§ "Where a county council is the owner of land let as an existing small holding and the tenant thereof is the occupier of other land which makes his total holding greater in area or value than a small holding as defined by this Act, and the land owned by the county council and leased from it by the tenant is required for the provision of a small holding, then the county council may resume possession of the land without incurring liability for compensation for disturbance under Section twelve of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923.—[Mr. Basil Peto.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. B. PETO
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause is designed to remove what has been proved to be a difficulty in working the existing Small Holdings Acts. Certain circumstances were brought to my knowledge by the surveyor of a small holdings committee in a northern part of Devonshire. It is to people who have come into contact with the practical administration of small holdings legislation that we should look for guidance in our difficulties when we are passing an amending Bill. I am informed that instances have arisen in that part of Devonshire in which tenants of small holdings under the council have purchased or become tenants of other land, and that the aggregate of their land, that is, the land held as a small holding and the other land, is larger than the statutory definition of a small holding. I would remind the House that the size of small holdings is increased by this Bill, is, in fact, doubled; the maximum of £50 is increased to £100, which would make a similar addition in the acreage. In spite of that, however, the difficulties will continue to exist, and I will give the House one practical instance of a case to-day which illustrates exactly what I want to do by this Clause. The surveyor writes to me:I have a case in mind at present where a tenant has 19 acres of ours and is, in addition to our land, farming 100 acres. Our only method of obtaining possession of the 19 acres is to serve notice, and pay compensation for disturbance, under Section 12 of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, of a sum approximately £40, a thing we cannot afford to do.1036 4.0 P.M.
That means, of course, the county council. The object of the Bill is to provide small holdings and not to provide increased holdings for people who are farmers and not in any sense of the word any longer smallholders. It appears quite clear that it would facilitate the progress of the movement if difficulties were not put in the way of the county council resuming possession of small holdings which are required by other bona fide smallholders by the provision of Section 12 of the Act of 1923, which, of course, provides for compensation for disturbance. I do not wish to deal at any length with that part of the question, but there is no question of doing away with any of the compensation to which the tenant may be entitled for improvements on the holdings. It applies only to compensation for disturbance provided by Section 12 of the Act of 1923. The House will notice that I have very strictly limited this New Clause to the specific case I have detailed to the House. I am not opening the door to the possibility of turning out people without compensation for disturbance. I am only giving power in certain specific cases under certain specific circumstances to a county council who are providing land for small holdings to be able to resume possession of land already let to tenants without paying, under the Act of 1923, compensation for disturbance.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
I beg to second the Motion.
I need not add anything to what my hon. Friend has said, beyond emphasising the point that compensation for improvements is not in any way touched by this Clause. It is simply compensation for disturbance, when the farmer is using the land for purposes not provided for, such as using it as part of a large farm instead of a small holding.
My hon. Friends are proposing to make a very serious discrimination in the law against the statutory small holder. At present the statutory smallholders number about 30,000, and there are probably somewhere near 240,000 other holdings up to 50 acres. Under private landlords, if smallholders receive notice to quit for any reason except bad farming or a 1037 breach of covenant, they are entitled to compensation for disturbance. The reason for that compensation is obvious. They are inevitably put to expense. The expenses are defined in Section 12 of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, as being thosein connection with the sale or removal of his household goods, implements of husbandry, fixtures, farm produce or farm stock on or used in connection with the holding, and shall include any expenses reasonably incurred by him in the preparation of his claim.Why on earth should we withdraw that right from the statutory smallholder? If the tenant who rents 18 acres—to take the figures given by my hon. Friend—from a private owner, gets notice to quit just because he has other land bringing him above the small holding limit, nobody would dream of taking him out of the general law of compensation, and it does seem to me that the proposal of my hon. Friend would be a cruel penalty on just that class of successful smallholder whom we all want to encourage. He begins in a small way. He could not have got the small holding if he had had other land of that kind. Surely we do not want to punish him for taking that other land and making a success of his holding. I know there has been a good deal of feeling among officials of local authorities in connection with this matter, but I think they cannot have considered the result of the Amendment which they suggest. It was brought to my notice some time ago by a local authority, and I arranged for it to be considered by the County Councils' Association. I think we really ought to be guided by them in this matter. After a careful examination of the case, they did not see their way to endorse it, and I think my hon. Friend will be well advised to adopt the same view.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.