HC Deb 09 July 1930 vol 241 cc434-41

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to restore to the nation, all land, minerals, rivers, streams and tributaries. I do so because I have a profound belief that no person can he free as long as land, air or water are privately owned Because I hold that belief I attempted in 1924 to introduce a similar Bill in the House of Commons, but on that occasion I was, perhaps, unfortunate in using many Scripture illustrations, because, sometimes, Scripture is not an acceptable doctrine in certain circles in society. On this occasion I do not intend to use Scriptural illustrations, but I will quote the opinion of one of the finest economists of the world as regards the right to free land and air and water. John Locke, it cannot be denied, is a very eminent authority and he wrote in his famous work: No man can ever have a just claim over the life of another by right of property in land. Therefore, as long as people have rights of property in land, persons who have none are subject to the will, whim and caprice of those who own the land, and that ownership, it seems to me, interferes with the natural freedom of the people of our realm. It is a very strange fact that years ago a very large part of our land was commonly owned. I have had the privilege of looking through some records of the House of Lords dealing with the 18th century, and I find page after page of Acts of Parliament passed in that period enclosing the common lands of the people. Up to 1760 there were 244 Enclosure Bills; in the next 40 years there were 654, and from 1792 to 1816 there were 1,491. These were legalised expropriations of the common lands of the people and they strengthened the private ownership of land in this kingdom. There is an old Saxon proverb which says, A landless man is an unfree man. I do not think anybody can dispute that. Bishop Nulty, in one of his pastoral charges, has said: The land of every country common property of the people country. As most people are landless in this Kingdom, it must be the case that their land has been taken from them, and the object of this Bill is to restore the land to the people—to all the people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am very glad to notice that the recent singing of "The Land Song" has evidently converted some of my hon. Friends opposite who voted against this Bill in 1924. I do not want to indulge in politics if I can help it on this matter, because this is a right involving life and death to our people and it is above and beyond politics. The land is God-given and man-stolen. The Bill seeks to restore to the people what has been taken from them, and I am very glad to hear hon. Members opposite cheering so loudly, because they will find that one of the greatest Conservative minds in the world, the late Mr. Gladstone, made this observation. [Interruption.] It was in 1879. [Interruption.]. I hope hon. Members opposite do not seek to repudiate the finest statesman of that period. Mr. Gladstone said: I freely own that compulsory expropriation is a thing which is admissible and even sound in principle. [Interruption.] Well, your god said that, and I am simply repeating his story. At a later period he said: If the time came when the British nation found that the land should be nationalised and that it would be wise to do it, they would have a perfect right to do it. That is the foundation of my Bill this afternoon. Even the Front Bench on this side of the House can find great men who have supported the idea of land nationalisation and land ownership by the State. To the old Radical programme of 1885 that great statesman Mr. Chamberlain wrote a preface, and in the book I find these words: All land, as Radicals of the type of Mr. Chamberlain, Sir Charles Dilke, and Mr. Trevelyan would allow, should be subject to the right of the community as represented by the local authority to expropriate the owner for any public purpose at a fair value. The proposition in my Bill does not deal with the finance of the question, purely because the conditions on a private Member in introducing a Bill do not allow him to deal with finance, so I am informed at the Table, but I am trying to convince our Front Bench and every Front Bench that this is a subject of prime importance as touching the unemployment problem. There will never be a settlement of the unemployment problem in this Kingdom until we restore the land to the people and use the land by the people. Every scheme of rationalisation that has come and that is going to come along is going to dispossess the people of the chance of labour in industrial employment, so that they will have to turn to something else. I want to appeal to this House to take such steps that the nation can use the land and use our people on the land, so that they can give their physical strength for that purpose. We want land cultivation.

I am sorry that we lost this Bill in 1924, which we did by 12 votes—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—and I hope that the cheers of the multitude opposite mean that they are going to support this proposal, because they seem to have learned a great deal about the land problem in the last few years. I sing with joy the song to which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) gave his blessing at Criccieth—" The laud for the people." What I propose to do by this Bill is an overdue reform.


As I listened to the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Mr. Turner), I could not help wondering if it was the same hon. Gentleman who, a few weeks ago, was pleading the cause of restricted output and higher prices in the interests of the mineowners. It is very difficult indeed to reconcile the sentiments to which he has just given expression with his defence of God-given and man-stolen mines during the past few months, but, at the same time, it is very natural to see this great divergence of view between the Front Bench and the back benches of the party opposite. There is no doubt that when they were in opposition we heard a great deal about Socialism standing for the nationalisation of all the means of production, distribution, and exchange, but now that the Socialists are in office, they go about the country seeking to inspire confidence, to encourage credit, to give new life to the capitalist system, and it is only right that hon. Members who suddenly find themselves translated into back benches should look upon the Socialist Government to-day as an organised hypocrisy.

I do not think we need linger upon the unhistorical history of the hon. Member, who seems to forget the enormous number of hands through which land and property have passed since, in his one view, the land belonged to the people or, in his other view, it belonged to God. As a matter of fact, so much labour, capital, industry and care have passed into the value of land to-day that what he calls the restoration of land is nothing other than the expropriation of land, and I wonder what certain of the constituents of the hon. Gentleman would think if he advocated, as he has to-day, nationalisation of their property without compensation. How many working-men in the North of England have bought their own property through their own savings and through what they have borrowed from building societies? He calls that God-given and man-stolen property, and I wonder what his own constituents think about that.


I never suggested any expropriation without compensation. I said that I was debarred from dealing with finance by the Rules of the House.


His Bill, if it ever sees the light, must in the very nature of things provide for expropriation without any compensation at all, and it must be obvious, even to hon. Members opposite, that it is very unjust indeed to single out one particular form of property for this confiscation. You say that land shall be

restored, and the land will carry the buildings with it, but if you say that that is a form of property which deserves confiscation, what about other forms of property? If you invest your money in a mine or in land you are not to be compensated, but if, on the other hand, you follow the advice of "Templegate" in the "Daily Herald" and win £100 on a horse, you can keep that £100.

In other words, you believe in confiscating property when it belongs to one of the bourgeoisie, and you do not believe in it when it belongs to one of the proletariat. In our view, it is not only unjust but unwise. At the present time we know—and even thoughtful men (if there be any) in the party opposite know very well—that the only way to restore the fortunes of our country is to encourage industry, to encourage hard work, and to provide it. You cannot do that if you threaten those who put up money and make investments with the entire confiscation of their earnings. The hon. Member opposite, disregarding all those first principles of economics, has said in effect, "We are out for expropriation in the cause of the proletariat." That is Socialism, and we know where it stands.

Question put, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to restore to the nation all lands, minerals, rivers, streams, and tributaries.

The House divided: Ayes, 251; Noes, 136.

Division No. 422.] AYES. [4.0 p.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Bromfield, William Duncan, Charles
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Brooke, W. Ede, James Chuter
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M. Brothers, M. Edmunds, J. E.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield) Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)
Alpass, J. H. Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire) Edwards, E. (Morpeth)
Ammon, Charles George Brown, W. J. (Welverhampton, West) Egan, W. H.
Arnott, John Buchanan, G. Forgan, Dr. Robert
Attlee, Clement Richard Burgess, F. G. Freeman, Peter
Ayles, Walter Buxton, C. R. (Yorks, W. R. Elland) Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Cameron, A. G. Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Cape, Thomas Gibbins, Joseph
Barnes, Alfred John Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.) Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)
Barr, James Charleton, H. C. Gill, T. H.
Batey, Joseph Chater, Daniel Gillett, George M.
Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham) Cluse, W. S. Gossling, A. G.
Bellamy, Albert Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Gould, F.
Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Cocks, Frederick Seymour Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)
Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. (Cardiff C.) Compton, Joseph Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Cove, William G. Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)
Benson, G. Daggar, George Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)
Bentham, Dr. Ethel Dallas, George Groves, Thomas E.
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Dalton, Hugh Grundy, Thomas W.
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)
Bowen, J. W. Day, Harry Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Denman, Hon. R. D. Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)
Broad, Francis Alfred Dickson, T. Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)
Brockway, A, Fenner Dukes, C. Hardie, George D.
Haycock, A. W. Marshall, Fred Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Hayes, John Henry Mathers, George Simmons, C. J.
Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.) Matters, L. W. Sinkinson, George
Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) Maxton, James Sitch, Charles H.
Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Melville, Sir James Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Herriotts, J. Messer, Fred Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Middleton, G. Smith, H. B. Lees- (Kelghley)
Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Mills, J. E. Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Hoffman, P. C. Milner, Major J. Smith, Tom (Pontefract)
Hollins, A. Montague, Frederick Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Horrabin, J. F. Morley, Ralph Snell, Harry
Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South) Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Isaacs, George Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.) Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Mort, D. L. Sorensen, R.
John, William (Rhondda, West) Moses, J. J. H. Stamford, Thomas W.
Johnston, Thomas Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent) Stephen, Campbell
Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick) Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Muggeridge, H. T. Strachey, E. J. St. Lee
Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Murnin, Hugh Strauss, G. R.
Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Naylor, T. E. Sullivan, J.
Kelly, W. T. Noel Baker, P. J. Sutton, J. E.
Kennedy, Thomas Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston) Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley) Thurtle, Ernest
Kinley, J. Palin, John Henry Tinker, John Joseph
Kirkwood, D. Paling, Wilfrid Tout, W. J.
Knight, Holford Palmer, E. T. Townend, A. E.
Lang, Gordon Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Perry, S. F. Vaughan, D. J.
Lathan, G. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Viant, S. P.
Law, Albert (Bolton) Phillips, Dr. Marion Walkden, A. G.
Law, A. (Rossendale) Picton-Turbervill, Edith Walker, J.
Lawrence, Susan Pole, Major D. G. Wallace, H. W.
Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge) Potts, John S. Wallhead, Richard C.
Lawson, John James Price, M. P. Watkins, F. C.
Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Quibell, D. J. K. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Leach, W. Raynes, W. R. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern) Riley, Ben (Dewsbury) Wellock, Wilfred
Lewis, T. (Southampton) Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees) Welsh, James (Paisley)
Lloyd, C. Ellis Ritson, J. Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
Logan, David Gilbert Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich) West, F. R.
Longbottom, A. W. Romeril, H. G. Westwood, Joseph
Lowth, Thomas Rosbotham, D. S. T. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Lunn, William Rowson, Guy Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Salter, Dr. Alfred Wilkinson, Ellen C.
MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
McElwee, A. Sanders, W. S. Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)
McEntee V. L. Sandham, E. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston) Sawyer, G. F. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
McKinlay, A. Scurr, John Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
MacLaren, Andrew Sexton, James Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)
McShane, John James Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston) Wise, E. F.
Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Shepherd, Arthur Lewis Wright, W. (Rutherglen)
Mansfield, W. Sherwood, G. H. Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
March, S. Shield, George William
Marcus, M. Shiels, Dr. Drummond TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Markham, S. F. Shillaker, J. F. Mr. Ben Turner and Mr. James
Marley, J. Shinwell, E. Wilson.
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles Cohen, Major J. Brunel Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh) Cowan, D. M. Glassey, A. E.
Astor, Viscountess Cranborne, Viscount Gray, Milner
Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W. Crookshank, Capt. H. C. Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West) Gritten, W. G. Howard
Beaumont, M. W. Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Berry, Sir George Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)
Betterton, Sir Henry B. Davies, Dr. Vernon Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)
Blindell, James Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Hanbury, C.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Eden, Captain Anthony Harbord, A.
Bracken, B. Elliot, Major Walter E. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Briscoe, Richard George Elmley, Viscount Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) England, Colonel A. Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y) Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.) Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)
Buchan, John Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.) Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.
Buckingham, Sir H. Everard, W. Lindsay Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Fermoy, Lord Hunter, Dr. Joseph
Carver, Major W. H. Fielden, E. B. Hurd, Percy A.
Ceyzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Foot, Isaac Hutchison, Maj.-Gen. Sir R.
Cazalet, Captain Victor A. Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Iveagh, Countess of
Chapman, Sir S. George, Megan Lloyd (Analesea) Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)
King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D. Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Somerset, Thomas
Knox, Sir Alfred Ormsby-Gore. Rt. Hon. William Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Lamb, Sir J. Q. Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon) Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton) Peake, Captain Osbert Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak) Penny, Sir George Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.
Leighton, Major B. E. P. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstapie) Thomson, Sir F.
Lewis, Oswald (Colchester) Pybus, Percy John Tinne, J. A.
Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey Ramsay, T. B. Wilson Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Lymington, Viscount Ramsbotham, H. Turton, Robert Hugh
McConnell, Sir Joseph Rawson, Sir Cooper Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)
Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Rentoul, Sir Gervais S. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Reynolds, Col. Sir James Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.
Makins, Brigadier-General E. Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs, Stretford) Warrender, Sir Victor
Mander, Geoffrey le M. Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell Wayland, Sir William A.
Margesson, Captain H. D. Ross, Major Ronald D. Wells, Sydney R.
Marjoribanks, E. C. Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Withers, Sir John James
Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Mond, Hon. Henry Scott, James Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome
Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Simon, E. D. (Manch'ter, Withington) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam) Sir Gerald Hurst and Mr.
Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Smith-Carington, Neville W. Womersley.
Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld) Smithers, Waldron

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Turner, Mr. Tom Smith, Mr. Thurtle, Mr. Ben Riley, Mr. Sherwood, Mr. James Wilson, and Mr. MacLaren.