§ A person shall not be entitled to compensation under the sub-section which is by section nine of the Act of 1919 directed to be substituted for sub-section (11) of section seven of the Act of 1911, unless he intimates a claim therefor within twenty-one days after the notification to him under the said sub-section of the order confirming the scheme, or unless the Land Court shall be of opinion that his failure to do so was in the circumstances due to reasonable cause.—[Mr. W. Adamson.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time
Mr. W. ADAMSON
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This Clause merely provides a time limit within which claims in respect of damage arising out of schemes for the constitution of new holdings must be intimated. It seems reasonable that such 738 claims should be sent in timeously and not unduly delayed. It must be remembered that when compensation has been fixed, the Department may, if they think it makes the cost excessive, abandon the scheme. If, therefore, there is any delay in making claims for compensation the decision whether to proceed with the scheme or not is also held up. The new Clause deals with the point which is of very great importance as far as the Department is concerned.
§ Mr. SCOTT
The proposed new Clause has the support of my colleagues and myself and, if it should be said that the period of 21 days is too short, I would point out that under the new Clause it is left in the power of the Land Court to extend the time if a satisfactory explanation is made, and that seems to afford sufficient protection.
§ Mr. MacROBERT
I should like to ask the Government why they ignore the Nairne Report in this matter. On page 79 of the Nairne Report there is a recommendation that there should be a time limit of 40 days. I think the period proposed in the new Clause is too short, but if a satisfactory period were fixed in the Clause, I would have no objection to it. If, however, I do not get an undertaking that the period will be extended to something in the region of that suggested by the Nairne Committee I shall press my objection to the new Clause. The period of 21 days is too short to allow the landlord time to make his claim and while it is true that the Land Court may, if they deem that the circumstances are reasonable, extend the period, that means that the landlord has to make an application to the court which is objectionable. I think in this matter the Government ought to have followed the suggestion of the Nairne Committee made after the fullest inquiry, and while I do not stand out particularly for the 40 days I submit that the Government ought to make some concession as regards the period.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I should like to support my right hon. Friend in this Clause. I am astonished at the statement made by the late Lord Advocate when he adduced the Nairne Report and asked why its recommendation had not been followed. He surely forgets that that Report was made to the Government 739 of which he himself was a member, and that there is not a single thing in that Report which the late Government, during its long term of office, put into effect.
§ Sir F. THOMSON
The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the long period of office of the late Government, but the Report was only issued in 1928, and he will also remember that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Renfrew (Mr. MacRobert) was instrumental in getting added to the Bill various new Clauses based on the Nairne Report. When we started the Bill, we might have thought this important representative Committee on Scottish agriculture had never sat. We were proceeding in a pre-war atmosphere, without any regard to the position of agriculture in Scotland now, and it was my right hon. and learned Friend who made use of that very excellent Report. I do not see why the Secretary of State should not accept the suggestion of my right hon. and learned Friend and extend the period to 40 days.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
The right hon. and learned Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) seemed to indicate that the Nairne Committee, because it happened to report to the late Administration and was appointed when I was responsible for the office of Secretary of State, was in some way a biased Committee, which was not capable of—
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
Not at all. I am in the recollection of the House, and that was not the intention of my short speech at all. My intention was to reply to the statement made by the late Lord Advocate that, as this recommendation was in the Nairne Report, it should have been taken into consideration by the Secretary of State for Scotland. All that I said was that the Nairne Committee was appointed by and reported to the late Government, and that not a single thing in that Report, which is now brought forward as being a sort of Bible on land reform in Scotland, was utilised by the late Government.
§ Sir J. GILMOUR
Of course, I accept the explanation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but the fact remains that the Nairne Committee was not appointed till 1927 and did not report till 1928. Unfortunately, I was not able myself to attend the Committee proceedings on this Bill, but I observe with some interest that a large number of Clauses which have been added to the Bill, altering it materially since it went into Committee, are recommendations which have come from the Nairne Report. The Nairne Committee was a body consisting of members with wide experience of the working of the Land Court, the Farmers' Union, and the Farm Servants' Union, presided over by a very impartial man. This Committee, having gone into the problem, recommended a period of 40 days instead of the 21 days now proposed.
It may appear to many hon. Members that this is a very small matter, but, as one who has in his time been responsible for estate management and knowing the difficulties, particularly in the Highland areas, in dealing with these problems, I am bound to say that I think the Department would be wise to accept the period suggested by the Nairne Committee. I therefore hope the Government may, after consideration, see that it would be of advantage to do so. The real desire is to avoid unnecessary friction, but under the Clause as drafted there would be a requirement on the landlord, if he were dissatisfied, to go to the Land Court, which would then be involved in the onerous and in some ways expensive procedure of having probably to go into the whole problem and investigate matters in order to be quite certain that they were correct. I should have thought, from the point of view of the promoter of the Bill, that it would have been his desire to see that the machinery was made as simple as possible.
Mr. W. ADAMSON
I need not remind my right hon. Friend of the importance to the Department of no undue delay taking place in the fixing of compensation, so that the Department may know whether a scheme is to be a costly scheme or otherwise. If there is undue delay, they cannot make up their minds whether or not it is possible to go on with a particular scheme. But I do not 741 want to push that argument to an undue extent, and if hon. and right hon. Members opposite feel that 21 days is too little, I am quite willing to reconsider the period between now and the Bill reaching another place.
§ Major ELLIOT
Could not the Amendment be put in now? We would not take any objection to it being subsequently taken out if found necessary. We have had agreement by the Government that they will insert a certain period in another place, and I suggest that it would be much more in keeping with the dignity of this House to do it here rather than in another place. We all know that there is a certain prejudice in certain quarters against Amendments made in Bills coming from another place, and we might find that the mere fact that this Amendment had been made in another place, prejudiced hon. Members here against it. Therefore, if the Secretary of State is willing to leave out 21 days and to insert 40 instead, it should be done now, and if it were desirable subsequently, it could be amended in another place. When we have a chance of getting the Bill printed in its new form and sent to the other place with the Amendments in it, it would be to the advantage of procedure and to the consideration of the Bill in another place that the intentions of the Government should be signalised here, rather than in another place, where the Government are not so strongly represented by eminent Scotsmen as they are in this House. May I move the Amendment now?
Mr. W. ADAMSON
I hope the hon. and gallant Member will not wish to go beyond the stage at which I left the matter. I can assure him that the matter will receive our consideration. Whether we will extend the period as suggested by the right hon. and learned Member for East Renfrew (Mr. MacRobert) is another matter, but we have said that we will give it our due consideration, and I think the House would be well advised to leave the matter there.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
On a point of Order. Is it in order for a Mover to speak twice on the Report stage?
§ Mr. MacROBERT
In any event, I was not the Mover of anything. Probably, I am technically out of order in speaking again, but I wanted to ask whether it would not be the fact that delay would be caused if a landlord had to go to the Court and ask whether he was justified in going beyond the period of 21 days? It might take months to decide that, and, therefore, I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that a longer period should be given in the Clause.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause added to the Bill.