HC Deb 30 November 1926 vol 200 cc1027-34

(1) Where a complaint is made to the Minister (by any person or persons in respect of whom a county council have failed to provide a small holding) that the county council in question have failed to exercise their powers under the provisions of this part of this Act (in a case or cases where those powers ought to have been exercised) the Minister may cause a public local inquiry to be held.

(2) If after holding such an inquiry the Minister is satisfied that there has been such a failure on the part of the county council, the Minister may declare the council to be in default and may make an Order directing the council to do such things as may be mentioned in the Order for the purpose of remedying the default.

(3) An Order made by the Minister under this Section shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made.

(4) An Order made by the Minister under this Section shall be enforced by mandamus.—[Mr. Buxton.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

The House will remember that the former small holdings system, established under the Act of 1908, provided, as its main method, investigation by Small Holdings Commissioners, and not only investigation coupled with surveys, but action by the Commissioners, as a normal method of establishing small holdings. Now we have arrived at a further stage, when civilian holdings are to be set going again, and the Minister is proposing the very radical operation of abolishing the Small Holdings Commissioners altogether. I think he has spoken of divesting the Government of power in this connection, and the reason he gave for bidding goodbye to the Commissioners was that the situation had changed, that 20 years ago people were doubtful whether the county councils would show much concern about small holdings, and that in subsequent years they had proved themselves willing to act, and, therefore, that experience showed we could do without the Commissioners. I submit that experience, though in many ways in that direction, has not been adequate to allow us to come to that decision, and I think we can test it in this way: If we ask ourselves what would have happened had there been no Commissioners in existence, it is very clear that the history of small holdings, meagre as it is, would have been very much more meagre still, and it seems to me that the proposal of the Minister is really dangerous. You do not know what might follow if any power of ginger were removed from the Ministry. The Minister himself might find, after a further term of office, that this Bill produced stagnation. Is not that really, from a perfectly non-party point of view, what is, if not likely to happen, what may possibly happen, and might not the House be filled with regret that unnecessarily all machinery had been removed which would supply the stimulus required?

It is not that county councils would resent coercion. It is not coercion; it is much more of the nature of machinery for bringing publicity to bear upon what is done in the counties. Without reflecting on the action of any backward counties, we all know that enthusiasm is apt to be very moderate indeed for the cause of small holdings in a great many meritorious counties, and surely everyone must see that this is a danger to be guarded against. Some machinery, whatever it is, is needed, and the machinery that I submit is a machinery adapted to the new situation. You might propose simply to leave the Act of 1908 in force, in so far as it supplies a system of Small Holdings Commissioners, but that would be, in phraseology at all events, rather contradictory to the spirit of the Bill, which rightly, in one respect, establishes now greater local option for the county councils. Cannot the Minister give us some plan fitted to the new situation which will guard against this danger, and, without a derogatory attitude to county councils, make it sure that publicity is secured and that there is not a bad breakdown of the new system? What I suggest is that we should have a system where the Minister comes in as the responsible person, the Commissioners disappear, and you have a plan by which, in a flagrant case, the Minister might allow a public inquiry to be granted to local complainants, and that, following that, it should be possible for the Minister to take action and charge the county councils.


In proposing this new method of compulsion, the right hon. Member for Northern Norfolk (Mr. Buxton) suggests that it is not really very drastic, but more in the nature of persuasion. Seeing that it includes the very extreme methods of mandamus, I really cannot agree. I am surprised that anyone with the right hon. Gentleman's experience of the happy relations which generally exist between Government Departments and local authorities could imagine that we should really get any advantage by such a method as he proposes. The Bill is framed with the object of working by a democratic method. We rely for the provision of these small holdings on the local authorities carrying out the wishes of the areas which they represent. It is quite true that, in the Act of 1908, Small Holdings Commissioners were set up, with very drastic powers, but in only one case were those powers used. In those days, the financial position of the local authority in providing small holdings was very different, and the whole scheme was largely experimental, but now, when 18 years' experience of the scheme has been gained, we believe that, with the generous terms which we are now offering to the local authorities, it will be wiser to rely on working the schemes by Parliament and local authorities both being responsible to their constituents, and both contributing their due share freely towards the provision of small holdings. I cannot, therefore, accept this proposed new Clause.


It seems to me that the Minister has given no reason at all why there should be a distinction here between what the county councils are to do and what is already permitted to any six ratepayers in a local area—namely, to petition the Ministry in case a council has not provided the allotments that they think ought to be provided. There is no question here, I think, of any mandamus. The Clause does not suggest that the Minister should necessarily agree to the inquiry. It says "the Minister may cause."


Look at Sub-section (4):— An Order made by the Minister under this Section shall be enforced by mandamus.


Yes, but do not let us get on quite so fast. In the first place, there is an appeal to the Minister, and then, if, on the grounds of that appeal, the Minister be satisfied that an inquiry ought to take place, he may cause that inquiry to be held. But no Minister, I take it, would ever for one moment suggest or agree to the holding of an inquiry, unless he was perfectly satisfied that there were good grounds, and that the council acted in a reactionary manner. This is an entirely permissive Clause, and we are asking for the protection of the Minister against a reactionary county council. May I further point out, that it is not only in connection with allotments, but there have been repeated cases, as I pointed out in Committee, where the President of the Board of Education has been obliged to take action against education authorities who were not complying with what he regarded as the educational requirements for that particular district, and here we are only asking that there should be an appeal from the locality where people think allotments should be provided, and the county council have not acceded to that wish. We are only asking that some kind of appeal should be allowed, as in other cases.


I am very much surprised that the Minister is not prepared to accede to this proposal, and is departing from a step which, I understand, ho has taken in regard to sheep scab, where an appeal is allowed. The Minister in opposing this new Clause said the small holdings would be worked in future by county councils and Parliament. What I would like to know is, what Parliament has got to do with the provision of small holdings, except to provide money when it is asked for by a county council? As far as any urge upon the county authority by a Government Department is concerned, there is going to be none whatever. I am never one to advocate unnecessary interference with an up-to-date local authority by a Government Depart- ment, but there are certain authorities who may be regarded as backward in the small-holding movement, and the very class for whom small holdings are intended, that section of the community for which the Acts of 1908 and 1919 were put on the Statute Book, and the class which desires small holdings, is very sparsely represented upon county authorities, which will have to administer this Bill when it becomes an Act. It is very well known that membership of a county council is so expensive that a man without any financial backing of a union, or a man who has not considerable private means, finds it absolutely impossible to spare the time or loss of wage to attend county meetings, and to bear the cost of railway travel.

The Minister may say, "Well, but the Department appoints certain representatives upon the Small Holdings Committee." That may be true, but I am not particularly keen about the initiative taken by co-opted members on county authorities. Elected representatives are needed to push small holdings on local authorities. I can quite understand that with some county authorities a man does not stand much chance of getting a small holding, if he happens to be handling a snickle, that is not altogether a first-class testimonial for him to become the occupant of a small holding. As far as the administration of the Acts of 1908 and 1919 are concerned, my experience is that the powers in those Acts have never been fully exercised, but there has always been this urge behind the local authorities, that if there were a demand in an area, and the authority was not doing something reasonable to meet it, there was some pressure which could he put by the Government Department to see that the applicants received fair

treatment and consideration. In this Bill the small holding movement has been handed over completely and entirely to county councils. I have no objection, as long as they are of a first-class character, but some are very backward in regard to the provision of small holdings, and the very class for whom it is intended has the least representation on the county authority.

I think the Government are doing a very ill-service to people who desire small holdings in washing their hands altogether of any compulsory powers. In fact, if I may say so with all respect, the Government seem to be encouraging in county authorities a timidity which, unfortunately, the Government are exhibiting with regard to everything concerning a forward and constructive movement in the great agricultural industry of this country. I am very sorry the Government have run away from a position which was absolutely satisfactory under the Acts of 1908 and 1919.


I think it is not only timidity on the part of the Government, but even a sign of bad faith as far as small holdings are concerned in the action which they are taking on this proposed new Clause. Surely the opportunity provided by this Clause should be in the hands of the Government where a county council refuses to do its best for those who are demanding small holdings. It will be for the country to recognise that the Government, while they are bringing forward such a Measure, are leaving out of it the opportunity to enforce the demand that is being made in all parts of the country at the present time.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 96; Noes, 178.

Division No. 510.] AYES. [3.51 p.m.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Henderson, T. (Glasgow)
Barnes, A. Day, Colonel Harry Hirst, G. H.
Barr, I. Dunnico, H. Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)
Batty, Joseph Fenny, T. D. Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)
Binn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Gardner, J. P. John, William (Rhondda, West)
Briant. Frank Graham, Rt. Hon. Win (Edin., Cent.) Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)
Bromfield, William Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)
Brown. James (Ayr and Bute) Groves, T. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Grundy, T. W. Kelly, W. T.
Charleton. H. C. Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)
Clowes, S. Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Kirkwood. D.
Cluse, W. S. Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Lawrence, Susan
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Hardie, George D. Lawson, John James
Connolly, M. Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Lee, F.
Cove, W. G. Hay day, Arthur Lindley, F. W.
Cowan, D, M. (Scottish Universities) Hayes, John Henry Lowth, T.
Lunn, William Salter, Dr. Alfred Varley, Frank B.
MacDonald, Rt. Hon.J. R. (Aberavon) Scrymgeour, E. Viant, S. P.
MacLaren, Andrew Sexton, James Wallhead. Richard c.
MacNeill-Weir, L. Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness) Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. O. (Rhondda)
March, S. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe westwood, J.
Maxton, James Smith, Rennie (Penistone) Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Montague, Frederick Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip Whiteley, W.
Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Murnin, H. Stamford, T. W. Williams, C. P. (Denbigh. Wrexham)
Paling, W. Stephen, Campbell Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Potts, John S. Sutton, J. E. Williams, T. (York. Don Valley)
Purcell, A. A. Taylor, R. A. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Thome, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.) Windsor, Walter
Ritson, J. Thorne, W. (West Ham, plaistow) Wright, W.
Roberts, Rt. Hon. F.O.(W.Bromwlch) Thurtle, Ernest
Robinson, W. C. (York, W.R.,Eltand) Townend, A. E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Saklatvala, Shapurjl Treveiyan, Rt. Hon. C. P. Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.Charles Edwards.
Acland-Troyto, Lieut.-Colonel Frece, Sir Walter de Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Agg-Gardner,'Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Fremantle. Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.
Ainsworth, Major Charles Ganzoni, Sir John Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)
Alexander, E. E, (Leyton) Gates, Percy Moore-Brabazon Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Goff. Sir Park Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Grace, John Murchison, C. K.
Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W. Graham, Fergus (Cumberland N.) Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Grant, Sir J. A. Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Greene, W. P. Crawford Penny, Frederick George
Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.) Grotrian, H. Brent Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)
Bennett, A. J. Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish- Gunston, Captain D. W. Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Betterton, Henry B. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Pielou, D. P
Blundell, F. N. Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon a Rad.) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton
Boothby, R. J. G. Hanbury, C. Preston, William
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent) Price, Major C. W. M.
Bowyer, Capt, G. E. W. Haslam, Henry C. Raine, W.
Braithwaite, A. N. Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. Rawson, sir Cooper
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Rentoul, G. S.
Briscoe, Richard George Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Brittain, Sir Harry Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Rice, Sir Frederick
Brocklebank, C. E. R, Hilton, Cecil Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Hoare, Lt.-Cot. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Brown, Maj. D. C.(N'thTd., Hexham) Hogg, Rt. Hon.Sir D.(St.Marylebone) Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y) Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard Savery, S. S.
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Holt, Captain H. P. Shepperson, E. W.
Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng: Universities) Skelton, A. N.
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Hopkinson, A. [Lancaster, Mossley) Smithers, Waldron
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Hudson, Capt. A. u, M.(Hackney. N.) Sprot, Sir Alexander
Campbell, E. T. Huntingfield, Lord Stanley,Col. Hon. G. F.(Will'sden, E.)
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Hurd, Percy A. Streatfield, Captain S. R.
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Hutchison, G. A. Clark(Midl'n & P'bl't) Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J.A. (Birm, W.) lliffe, Sir Edward M. Them, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Jackson. Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)
Churchman, Sir Arthur C. Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. O Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Cohen, Major J. Brunei Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Vaughan-Morgan. Col. K. P.
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) Knox, Sir Alfred Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Curzon, Captain Viscount Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green) Warrender, Sir Victor
Daikeith, Earl of Lougher, L. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Davidson, J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Wells, S. R.
Davies, Maj O. Geo. F. (Somerset,Yeovil) Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Lynn, Sir R. J. Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)1
Davies, Dr. Vernon MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Winby, Colonel L. P.
Drewe, C. MacIntyre, Ian Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Eden, Captain Anthony Macmillan, Captain H. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Edmondson, Major A. J. McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John Wise, Sir Fredric
Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington) Macquisten, F. A. Womersley, W. J.
Elliot, Major Walter E. Mac Robert, Alexander M. Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)
Elveden, Viscount Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel- Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Makins, Brigadier-General E. Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) Malone, Major P. B. Worthington-Evans. Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Everard, W. Lindsay Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Margesson, Capt. D.
Fielden, E. B. Marriott, Sir J. A. R. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.— 14;
Finburgh, S. Meyer, Sir Frank Major Cope and Captain Lord
Foxcroft. Captain C. T. Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark) Stanley.
Fraser, Captain lan Mitchell. W. Foot (Saffron Walden)