HC Deb 28 July 1930 vol 242 cc216-25

I beg to move, in page 27, line 29, to leave out the words "cottage gardens exceeding one quarter of an acre."

This Amendment arises out of a discovery made by an hon. Member that the cottage garden of a quarter of an acre, being excluded from the definition of agricultural land, is rated on its full annual value, which is not fair to the cottage gardener.

Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move, in page 27, line 39, to leave out from the word "race-course" to the end of line 43.


I am very glad that the Minister has changed his mind about this Amendment. We had a discussion of about an hour and a half on it in Committee, and I would like to remind the Minister of what he said then. He said: As far as this particular Amendment is concerned, I am surprised that an hon. Gentleman learned in the law should want to move this Amendment, because, if it were carried, it would make the Clause rubbish."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C), 17th July, 1930; col, 330.]

Those are the words the Minister used.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 28, line 2, leave out the word "hereditament" and insert instead thereof the word "land."—[Dr. Addison.]

Consequential Amendment made.

Further Amendment made: In page 28, line 8, leave out the word "property," and insert instead thereof the word "land."—[Dr. Addison.]

Consequential Amendments made.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."


I want to appeal to the Minister to cut out the words "including allotment gardens." I think he appreciates that this Clause needs improvement. It is unfair in the whole of its incidence upon land. You have this land, which is really agricultural land, paying the higher rate, while the richer people are assessed at only one-third of the value. At present the allotment pays two-thirds and the garden attached to a mansion house only one-third.


At present the park attached to the mansion is rated at the lower scale of one-third, where exactly similar farm land is dealt with at the full scale. The words "and park" ought to cover that, and would have come out if it had been moved earlier.


I should like to support the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) in what he has said regarding allotments. Those who take an interest in allotments—which means the whole Committee—will support his appeal to the Minister.


There is one point. So far as I understand, parks are considered to be agricultural land if used for agricultural purposes. If they are not so used, but only for parks, then they are rated for parks.


I recognise the force of the argument. At the same time, you have to remember that when once you begin to make these qualifications, you may open the door to great trouble. As they are not on the Paper, I will endeavour to see if any arrangement can be made, but as it stands I cannot accept them.


Why not put them in as manuscript Amendments now?

Bill reported; as amended on re-committal, considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."


I hate having to move the rejection of this Bill at this hour. This sort of Bill will ruin the Labour party if this kind of thing is repeated. It is a thoroughly bad Bill. The Minister in charge is a thoroughly good Minister, and he has my complete sympathy. He was not the Minister who grabbed on this Bill. He is the unfortunate successor of another Minister. This Bill was drafted two years ago. The preceding Government, knowing the criticism to which the Bill was open, failed to bring it in for two years.


Absolutely untrue!


It was not brought in.


It was not drafted.


But the Royal Commission reported three years ago when a Bill on these lines was drafted.


Untrue !


The present Government inherited it from their predecessors. I should like the House to understand what this Bill does. Up to now drainage areas and drainage schemes were financed from the people whose property was improved by the drainage scheme. Some years ago there was trouble in the Ouse basin because the people who were rated objected to paying. The result of the Royal Commission is that the charge for draining the rivers of England has been transferred in part from the people who inherited that expenditure to the ratepayers of the country as a whole. It has been a long struggle. I ask the House to observe that the agricultural interests in this country have gradually got rid of the rates on agricultural land by stages and transferred them to the taxpayers of the country. And now they are pursuing the same line of getting rid of the burden of draining agricultural land to the ratepayers of the country. That is particularly bad in the case of drainage. Take the Thames Valley. We all know that a large part of the Thames Valley is flooded periodically every year, and a large number of meadows by the side of the river are valueless for housing purposes because of this flooding. The ratepayers of this country and the other contributories will be spending a large sum of money for draining the Thames basin, making the lower river in such a position that it can carry away the water that floods the banks higher up. What will be the immediate result of that? Land which was not worth £5 an acre being flooded, will come to be admirable land for up-riverside residences and worth perhaps £1,000 pounds an acre. You are making a gigantic present to the owners of that sort of property and at the same time taking it from those people and putting it on to the ratepayers.

Then as to the second part of this scheme. The ratepayers of this country have had a pretty bad time lately. The derating scheme of the right hon.

Gentleman opposite has put up the rates of all the ratepayers on the countryside and to a large extent in the boroughs also. The rates have been going up on the smaller class of people, not so much on the farmers who got their land exempted, but the small people in the country feel the burden of rates. The ratepayers will remember that this Bill and the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman previously have increased their rates. Take the way in which it is done. You are establishing all over the country a new series of administrative bodies. Fifty catchment boards will cover England, and these boards are new bureaucratic governors of England. Hon. Members no doubt will form part of these boards. They are paid boards; the chairman is paid. They will cost far more than county councils. They usurp part of the work of the county councils and just at a time when we in this country need to economise and bring the cost of administration as low as possible. You are imposing this new administration, costing £250,000 a year, entirely upon the unfortunate ratepayers of the country. At the same time these other people have votes in the long run. I would point out that these new administrative bodies—catchment boards—are not elected directly like the county councils, but they are indirectly elected by the county councils, nominated by the Ministry and the county boroughs. They are therefore not a democratic body and not directly responsible to the electorate of this country who pay their money. That is a step backwards in democracy.

But that is not all. Not only is the catchment board a reactionary body indirectly elected and not representing the people who pay, but the drainage boards, which still exist side by side with the new catchment board, are elected in this Bill on a basis which has shocked even hon. Members opposite, though, apparently, they have only just realised how that hoard is formed. The drainage boards are elected according to the property possessed by the elector. The richer man has 10 votes and the poorer man has one vote. This principle is introduced into a Land Drainage Bill in the year 1930 by a Labour Government. Nor is that all. Even under that system it might be possible to get Labour people elected or people of advanced ideas, but not a bit of it. Nobody can be elected to those boards unless they themselves possess property of at least 10 acres. No one can be admitted into these sacred bodies, the drainage boards—which already number about 60, but will soon develop into about 600 aristocratic drainage boards—unless they own 10 acres. [Interruption.] Naturally hon. Members do not like hearing these things. There are many other points about this Bill I would like to go into. You are by this Bill putting on this country a new organisation duplicating the work of the county councils. Instead of giving greater powers to the county councils, and using the existing machinery, you invent an entirely new organisation with new staff and new buildings, an expense utterly unnecessary and supported entirely by hon. Members opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] They voted for the Bill at all stages and in Committee upstairs.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

When the right hon. Gentleman makes a statement of that kind, is it not right that he should justify it by giving some illustrations?


I am afraid we cannot have illustrations.


The hon. and galant Member will be able to speak afterwards. I want to know whether hon. Members opposite are going to vote against this Bill. If they will vote against this Bill on Third Reading, they are absolved from responsibility for it, but if they go into the Lobby with the Government, they are as responsible as we are for the effects of this Bill and for the complaints that the ratepayers will undoubtedly make. They will complain at the extra rate imposed as a result of this Measure, and I am afraid that it will be known as the Addison rate. We have had this Bill forced through because the two Front Benches got together. I ask hon. Members on this side of the House to remember that this Measure, brought in in another place on behalf of the permanent officials and the bureaucracy, is only a sample of what we are having. It Occurs nowhere in "Labour and the Nation." We have wasted our time over Bills like this and the Mental Treatment Bill, also a departmental Bill, and all the energies of the party, anxious for real reform and progress, get frittered away and ruined by Measures such as this, which disappoint the country, which dis- appoint the party and which do no credit to the Government who bring them forward.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

We cannot leave the Third Reading debate in the way in which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has left it. He is a very distinguished and a very experienced Parliamentarian. He has the idea that, if he could get the Conservative party to vote for the Third Reading, he would be able to go to the country and say that this Bill was entirely their Bill. But there are also Parliamentarians on this side, and they will not fall into this trap. In the Committee upstairs, we violently opposed this Bill as soon as we saw the bad points it contained. We consider this Bill an unfair Bill, unfair to the ratepayers and to the country. For that reason, we are going to vote against it.


We cannot pass this Bill without expressing our regret that it has not been possible to get into this Bill the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The whole point was that a special tribunal should be set up to safeguard and guide these powers through the very difficult points which will necessarily arise when this Bill is put into operation. In the briefest possible way, and with the strongest possible emphasis, I wish to say what a thousand pities it is that this Bill, which is a great Measure, should be so unfortunately marred by the abandonment of the recommendations of the Royal Commission which, if included, would have made the Bill such an engine for good.


I do not think we ought to conclude our labours on this Bill without paying a tribute to the Minister of Agriculture, who has been at his post for several hours without refreshment.


I wish to vote against this Bill, but, as I do so for not a single reason stated by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), I feel I am entitled to state briefly my reasons. Whatever the merits still left in the scheme of this Bill—and it has been very seriously mutilated in Committee and on Report—there is no question to my mind that, whatever its merits may be, this is no time to impose any fresh burden for works of this kind. We have failed entirely to get from the Government any agricultural policy. A Bill for the reclamation of fresh land should follow a policy of making farming pay. When you have got a policy that will make farmers cultivate further acres, you can then consider redeeming them from their water-logged condition at the enormous cost that this Bill will involve. When you put the cart before the horse, as the Government propose to do, and first propose a Measure to put further burdens upon agriculturists throughout the country before proposing anything which will make farming pay on these new lands, then you are doing something which is a disservice and not a service to agriculture.

I am afraid that this Bill will be used simply for unemployment relief and that the catchment boards will be urged by the Government to go in for costly schemes without any proper consideration of whether the expense will be justified. The hon. and gallant Member for Henley (Captain Henderson) has pointed out, that there is no appeal tribunal left in the Bill and no Exchequer contribution, except as the Minister approves. There is no guarantee that the Exchequer contribution will be even 1 per cent. For these reasons, I hope that many of my hon. Friends will vote against the Third Reading.

Question put, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

The House divided: Ayes, 150; Noes, 54.

Division No. 473.] AYES. [1.32 a.m.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Hayday, Arthur Oldfield, J. R.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hayes, John Henry Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.) Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro') Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Owen, H. F. (Hereford)
Alpass, J. H. Herriotts, J. Palin, John Henry
Arnott, John Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth) Paling, Wilfrid
Aske, Sir Robert Hoffman, P. C. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Barnes, Alfred John Hopkin, Daniel Perry, S. F.
Barr, James Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield) Picton-Turbervill, Edith
Batey, Joseph Hunter, Dr. Joseph Potts, John S.
Bellamy, Albert Isaacs, George Pybus, Percy John
Benson, G. Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Ramsay, T. B. Wilson
Bentham, Dr. Ethel Jones, F. Llewellyn (Flint) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Bondfieid, Rt. Hon. Margaret Kelly, W. T. Ritson, J.
Bowen, J. W. Kennedy, Thomas Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)
Brockway, A. Fenner Kinley, J. Romeril, H. G.
Brooke, W. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield) Lathan, G. Rowson, Guy
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Law, A. (Rosendale) Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire) Lawrence, Susan Sanders, W. S.
Burgess, F. G. Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge) Sawyer, G. F.
Calne, Derwent Hall Lawson, John James Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.) Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Shield, George William
Charleton, H. C. Leach, W. Shillaker, J. F.
Church, Major A. G. Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Clarke, J. S. Lees, J. Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Lewis, T. (Southampton) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Compton, Joseph Lloyd, C. Ellis Smith, Tom (Pontefract)
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Logan, David Gilbert Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
Daggar, George Longden, F. Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)
Dalton, Hugh Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Strauss, G. R.
Davies, E. C. (Montgomery) MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Denman, Hon. R. D. McElwee, A. Thurtle, Ernest
Duncan, Charles McEntee, V. L. Tinker, John Joseph
Ede, James Chuter McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston) Tout, W. J.
Edmunds, J. E. McShane, John James Vaughan, D. J.
Edwards, E. (Morpeth) Mansfield, W. Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornesy)
Elmley, Viscount Marcus, M. Wallace, H. W.
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Marley, J. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Gibson, H. M. (Lancs. Mossley) Marshall, Fred Wayland, Sir William A.
Gill, T. H. Mathers, George Wellock, Wilfred
Glassey, A. E. Messer, Fred Westwood, Joseph
Gossling, A. G. Milner, Major J. Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
Gould, F. Morley, Ralph Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne) Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South) Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Mort, D. L. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Grundy, Thomas W. Moses, J. J. H. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Muff, G. Winterton, G. E.(Leicester.Loughb'gh)
Gunston, Captain D. W. Murnin, Hugh
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Haycock, A. W. Noel Baker, P. J. Mr. T. Henderson and Mr. Charles Edwards.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Edmondson, Major A. J. Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Ashley. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Everard, W. Lindsay Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Atholl, Duchess of Falle, Sir Bertram G. Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bowdley) Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Balniel, Lord Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley) Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome
Bird, Ernest Roy Gray, Milner Smithers, Waldron
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Hacking, Rt. Hon Douglas H. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Hanbury, C. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Haslam, Henry C. Todd, Capt. A. J.
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y) Henderson, Capt, R. R.(Oxf'd,Henley) Train, J.
Burton, Colonel H. W. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Warrender, Sir Victor
Butler, R. A. Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Cayzer, Maj.Sir Herbt.R.(Prtsmth,S.) Knox, Sir Alfred Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joslah
Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Burton Margesson, Captain H. D. Wells, Sydney R.
Coltox, Major William Philip Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. Muirhead, A. J. Womersley, W. J.
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford) Penny, Sir George
Davies, Maj.Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Dixey, A. C. Ramsbotham, H. Sir Joseph Lamb and Mr. A. A. Somerville.

Lords Amendment to Commons Amendment agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.