by the Minister, to meet an annual deficit of about £150,000. This land is to be purchased and used for the production of food. The Minister told us that as far as the State is concerned, there is no material difference between occupying owners and ordinary tenants. In my opinion, there is a very great difference. In the first place, it is an anti-social principle to provide Exchequer Grants or grants to be drawn from the ratepayers to establish absolute owners of land in this or any other country. To that extent the principle adopted by the Government is bad, and ought not to be adopted by this or any other Government. When an ex-Conservative Prime Minister sets up a Special Committee to deal with this and other agricultural problems, and their Report is published, I should like to ask the Minister what reply he has got to this recommendation made by the Agricultural Tribunal, dealing with small holdings, which says: The system of purchase and ownership by the county council of the land and the leasing of it to smallholders seems to combine largely the advantages of ownership without its disadvantages, and the gradual extension of this experiment in public ownership of land is in itself desirable. At the same time attention should be directed to the alternative method of the public authority renting land by agreement, or if necessary by arbitration for the purpose of small holdings. If it is considered desirable to avoid the investment of public money in the purchase of land, this method might be adopted. We consider, however, that the system of public ownership is preferable. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us his reply to that recommendation? Here we have a body of experts charged with the duty of examining the whole of this problem, and they issue a Report, and I have just quoted an extract from their Report. This Bill flies absolutely in the face of the Report of that Committee of experts. Therefore, if for no other reason than that, I am opposed to the principle put forward in this Bill. I would like to remind the right hon. Gentleman of the fact that between 1908 and 1926, 30,000 small holdings have been provided, of which less than 500 have been purchased by the present tenants. The Minister of Agriculture says the explanation of that is that under the 1908 Act one-fifth of the money had to be put down as a first instalment, and that proved an almost insurmountable barrier to the prospective smallholder. May I draw attention to the fact that the Minister in his explanatory Memorandum tells us that in effect they are refusing to grant loans to smallholders for farm purposes. OrigiNally one-fifth of the total value had to be put down before one could purchase. Now that he has no instalment to put down as was provided under the Act of 1908, he has to have a certain amount of capital for the purpose of working the farm, providing necessary implements and so forth. I think that disposes of the argument used by the Minister of Agriculture, and rather equalises the position as between this Bill and the Act of 1908.

I want to draw attention to another reason why I want this Amendment to be carried. The Minister of Agriculture has told us that the peasant proprietor is going to be a most valuable asset to the State. Some of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues have said that every person we can plant on the land will become a little Tory. That may or may not be the case, but what I want to suggest is that on the back page of the explanatory Memorandum occurs a passage in regard to which if I put upon it a wrong interpretation, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will correct me.

Here is the passage referred to: Another reason for the repeal of the Section referred to "— that is the refusal in future to grant loans— is that all the information received by the Ministry indicates that there is at present a demand from suitable applicants possessed of both agricultural knowledge and adequate capital, sufficient to occupy all the small holdings which it will be practicable to create under the Bill for many years to come. If it be the fact that the present applicants possess both agricultural knowledge and adequate capital, why do they not of their own free will enter the ordinary market and secure land for themselves, without coming to the Government and asking for a subsidy which, according to the financial statement—


I was referring to the farming capital, not to the fixed capital.


Farming capital is not mentioned in this explanatory Memorandum.


This loan will be entirely for farming capital; it is not for the purchase of land at all.


The right hon. Gentleman cannot dispose of the actual wording of this Memorandum, where it states that there are sufficient applicants at the moment with agricultural knowledge and adequate capital to occupy all the holdings that are likely to be created under this Bill for many years to come. What does that imply? How many agricultural workers shall we have who, while they possess the agricultural knowledge, have also got adequate capital to enter on one of these small holdings? Does not that rather lead us to this point, that when the county councils are going to determine which one of two or many applicants is going to secure a holding, it is always going to be the person with the adequate capital, who can purchase, while the rural worker is not going to get a ghost of a chance under the terms of the Bill? The very idea of providing £25 per annum—according to the financial statement, £100 for each holding for the first four years—to make the holding the absolute property of an individual, is anti-social at its base, ought not to be done by any Minister of State, and ought not to be supported by any Parliament in any part of the world. Tenancies we might very well create with advantage to the State, but to create ownership, losing any sort of social control over the financial grants that the nation is about to make, and the grants that are to be drawn from rates, is totally wrong. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman may think about the mentality of the future smallholder, he has failed to submit one solitary argument in favour of his policy that the State shall buy small holdings and hand them over to individuals. The purpose of a Small Holdings Bill of this description, if it has a purpose at all, ought not to be to insist upon county councils developing into all sorts of buying and selling agencies, involving them in all kinds of intricate financial problems. Their duty should be to provide land for agricultural labourers who have the requisite knowledge and who can use it to the fullest advantage for the increased production of food in this country, and generally to make us more self-sufficient than we have been up to this moment. For these reasons I would ask the House to accept this Amendment, to eliminate the possibility of State money going to make absolute owners of land, and to allow the Bill to go forward to create as many tenancies as they like.


I should like to support this Amendment, for, perhaps, different reasons from those put forward by the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). I am not convinced that it is an evil thing for the worker to own his holding, but the position in the country at the moment is based upon the theory, and this has evidently been the reason for putting in this purchase Clause, that peasant proprietorship would be a very good thing for the country. My objection to the Clause, however, and the reason why I am supporting this Amendment, is that the experience of the legislation introduced in 1908 by the Government, of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was a member, has proved that it is not purchase that is required, but security of tenure so long as you pay your rent and farm your land as provided under the Act of 1908. It will take more than one person to say that this Clause shall he operated. The Minister and his Department will have nothing whatever to do with it. They have, shall I say, beaten a retreat, and are not going to have anything whatever to do with small holdings in their present form. I do not know whether they are ashamed of the movement to which they are rendering lip service. I will not call this Clause eyewash, because that is a term which I do not like, but it does seem to be painting the scenery in rather a glowing fashion so that people may fasten their eyes upon it rather than upon the performance on the stage.

If the Minister would take as much notice of the opinion of the County Councils' Association on this Clause as he professed to take in regard to the previous Amendment moved by one of his supporters, I am certain he would not put forward the Clause. No county council will push the purchase Clauses of this Bill. They have had experience of that matter, and anyone who knows anything about agriculture and wants to become a real smallholder will not apply to have the purchase Clauses put into. operation, because he knows that if he is an ambitious man—and it is the ambitious man who wants to be a smallholder—he does not want to stay on 50 acres, but wants to go further, and to let his holding be a stepping stone to larger things. It was pointed out in Committee that there are large areas of agricultural land in this country that cannot be farmed on a. 50-acre basis as small holdings, but can only be farmed successfully, from the point of view of the country and of the tenant, in large farms, where you can have a fallowing system and all that kind of thing. There is also a large amount of land which is suitable for small holdings, and we want those small holdings to be on the Liberal principle of security of tenure so long as you pay your rent and farm your land properly, and not to tie people down and let them fasten their money in the land by purchasing it, but to let them use it to produce as much food as possible out of the land.

I wonder what my hon. and learned' Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) thinks about the operation of these purchase Clauses. I venture to suggest that by his own Amendments he is indicating that, while the Minister renders lip service to the purchase Clauses, he is hedging and fencing them round with such prohibitive restrictions that they will be absolutely unworkable and ineffective, and that it will be impossible for any county authority to put them into operation. I would beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider what is the real object and motive for providing small holdings. It is not to get a man to put his entire capital into the purchase of his holding, so that he has no money for the cultivation of the land. So far as my experience is concerned, ownership does not produce a single stone more of food than occupancy under proper terms of tenancy, and if the right hon. Gentleman will inquire of his own advisers, he will find that the experience of the War executive committees during the War was that the man who had to be prodded, the man who had to farm under the instructions of the War executive committee, the man who had to have his farm farmed by the War executive committee, was not the man who was a tenant, but the man who was an owner. When you come down to scene-painting and scene-shift- ing from a political point of view, and the timid attempts of the Government to deal with the real land problem as we know it on this side of the House, if it is not known on the other side, we beg the right hon. Gentleman not to go on playing about with things that he knows very well will never be operative, but to do something that will make a success of the small holdings movement, that will put men on the land who are anxious to cultivate 50 acres, and, when they have made a little money by good cultivation, to move off and cultivate 150 acres, which is the real object of the small holdings movement.


I am amazed at the deductions from his own experience which have been drawn by the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Fenby). The House is probably well aware that, living as he did in the East Riding of Yorkshire, the hon. Member has had an experience of the working of small holdings that is probably equal to none in this House. Those small holdings have been very successful for three reasons. In the first place, the best land was taken; secondly, only men with capital —men of experience—among the rural workers were selected; and, thirdly, the farms were properly arranged as economic units and were well supervised. The deduction which the hon. Member draws is that the success of those small holdings is a support for tenancy, and that is the reason why he advocates tenancy, and tenancy only. He does not tell the House, however, that every one of those tenants not only paid, in his yearly contributions, the rent of the holding, but also that a proportion of the amount paid went to form a sinking fund to repay the capital cost of the holding. The sums so paid did not go to the benefit of the tenant himself, but to the benefit of the county council. I appeal to anyone here whether these small holders paid that money willingly, or whether every one of them would not rather have paid his contribution for the purchase of his own land, so that, if he were successful, he should have the value of the money in his holding to leave behind him for the benefit of his children or his family, or, in the case suggested by the hon. Member, if he wanted to go on to a larger holding, he should be able to dispose of his existing holding and then take a larger one.

I submit to the House that the whole of the hon. Member's experience is an argument for the provisions of this Bill. I would ask any other hon. Member who has been about in agricultural districts whether the one complaint of smallholders against our small holdings legislation has not been that they were compelled to buy the land for the county council instead of for themselves. I myself have had a good deal of experience among landowners and farmers, and I am convinced of this, not only from what I have heard them say, but from experience in other countries. Experience in France, which is full of peasant proprietors—owners of their own land, every particle of which is cultivated in the highest degree—and every experience we have had, shows that the fact that a man owns his own land, and that every bit of labour that he puts into it inures to his own benefit and that of his wife and family, is a very big incentive to him to make that land as well cultivated and as productive as ever it can be. The attraction of this Bill is that it is providing for the first time an opportunity to the poor man to become the owner of his own land instead of merely an occupier. The hon. Member opposite says it is quite wrong in principle to use State money to enable an individual to own land. Why should it be right for the townsman to be able to acquire his house with the benefit of public money and not for the rural occupier to become the owner of his land with public money? I see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) opposite. Has there ever been a word urged by him in the many years that he has been in the House that under the land purchase scheme for Ireland that it was wrong for the Irish tenant to become the owner of his land on principle? The one thing the Irish tenants wanted—and they were all agriculturists—was to satisfy their land hunger and become the owners of their farms. The one reason small holdings can be justified in this country is to gratify that access to the land which unfortunately has been denied so long.

Is anyone here hardy enough to suggest that small holdings are an economic proposition? Where you have farms picked out, where you have the best land in the district, where you have markets handy, where you have that careful selection of men, of capital and knowledge and skill, selected as they were in the East Riding—go to Evesham, where you have the best root producing land in the country, where you have special qualities in the soil and special markets —they may be successful, but the figures that have been spoken to to-day prove that small holdings are uneconomic. After 30 or 40 years of this legislation, the pushing of it and the gingering up of Parliament not only from one side but both sides of the House, when all these efforts have been bestowed on the creation of small holdings, if you leave out the special efforts made by the Land Settlement Act, 1919, the number of small holdings to-day is no larger than it was 25 years ago. I except the men who were settled on the land after the War, because we are all agreed that was special legislation. It has not been successful but it got an artificial number of men on the land as a recompense to our soldiers for their services. If I am right in these figures it shows that the tenancy system of our present Small Holdings Acts is not all that we want. They are not achieving their object and we ought to look further. The late Minister of Agriculture said purchase has not been wanted. We have had it for a number of years and the reason it has been a failure is that the man of small means could not afford it. How could they pay the large deposit that was required? They could not do it. That killed the purchase system. They did not have to pay anything like that in Ireland. Under the 1919 Act it was only 10 per cent. This Bill takes what is a fair rent and allows the man to become the holder, dependent on the instalments being paid off, on the security of the land itself and for the first time there is being given this further driving power, to satisfy the desire of the man to become the owner of his holding at a reasonable cost.


This sudden conversion to the principle of ownership by cultivators is an entirely new thing as far as the Conservative party is concerned. They only discovered the value of ownership on the part of the cultivator when they discovered that more money could be made by investing their money in industry than in agriculture. The Conservative party in the past has always been based upon the ownership of large estates by the aristocracy, who violently objected to the breaking up of the larger estates until economic conditions compelled them. I am inclined to agree with my right hon. Friend that there is some political fear behind the present movement for the creation of ownership. I object to this because the whole thing is anti-social in its tendencies. The hon. Member who has just spoken has told us of the obstacles in the way of working men investing money in land. The figures are eloquent from that point of view. Generally speaking, there is not among men who are expert agriculturists sufficient money to put down for purchase and at the same time to stock their farms. The Bill affords no means whatever of providing loans to men who want land. It is simply to advance money for the purchase of the land, and there is. nothing for them to start their holdings with. I agree that it is an attempt on the part of the Conservatives to buttress up the principle of ownership in order to provide a bulwark against what they call the coming of Socialism.

It is not much use introducing legislation to prevent economic changes, which I am sure these things cannot possibly prevent, and which is going to cast, in the meantime, a burden on the State and on the men who are induced to put their money into this occupying ownership. It is bound to fail until provision is made for the effective marketing of goods. Men not only want some assistance in the growing of commodities, but they want to send them to market. They want protection from the people who control the markets. Evesham has been mentioned. A short time ago I saw a letter from a fruit grower at Evesham. He said, "I recently sent a pot of William pears to market weighing 72 pounds, and they realised 2s." I quoted that letter in the House, and on that very day William pears were selling outside at 3d. and 4d. each. He could neither pay wages to the men who worked for him nor get a living for himself after paying his land charges. The men want protection. They do not want tying down, to ownership. If they are going to be assisted to get on to the land they can do so equally well under a guaranteed tenancy under the public authority, but they want protecting so far as marketing and transport are concerned, and if Parliament is really going to help agriculturists to get on to the land they would do better to bring in a comprehensive scheme which will cover them all the way round than this mere tinkering, which does no real good at all.


The hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Fenby) says the result of the 1908 Act proves that there is no desire on the part of cultivators to become the owners of their small holdings. Before that the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) had quoted the Report of the Tribunal set up by Mr. Bonar Law, and I should like to refer him to page 200 of that Report. I will quote a very short extract: In addition to these temporary measures it is desirable that the terms of purchase under the Act of 1908 should be reconsidered.… Foreign schemes give easier terms in the first years of occupation, the proportion of purchase money paid being in some cases only a half of what is required in England. The purchasing Clauses were regarded as an important feature of the Act when it was passed, and their failure, taken in conjunction with other facts, shows that their demands are too severe. I agree with this extract from that Report, that the lesson of the failure of the Act of 1908 was not that there is no desire or demand for ownership. It is that the demands made were too severe, and this Bill for the first time makes it possible for a man to become the owner of a small plot of land without putting down a large sum of capital to start with. Hon. Members opposite, I think, are quite right in saying there are many cases where farmers who have become the owners of their farms—many compelled to do so against their own desire—have suffered because they have had to sink capital in purchase which otherwise would have been available for the cultivation of the farm.

The position under the Bill is different from that. The position of the prospective purchaser of a small holding is different from the position of a tenant under the 1908 Act only in so far that under that Act he paid a Sinking Fund plus the rental value, bought the small holding, and at the end of that time it became the property of the County Council. The only additional amount the prospective purchaser as opposed to the tenant has to put down is what is commonly known as the landlord's outlay. That does not represent an amount of capital year by year, which would be very great if it was to be used for the purpose of the cultivation of that small holding.

Another point emphasised by hon. Members opposite is that we do not require men to own the land so long as they are given complete security of tenure as tenants. When I examine the Labour report on their policy, issued a short time ago, I am rather doubtful as to the value of that complete security to the tenant, if by chance we should ever live to see the day when the Labour party are in office again, because it contains these words: Present agreements, customs and conditions of tenancy will continue under public ownership so long as may be thought desirable. 5.0 P.M.

To my mind that makes the security of tenure of the tenant a much more doubtful proposition than the security of tenure of the man who actually owns his own land. We on this side of the House believe that there is a very great deal of truth in the words which were written about the end of the 18th Century by a prominent writer on agriculture, when he said: "The magic of property turns sand to gold. Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock and he will turn it into a garden." [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may jeer at that, but there is a great deal of truth in it. Other countries on the Continent have proved it to be a fact. Hon. Members opposite state that there are certain countries, and they mentioned Denmark, which found ownership undesirable and have given men possession as small tenants rather than as owners. I do not think, however, that the facts are as hon. Members opposite have stated them. Two Acts were passed in Denmark in 1919, which created tenants of small holdings; but the land which was so dealt with was either parochial land or glebe land and the areas affected were only something like 10,000 acres altogether.

After four years' experience of that, Denmark is reverting again to the system of providing land for smallholders who are to be the owners of the land they till and not the tenants. When we look at the actual number of smallholders who own their land in these countries, we can only draw the conclusion that they have found ownership to be the right and successful system. In Denmark, 95 per cent. of the small holdings are owned by the men who farm them. In Holland, over 56 per cent. of the holdings are farmed by the owners, and in Germany the proportion of occupying owners is over 86 per cent. We on this side welcome the Bill as providing for the first time means whereby the small man can become the owner of a small holding without being compelled to sink the money which will be useful to him in cultivating the land. We do not believe the result of it will be, as an hon. Member opposite said, the creation of a great number of pestiferous little landowners, but that it will have an important and valuable effect, a stabilising and steadying influence throughout the whole country.


The importance of this Debate has been due not so much to the actual fact of the introduction of these words into this Bill, but rather because a very large issue has been raised by the Minister of Agriculture and by hon. Gentlemen who spoke from the other side, that is, the question whether we are to institute peasant proprietorship in this country or not. I do not believe this Bill will have very much effect in the establishment of small holdings, and the percentage of peasant proprietors which it creates will therefore be a small one. But the principle is a very important one. The hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) challenged me because of the action I took with regard to Irish land. I may say that I was very doubtful about the Irish Land Purchase Act, and I took no active part in it one way or the other, either in criticising or in supporting it. But may I point out to him the difference that exists. In the Irish Land Purchase Act there was provision made for the purchase of land in Ireland by the tenants, as far as I can recollect, at 12½ years' purchase.


Oh no, more than that. It ranged from 12 years to 27 years, practically.


I was about to say that there was some land that ran to a higher figure. But what land would you get anywhere in this country at 12½ years' purchase? I say that a very considerable quantity of the land in Ireland was at a very low number of years' purchase.


I think the average was about 23 years' purchase.


The hon. Gentleman knows that country, and if he says the average was 23 years' purchase, I quite accept it; but the basis of it was a very considerable reduction of the rents in Ireland, a reduction which had gone on for a very considerable number of years, from 1881 onwards. There were wholesale reductions of rent all over Ireland, some of them very arbitrary, and the money was advanced, as far as I can recollect, at a very low rate of interest.


2¼ per cent.


And, in addition to that, the State gave a bonus of a considerable sum.




I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend for giving me the facts. He is a Daniel come to judgment. But is it conceivable to have a transaction of that kind in this country?


Why not?


If the hon. Gentleman were speaking on behalf of his party, I would close with him. In. Ireland you had a Court set up to revise the whole rents of the country; you had arbitrary reductions in many cases, you had purchase money advanced at the rate of 2¼ per cent, and there is £12,500,000 advanced straight out of the Treasury without any return at all. It is no use taking the case of Ireland unless you have a similar arrangement with regard to this country.


I only referred to Ireland as justifying the principle of using State money to purchase land for the holders.


But the principle depends entirely upon the application. If the hon. and learned Member claims that it has been quite a success in Ireland, which I doubt, I do not think that he has established his case.


It has been a success absolutely.


I will not be drawn into that matter, but I want to put it to the hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Lynn) that, if it has been a success in Ireland, that is because it has been completed under conditions in Ireland which no one would propose to apply to this country. No one is going to propose to cut down rents as arbitarily as you have cut them down in Ireland. Whether it has been a success or not in Ireland, it has been a success because you have been able to establish it at very low rents, at basic rates in regard to the rents; and very low rates of interest for the borrowed money. It is no use taking the case of Ireland unless you propose a similar transaction here, and you cannot do it. I understand from my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Sir R. Lynn) that the average is 23 years' purchase in Ireland. I doubt if you could get land in this country under 25 years' purchase.


22½ years' purchase is the average.


Taking it at that, you multiply £100 rent by 22½ years' purchase.


It is 22½ years net.


The right hon. Gentleman does not know the elements of the problem. When you speak about a number of years' purchase of land, it means upon the gross. That has been the whole trouble between the other side of the House and ours. Our point of view is that you ought to proceed upon the net, and if the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to say that that is a right thing to do, then I claim him as a brother and a friend.


I am not dealing with what is right or otherwise; I am dealing with the facts.


The right hon. Gentleman clearly is under the impression that at the present moment you deduct the whole of the outgoings when you come to years' purchase. There is management, which is 5 per cent.; there is, in addition, repairs, which are about 20 per cent. since the War; that is 25 per cent.; there is, in addition to that, the taxes and the tithe rents. He will find that there is only £05 left out of every £100, and that is putting it very high. Does he say that he can sell a farm when all you have got is 22½ years' purchase upon £65?


That is what the local authority has been paying on the-average for this land. That is my information.


The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong. I am speaking as a Solicitor who had considerable practice at one time in the, country, and I know that the years of purchase were upon the basis of the gross rental and that when you come to the net rental it runs to over 30 and sometimes 35 years' purchase. If you take the net rent—I believe that is the fair thing to do, but you do not do it, and that is one of the difficulties—the tenant would have to pay £2,250 upon the basis of 22½ years' purchase. At 5 per cent. that comes to £112. In addition to that, he has to pay the whole of the repairs. That is the difficulty which has arisen up to the present whenever a tenant farmer begins to buy his land. You met it in Ireland by the low rate of interest, and by the enormous reductions in rent from year to year, which took into account the fact of the tenant making the repairs. Therefore, you had the true basis in Ireland before you began to compute the years' purchase; but here yon have not the true basis. That is why you will find it an expensive transaction, and, when tenants of small holdings do not buy, they know that fact, and they know that it does not pay them. I will give another reason. In Scotland you have had the same system substantially as in Ireland of fixing rents and gibing statutory security of tenure. There is no demand for purchase there among the tenants who have all those conditions. In Ireland, you had a demand because you had a continuous conflict between landlords and tenants, partly racial, partly traditional, very largely religious. There, it was found necessary for the peace of Ireland to bring the whole system to an end. In the case of Scotland, where you have none of these conflicts, so long as you give the tenant farmer security of tenure and give him a fair rent, I found that there was a strong opposition to any policy of land purchase in Scotland at all. They may or may not have pre- ferred the county council as the landlord, or the State as landlord, but that is not what they were concerned about chiefly. What they were concerned about was that all the money they had to spare should go into working capital en their farms, and that they should not have to sink it in the purchase of the freehold.

Take the proposal of the Government. You will find that with £100 rent, even with an advance of nine-tenths, the tenant farmer has to find £120 or £130. He has to pay the lawyer. You cannot get rid of the lawyer in these matters. The moment you do that, you have to pay for stamps, and you have to borrow from the bank. There is anything from £100 to £150 for the smallholder to find. It is as much as he can do to find working capital for running his farm. There is no doubt about it, that where you have a good estate, where the rental is a fair one, where men can remain there generation after generation upon the farms without ever being turned out, where they know from experience that they will get fair terms, and where they know that if they cultivate the land well, nobody will raise the rent against them—any man would prefer that to owning the land himself. That is the case with the county councils. The county councils do not interfere with their tenants. I do not know a case of an unfair eviction on a county council farm.

It is all very well for my hon. Friend to talk about what may happen when the Labour party are in power. I do not believe that any Labour party or any other party dare incur the obliquy of turning out a good tenant from his farm for political reasons. If I were a candidate on the other side, there is nothing better that I would like than to see the other party committing that gross electoral blunder. He ought to encourage it now if he wants to have an electoral advantage. But it is not done. A Tory county council, or a Liberal county council, or a Socialist county council may come to the conclusion that a man more or less of their way of thinking is necessarily a more intelligent man, and, therefore, a better farmer. I have seen that with Tory landlords, and Tory agents. That is only human nature. But I do not believe that you will find that any party would commit the first-class error of turning men out of their farms, when they are farming well and decently and paying their rent, merely for political reasons. The result is, that once you become tenant of a county council your security is absolute.

The hon. Member has quoted the case of Denmark. He says that they have gone back upon the Act of 1910. If he says so, seeing that I have not verified the facts, I accept the statement which he makes; but it is no use quoting the case of Denmark and imagining that it is comparable to this country. It is no use even quoting the case of Ireland and imagining that it is comparable to this country. Denmark and Ireland are purely agricultural communities; this country is not. Even if we revive agriculture in this country, as some of us hope to see it revive, we shall never quite make this country an agricultural country in the sense that Denmark and Ireland are agricultural countries. The mere fact that we have coal in such prodigious quantities in this country will always make this an industrial country, and the fact that we have such gigantic seaports here will make this an industrial country in the main. There is a great difference between handing over the land of a country in a purely agricultural community to people who have been there and who constitute practically the whole industry of the country, and doing it in a country like ours, where industry is constantly encroaching upon the land, and where, whenever it does encroach upon the land, you will be creating fresh difficulties in the way of the acquisition of land by multiplying smallholders all over the community.

There is another reason why you cannot do it in this country. If you go to Denmark, you will find that, in the main, it is a country of small farmers. I should say, quoting from memory, that certainly 75 per cent. of the land of Denmark is owned by farmers who cultivate less than 100 acres. I should be very much surprised if it is not cultivated by farmers who cultivate 50 acres and less. I am not sure about Ireland, but I think to a very large extent that state of things is true of Ireland. Therefore, when you are creating freeholds there, you are creating a large number of small freeholds. What would you be doing here? I should say that one-fourth of the cultivated land of England is cultivated by a few thousands of tenant farmers. You would simply be handing over one-fourth of the cultivated land of England to 7,000 or 8,000 freeholders. At any rate, it is not a very large figure. If the Minister of Agriculture will look at the figures he will be amazed to find how few are the farmers who between them cultivate about one-fourth of the land of this country. To do that, is to perpetuate an inequality which would make the creation of small holdings almost impossible. It is very difficult to get small holdings now, when the land is only owned by, it may be, 20 or 30 owners in a particular community. If you multiply these freeholders, you will find that to get a small holding scheme through a county council would be next to impossible. Therefore, it would he a very great mistake.

Something has been said about France. I should like to know whether the hon. Member who mentioned France has really gone carefully into what is happening in France. Ownership in Denmark is new. It is a matter of the last 50 years. It has not been really tried and established. It gives complete security of tenure to a generation; but what has happened in France? What has happened in France is that, you are practically basing the land of France upon money-lending. You find that. a. tenant farmer has to make provision for one son, or it may he a daughter who is married to a farmer, and he has also to make provision for another, and sometimes a third. The farm is charged in order to raise money. The result is that very often on these small farms in France people are living under conditions which nobody in this country would ever tolerate. The land of France, in spite of the fact that there is a very industrious peasantry, is not producing anything comparable to its fertility—nothing like it.

The fact of the matter is, that up to the present you have only had a conflict of two systems. One is ownership and the other is tenancy under conditions that do not give security of tenure. The third system has not had a fair trial. It did not have a fair trial in Ireland because of long historical reasons which have nothing whatever to do with the industrial or economic question. There is no other country where the system of security of tenure has had a sufficiently prolonged experience in order to demonstrate its superiority over the system of land owned by the cultivator, or the other system. Wherever it has been tried upon good estates it has been successful. The difficulty with regard to ownership is that you cannot enforce good cultivation. It is essential in this country that we should increase the production of food. We must do that by giving security to the man that whatever money and effort he spends upon the land, he and his children will get the full benefit. We must also give him security that all the capital which he has, he puts into working the land and not into dead capital, such as the purchase of the freehold. We must also have the condition that the occupation of land should be subject to the legal obligation to cultivate. If we do not do that, we shall never raise cultivation in this country.

We are buying food in increasing quantities every year. I have called attention in this House, repeatedly, to the returns of the Smithfield Market. I wish the Clerk of the Corporation had sent a copy of that document to every Member of Parliament. Although hon. Members might not come to the conclusion that the schemes which my hon. Friends of the Labour party advance, or the schemes which I propose are good schemes for dealing with the problem, the document might rouse them to an appreciation of the importance of the urgency of the problem. There is not a week which does not show that we are buying four-fifths of our meat from abroad to feed the population of this great Metropolis. We are buying that meat not from the Empire but from abroad. Last year, we bought, I think, thousands of tons more than we did the preceding year in spite of the fact that trade was worse. What is wanted in this country is some scheme that will increase production. You will not increase production by forcing a man to divert his capital so that he has not capital for properly working his farm, and he has to borrow it from the bank. You start him on the money lending business, and then give him land without any condition at all with regard to cultivation.

The scheme of smallholdings has, on the whole, been a success where it has been tried under conditions of tenancy. The hon. Member said, "Ah! but you have picked tenants. You have picked land." These men, picked tenants and skilled tenants, according to the hon. Member, have been there for years upon the land and have never thought it worth while to buy their land up to the present. They are just the men, who, according to his own description, would do it if they thought it was to their advantage. They found it to their advantage to put the whole of their money into working capital, instead of buying the land. The right hon. Gentleman is on the wrong track because he has got wrong facts. I ask him to consider very carefully whether it is not better for him to encourage cultivation, with good sound security of tenure, rather than enter into this new venture which will never be successful in England whatever it has done elsewhere.


Unlike the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, my knowledge of agriculture is of the practical kind, whereas his is simply that of a politician. As he has said, quite fairly in his speech, I do not think we can compare the question of agriculture in a country like Ireland, where there is a large number of small holdings, to the position of agriculture in England, where there are many large holdings. The only point I want to make is that so far as agriculture in Ireland is concerned, nothing has done so much good for the country as the making of peasant proprietors, and I congratulate the Minister of Agriculture on the fact that he is trying to make peasant proprietors in England. Wherever it has been tried, in the north, south, east and west of Ireland, it has been a huge success. I know of what I am speaking. I know everything about agriculture from A to Z, having been brought up on a farm; I know all the difficulties of landlords and tenants. It is one of the things that the Socialist party do not know anything about. They are always talking about agriculture, but if you were to present them with a farm they could not cultivate it. I hope the Minister, with the experience of Denmark and every other country, and especially of Ireland, will go ahead, and make us many peasant proprietors as he can.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, and quite rightly, that as long as a. man does not own his farm, there is always a trouble that he will not cultivate it to the fullest extent. We have had that experience for 150 years in Ireland. Somebody, like some of the multi-millionaires who are now leading Socialists, would go out to Monte Carlo and lose a pile of money, and, then send a letter home to his agent telling him he must increase the rent of the farmer. The right hon. Gentleman says that the man who cultivates his farm best is the man who has the heaviest penalty imposed upon him, and for that reason I want to see every farmer made the owner of his farm. I do not see how a county council can carry out farming operations better than the average farmer, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman himself could carry out farming operations better than the experienced farmer. I think he is modest enough to admit that. The one thing for the farming industry in this country is to make as many peasant proprietors as you can. You will then find that farming will develop; farmers will take a greater interest in their work; and, after the experience of Ireland, if you make a man an owner of something, no matter what it is, it will certainly be an advantage.


There have been one or two allusions from the other side to the poor man. The lion. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) said that this Bill was going to be a real benefit to the poor man. I do not know quite what kind of poor man the hon. and learned Member had in view, but it would have been an advantage if, in addition to the one side of the cost which is shown in the Financial Resolution, we had had a memorandum showing the income of a poor man and what he would have to be able to pay in order to become an owner. I should like to refer to some figures given during the Debate when the Agricultural Wages Bill was introduced in 1924. Certain particulars as to the budget of a farm labourer were given and it was shown that out of a communal wage of 24s. a week, after the various expenses had been met, there was only ¾d. per meal left over for each member of a family consisting of the husband and wife and five children, aged from two years to eleven. I am sure that no Member of this House would desire to perpetuate a state of affairs where there is only ¾d. per meal left over. Wages have increased since then, but *she figures will still be altogether too low.

In the course of the same Debate Mr. George Edwards, who was then the Member for South Norfolk, gave details of the family budget for the week preceding that in which the Debate took place. He gave the whole of the items of the budget of a farm labourer, whose total income was 23s. 7d. per week. He showed that during that particular week coal cost 5s., bread 4s., beef 3s. 6d., milk is. 8d., butter 1s. 6d., and sugar 1s. 2¼d., for a man and wife and three children, and that after these expenses and others had been incurred there was 2s. 1½d. left to enable the man to meet rent, boots and clothing, for a family of five. As I have said, wages have increased since then, but there is no hon. Member who would suggest for a moment that this is anything like sufficient to maintain a proper standard of life for a farm labourer or anybody else. And even if wages have increased, they have not increased to such an extent as will allow for anything in the way of an increase in rent, or enable the farm labourer to provide the 10 per cent. towards the cost of his holding, and subsequently to contribute towards the rent, plus Sinking Fund for 60 years. These figures, which have never been contradicted, do show the utter impossibility of a poor man ever being able to provide funds in order to buy his small holding.


We have heard this evening of the experience of small holdings in Denmark and Ireland, and, if I may, I should like to speak from my experience of small holdings in England. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has said that what we want in this country is production. I absolutely agree with him in that, and I submit that this Bill, in so far as it. encourages ownership by the smallholder, will increase production upon small holdings. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) referred to the statement of the Minister of Agriculture, that there was no material difference between a small owner and a smallholder who was an occupier. He disagreed with the Minister, and I agree with him in disagreeing with the Minister, because there is a difference, a great difference, between a smallholder who is an owner, and a smallholder who is an occupier. If he went into the part of the country that I come from, which has a greater number of smallholders in proportion to its size than any other county in England—Ely—he would find the difference between a smallholder who is an owner and the smallholder who is a tenant.

The smallholder who is merely a tenant naturally, during the term of his tenancy, endeavours to get as much as he can out of his holding, but the smallholder who is an owner, or likely to become an owner, has a different outlook upon his small holding. It is in his interests to maintain the fertility of the holding, and he will put into it artificial fertilisers for the one purpose of improving the fertility of the soil, because he himself will be the gainer. He will constantly work to improve the small holding, and therefore produce the greater quantity of foodstuffs. As far as my experience goes, I am perfectly convinced that a small holder who is likely to become an owner is more efficient, more energetic in his holding than a man who is merely a tenant.


Since the beginning of this discussion there has been a constant evasion on the other side of the House of the direct question which was put to them during the more exciting days of 1909 and 1911, and I want the Minister of Agriculture, therefore, later on, if he will, to endeavour to reply to the question. Is it a fact that land will produce food best while it is rented by the tenant, or when the person who is cultivating it has to drive himself to the Bankruptcy Court in order to try and buy it? Grass will grow on the land quite irrespective of the conditions of tenancy or ownership of the soil. The argument put forward all through this Debate is that there is something magic about ownership which makes a man put more into the land than he otherwise would do. Let us look at the contention for a moment or two. I wonder if hon. Members opposite fully appreciate the argument that lies behind that statement.

Why is it that in the past men have been diffident in extracting out of the soil every ounce of its fertility when the land did not belong to them; diffident of exerting every ounce of strength when it was not their own property? The hon. Member who has just spoken has referred to Ireland, and said that it was the insecurity of the tenant and the enormous powers of the superior landlord that made him unwilling to put all he might into the land. That is unchallengable. Hon. Members opposite seem to dissent, but in Ireland the more an Irish farmer or agricultural labourer put into his land the higher his rent became in consequence, until you brought about the condition of things in Ireland in which the landowner became the lifelong enemy of the man on the soil. It was because of tyranny and the exactions of superior landlords that the tenants refused to put their best work into the land. It was in proportion to the amount of ownership established that they certainly became more interested in the soil, in using it. But hon. Gentleman opposite should be the last to cheer such a statement. It was only a desire to escape from the tyranny of the old landowner that made many small land users wish to become owners in Ireland. It is now unchallengeable that, given security of tenure—this has not been met—with no fear of a superior landowner making exactions on the user of the soil, a man will take as much, if not more, out of the land than he would by running himself into the Bankruptcy Court and in expending money to secure a piece of land—money that might be used to develop the land.

There is another argument which is insisted upon here, as it was insisted upon upstairs. It is with regard to Denmark. I want to take this Denmark business in hand for a moment, because there is a lot of slack talk about it. You cannot compare Denmark with this country in, this matter. In Denmark users of land for more than two centuries have been subject to a certain form of tax, and that tax has had a strange economic influence upon the owners of the laud of Denmark. Until you appreciate that fact, it is hopeless to drag into this House any comparison between Denmark and this country. Every user of land in Denmark was subject to what was called a hard corn tax. It was imposed after scientific analysis in a very crude manner years ago. It was imposed upon the land in this way. An examination of the soil was made, and it was computed how much hard corn could be produced from the soil, and the owner or user of the land was subject to the tax whether he produced that amount of produce or not.

The net result of a century or more of the influence of that tax was to compel the tenant to take the best he could out of the soil, because he was subject to the tax annually. In later years they changed this crude form of hard corn tax into a tax which would compare with what is known in this country as a site value tax. In this House and in Committee upstairs we have been treated to the argument that in Denmark there are so many more smallholders than in England. Of course there are. But I would remind the Minister that Denmark has this year and last year been busily promoting two Bills to transform the hard corn tax into a site values tax, and that every user of land in Denmark at the end of this year, whether owner or tenant, will be subject to a land values tax, whereas smallholders in this country wish to enjoy that immunity from land values taxation which has been enjoyed by their superiors in the past.

Let us come to the Minister. I know that he is new to a job which involves a great number of complications, and that a new man takes some time to grasp them. The right hon. Gentleman began by telling us to-day why it was necessary to have small owners in this Bill, and he used this argument—that in the past tenants had such an advantage over the small owner that in this Bill the best thing to do was to make more small owners. His argument was that in the past the tenant enjoyed the use of land at an annual rent which bore no relation to the capital value of the land, whereas the tenant who was anxious to become an owner had to advance a large sum of money in the. first instance and had to carry on his hack the cost of repairs, and so on in other words, that the hardships of those who were endeavouring to become small owners were so great and the advantages were so much in favour of tenants, that he thought it better to advance in the Bill a scheme for more small owners. It is a new form of logic.

It is true that as one reads the Bin one finds in it a very careful device. I do not know who has been the architect of the Bill, but he certainly is a most commendable servant to hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. They are going to play upon the psychology which, as it were, befogs the mind of the agricultural labourer into the belief that he is becoming something, that he is becoming an owner. They are to play upon that state of mind. They are telling this man, "Support this Bill and the party that has introduced it, and in 60 years you will be the owner of a piece of land in England." They tell him, "You can support the Bill full of optimism." The man is led to believe that he has a great outlook. Yes, he has great hopes that if at the age of 20 he takes advantage of the Bill, when he reaches the age of 80, God willing, he will be the owner of a hit of land in England.


Yes, 6 feet by 3 feet.


He is to be the owner after 60 years.

Brigadier-General WARNER

No; directly he pays the rent.


I wish hon. Gentlemen who interrupt would relieve me of their support at the moment. If a man fails to pay a fair interest the local authorities can displace him, so that for the duration of 60 years he is more or less a tenant, subject to the local authority and he does not become the owner until he has finally passed through 60 years' ordeal. During those 60 years the man will be rooted to the soil, still believing that the day will come when he will become an owner free from the exactions of the county councils or the superior landowners, trudging along with hopes for the future, subject to all sorts of adversities, putting all his capital into the undertaking. A ghastly prospect for a labourer with the fine idea of becoming an owner in 60 years! Superimposed upon that the Minister knows perfectly well that Clauses 7 and 8 of the Bill are nothing more nor less than long-drawn-out legal clauses, which are essential in a Bill of this kind in which you establish ownership. All these complications and legal enactments to safeguard the local authorities against the recalcitrant small- owner will, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has said, lead to a great deal of litigation on both sides. All of this money is being spent, not to advance agriculture in this country, not to increase the production of food, but because the Government are persistent in advocating peasant proprietorship against the security of tenure which could be easily established.

I do not think that the Amendment before the House will meet with any success, because the Government from the outset when they gave a hint of their policy—despite the. Minister's statement to-day that it was no part of the Government's policy to support the owner against the tenant or vice versa—have said that they were going to establish peasant proprietors. I say here, as I said in Committee, that the whole scheme is intended first of all to impose on the simple-minded agricultural labourer the idea that he is to get something. He is to be made to believe that finally he will become an owner of land in this country, as peasants are owners of land in France —France, the nursery ground of revolutions, the birthplace of so many advanced movements in the past. When the French in the agricultural areas were converted into smallowners they became naturally the reactionary element upon which the Conservative parties of France could depend. That is the spirit behind this Bill.

Our Amendment will meet with no success in the Division Lobby, but I tell Members opposite that I, for one, will be in many of their constituencies pointing out the facts. It will be our business to point out also that this proposal of the Government is significant of the times in which we are living, because the owners of land. in England know that the day is coming when they will be uprooted and dispossessed of a monopoly which they have held for centuries, and they are hoping to get out of that difficulty by parcelling out great areas of land to the local authorities, if the local authorities are simple enough to entertain the scheme. We will do nothing to help peasant proprietorship, but we will certainly do all that we can to get control of land, to give security of tenure to men who want some alternative to walking the streets and receiving the dofe. This Bill is the wonderful present which the Conservative party is offering to a destitute agricultural population in the hope that they will still continue to dominate that population as they have done in the past, but we on this side of the House are optimistic enough to believe that even in the brains of the agricultural labourer there is already a flickering of intelligence.


It is very difficult to follow the objections of some hon. Members opposite to peasant ownership. There was the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Wallhead). Is he aware that in Russia the whole of the agricultural system is based upon peasant ownership? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is. It is the peasant of Russia who is saving Russia from complete ruin to-day. If Russia ever comes back to a state of sanity and civilisation it will be due to the peasant owners of Russia. The crux of the speech of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was that he objected to peasant ownership because the moment a man owned land you were no longer able to control him and to force him to carry on his farming on certain defined lines. It seems to me grossly unfair that the industry of farming should be subject to any kind of control by State Departments or county councils or any other body.

6.0 P.M.

Other business people have not to submit to control of this kind. Why should farmers be compelled to do so? Under-lying the right hon. Gentleman's remarks there seems to he the idea that the farmers of this country are not able to do their job properly. The Liberal party are always ready to point to the farmers of Denmark or Norway and to say how splendidly those farmers do their work— just as hon. Members of the Labour party like to refer to Russia. They never see the skill and genius of their own people at home. I am one of those who believe that farming in England to-day is carried on in a highly efficient way and it is not right that farming alone should have to submit to this kind of control. If you try to control people by public authorities in this way, you do more harm than good. We had some experience during the War When we had the county agricultural authorities, and we know that, if they were asked to submit.

to that kind of control again, the farmers of this country would one and all object.

The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that the county agricultural authorities should be able to come down upon the farmers if the farmers did not cultivate the land in the way which these particular authorities regarded as the proper way, and that the authorities should have power to turn the farmers out of their farms. Would that be security of tenure? The right hon. Gentleman referred to France. I happen to know something of France, because I lived on a farm in Touraine for some years, and I know that every year France grows more wheat than is grown in Canada. I am not prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement as to the condition of farming in France where peasant ownership largely prevails. The right hon. Gentleman said that to-day, in England, farming is largely carried on under landlords who let their land to tenants, and who are unable to control the method of farming. He argued that therefore, less food is produced than would be produced if the land were under the control of county councils. The right hon. Gentleman says he has had experience as a country Solicitor. I do not think he can ever have read a farm agreement. Had he done so he would have known that it contains all kinds of restrictions and conditions to enforce good husbandry. I would remind hon. Members opposite that Rome, in the clays of its prosperity, had a great system of peasant ownership and when that system began to fall into decay, so also did Rome. This part of the Bill which makes peasant proprietorship possible is the best and most essential part of the Measure, and I shall therefore support it.


In extending any scheme of small holdings, we ought to take into consideration the type of individual who will make the best smallholder. I submit that the hest type of smallholder is the worker who is already engaged in agriculture. There is a demand for that type of worker in our Colonies, and the only way we can help to retain that type of worker—who is so much required in this country—is to give him the chance of getting a small holding. Under the scheme before us, the very type of individual who would make best use of the small holding will be excluded from getting it, because he is among the poorest of those on the land at the present time. He is to be asked to buy his small holding, and he will be in perpetual servitude to the moneylenders if this scheme goes through.


He can rent it if ho likes.


Yes, but there is to be included in the cost of rental, what would actually be the charges made by the moneylender.

Sir H. CAUTLEY indicated dissent.


I am prepared to admit as an individual that I have not yet learned everything in connection with small holdings. I have not yet learned everything in connection with agriculture, despite the fact that for several years I have been convener of an agricultural committee in a county which is one of the finest agricultural areas in Great. Britain. I am sure that the Minister, like every agriculturist, has been interested in this discussion, and more than interested in the statements made by the hon. Member for West Belfast (Sir R. Lynn). I am prepared to admit that what I have learned in connection with this subject has been learned since I left School, but we have the claim made by the hon. Member for West Belfast that he had learned everything about agriculture before he left School. That is what his statement amounts to, unless Dod's Parliamentary Companion is incorrect; because I find from that work that the hon. Member started journalism when he was 17 years of age, and has been editor of a newspaper since 1903. Yet we have the claim that he knows everything about agriculture seriously made here by this Member of the Tory party, the very party that did its utmost to keep back peasant proprietorship in Ireland and to maintain those millionaires to whom the hon. Member made such nice references.


Does the hon. Member recollect that the scheme for land purchase was carried through by George -Wyndham, and was initiated under Conservative auspices?


And your party turned Wyndham down, and killed the man.


It is equally true that every one of the big landowners who had to be fought in Ireland belonged to the Conservative party and those who still remain are staunch supporters of the Conservative party. However, I hope the Minister of Agriculture will take into consideration the statement of the hon. Member for West Belfast. Agriculture in this country is in a bad way. We want to give the best of education to all connected with agriculture, whether farmers or smallholders, and now we know that we have in our midst a man who knows everything about agriculture—one who has nothing to learn on the subject. I feel sure we have the wrong person as Minister of Agriculture. The present Minister would be the last individual in the House to claim that he knows everything about the subject. Even the experts in his Department would admit that it is a case of "the more they know the less they know" in connection with agriculture. Now that we have this claim by the hon. Member for West Belfast, I sincerely trust that the Amendment will be carried, and, that, even should it be lost, the Minister will have the hon. Member for West Belfast as one of his colleagues in the near future—the man who knows all about agriculture.


I do not wish to intervene in the Debate for any length of time, and I would rot have risen at all had not the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren), in the course of his speech, drawn certain inferences from the state of land owning in Ireland. There seems to be a gap in the hon. Member's information on this subject. It is quite true that there was a time in Ireland when farming suffers owning to the fact that rents could be raised arbitrarily. But the hon. Member proceeded to draw a certain inference front that fact in which I submit he was wrong. He must remember that in 1881, what was known as the Irish land Art was passed. That gave security of tenure gave the tenant certain rights and fixed the rent which was to be imposed upon the tenant. Yet that Measure did not bring satisfaction to anybody and, after 20 years of that system, it was necessary for George Wyndham to eVolve a scheme of land purchase. The system which the hon. Member advocates has been tried and has failed. The root fallacy is that the valuation is precise. It is not. Once you have people going into the Courts to have their rents fixed, you have different valuers taking up different views, and you have the good farmer treated on a different footing from the bad farmer. You have different Courts having different ideas as to the proper methods of valuation.

What the farmer wants is something to fix the matter definitely. When he is the owner he knows where he is and that if he puts work into the land the advantage comes to himself. If he even had a rent charge fixed on the land which would not vary, his position would be better than if he had a rent liable to change. I think that consideration should be brought to the notice of the hon. Member opposite who must see that the deductions which he drew by no means follow from the state of affairs which formerly prevailed in Ireland. I do not wish to go into the controversial position taken up by the last speaker, I only point to the facts of land tenure in Ireland and the results of experience there, and ask the hon, Member if he draws again upon Irish experience to use the whole of the material and not only a part of it.


Will the hon. Member allow me to point out that when referring to Ireland I was referring to the time when there was no restriction on the action of the superior landlord in regard to increasing rents. I used the argument that the precarious condition of the tenants in those circumstances, made many of them look to peasant proprietorship as a means of escape.


I think it is time that those of us who represent industrial constituencies should have some say on matters affecting the land. I happen to be an Irishman by birth and I spent a considerable portion of my early days in Ireland. I know something about landlordism in its various phases—some of them I would like to forget and a good deal of them I hope to remember. But I rise now to ask where do we come in— those who represent the industrial worker? In these discussions upon land we are always left out; we are nobody's children. These discussions always centre round the farmer, the labourer, and the landowner. The only time we are called upon is when "your King and country need you." Our rights in the soil and our claim to the land in which we were born sink into insignificance beside the vested interests which various people hold in the land of Great Britain. I live in a borough which, 40 years ago, was practically a village. It has grown to be one of the largest towns in Great Britain. We are paying in ground rents every year £2,000,000 to absentee landlords for the right to live in our own borough which has been built up by the industry of our people. The River Thames happens to flow past us and great clocks and factories have been put up along the riverside. When we come to this House we are told about security of tenure and good husbandry. What about the good husbandry of the people in the factories and workshops who are producing wealth? After all, the agriculturist lives upon the town worker and the town worker lives upon the agriculturist. One is essential to the other. Why this differentiation? The soil of England belongs to the people of England and not to a section of them.

Any advantage that can be gained from the soil should be the common property of all the people of Great Britain. We are told my Lord Tom Noddy and my Lord Somebody McGregor must have all the rights, and the Government say: "In order to maintain our position, in order that we may be able to keep the present opportunity, we are going to give a little bit of sugar to the bird." The bird is the agricultural labourer, and he always sings the song von want him to: God bless the squire and his rotations, And keep us in our proper stations. So you say you will give him a hit of land for himself, and the end of it all will be that, when he has reached a certain period of his life, he will have six feet by three of land. That will be his share of the soil. France has been referred to, but 60 per cent. of the soil of France belongs to the bankers now, 20 per cent. belongs to big proprietors, and there are only 20 per cent. of the peasant proprietors of France who can claim their souls as their own. That has been proved by official figures demonstrated before the Chamber of Deputies, and yet we are asked to walk into this parlour. The policy of the Conservative party is, of course: "We have to hang on a little bit longer, and if we do not hang on now, we shall hang later on," and we are hanging them, at Hull and other places. Ire- land has been referred to, but I do not want to talk about Ireland, because I would like to forget the times I spent in it as a boy, in the workhouse.

I would like to remind some of our hon. Friends opposite that, as far as land is concerned, what they want to do with the labourers is to put them in pawn. That is the proposal in this Bill. The man who wants a bit of land is to be the owner. I have been an owner, not of land, but of something else, and I wish to Heaven I could get rid of the ownership. Ownership is not everything. You can be an owner and be in debt. We want ownership with security, but there is only one kind of ownership with security, and that is communal ownership—the people owning their own country in the interests of all the people. That is the only kind of ownership that matters. The only thing we own now, of course, is the National Debt, and we can all hang on to that. The only people who want us not to get rid of it are the bankers and the financiers. The National Debt is ours all the time. They never object to that being made common property, but when we ask for the common ownership of the soil, they say: "It cannot be done! Private ownership is the thing, and you have to encourage a man to put his best into the soil," but

what does the owner put into the soil? What do the present owners put into the soil? They put the worker into it, and that is where they want to keep him, down with his nose to the ground all the time, and when he has done 60 years of it: Rattle his bones over the stones! He's only a pauper whom nobody owns!

That is the position the worker is going to be in. So far as some of us are concerned, all that we say is that the only solution of this problem is public ownership of the soil, the nation to be the owner of the soil and those who work for the nation to get their proper return from the soil. That can only be done when we have the land made what it ought to be, not a land to fight for when you make wars, but a land to work for when we have peace. That will be the time when we shall have a real nation, but now you are only playing about with it and trying to obscure the issue, one party proposing one thing and another party proposing another. There is only one real solution of all these problems, and that is that the land shall belong to the people, and the people shall belong to the land.

Question put, "That the words buy or 'stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 215; Noes, 119.

Division No. 511.] AYES [6.20 p.m.
Acland.Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Edmondson. Major A. J.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James I. Butler, Sir Geoffrey Elliot, Major Waiter E.
Ainsworth, Major Charles Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Ellis, R. G.
Albery, Irving James Caine, Gordon Hall Elvedon, Viscount
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Cautley, Sir Henry S. Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s,.M.)
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S) Everard, W. Lindsay
Astbury, Lieut., Commander F. W. Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Falle, Sir Bertram G.
Atholl, Duchess of Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Fanshawe, Commander G. D.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood) Fermoy, Lord
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Christie, J. A. Fielden, E. B.
Balniel, Lord Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Finburgh. S.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Clarry, Reginald George Forestier Walker, Sir L.
Barnett, Major sir Richard Clayton, G. C. Foster, Sir Harry S.
Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Cobb, Sir Cyril Foxcroft Captain C. T.
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Fraser, Captain Ian
Bennett, A. J. Cockerill, Brig. -General Sir G. K. Fremantle, Lieut. -Colonel Francis E.
Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish. Cohen, Major J. Brunei Ganzoni, Sir John
Betterton, Henry B. Cope. Major William Gates, Percy
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham
Blundell, F. N. Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) Grace, John
Boothby, R. J. G. Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Graham. Fergus (Cumberland, N.)
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Grant, Sir J. A.
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Curzon, Captain Viscount Grattan-Doyle, Sir K.
Braithwaite, A. N. Dalkeith, Earl of Greene, W. P. Crawford
Brass, Captain W. Davidson, J. (Hertf'd. Hemel Hempst'd) Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Grotrian, H. Brent
Briscoe, Richard George Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Guinness, Rt. Hon. Waiter E.
Brittain, Sir Harry Davies, Dr. Vernon Gunston, Captain D. W.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Dawson, sir Philip Hacking, Captain Douglas H.
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Dean, Arthur Wellesley Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Drewe, C. Hanbury, C.
Buckingham, Sir H. Eden, Captain Anthony Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)
Haslam, Henry C. Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)
Hawke, John Anthony Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Headlam, Lieut. -Colonel C. M. Meyer, Sir Frank Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Welden) Streatfield, Captain S. R.
Henderson Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle) Mansell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Stuart, Hon, J. (Moray and Nairn)
Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by) Moreing, Captain A. H. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid
Hills, Major John Walter Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Tasker, Major R. Inigo
Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Murchison, C. K. Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone) Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)
Holt. Capt. H. P. Neville, R. J. Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Hopkinson, A, (Lancaster, Mossley) Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.) Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'and, Whiteh'n) Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Waddington, R.
Hume, Sir G. H. O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton) Wallace, Captain D. E.
Huntingfield, Lord Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)
Hurd, Percy A. Perkins, Colonel E. K. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Hurst Gerald B. Perring, Sir William George Warrender, Sir Victor
Hutchison. G. A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's) Peto, G. (Somerset, Frame) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Pilditch, Sir Philip Wells, S. R.
Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Power, Sir John Cecil Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.
Knox, Sir Alfred Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R. Preston, William Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Price, Major C. W. M. Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)
Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Raine, W. Winby, Colonel L. P.
Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th) Ramsden, E. Windsor-dive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Lord, Walter Greaves Reid, D. D. (County Down) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Lougher, L. Rentoul, G. S. Wise, Sir Fredric
Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Rhys, Hon. C. A. U. Withers, John James
MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Rice, Sir Frederick Womersley, W. J.
Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Richardson. Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y) Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)
MacIntyre, Ian Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
McLean, Major A. Sandeman, A. Stewart Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Macmillan, Captain H. Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustavo D. Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Savery, S. S. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Macquisten, F. A. Shepperson, E. W. Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)
MacRobert, Alexander M. Slaney, Major p. Kenyon
Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Makins, Brigadier-General E. Smithers, Waldron Major Hennessy and Captain
Malone, Major P. B. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Margesson.
Adamson. W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Harris, Percy A. Ritson, J.
Attlee. Clement Richard Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)
Baker. J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Hayday, Arthur Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R,. Elland)
Baker, Walter Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Barnes, A. Hirst, G. H. Scrymgeour, E.
Barr. J. Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Batey, Joseph Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield) Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) John, William (Rhondda. West) Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Briant, Frank Johnston. Thomas (Dundee) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Bromfield, William Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Bromley, J. Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Snowden. Rt. Hon. Philip
Brown. James (Ayr and Bute) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Stamford, T. W.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Jones, T. I. Mardy (Ponty pridd) Stephen, Campbell
Charleton, H. C. Kelly, W. T. Sutton, J. E.
Clowes, S. Kennedy. T. Taylor, R. A.
Cluse, W. S. Kirkwood, D. Thome, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E. V
Clynes, Rt. Hon John R. Lansbury. George Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Compton, Joseph Lawrence, Susan Thurtle, Ernest
Connolly, M. Lawson, John James Tinker, John Joseph
Cove, W. G. Lee. F. Townend, A. E.
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities) Lindley, F. W. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Livingstone, A. M. Varley, Frank B.
Day, Colonel Harry Lowth, T. Viant, S. P.
Dennison, R. Lunn, William Wallhead, Richard C.
Duncan, C. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon) Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Dunnico, H. MacLaren, Andrew Wostwood, J.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J
Fenby, T. D. MacNeill-Weir, L, Whiteley, W
Gardner, J. P. March, S. Wiggins, William Martin
Georne, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd Maxton, James Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Gosling, Harry Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Palsley) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Montague, Frederick Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Greenall, T. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield. Attercliffe)
Greenwood. A. (Nelson and Colne) Murnin, H. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Nayler, T. E. Windsor, Walter
Groves, T. Oliver, George Harold Wright, W.
Grundy, T. W. Paling, W. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Hall. F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Potts, John S. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hamilton. Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Purcell, A. A. Mr. Hayes and Mr. B. Smith.
Hardie, George D. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)