HC Deb 02 November 1930 vol 134 cc241-69

Where a dwelling-house forming part of a holding to which the Act of 1908 applies is occupied by a workman employed by the tenant of the holding in agriculture on the holding, whether it is so occupied under a contract of tenancy or not, the provisions of Section seven of this Act shall (subject as hereinafter provided and so far as the same are capable of application) apply as if the dwelling-house or garden were a holding and, where there is no contract of tenancy, as if the person allowing the dwelling-house to be so occupied were the landlord and the occupier were the tenant and the weekly rent were a sum equal to the difference between the rate of wages paid to the occupier and the rate of wages which would have been payable if the occupier had not the benefit of the occupation of the dwelling-house.

Provided that—

  1. (1) compensation shall not be payable under this Section if notice to terminate the tenancy or occupation is given on account of the employment of the workman having been terminated by reason of his misconduct, and such reason shall be substituted for the reasons specified in Subsection (1) of the said Section; and
  2. (2) Sub-sections (2) and (3) of Section seven shall not apply; and
  3. (3) where the tenancy or occupation of the workman is terminated by reason of a notice to quit given to the tenant of the holding and compensation for disturbance is recoverable by him from his landlord, the compensation payable under this Section to the workman by the tenant of the holding shall be recoverable by the tenant of the holding from the land lord as part of the compensation so recoverable.—[Mr. Royce.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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

In moving this new Clause I hope to obtain the sympathy of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. This Clause, if carried, will give the agricultural labourer now in a tied cottage at least a modified security. The Bill before us makes very ample provision for the security of the roof over the head of the tenant farmer, but unless a Clause such as I am now moving is inserted, the agricultural labourer, who has long suffered from very grave disabilities in occupying a tied cottage, will receive no recognition whatever in respect to this evil. I need not, I hope, point out to the House many of the disabilities under which the agricultural labourer lives who occupies the tied cottage. He certainly does not enjoy that freedom which ought to be associated with a healthy peasantry on the land. To begin with, he is, in many parts of the country, subjected to only one week's notice. In the days before the scarcity of houses perhaps this could be remedied, in some measure, by his getting another house, but during this period of the scarcity of houses, this has become so very acute that the position of the man, especially of a man with a family, is brought very nearly to bondage, owing to the necessity of rendering himself subservient to anything his master may dictate; otherwise he may be thrown out upon the road.

Recent legislation has not improved his position. Under the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Act a farmer can appear before the County Committee, and a certificate from that Committee presented to a bench of magistrates—both of these bodies very largely consisting of agriculturists, and not of the labouring classes—as a rule readily gets consent to a man being removed from his house. He suffers these disabilities from the fact that he is denied very often the privileges that are accorded to an ordinary labourer living in a free house. The man is thus prevented often from taking piecework, seeing that his time is occupied in the duties on the farm, and consequently he in this connection works for a lower rate of wage. There are other serious matters. There is the question of his family. In the case where the farmer demands the labour of the labourer's wife, and she is not willing to give it, or wishes to give it elsewhere, an element of discord at once arises. The same applies to the family, who may wish to work away from the village. There is the objection on the part of the farmer who requires the labour of these boys on the farm. I do not blame the farmer in this matter, but I do say that the system is a very bad one, and tied cottages ought to be swept out of existence altogether.

We cannot do that, and this scarcity of houses is working much more evil. The position is not helped where, it may be, a class of farmer is buying up houses in the village and converting them into tied cottages. It is so serious a matter that a man must commit himself almost unconditionally to any terms his employer imposes, or run the risk of being thrown out on the road. I need not enlarge upon the evils of the tied-house system. A free and independent peasantry cannot live in tied houses. I hope, and think, that I shall receive the sympathy of, certainly the agricultural Members in this House, as to this proposal, and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill will also accord the proposed Clause his sympathy. With much confidence, therefore, I bring this new Clause to the notice of the House, and trust it will receive Members' very serious and favourable consideration.


I beg to second the Motion.

I look upon this Bill as an honest attempt to deal with a great and important industry. Anyone who has studied that great industry must confess that for many years it has not been on such a satisfactory footing as it ought to be. In consequence of this a large number of acres have gone out of cultivation, and of the thousands of these left many have been badly cultivated, and are not pro ducing the food they ought to produce, and this we found to our disadvantage during the great War. I think we can trace the deterioration in the cultivation of the land—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)

On the Report stage of a Bill, I would remind the hon. Gentleman, that we cannot discuss the Bill as a whole. That can be done on the Third Reading. Perhaps, therefore, the hon. Member will deal specifically with the Amendment which he has seconded.


I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I will try to conform to the rules of the House. What I was about to say and what I want to say is this: that the privileges or rights we are extending to the tenant farmer ought, in proper measure, to be extended to the cottage holder—to the man who cultivates his small plot of land. What is due to the one is due to the other. The agricultural labourer is hired at present under a system which makes him almost a complete serf. During the last 20 or 30 years the short notice system has sprung into existence, and we have the labourer living to-day under what is known as the service system, whereby as soon as he leaves his employer, he is a trespasser in his cottage. The other system is a week's short notice, or a month's notice. Under the new agricultural councils, if a farmer gets a certificate from the Council, and takes it to a Court of Law, however respectable the man concerned may be, he is liable to be turned out. I hold that a man ought to have his cottage and be able to cultivate his small plot of land of a quarter of an acre or under, for relatively to the amount of land he cultivates, he is the greatest food producer that we have in this country. I hope the Government will accept this new Clause. The most burning question with the workmen living in the villages is this short notice system under which they have been content to live. If the rules of the House admitted, I could enumerate numbers of hardships associated with the system. Men have been turned out of their cottages on to the roads. I myself had to walk 12 miles a day to keep a job as an agricultural labourer because I left one employer under whom I lived.


I trust the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill will accept this new Clause. I am not at all clear that we should have tied cottages. As a farmer farming all my life, I have a good many houses belonging to my farms, and I have never found it necessary, nor had occasion, to turn a man out of a house simply because he left my employment. I have always been able, to get on with my men very well, and I believe that this could be done throughout the whole country. Even if it cannot be done, I cannot see why what is sauce for the goose should not be sauce for the gander, and that if the farmer gets compensation for disturbance and for his work on a holding, that these who work on that holding and live on it should not get compensation if they are disturbed.


This is a very difficult and very important point. I wish the House clearly to understand what is involved. I should like to say, first of all, that with the main object expressed by this proposed new Clause I am entirely in sympathy. I remember when we discussed a Clause on this subject in Committee that the general sense of the Committee was in sympathy, but the Clause proposed is quite unworkable. Therefore, I asked the hon. Gentleman opposite to withdraw it, and I promised I would give further consideration to the matter before Report. This afternoon it has been moved as a new Clause by an hon. Gentleman who has taken a deep interest in this matter, an interest shared by the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Edwards). We all realise that for years and years, long before many who are championing the cause of the agricultural labourer had ever thought about the question, he was prominent, and working on behalf of these whose interests he shared and so thoroughly understood. It is also encouraging that the new Clause has also been supported by the hon. Member for Sudbury (Major Howard). I think he himself is a tenant farmer, and, therefore, we have got a rather remarkable concensus of support for the principle of this Clause, just as we had when it was discussed in Committee. It was not moved in precisely this form. It merely applied the provisions of Clause 7 of the Bill in the case of cottages.

A great part of Clause 7, I then pointed out, was quite inapplicable, and it would not make sense if we applied the Amendment literally. I also pointed out that before compensation for disturbance could be obtained by a tenant farmer, there were certain tests he had to go through. For example, he must not have cultivated properly. He must have broken any of the terms of his agreement, and so on; which conditions were inapplicable in the case of the labourer who had received notice to quit his cottage.

I notice that in the Clause as moved today an attempt has been made to meet that criticism, and a labourer turned out of his cottage would not receive the compensation proposed if he had been guilty of misconduct. Some such test as that is obviously necessary if we are to make the Clause on all-fours with the conditions applying to a tenant farmer under Clause 7; if we are to treat t>he labourer in practically the same way as a tenant farmer. As far as I can see the argument, if the tenant farmer is to receive compensation for disturbance, and that principle is admitted, it is difficult to resist it in the case of the labourer. I should like to point out the limitations. This Clause can only apply to a tied cottage, and other cottages are outside this Clause; and if they were not outside I believe the Clause would not be in order, as it would not come within the title of the Bill.

No doubt the tied cottage is the place in which the greatest grievances have arisen in the past. It is said that a tenant farmer should not be able to turn a man out at a week's notice, which has been done in some cases. As we know in England, farm labourers are usually engaged at a week's notice and their employment can be terminated after a week; but where there is a tied cottage and a man is living there as the stockman, or carter, or shepherd, a week's notice carries with it a week's notice of the termination of the tenancy of the house, and that is a hard case, and the new Clause would meet that hardship; but it would not meet the case where a farm labourer is living in a cottage which has been hired outside the farm. That is a limitation which I am bound to point out.

There is another now condition which I notice has been put into this new Clause. A case may arise, and no doubt will arise, that a tenant farmer gets rid of his labourers because he himself has had notice to quit. The new tenant may bring his own labourers with him, and in many cases this is done, and it would not be fair, in such a case, to make the tenant farmer himself pay the compensation. It seems to me that in a case of that sort the outgoing tenant should have a claim on his landlord to be reimbursed for the compensation payable to his labourers for getting rid of them because he himself had to leave the holding, but he would not be entitled to get that from his landlord unless he were entitled to get compensation himself. If he were leaving the holding for some reason which disqualified him, because he was a bad farmer or had not paid his rent, in that case it would be part of his penalty that he and not the landlord would have to pay the compensation to the labourers. That point is also dealt with in the new Clause, and, so far as I can see, it is satisfactory. At the same time, I am bound to admit that there may be difficulties of an important character in the working of the now Clause, and I think the matter will have to be reconsidered to some extent in its details.

Sympathising as I do entirely with the objects of my hon. Friends, and recognising that the labourer should be entitled to compensation for disturbance in the same way, so far as possible, as a tenant farmer is under Clause 7; recognising also that the principle is right and wishing most devoutly to terminate a system which does drive a man out of his house and home in some cases at the shortest possible notice, I do not propose to oppose this new Clause; in fact, I go further and accept the principle of it. I am prepared to allow it to be added to the Bill in its present form, and I have consulted the Minister of Agriculture, who is prepared to accept; the principle of the new Clause, but he will reserve to himself the right of reconsidering the details of this new Clause if it be added to this measure when the Bill reaches another place. That is the position I propose to take up. I fully sympathise with the objects of the Clause, and realise that it is a very great improvement on the Clause that was proposed in Committee, and therefore I think the House may safely add it to the Bill on the understanding that its details may be subject to further consideration.


The title of this Measure is A Bill to amend the Corn Production Act, 1917, and the Enactments relating to Agricultural Holdings. I have here the Corn Production Act, 1917, and I can see nothing in it whatever about cottages. I have not the Enactments relating to agricultural holdings, but the phrase "Agricultural Holdings" I think makes it quite clear that a cottage cannot mean an agricultural holding. If I am right upon my first point I think I am also right on my second point, and therefore this Clause is out of order because it is beyond the scope and title of the Bill.


May I point out that the definition of a holding is altered by the Bill from what it was under the Corn Production Act, and by an Amendment in the First Schedule allotments are brought within the definition of a holding. If it is possible for a Bill affecting holdings and corn production to alter the definition of holdings by bringing allotments within the scope of the definition, it seems to me that it would be possible for the scope of this Bill to be widened so that cottages might also be covered.


May I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker; to one point. I have very grave doubts as to what your ruling may be, but it seems to me that the first words of the new Clause are really germane to the question because they provide that Where a dwelling-house forming part of a holding to which the Act of 1908 applies. The Clause is limited to tied cottages, that is cottages on a holding to which the Agricultural Holdings Act applies. That limitation appears to me to bring the Amendment within the four corners of the Bill.


In reply to the point of Order which has been raised by the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Ban-bury), surely the greater includes the lesser. A cottage on a holding must be part of the holding.


But it does not follow that a tied cottage is on the holding, and it is very often away from the holding in the village. In my part of the country it is rather the exception than the rule that a tied cottage is on the holding, although I do not say that such a case does not occur. It is, however, very rare, and when it is not on the holding it is not actually part of the holding. The holding is the farm house, the building, and the land connected with it. The cottage happens to be there, but it is not part of the holding, and in many cases it is not even on the holding, and what is to happen in such a case as that?


Of course that is a matter for Debate, but the very first words of the Clause say Where a dwelling-house forming part of a holding. Therefore, it is limited to this case, and really I cannot rule the Clause out of Order.


I am extremely glad the Minister of Agriculture has taken the action he has, and I hope hon. Members who are supporting this Amendment will accept his offer in the spirit in which it was made. There is no doubt that the question of tied houses is one which causes a very great deal of unrest in rural districts and leads to that lack of feeling of security, and there is no reason why we should not add to the security of the labourer just as we are trying to add to the security of the farmer. I am sure that this is a move in the right direction. I think the right hon. Gentleman is right to reserve the possibility of having to amend this new Clause in another place, because the question of tied cottages is one of the most complicated and difficult questions with which anyone can have to deal. This subject has for a long time been under the consideration of the Agricultural Wages Board, and they came to the conclusion that the only way to get rid of the evils of the tied house system, which were admitted to exist just as much by the employers as by the other side on the Board, was by enabling the labourer to pay an economic rent. In that case, if the cottage does not suit him, then it would be possible for another cottage to be built and for the labourer to pay an economic rent which is not possible under present conditions. The cost of building being so high and wages being what they are, we are a very long way from the labourer being in the position of paying an economic rent.

Therefore it seems to me to be very desirable to try to meet the case even with a limited Clause. I think we should try to meet the tied cottage grievance as the right hon. Gentleman has proposed to do. The evils at present are not so great as they were before the War, because we have not got anything like the system of being able to turn a man out at a week's notice. That has been modified by the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Restrictions Act, and under that Act the agricultural labourer has nothing to complain of. I know a case where a man who happens to work for me has taken employment three miles off, where he can get higher wages than I was paying to him, and that is right enough, but he continues to occupy my cottage which is reserved for the mason on the estate, and I cannot get him out and, therefore, I cannot employ another mason. That is one of the things which the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Restrictions Act prescribes. It is very doubtful whether I can get back the occupation of that cottage for my estate mason. When this evil is not acute, I think it is quite a good time to deal with it by common consent. It is not so much a matter of controversy now, and I am sure the House in general will welcome the efforts which the Minister of Agriculture is making, even in this limited way, to remedy the evils of a system which I think everybody admits.


I recognise the good motives of these who are moving this new Clause, but I would remind them that there are two sides to this question of tied cottages. I only want to deal with their arguments so far as their general denunciation of the system of tied cottages is concerned. They have dealt with tied cottages as if they were in the same position as tied public houses, whereas they are quite different. The so-called tied cottage has in many cases been built in the past by agricultural owners in order to make sure that the labourers employed by the tenant farmers shall be well housed. Many of us are most anxious to lighten the difficulties which arise and which have been described by some of the speakers. We are all anxious to do away with the sufferings to which they have referred, but, after all, you cannot get the necessary labour on the farm unless housing accommodation is provided, and it is not possible to get rid of the difficulty by simply abolishing tied cottages. This is a very difficult problem, and we must all work together in order to see how best we can deal with it.


I think everyone will sympathise with the object of this proposal. Further than that, so far as agriculture is concerned, I see no reason why the labourer who is cultivating land should not be treated on exactly the same basis as the farmer, both being tenants. But we must look at this matter from the practical point of view. Although technically within the Bill, I am afraid that this Clause is really in its nature—I have every sympathy with the proposal—unworkable. This Bill is a Bill promoted for a definite object. It has been framed to carry out that object, and the object is to increase the production of the land. The Compensation Clauses are framed with the idea of giving inducements, either at the expense of the estate or of the owner, to get more out of the land, but this Clause as framed does not appear to me to be drawn in a manner suitable to carry out the object. It does not, in fact, fit in with the Bill. Take Sub-section (3). The Minister in charge of the Bill has accepted that Sub-section, which I venture to suggest is meaningless. It says, in effect, that where a tenant of a holding gives notice to a labourer to quit his cottage in consequence of his having had notice from his landlord, compensation shall be paid. I venture to suggest to the House that such a case could not possibly arise. How could it? Under what circumstances could the tenant of a holding be obliged to give notice to the tenant of a cottage because he himself has had notice to quit from his landlord? Surely the hon. Member cannot suggest that because a tenant has to leave his farm that is any reason why he should give his labourer notice to leave. It is the new tenant who must do that, if he wants the cottage. Therefore, I say this Sub-section is meaningless. At the beginning of the Clause we are defiling with houses "forming part of a holding to which the Act of 1908 applies." Suppose the tenant and landlord desire to take cottages outside the purview of this Clause altogether. All that is necessary is to take cottages separately from the holding. However desirable the object aimed at by this new Clause may be, I cannot see how it is going to work. You are confusing the whole thing.

It is quite right that the tenant should receive compensation for any allotment which he may have to give up. I am sure the House will gladly support that. But while we sympathise with the proposal with regard to cottages we must not legislate in a hurry or do anything which certainly will not carry out the object which is aimed at. I am perfectly aware my right hon. Friend has suggested that the Clause will require to be amended in another place, but I do not think we have any right to throw the responsibility of that upon that other place. I suggest my right hon. Friend should give consideration to the points I have raised, not in opposition to the principle of the Clause itself, but to the manner in which it is proposed to carry it out. I repeat I believe the Clause to be impracticable, and as the right hon. Gentleman is going to recommit the Bill for another purpose, I would suggest there is no reason why he should not, when he has thought it out properly, introduce this Clause in this House, without throwing the responsibility on the other House of putting it into a workable form. I hope for the credit of this House the right hon. Gentleman will bring in a proper Clause to carry out the object aimed at, so that we may give it full consideration here. We do not want to run the risk of the question being put in an unpopular light by the introduction of political matters. It might be suggested, for instance, the other House was supporting the labourer while we refused to do so, and it might also occur that in the discussions here the same allegation might be thrown out against individual Members. I do suggest it is our duty, not merely to get up here and say what we think to be popular, but to point out how we can give effect to the object which is aimed at.

Colonel Sir A. SPROT

I have as much sympathy with agricultural labourers as hon. Members opposite. This Clause affords a curious illustration of how customs differ in different parts of the country. We have had given us descriptions of agricultural labourers' cottages in Norfolk and other parts of England, and I want to point out that these descriptions show a state of affairs entirely different to that which obtains in Scot land This Bill is to apply to the whole of Great Britain, and, therefore, it will apply to Scotland, and its effect would be that the whole of the agricultural work in Scotland would be disorganised and thrown out of gear by this Clause if it were passed into law. Let me remind the House of the conditions appertaining to the agricultural labourer in Scotland, lie takes on with a farmer at a hiring market for one year. He gets a cottage and garden, in addition to his pay. He moves into it on a certain day, the 28th of November, and at the end of his hiring moves out again on the 28th November. Men as a rule do not desire to stay any longer in one man's service. They prefer a migratory life, and we have often endeavoured to induce them to give it up but without success. Hon. Members opposite have described agricultural labourers as servants. That term does not apply to the Scottish labourer. There is no more independent man on the face of the earth that he is, and his independence proceeds from the fact that he knows that he can go to the hiring market and dispose of his labour to the best possible advantage, and, wherever he goes, find a cottage ready for him. He gets very well paid. At the present time over £150 is the rate of pay. He is not a person, therefore, to be pitied. I repeat that if this Clause as framed were applied to Scotland it would simply have the effect of throwing all agricultural work completely out of gear. It may be suggested that the Scottish system is a bad system. At any rate, it will take a long time to alter it and to produce anything better. I therefore hope that (his proposal will not be applied to Scotland.


When this Bill was first introduced some of us suggested that there should be separate measures for England and Scotland, and the discussion which has taken place to-day has made it more than ever clear that the conditions that appertain to Scotland differ so much from these in England that separate Bills would be a great advantage to both. The hon. Member who last spoke has pointed out that the conditions of engagement in Scotland are absolutely different to these in England. I am glad to be able, to say, speaking from my own experience, that in my immediate neighbourhood we have men who have been many years in the same service and have had no desire to change, livery Member of this House must sympathise, of course, with the difficulties of the agricultural labourer. We must wish that his condition could be improved as much as possible. There is no section of the working classes of this country so loyal, so able, and so active as agricultural labourers. Therefore our sympathy goes towards them. But if this new Clause is going to be accepted it will be necessary to conserve the special conditions that apply to Scotland, and to introduce words which will secure that end, so that we may make sure that the real object is achieved when next the matter is before this Assembly.

6.0 P.M.

The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. Morison)

I desire to say a few words in support of the principle of this Clause from the Scottish point of view. I venture to say that the principle will be welcomed by every Scottish farm labourer in Scotland. The case for this Clause seems to be stronger in regard to Scotland than in regard to England. The Scottish farm labourer, by his contract, has the right to his cottage either for a year or for six months, whereas in England, I understand, it is generally only a weekly tenancy—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"]—at any rate, in many districts. It seems to me to be a far more serious thing to dispossess a Scottish farm labourer of his cottage, to which he is entitled for six months, than it is in England, where it is only a weekly tenancy, but the point with regard to this Clause is that it makes the farmer liable to pay compensation to his farm labourer if he dismisses him arbitrarily from his employment. That is the theory on which compensation is given to the farmer when he is dispossessed of his farm by the proprietor. The Clause carefully safeguards the case in which a farm labourer may be justifiably dismissed, as for misconduct, or incompetence. These are exceptions which are recognised in this Clause.

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

Who settles that?


I am bound to say that, so far as the framework of the Clause is concerned, it seems to me to be as accurate as any such Clause can be. Some hon. Members have suggested that it might be improved by careful consideration, and for that reason my right hon. Friend has said that he reserves the right to make alterations in it. So far, however, as I can judge from the course of the discussion, it does not appear that any practical suggestions of that kind have been made. With regard to the case of Scotland, I venture to suggest that the Scottish farm labourer is deserving of our greatest sympathy, and, speaking for myself, as representing an agricultural constituency, I welcome the principle of this Clause.


I do not wish to intervene in an eternal controversy between Scotsmen, beyond saying that my experience of this Bill, whether in Committee or, so far as it has gone, on Report, inclines me to their view that it would have saved a great deal of anxiety on the part of English Members if we had had a separate Bill for Scotland. Almost every speech that we have had on this Clause, so far, has served to emphasise the difficulty of translating general principles into Parliamentary language. My hon. Friend who moved the Clause knows very well that he was able in Committee, and is able here, to count upon a very large measure of support from these of us who more or less habitually act together in these matters, with regard to the general principle that he has in mind. I am bound to say, however, after listening to the speeches, that I very much hope the Government will see their way to accept the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) as to re-committing the Bill in respect of this Clause. It has already been proposed to re-commit it with regard to something else, and, therefore, I do not fancy that it can be very difficult to re-commit it also with regard to this Clause. The Clause has been criticised from the Scottish point of view. I do not want to go into details, but a great many of these criticisms apply with no less force to the part of the country with which I am familiar—namely, the East Riding of Yorkshire—and to a great many other parts of the North of England. When I look at the Clause, and ask myself how it is going to work, I am struck, first of all, by the difficulty as to who is to define the misconduct of the workmen. It is no use pretending that you get over the difficulty by words; there are only two people who can define misconduct—the workman and the employer.

There is another observation that I should like to make. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is not here, but perhaps the Lord Advocate will convey my observation to him. I was amazed to hear him say, while accepting the principle of the Clause, that the labourer would, of course, get no compensation if he lost his house owing to the fact that his late employer had lost his place through being a bad farmer. My right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Pretyman) dealt with one side of this question, but I want to go a little further. I can imagine a case in which, owing to a farmer having been given notice to quit because he was farming badly, his labourers were involved in his departure, and lost their houses. To say that they are to be debarred from compensation because he has been a bad farmer seems to me to be the most amazing proposition that I ever heard. One has heard of the sins of the fathers being visited on the children, but one has never heard of the sins of the tenant farmers being visited on their labourers. I suggest that much more consideration of this Clause is necessary, and I am sure that the Government, in considering the matter, ought to pay great attention to these points which were urged by my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Totnes (Colonel Mildmay). We all know the evils of the tied house, and it is very easy to make a case of it. It is no less easy, as he said, to show the difficulty of cultivating the land without the tied house. There is only one remedy, and that is the indirect remedy of providing more houses. It is worth remembering that No. 10 Downing Street is a tied house, and that the principle goes into all walks of life. Therefore, I want to press upon the Government that they should not pass this. Clause merely because they think they have to pass something. We all assent to the principle, but we have the right to ask that the House of Commons should do its own work, instead of sending it across to be done in another place.


I desire to emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Ripon has just said. I see that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill has returned, and I am sure he will realise that practically the whole House is agreed that, when such large compensation is being given to the tenant, compensation should also be given to the labourer. I think he will also realise, or at any rate, that his right hon. Friend (Mr. Morison) will realise, because he has been here during the discussion, that most hon. Members present are agreed that this new Clause, as drafted, does not carry out the intentions of its Mover. In fact, if it were included in the Bill in its present form, I think it would really do more harm than good to the labourer. I do not think it is a reasonable proposal that the right hon. Gentleman has made that we should pass, this Clause to-day, and leave it to be put into shape in another place. That does not seem to be a courageous thing to do, and it is rather shifting the responsibility of what the right hon. Gentleman considers to be a difficult task on to someone else's shoulders. If he will consent to re-commit the Bill in respect of this Clause, and to draft another Clause, I am sure that that will be the best solution of the difficulty. I do not think it will be very difficult to draft a Clause to meet this case. The simpler the Clause is, the better it will meet the case. A Clause providing that compensation shall be given to a labourer when he is given notice to quit his house should not be drafted in terms which are difficult to understand; it should be quite simple and direct—to some such effect as that a month's notice shall be given to a labourer on his being given notice to quit. That is much more what the labourer would like than an indefinite compensation which is included in a Clause such as the one which we are now discussing. If the right hon. Gentleman will meet my suggestion, I would ask him to take into consideration the real thing which the labourer values in regard to compensation when he has to quit his house, that is to say, that he shall have full compensation for his garden, as apart from his house. If the right hon. Gentleman will take these two points into consideration, I do not think he will find it as difficult as he suggested to draft a Clause which will thoroughly meet the case, and of which the House will approve.


This has been a very valuable discussion, and I am very grateful to the hon. Member (Mr. Royce) for having brought the subject before the House. It has always seemed to me that the agricultural labourer had not sufficient security in regard to his cottage, especially when he is liable to be turned out at such very short notice as is sometimes the, case. No farmer can grumble at compensation being given to the agricultural labourer when he is arbitrarily evicted from his cottage, because that is what the farmer claims for himself. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. We here in the House of Commons have a special responsibility, however, to see that this Clause is properly drafted before it leaves this House, so that the labourer may really be able to benefit by it. With great deference to the Government Bench, I do not think that we ought to leave it to another place to amend this Clause. I am sure that the Government themselves, having the principle so near to their hearts, would like it to be amended in the House of Commons, so that the people's assembly may have the opportunity of saying whether it is a good Clause or not. My right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate said that this Clause is practically perfect, and one would almost think that it had been drafted by the Government draftsman. He said in effect, "I do not see any fault in it; it is all right." Would my right hon. Friend, however, just define for me, a simple agriculturist, what really constitutes misconduct; or perhaps I may have an answer from the learned Attorney-General of England? What does constitute misconduct as between the agricultural labourer and his employer the farmer?


There is a whole chapter of law, both in England and in Scotland, with regard to the meaning of mis- conduct and what constitutes misconduct, and I have no doubt that all that law will be available in considering the words of this Sub-section.


As I said, I am a simple agriculturist, and I am told that there is a whole chapter of law. I have no doubt that there is, because my right hon. Friend has stated it clearly. Again, I have had a good many years' experience of this House Of course I am not a lawyer, but I do not know this chapter, or these chapters of law. If I do not know it, what about the agricultural labourer? Is he to have recourse to these whole chapters of law on misconduct which my right hon. Friend has adumbrated at that Box? The trouble is that the legal fraternity give us laymen credit for too much knowledge. Would it not be very much better for the Government to give effect to the principle of this Clause by bringing in a Clause of their own which will be easily understandable by the farmer and the labourer? To tell us that there is a whole chapter of law on this question of misconduct does not carry us very much further. Let me ask, how is the labourer to claim compensation? Is he to read up this complicated treatise on misconduct and then go before an arbitrator to find out whether he is going to get compensation or not? Who is going to pay the legal expenses? If you are going to benefit the labourer, make it simple, easy, and plainly understood, but I am sure there is not a gentleman on that bench who can say that this will be an easy Clause to define as it is at present drafted. To the principle we all agree, because the agricultural labourer is a very important partner in the agricultural industry. He should be encouraged in every possible way. If we are going to pass legislation for his benefit, do not let us shirk our duty, but let us, as Members of the House of Commons, have an opportunity of putting this Clause into shape so as to carry out the intentions of the Government, and not leave it in more or less a cowardly fashion to the other House.


I have been very much impressed with the Debate and with two points: first of all, the evident desire of the great majority of hon. Members to pass a Clause on these lines, that is to say, dealing more or loss in this manner with this particular subject; and secondly, with the desire, not unnatural, which has been expressed from all quarters that its more detailed consideration should be dealt with by this House, and that we should not leave it to another place. I am going to suggest a course which I hope will be generally accepted. I do not wish to have the Clause withdrawn at this stage. I do not think it would be fair to ask my hon. Friends opposite to do that. They themselves moved a similar Clause in Committee, and at my request withdrew it. I think, if the House is in earnest in desiring to deal with this question, the Clause should be added to the Bill at this stage, but I understand it will be quite in Order for me, when I recommit the Bill in respect of the allotment Clause, which you, Sir, pointed out was not in Order at this stage, to recommit it also in respect of this Clause. That will enable us to have a detailed discussion of the Clause when that recommittal takes place. I would suggest, therefore, that we should allow the Clause now to be added to the Bill, and that we should postpone detailed criticism until we get to that stage, which will have this advantage. This Clause in its present form only appeared on the Paper this morning, and there has been no time really for me, or for private Members, to consider what Amendments, if any, they wish to put down; but if we accept the Clause now and add it to the Bill and then recommit the Bill in respect of this Clause, it will give ample time for hon. Members to consider the matter carefully, and for the Government to take stock of the position, and it will leave the matter entirely under the control of the House. That being so, I hope no attempt will be made to move Amendments or to alter the Clause at the present moment.


Perhaps the better course will be not to accept the Clause as it is now, but to recommit the Bill, and then when it is recommitted the Government could bring in a Clause embodying what they want. But whatever course is decided on I should like to deal with the really practical point which would arise if some Clause of this sort is passed. The object of the Bill, as I understand it, is to increase production. I want to know how you are going to increase production if you keep upon the land a man living in a cottage who is not working on the land, but working somewhere else. [Interruption.] I do not know. But if you are going to put all these burdens either on the landlord or the tenant farmer or both, how do you suppose we are going to continue any business which is subject to all these troubles and burdens? The hon. Member (Major Howard) told us he had never been obliged to turn a labourer out of his cottage and that he had never, in consequence of that, been at a loss to find a proper supply of labour. His experience is very unique. In the part of the country that I know there are only sufficient cottages provided to work the farm, and I do not think that is an isolated farm. I once owned property in Suffolk, and in that part of the county there were certainly only just enough cottages to work the farms. Supposing one of the labourers leaves and chooses to remain in his cottage. [Interruption.] I know several instances where it has taken place and the labourer has been turned out after he has been there two months or three months. I know a case where he remained from January to August in a cottage and refused to go, though the farmer was unable to find a place for the man he wanted to employ in his place. He remained there for these six months and they had no remedy, and it was not until the magistrate passed an order for his ejection that he went out. The right hon. Gentleman (Dr. Addison) entertains different views on this subject from my right hon. Friend (Sir A. Boscawen), because only a few months ago he put into the Rent Restriction Act a new Clause which provided that where a man occupied a cottage as a condition of his service the magistrates could grant an order for ejection without finding out whether there was alternative accommodation.


If the Local Committee will not—


That is a different point. This has nothing whatever to do with the Local Committee. This applies to a man who holds a cottage as a condition of his employment, and under those circumstances an order for ejection can be given whether or not there is alternative accommodation, if it is wanted for another employé. I had a conversation with the right hon. Gentleman about this Clause. He put it in in order to apply it to agricultural hold- ings, because he said it was so necessary that on agricultural holdings a sufficient supply of labour should be obtained. Now comes my right hon. Friend, and because a Clause perhaps appeals to one's heart—it is not always wise to appeal to the heart without first appealing to the brain—accepts it. With the solitary exception of that part of Suffolk which has the good fortune to be represented by my hon. and gallant Friend (Major Howard), if a Clause of (his sort is passed it will render it very difficult, not only to improve cultivation and increase production, but to maintain the production which is being carried out at present. Certainly I think the only thing the Government can do, if they are going to accept something of this sort—and I really do not see how they are going to carry it out—is to withdraw the whole Clause, and when the Bill has been recommitted, bring forward a new Clause embodying something totally different.

In regard to observations as to which there was some discussion about a custom which it was apparently thought was confined to Scotland, it existed at one time over the whole of Wiltshire. At present it exists only in some parts of the county and it is gradually falling into desuetude, but it does exist. When landlords are help up to approbrium it must be remembered that, I should say on every estate, they have provided these cottages for one purpose only, namely, that they should be occupied by people working on the farm, and they have done at a great loss to themselves. If you take the rates he has to pay and the repairs you will find that the rent does not pay for them alone, to say nothing of interest on the original outlay. Now, the purpose for which he built these cottages is to be done away with unless he pays compensation which, as far as I can see, may run into £30 or £40. or it may be even more. He has done what manufacturers have not done. They have not provided houses for their workers. Someone else did it for them. But the country landlord has done it and this is his reward. I believe this Bill is going to be a great blow to agriculture, but if we are going to accept this sort of Amendments merely because we think it is a little hard on someone that soms thing should happen, regardless of whether or not it carries out the object of the Bill, namely, to increase production, I am sure we shall be landed in an impossible position.


This question seems to me to raise questions of principle extending far beyond agriculture—to tied houses in many industries, urban, industrial and otherwise. I only propose to discuss it from the point of view of agriculture. As I read the Clause, the compensation given to a tied tenant will be a year's rent at 3s., because the rent of a tied house is limited by the Act to 3s. a week. That will come to about £7 10s. a year. In addition to that there will be the cost of removal and any other damages or expenses the occupant of the cottage might be put to. I suppose we might put that at about 50s., so, if the Clause is passed, no farmer can change a man for any reason except misconduct without paying him a sum of £10 so long as that man occupies a tied house.


Is it not a much larger subject? Does not the four years apply also?


I was coming to that presently. If, on the other hand, the farm labourer occupies a house on the holding not tied in the way that it is made part of his employment, but he holds it on a weekly or fortnightly tenancy at a higher rent than 3s., the compensation that will have to be paid will be very much more considerable. I am much obliged for the intervention of the right hon. Member for the City, because it is by no means clear that under this Bill as the Clause is drawn—I have no doubt that could be amended—whether the dismissal of a workman on the farm would not in any case be capricious where it was not for misconduct. In that case compensation would be anything that the arbitrator might give up to four times £7 10s., that is, £30. In my view there is no reason for such a fine being put upon the farmer. I have taken that view with regard to the fining of the owner for the benefit of the farmer. I equally hold the view that both are bad; but if the farmer is to have compensation by way of fines on the landlord, the labourer is much more entitled to compensation than the farmer. Therefore, if the Bill goes through in its present form, and if the farmer is to put into his pocket the fine which is taken from the owner, I shall certainly support the view that the agricultural worker should have the same compensation. In carrying out this principle I believe it will pass the understanding of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to draft a suitable Clause, because as the Bill stands now it is limited to the houses on the particular holding. Why should a man who happens to have a house on the holding, as part of his employment, or a house on the holding independent of his employment, have that benefit which is a benefit to him while he is working on that particular holding, and receive compensation if he is dismissed, while every other labourer who is working on that particular holding, if he is dismissed, should be without such compensation? Why should the man who happens to be in the position of occupier of a house on the farm receive compensation on dismissal, while the labourer in exactly a similar position, except that he does not happen to have a house on the holding, be without compensation?

To my mind this is an impossible scheme. It is opening the door to a system which will be a charge on industry of every kind, and I believe that when it is considered these who are engaged in industry will recoil from it. If in agriculture the workman is to receive compensation for being dismissed from his employment, why should not the man who works in a factory or in a coalmine receive compensation when he is turned out of his tied house? The case of hardship has been put forward. Of course, it is a hardship where a man is dismissed and receives notice to quit his cottage, but there are hardships in every case—they are not peculiar to agriculture. Many tenancies of industrial houses in this country are equally held on a week's notice, and the Rents Act meets these cases in the present difficult times when there are not enough houses, and the Rents Act meets hard cases in agriculture. The only claim on which I should support this principle of compensation is that the agricultural labourer is as much entitled to claim for compensation as the farmer is in making his claim upon the landlord when he receives notice to quit his farm. If the farmer is going to put this money into his pocket I shall support the farm labourer in also having his share.


I agree with the hon. Member for Holland Division (Mr. Royce) that something should be done to meet hard cases. I too have sympathy with the agricultural labourer, but at the same time we are starting upon a very dangerous principle when we enter into this question of compensation without very carefully going into it. It needs to be carefully thought out in the interests not only of the tenant and of the labourer, but of agriculture as a whole. We are putting many burdens upon agriculture, and this will be an additional burden, and unless it is very carefully thought out it will have the tendency to deprive the farmers of that labour on the farms of which they are very badly in need. In the case of the tied house, if the man comes on the understanding that he is only engaged for one year, I think that is quite sufficient, and that he should not be able to claim compensation. If, on the other hand, you have men who are more or less casually engaged, and on very short notice, I do feel that they should get either a year's notice or compensation in the way of rent for being turned out at short notice. I trust that when this Clause is reframed, that special consideration will be given to the tied man, but that it will be seen that farmers are not penalised where they have made a definite, fair, and honourable bargain, and that the man should keep the bargain just, as much as the man who employs him.


We have got into an extraordinary position in regard to this Clause. The situation seems to be this, that the Government admit that the Clause is not a good Clause. They admit it is not likely to carry out its purpose. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] At any rate it is a Clause which does not really do that which we have in view. The hon. Member who moved the Clause knows that I in company with others in Committee agreed that something would have to be done in the way of compensation; but this Clause is full of objections, and, as has been shown by speaker after speaker, it is bristling with difficulties. Surely when that is admitted on all sides the simplest plan would be for the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Clause and bring, up a Clause that will carry out the objects which many of us think will be necessary for the people who have to administer it, and that will give us what we want, namely, a right system of compensation for the agricultural labourer who suffers injustice on being removed from his cottage. I understand the right hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Boscawen) to say that he cannot withdraw it. At any rate, the Clause is a bad one, and that being so, I hope that he will not proceed with it.


I think the right hon. Gentleman should withdraw this Clause and introduce a new Clause on the re-commital of the Bill. I take the strongest objection to the Clause. One broad principle I put is this, that at the present time every inducement has been held out to agricultural owners and others to build houses. Could there be any greater deterrent to building in any Bill than the Clause now proposed? Can you expect any landlord or agricultural tenant to build houses under these circumstances? Would anyone build a house for his servant if he was liable to penalties such as these? My hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Cautley) has pointed out the difficulties in regard to this Clause as read with Clause 7. The wholly objectionable penalty of four years' rent is quite impossible. Fancy the position of the agricultural tenant in regard to his servant! For one thing, the allowance of 3s. for rent is wholly inadequate. The house in almost every case would command a rent of 4s. or 5s. a week, and, as a rule, the agricultural tenant has to pay the rates as well. The servant gets his cottage for 3s., and pays no rates—they are paid by the tenant. It is really extraordinary that the agricultural tenant should be called upon possibly to pay four years' rent to that man if he is turned out of his cottage. It scorns to me perfectly impossible and wholly unreasonable. This is a penalty of the severest kind. Nobody can suggest that, whatever the tenant in agriculture may do, his servant will be for four years without employment. Within that period he will be able to find other employment, or the probability is that his financial means will be at an end. Why should we put this heavy penalty upon the agricultural tenant? The thing is wholly unwarranted, and it will induce people not to put up buildings on their agricultural holdings. I cannot think that the hon. Member who introduced this Clause had considered that point of view.

This Clause would have the effect of de laying repairs. The agricultural tenant or the landlord would prefer that closing orders should be made against their cottages, and by that means the duty of providing the houses would be thrown upon the local authorities. At the present time the cost of putting up houses by local authorities in agricultural districts is from £1,000 to £1,400. I wholly object to this Clause, and I trust the Minister in charge will withdraw it. My objection does not end there. It is an exceedingly difficult Clause to construe. The Lord Advocate, when asked to define misconduct, did nothing of the kind. He probably was referring to decisions under the Work men's Compensation Act, which is a different matter. Supposing I engage a shepherd, and he comes, apparently, with a good character, but I find when he has been with me for a short time, and I have given him ample time to show his abilities, that he does not understand his work, that he does not understand foot-rot, or fly, or anything of that sort. Is that misconduct? I ask the Lord Advocate what is his opinion? I could not get rid of that man, although he is wholly incompetent, except under a penalty of perhaps four years' rent. I do not think the Government can have considered this Clause. I may be wrong, but I think the Clause is wholly illusory, and I hope hon. Members will support me in asking the Government to re-commit the Bill on this point. I would suggest that one way by which I could try to defeat this Clause if it became law—


You are a Bolshevik—trying to defeat the law.


That language is more fit for street corners than the Houses of Parliament.


The same argument.


I have my own view. If I am a tenant farmer and I have got a man who, for the purposes of the argument, is my tenant in common, I may cease to employ him. I wait a week or a fortnight, and I say, "You are going." Where is the protection? I see none. It may be that the Law Courts may take my view, but I suggest that this is an inconsiderate and unjust Clause. It extends the injustice which, in my view, is inflicted by Section 7. It does not tend to better relations between master and servant, but tends to destroy what has hitherto prevailed in agriculture—that the landlords have built the cottages necessary for the holding, and have improved them and kept them so as to carry on the business. Suppose the local authority had built these cottages and a man occupying one of these works for me, he does not get the four years' rent if he ceases to be in my employment. Another way in which the Clause could be defeated would be this. Every prudent landlord by arrangement with his tenant would say, "I do not let you these cottages with the farm at all. I am going to retain them. I will arrange with you from time to time that I will let them to such tenants as you require." Parliament should not pass a Clause so futile as this and so unjust.

The SOLICITOR - GENERAL (Sir Ernest Pollock)

I would make an appeal to the House to come to a decision on this matter now. We had an interesting and useful Debate in Committee which was largely attended, and we have now been debating the matter for an hour and a half. The course which the House ought to take is clear. There is a large body of opinion in favour of a Clause which shall be remodelled in order to carry out the spirit of this Clause. This Clause is moved by the hon. Member for the Holland Division (Mr. Royce) and the question of withdrawing it lies with him. My right hon. Friend (Sir A. Boscawen) is willing to have the Clause added to the Bill, because as he is in accord with the spirit of the Clause he is anxious not to postpone the opportunity of having that principle embodied in the Bill, and as a pledge of good faith it is very often done in that way. He says, "I will accept the Clause, but if it needs amendment afterwards then I reserve my right to do it." Within my own short experience I know that often Clauses and Amendments are accepted, and I am constantly pressed not to reject an Amendment, but to accept it, in order to show good faith on the part of these on the Government Bench. That is the position as it appears to my right hon. Friend (Sir A. Boscawen). I cannot agree with my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Hohler) who thinks so badly of the Clause. I think that it does a good deal. I see a good many points, as has been pointed out by the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), in which the Clause may be suitably amended as it can be in Committee. In Committee the House will have the opportunity of reconsidering it and making amendments. I have responded to the appeal made by my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) and I have taken the matter out of the Sphere of the heart and placed it in the sphere of the brain, and, having worked very hard with my brain for the last quarter of an hour, I am clearly of opinion that the right course would be to come to a decision on the issue now before us. I hope the House will accept the Amendment.


Do we understand that the arrangement is that the Government will take full responsibility themselves for amending the Clause, just in the same way that they would take the responsibility if this Clause were withdrawn and a new one put forward?


Yes. I have ascertained from my right hon. Friend that there will be an opportunity for Members to put down Amendments to the Clause, and my right hon. Friend authorises me to say that we will take the responsibility for Amendments being moved to the Clause in so far as we think they are necessary.


To make it a workable Clause.


Yes. Opinions may differ. We do not undertake to accept all the Amendments which are put down, but to make all the Amendments which we think necessary.


Will the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to take into consideration Amendments moved from all parts of the House?


I am glad to accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman to have the Clause inserted in the Bill and have it amended afterwards, if necessary.

Major M. WOOD

I have nothing to add as to the injustice of paying compensation to farm servants, but I would like to refer to the application of this particular Clause to Scotland. Farm servants there are engaged in quite a different way from the way in which they are engaged in England. They are usually engaged for six months or a year. Six weeks before the end of that time they are either re-engaged by the farmer at the freemarket or they reengage themselves to somebody else. But they are never given notice to quit.

Section 7 of the Bill says that the compensation is only to be payable when the tenant gets notice to quit. As these farm servants never do get notice to quit, it does not seem to me that the Act applies to them at all. The great majority of farm servants in Scotland, if not practically all, are engaged in that way. I put that forward for the consideration of the Government.


I am sure that the general sense of the House wishes to support the hon. Member (Mr. Royce) who moved this Clause, but he must see that the general opinion is that this is not a workable Clause which would do all that we want. I quite understand that, having been the parent of this very promising infant, he does not wish to abandon it. But if he withdraws it, a new Clause, in its place, would have to be put down by the Government, and I put it to him that it would be infinitely more satisfactory to approach this problem entirely fresh with a new Clause framed on different lines. This is not a destructive suggestion at all; but I do suggest that it will not be satisfactory to amend this Clause, and that it would be far better to withdraw it and start entirely afresh, and get a really satisfactory Clause.

Proposed Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.


The new Clause standing in the name of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Swan)—(Compensation in respect of injury due to subsidence consequent upon mining operations)—is out of Order. It is outside the scope of the Bill, and would require to be dealt with by a separate Bill of its own.