§ Dr. ADDISON
I want to apologise to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) for something which I said to him in error in regard to one of the last Amendments to this Clause. I had not read it myself, but the whole point is that this Clause is the adaptation Clause, and the reference to Clause 7 is necessary because of the new Clause 7.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am much obliged to the Minister, and I am sure the whole Committee is grateful for his explanation. It will be for the convenience of those who are following the Debate in Scotland and elsewhere, to have it.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I beg to move, in page 22, line 41, to leave out from the word "six," to the end of the paragraph, and to insert instead thereof the words:and section seven of this Act shall not apply, but the department shall have power to provide, in accordance with the provisions of the Small Holdings Colonies Acts, 1916 and 1918, or of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Acts, 1886 to 1919, either on land belonging to the department or on land belonging to another person, a holding for an unemployed person within the meaning of the said sub-section (1) or for an agricultural worker, notwithstanding that such unemployed person or agricultural worker would be unable to cultivate the holding unless the facilities set forth in sub-section (2) of the said section six were extended to him.(g) Sub-sections (2), (3), and (4) of section six of this Act shall have effect as if for any reference to the provision under the powers conferred by that section of a 316 smallholding for an unemployed person, there were substituted a reference to the provision under the power conferred by the immediately preceding paragraph of a holding for an unemployed person or an agricultural worker, and any reference to the said section six shall include a reference to the immediately preceding paragraph.This is a rather terrifying labyrinth of words, but it apparently is the normal way of stating adequately the position. By Sub-section (1) of Clause 6, power is taken to provide smallholdings and to give financial assistance to unemployed persons, and that Sub-section was adapted for Scotland by Clause 24, paragraph (f). In the course of the discussion in the Committee upstairs, an Amendment was carried to add the words "agricultural worker" to the Clause which provides for smallholdings and for financial assistance. That being so, a new Clause—Clause 7—was imported into the Bill which therefore altered the notation of all the Clauses after Clause 6. It is now necessary to ensure that the financial assistance which it was intended should be given to unemployed persons, should be given also to agricultural workers. The Amendment which I am now moving is designed to do no more than to ensure that the consequences of the Amendment carried in the Committee upstairs shall be logically, accurately, and definitely translated into the other Clauses of the Bill.
§ Major ELLIOT
I desire to make a few general references to the subject on which the Under-Secretary has just spoken, and this seems to me to be the most suitable occasion from the point of view of the House to discuss the prin- 317 ciple involved. As I understand it—and the Government Bench will pardon me if I desire to be quite sure that I do understand it, in view of the fact that we have already had a slight difficulty this evening—the Clause moved from the Liberal benches in Committee was moved because it was desired to add, to the provision made for the smallholdings for unemployed people, all agricultural workers, whether unemployed or not. That broadening of the basis of the Bill was welcomed by the Committee as a, whole, and the Minister, who at the time thought that he would require to place safeguards upon this extension, has found on reflection that those safeguards will not be necessary. The Financial Resolution which is incorporated in the Bill shows a alight difference as between the Scottish and the English portions. Paragraph (e), which is the Scottish portion, speaks of:Such sums as may be required by the Department of Agriculture for Scotland for the purchase of land or the erection of buildings for the provision of holdings for unemploped persons.whereas the corresponding paragraph, (d), which relates to England, speaks of:Such sums as may be required by the Minister for the purchase of land or the erection of buildings for the provision of smallholdings.It will, therefore, be clear that the Scottish portion is fettered by the words "holdings for unemployed persons," which are absent from the English portion, and, therefore, whatever alteration we might make in the Bill could not help the position in Scotland, because that is governed by the Financial Resolution, which is incorporated in the present Clause 21 of the Bill. That being so, the Secretary of State for Scotland has had to adopt the somewhat complicated measure of feeding the money required into the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund, and drawing from the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund the sums which he will require to carry out the settlement of those persons, not unemployed, who are being brought in by the present provision. If this be so, we can proceed to the Amendments which I and some others of my hon. Friends have upon the Paper.
I should like to say, in the first place, that we on this side of the House fully appreciate the desirability of bringing in the agricultural worker, whether 318 employed or unemployed. If this Bill is to deal with the question of land settlement, it would obviously be foolish to exclude from land settlement those who, of all people, would be most likely to take advantage of it, and, indeed, if that were done, there would be great resentment throughout the country as a whole. At the present time there are 2,600,000 people registered as unemployed. There are in addition some 1,200,000 agricultural workers, which makes 3,800,000. Then there are all those other persons who may be unemployed, although they do not appear on any register. They may easily be put down at another 1,000,000, which brings the total to 4,800,000; and to attempt to cut a loaf which cannot be more than 100,000 holdings to cover all this vast mass of persons will, it seems to me, be a matter of great administrative difficulty in the future. Amendments will have to be made later to deal with them, but at the moment the point is that it is necessary to omit these words in order to bring the Scottish agricultural worker into the same position in which the English agricultural worker has been placed. That alteration was made in Committee with good will on all sides, and I am certain that the House also will agree with the same good will in all quarters to the alteration which is at present being made as regards Scottish agriculture.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I agree with the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken that the method adopted by the Government is necessarily a complicated method, but no doubt they are advised that it is the only method by which the money destined for this purpose can be obtained for Scotland. Speaking for the party which at the moment I happen to be leading, I may say that we entirely approve of the proposals in this Clause. My purpose in intervening is to raise a general point, following the example of the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken. I should like to get From the Government an assurance that what they are going to do is to settle these unemployed men and agricultural workers under the tenure of the Small Holdings Acts, and not merely as tenants of the Department of Agriculture. That is a very vital point, because we have in Scotland already some 50,000 smallholders, and we on these benches would like to be assured that the intention of 319 the Government is to establish these new holders under the existing Acts, with all the privileges and benefits which those Acts confer—that is to say, they would have security of tenure, fair rents, and full compensation for improvements. One thing we do not want, and that is that these new holders should be mere tenants under the State with no rights whatever, with their tenure purely at the dictation of the officials of the Department of Agriculture; and, particularly, that these holdings should not be let at equipped rents, a method recently adopted by the Department of Agriculture. As the hon. Gentleman knows, that matter is to be raised very shortly in Committee on another Bill, and it will be a great mistake if the Department has any intention of perpetuating a system which is thoroughly unsound, and which we hope very shortly to get reversed. I should like to have an assurance from the Government that what they intend to do is to establish these new holders under the small Holdings Acts, and I should say, speaking again for the party which I happen at the moment to be leading, that it would be a condition of support for this Clause that we should have an assurance of that sort.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
When we are dealing with an extremely complicated Amendment such as this, I think we should have a Law Officer of the Crown here. I am sure that no one but a trained lawyer can understand in the least what paragraph (g) means. I sincerely hope that some explanation will be given to Members like myself who are not learned in the law, so that we may understand that paragraph, which I do not expect even you, Sir, with all your experience can understand in the least. It says that these Sections shall not mean what they are said to mean, but shall mean what Sub-section (1) says. What in the name of common sense does it mean? I do not criticise this, because I have not the remotest idea what it is. If the Secretary of State can explain it, I will do my best to understand it, but at present I have not the remotest idea what it all means.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I will give the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the satisfac- 320 tion of saying that when I first saw this paragraph, I felt exactly as he feels, but we had a most careful examination and consultation with the Law Officers, and we are satisfied that it is purely consequential and drafting, and is designed to give effect to a decision that was unanimously come to in Committee. It was decided to import a fresh class of persons who should receive the benefit of smallholdings. The Bill as it was introduced simply covered unemployed persons, but upstairs, by common agreement, there was added a class of agricultural workers and a new Clause had to he inserted. In England, smallholdings are dealt with by the Minister through the county councils. We have not got that system, in Scotland at all. We have one omnium, gatherum, called the Agriculture (Scotland) Fund, administered by the Department of Agriculture, into which the money voted by Parliament for the provisions of smallholdings to unemployed persons and to agricultural workers under the Bill must be paid. It is purely to give legal effect to the decision of the Committee that this paragraph has been inserted. I hope I have made that clear.
The hon. Member for Kincardineshire (Mr. Scott) asked as to the conditions on which unemployed persons and farm workers could be settled. Until a man has proved himself suitable, it would be highly undesirable to give a statutory direction to the effect that every man should receive landholders' tenure, but, apart from that, it is the intention of the Government to see to it that persons who are found suitable are put in. It is the settled policy of all parties in the State that for future holdings now being created by the Department of Agriculture, landholders' tenure should be accorded, but it is felt that it would be undesirable to give a statutory direction of compulsion in every case until a man has shown that he intends to remain a landholder.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
Mr. R. W. SMITH
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 4, to leave out the word "either."
321 This is the first of two Amendments which hang together, and deal with the same point. We have two forms of small landholders in Scotland, those set up by the Department of Agriculture on land belonging to the Department, and those set up on private estates. I rather dread to mention the word, but there is a report known as the Nairne report, and whenever we mention it in the House or anywhere near it, it seems rather to frighten English Members. The first recommendation of that committee was that the creation by the State of smallholdings on privately-owned estates should be discontinued in the Lowlands. My Amendment is to carry out that recommendation. It is simply that these unemployed persons and agricultural workers should be settled on land that belongs to the Department and not on private estates so as to discontinue a system which has worked so unsatisfactorily in the past.
§ Major COLVILLE
I support the Amendment to the proposed Amendment. It is not our intention to limit the operation of the Act, but to see that it is worked smoothly. It was very clearly brought out in the Nairne report that the system of dual ownership was working out unsatisfactorily. The tenants did not like it because they thought they had to pay two rents, one for buildings and one for land. The report recommended clearly that further holdings should be on land owned by the Department of Agriculture for Scotland. The Department is already the largest landowner in Scotland and owns over 300,000 acres, so that they have a considerable area of land to work upon. I support the Amendment to the proposed Amendment in the belief that it will make for smooth running, and that the system of dual ownership should not be enlarged when increasing the number of small landholders.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
It would certainly be highly desirable, particularly considering some of the classes of applicants, that, as far as possible, the holder should be placed upon publicly-owned land. It is the settled policy of the Government to see that as much land as possible is acquired for public purposes, but there might be cases, particularly in the Highland areas, where it would unduly restrict the opportunities afforded 322 by this Bill to provide settlements for farm workers and unemployed persons, if the hon. Gentleman's Amendment were accepted. If he will rest satisfied with the statement that it is the obvious intention of the Government to secure as much land as possible for the State, and to settle as many of these holders as possible on publicly-owned land, I think he will find that it will meet his case.
§ Major ELLIOT
Naturally, we cannot accept what has fallen from the Minister that it is desirable that the State should own as much land as possible, and that all cultivators in Scotland should not be freeholders, but should be tenants of the State. That would not, I think, really commend itself to the party below the Gangway either, even amongst the shreds and patches of the principles which they preserve upon this subject. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"] This is not in any way a reflection upon their moral character. The question of private ownership is enormously complicated as soon as it comes to a question of land. The ownership of a piece of land owned by a landlord, interfered with by the State, further interfered with by the tenant and super-interfered with by a marketing board, but not in any way interfered with through imports coming from abroad—these principles can be reconciled in the Liberal attitude towards a piece of land. We sympathise with them in their difficulty. The proposals of the Nairne Committee were that the State should buy a piece of land and that the tenants should know to whom they had to look. We are of opinion in regard to this question that to have the freehold held by the State and the tenancy by the tenant is much to be preferred. The Under-Secretary of State says that it is desired that the dual ownership system should not be preserved. Upon that matter we are agreed, and perhaps on that assurance my hon. Friend might. be able to withdraw his Amendment. I think that in so far as we are agreed to any extent on any subject relating to land, it is sufficiently a miracle that it should be greeted with acclamation.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I cannot allow the principles of the Liberal party to be stated by the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot). He has grossly mis-stated them in referring to 323 them as shreds and patches. I should like to dissociate myself from the idea that it is part of Liberal principles or policy to acquire as much land as possible for the State, leading ultimately to the total nationalisation of the land of this country. That is no part of Liberal policy as far as I understand it. What Liberals want to secure—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has made his disclaimer. He is out of order in attempting to explain the policy of his party.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I am speaking, as the House may see, for a united party which cannot be cajoled or induced in any way to support principles with which it disagrees. The hon. Member for Central Aberdeen in support of his Amendment quoted from the Report of the Nairne Committee, and it is noticeable that every agricultural Member from above the Gangway always refers to the Report of the Nairne Committee in the same breath and tone—rather a hushed tone—as he would refer to the family Bible. The committee, in addition to making the recommendation which the hon. Member pointed out, also gave a high testimonial to the beneficial effect under the Smallholders Acts throughout Scotland. The hon. Member did not quote that portion of the Report. When the committee proceed to suggest that there should be no extension of the smallholding tenancy in the southern counties of Scotland—they even go further, and suggest that there should he no extension in the less mountainous parts of Northern Scotland—then we part company with them at once. The Amendment to the Amendment should be resisted, and I would remind the hon. Gentleman representing the Government that he has powers to schedule land belonging to other persons, and that he ought to exercise the powers which were given to the Government in the 1911 Act, which was passed by a Liberal Government. Let 324 him use those powers and take all the land he requires for the purpose of implementing the obligations under this Bill, and in the knowledge that he can take both land and buildings—I am not going to say without paying for them—for the use of the smallholders who are to be placed on the land. If the landlord gets a fair rent for the use of the buildings and the land, it is all that he is entitled to receive. I suggest that the Government should resist the Amendment to the Amendment and proceed under the powers which they possess in the 1911 Act.
§ Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Major ELLIOT
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 5, to leave out from the word "for" to the word "notwithstanding," in line 7, and to insert instead thereof the words "any person."
This Amendment to the proposed Amendment is moved in order to bring within the scope of the Bill, originally a Bill for the settlement of unemployed persons upon the land of Great Britain, persons who are not unemployed. It is clear that the Committee were faced with a fundamentally absurd proposal. That is to say, the Bill seriously held out the prospect of being able to deal with a substantial portion of the unemployed in this country by means of settling people upon the land, but the Committee stage had not proceeded very far before it was obvious that that contention could not be sustained and that it was, in fact, a Bill for the promotion of smallholdings. Then the question arose, this is an agricultural Bill, a land settlement Bill. Who, then, were the most suitable persons to be placed upon the land? The answer became self-evident, namely, those who had worked upon the land. The new Clause had only to be moved to meet with acceptance in all parts of the Committee, for it was ridiculous to say that you would bring unemployed men from the cities and settle them upon the 325 land over the heads of men who had been spending their lives in working upon the land.
The Minister in charge of the Bill warned the Committee that it was unlikely that he would receive sufficient Treasury support to enable him to make any substantial inroads upon the numbers of those working upon the land and who might desire smallholdings. He suggested that it might be necessary to safeguard the position by Amendments on the Report stage, but it was clear when the Order Paper was scrutinised that he had not found it necessary to take those further precautions. It was un-necessary. This is merely an enabling Bill for the Minister. In Clause 16, which is the important and operative Clause it is provided thatThe Minister may make grants or advances to any county council etc.in regard to allotments, and the moneys may provide a certain number of smallholdings. Clause 6 says that the Minister shall have power to provide smallholdings for certain persons. All these things are subject to the overriding veto of the Treasury. The fact is that in. Scotland we could have done nearly everything that there is in this Bill at any time for years past, save the small question of making an advance during a certain period of one pound a week to certain persons. We could have done all this by an increased vote from the Treasury.
§ Major ELLIOT
There are certain arrangements in regard to allotments for which we should have required special legislative powers.
§ Major ELLIOT
The last Government did not do it for the reason that the hon. Member's Government did not do it, and for the reason that the present Government will not do it, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer says "No." It is very interesting to note that when the hon. Member's own leader was in culties in carrying out the sort of process which he was urged to adopt—
§ Major ELLIOT
My point is that previous Governments found the same difficulty in providing finance, and that the Coalition Government, presided over by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), applied the axe to smallholdings, cut down smallholdings and the finance of smallholdings, with the result that the creation of smallholdings and land settlement did not take place. All the things which indicate difficulties before the Minister in carrying out this work will be chiefly the difficulty of finance. The Minister has taken a great category of persons, 2,600,000 unemployed persons, who are eligible for benefit under this Clause. He has added to that number a further great category of agricultural workers.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am giving the figures for Great Britain because I desire that the Minister should consider whether the Amendment which I am moving and which applies to Scotland would not be a suitable Amendment to apply to the whole of Great Britain. The Minister has brought in a further category, those whom he deems to be unemployed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Another million!"] I do not know what the number may be. Those whom the Minister may deem to be unemployed may cover a very wide field. Then there are those whom the Minister may deem to be agricultural workers. What is the point of these figures Let us have the simple category that we have had in Scotland, and under which we have worked for many years, namely, the category of the person. If the Minister wishes to take so great a responsibility, let him take the whole responsibility. Let him simply make out a list. The question then will not be whether a person is unemployed, or has been unemployed, or is deemed to be unemployed, or is an agricultural worker, has been an agricultural worker, or is deemed to be an agricultural worker. These things will not apply. The Minister will make out his list and from that list he will take, without fettering himself with administrative webs, those persons in re- 327 gard to whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer finds enough money to enable them to be settled upon the land.
That is briefly the purpose of the Amendment which we are bringing forward. It may be said that it is broadening the matter too much. It is not broadening the matter too much to suggest that the percentage to be taken off the existing list will be so small that the power of choice of the Minister will not make any difference to the real numbers of persons who come either to be settled upon the land or who can get on to such a list with any immediate prospect of getting smallholdings hereafter. The hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) made the suggestion that those already on the list should have a chance of getting these facilities, but he withdrew that or, rather, he ran away from it, in a very unusual fashion for him, on the assurance of the Minister that nearly all those persons were covered under the existing two categories of unemployed persons and agricultural workers.
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member might have thought for the minority. I thought that his party were particularly interested in the rights of minorities. Merely to say that a minority is to be unjustly or badly treated and is not to have certain facilities that are being found for everyone else, I should have thought would have struck right home to the heart of the hon. Member for Kincardine and those who sit with him. But he now says, in effect, that it does not matter. He accepts the old motto of Mr. Birrell, that: "Minorities must suffer; it is the badge of their tribe." It does not matter. Only 10 per cent. of these people are to suffer this injustice. Only 10 per cent. of these people, who have been waiting for years, are to suffer. Only 10 per cent. of the people who have been denied these facilities by the Government of which his present leader was the head, and by successive Governments, are still to be baulked and to be cheated of their hopes. That, I suppose, is a small thing. Only 600 or 700 men are to suffer. Let us make a stand for those 600 or 700 men. Why should it be necessary for me to plead with the Liberal party that the proposal which they put forward should be stood to in the Lobby?
§ Mr. SCOTT
The hon. and gallant Member is caricaturing the whole situation. I received a definite assurance from the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland that practically 90 per cent. will receive consideration for their applications. With regard to the remaining 10 per cent. it was represented that their case was not urgent and that their applications would not be entertained.
§ Major ELLIOT
I do not want to stress the matter unduly. The proposals of the Government have been transformed entirely during the passage of this Bill through Committee. From a Bill dealing with unemployment relief they have become a land settlement Bill, and as a Land Settlement Bill the proposals are not satisfactory. This Amendment is moved in order to make them more satisfactory.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
It is perhaps too much to ask the hon. and gallant Member to allow us to pass from this point, but may I assure him that the doleful picture he has painted of the situation as it now stands under the Bill has little or no justification. He omitted to note altogether the fact that we have some 4,000 approved applicants on our departmental list, and if 90 per cent. of those applicants are eligible it will tax the resources of the Department for a very considerable time to find suitable land and the necessary homes and equipment for them. If, in addition to this number already on the approved list, we bring in agricultural workers, many of whom are unfortunately unemployed at the moment and who, obviously, are persons to whom any responsible Ministry would give priority and preference in a matter of this kind, it will be seen, if we add these two classes together, that is, the approved applicants already on our list and the farm workers, a number of whom are unemployed, that we shall have as much on our hands as will tax the resources of the Department for a very long time to come.
If the Amendment to the proposed Amendment were accepted we should have a flood of thousands of additional applicants, many of whom would be doomed to disappointment. The very examination of their claims, the clerical work, would unnecessarily add to the difficulties of the Department. If that 329 be so, and it is a reasonable statement of the case, it would obviously be unnecessary and unwise to extend further the list which is wide enough already and which will tax our resources for a considerable period. In these circumstances I suggest to the hon. and gallant Member, who is as anxious as anyone for the most efficient use shall be made of this Bill, that he should not unnecessarily clog the machinery and swell the application list, but allow the Minister to deal with registered applicants already on our lists plus the agricultural workers who were added with cordial unanimity in the Committee upstairs.
Mr. BOOTH BY
The Under-Secretary of State has not dealt with what seems to me to be the real point of the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, and it is this. Why make this legislation unnecessarily complicated. This is a Bill upon which may be based a whole series of land settlement Bills, extending over many years, and it would be much better to lay down the general principle and say that land settlement should apply to any person who in the opinion of the responsible Minister is a suitable applicant and well qualified for land settlement. The Under-Secretary says that he will be hard put to it to find positions for those who are already on the list, and he mentioned a figure of 4,000. That is probably the case; but I cannot see the reason for excluding these people when you have included large categories amongst the unemployed and agricultural workers who are deemed to be agricultural workers. Why should you exclude any substantial section of the community which may contain people who are perhaps better qualified than anybody else to be settled in smallholdings? I support the Amendment for two reasons. In the first place, because I believe it is necessary to set a precedent in the matter of Land Settlement Bills so that they will be able to be applied in the future to the whole population. Of course, the agricultural worker who is unemployed must be a first choice in any scheme of land settlement, but those who have the cause of land settlement at heart must believe that this is one method of evacuating the towns and getting the people to live in the country. In the second place, I support the 330 Amendment because this legislation is so complicated, and I see no reason why the Minister should handicap himself in this way for no purpose, as far as I can see.
§ Amendment to proposed Amendment, negatived.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.