§ Where an allotment has been let to an unemployed person or to a person not in full-time employment in accordance with the provisions of either of the last two foregoing sections, his tenancy of the allotment shall not be terminated without his consent on the ground only that he has ceased to be an unemployed person or a person not in full-time employment.—[Dr. Addison.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Mr. Attlee)
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ Viscount WOLMER
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that this Clause seems to me to be out of order, because it does not read. The new Clause reads:Where an allotment has been let to an unemployed person, or to a person not in full-time employment in accordance with the provisions of either of the last two foregoing sections.The Minister of Agriculture said that this proposal was to be a new Clause 16 applying to allotments provided for in Clauses 14 and 15. If, Mr. Speaker, you look at Clause 16 you will see that it provides for giving power to the Ministerto make grants for assisting in the provision of seeds, fertilisers and equipment for unemployed persons,and it provides for seeds and fertilisers being supplied to allotment holders free of charge or at cost. I submit that if this Clause is inserted as a new Clause 16 it will not govern the existing Clause 16, and in that case where fertilisers and seeds have been supplied free to allotment holders, there is no provision in the Bill in case the allotment holder ceases to be unemployed.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This does not appear to me to raise a point of Order, but is a matter which can be dealt with by the 1186 Minister on the question that the Clause be read a Second time. The new Clause seems to read all right.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
This new Clause has been put down in response to the representations which were made during the Committee stage by the right hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), who suggested that the allotment holder should be given a maximum amount of security. That suggestion was at once accepted as a principle, and this new Clause has been proposed in pursuance of what passed during the Committee stage upstairs. I do not understand the complaint which has been made by the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), because it refers to Clauses 14 and 15 under which allotments are provided. Clause 16 is one which empowers the Minister to make grants for assisting in the provision of seeds, fertilisers and equipment for unemployed persons. Therefore, it is quite right that it should be considered along with Clauses 14 and 15. The new Clause provides that if a man obtains employment, he shall not be deprived of the advantages of his allotment.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
As I am afraid that I failed to make myself clear to hon. Members opposite, may I explain the point of Order which I raised just now? This Clause says:Whe re an allotment has been let to an unemployed person …. in accordance with the provisions of either of the last two foregoing sections"—that is, Clauses 14 and 15. The Bill goes on to enact, in the existing Clause 16, that an unemployed or partially unemployed person who obtains an allotment, may be provided with seeds, fertilisers and so on, at a charge less than the cost. Take the case of an unemployed 4.0 p.m. man who secures an allotment under Clause 14 or Clause 15, and then, under Clause 16, is provided with seeds and fertilisers free of charge. If the man subsequently regains employment, I submit that he will not be holding that allotment entirely in accordance with Clauses 14 and 15. He will also be holding the allotment in accordance with Clause 16, and as this new Clause does not cover Clause 16, the result of his getting into employment again may be to invalidate his title to the allotment.
1187 I shall be very glad to learn what the answer to that point is. It appears to be merely a drafting point, I admit, but we have to be very careful, especially as this is our last opportunity, to see that this Bill is drafted in a watertight fashion. I will not anticipate the Amendment put down to this Clause, if I should be so fortunate as to move it, but I should like to say that it seems to me that while the principle of this Clause is sound, a man who obtains an allotment under the exceedingly favourable terms of Clauses 14 and 15 because he is unemployed, ought, if he subsequently regains employment, to be made to refund what he is able to do. However, that point will come later. On the principle of the Clause, personally, I have no objection to raise.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Dr. Addison)
The point which the Noble Lord has raised is not one of substance. This Clause purely relates to the security of tenure of the allotment holder. It is to the effect that if he obtains work, he shall not have to terminate his tenancy of the allotment because of that. The provision with regard to seeds and fertilisers as in Clause 16 will remain unaffected.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I recognise that this Clause does give effect to the principle which, I think, I enunciated in Committee, that where an allotment is properly cultivated, there ought to be no excuse for turning a man out of the allotment; but I very much question whether a new Clause is needed, and whether it would not have been sufficient to have a quite minor Amendment to Sub-section (2) of Clause 14. I am, therefore, rather surprised to see the proposed new Clause on the Amendment Paper in the name of the right hon. Gentleman. Although the principle may have been enunciated in speeches in Committee upstairs, this actual point was never raised, because it was never thought that once an allotment had been given to a person who is temporarily or partially unemployed—and that, after all, applies to the vast mass of the wage-earners of the country, unfortunately—there was any question that he should be disturbed at the moment he got into work. In fact, it would make the whole thing laughable. 1188 Nobody ever contemplated that, and I am very much surprised that the right hon. Gentleman has been advised that this new Clause is necessary. However, it may be as well that his Parliamentary draftsmen advised that it cannot be done by an Amendment, as I should have thought it could have been done on Clause 14, because it will enable us to raise the question as to whether, assuming ability to pay back to the council losses on the advances made, some repayment should be made whether the Minister is content to leave is as it is provided, or whether he proposes to safeguard the ratepayers and taxpayers so that where a man has geen given an allotment in distressed circumstances, he should, when good times come again, as almost assuredly they are coming, recoup any loss of the ratepayers and taxpayers, at any rate to a certain extent.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
I do not particularly quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman as regards the place in which this new Clause comes. I should have thought that an Amendment could have been made in Clause 14, probably at the end of Sub-section (2), as then there would have been close together the various rules in the Bill, and it would have been a matter of simplification. Nor am I going to quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman for having brought in this new Clause. I do not disapprove in any sense of its principle. It does seem absurd that if a man ceases to qualify as an unemployed person, he should cease to hold his allotment. This Clause deals with allotments only. I am suspicious of it because it reads:his consent on the ground only that he has ceased to be an unemployed person.I want to know how wide or narrow an interpretation is going to be put on that? Does it mean in the main that he has ceased to be an unemployed person? If undue weight is to be given to the fact that he has ceased to be an unemployed person, it seems an absurd position. If, on the other hand, the position is going to be that he has obtained employment and has also, for instance, left the district, or has obtained employment of such a character that he cannot look after his allotment, then, obviously, he ought to give up the allotment. But the case of which I am speaking is one which might be of interest 1189 to the Leader of the Liberal party, namely, the position of the agricultural labourer. Here you have an entirely new position both in regard to this Clause and in regard to other parts of the Bill, because it is essential that if an agricultural labourer gets back to work, or if he gets only seasonal work, it is absolutely essential that his increased employment ought not to be considered at all in the matter of losing his allotment.
I would like some of the very acute brains in the Liberal party to go very carefully into the position of the agricultural labourer, and see if he is really safeguarded in this matter, because once money is spent on allotments in this way, and facilities are given to the agricultural labourer who is out of work to obtain these allotments, then he ought to have the greatest amount of security in holding the allotment. He is much more likely than any other section of the community to cultivate well. I should, therefore, like a clear answer from some representative of the Government as to what weight they intend to put on the word "only," and what are the conditions that are likely to be laid down. Particularly, I would like an answer to the question as far as the agricultural labourer is concerned. I see that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is here. He might be able to enlighten the Scottish Members of this House as to whether, on this particular point, he is satisfied that the Scottish agricultural labourer is in as good a position as that of his English brother.
§ Captain BOURNE
I rather think that one or two of the criticisms made by my bon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) are based on a misconception of the Government's scheme under Clause 15, but one point arises on that Clause which, I think, might be answered before we give a Second Reading to this Clause. As I understand the Minister's scheme for dealing with allotments, the unemployed man who gets an allotment will not be in a specially favourable position compared with other allotment holders in the matter of rent. He will be charged a reasonable amount for his allotment, having regard to the nature of the land, but that rent will be comparable with the rents paid by other allot- 1190 ment holders in the district. Under the powers conferred by this Bill, the Minister will be able to acquire land for allotments, covered by a halfpenny rate in the district, but the actual allotee will not receive land any cheaper. If that assumption be correct, this new Clause is perfectly reasonable, because, obviously, the man who has put work into the allotment is able to continue cultivation after getting back into employment, and is not, as far as rent is concerned, placed in a more favourable situation than other allotment holders. I can see no reason why he should be turned out, merely because he ceases to be an unemployed man. I am saying this because I think there is a misapprehension as to the Government's scheme.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) has really answered many of the points that have been put. With regard to the purely drafting point referred to by the right hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), as to where the Clause should come in the Bill, he will notice that both Clause 14 and Clause 15 deal with provisions as to allotments, and it would be inconvenient, therefore, merely to make an Amendment to Clause 14. I think the right hon. Gentleman may be satisfied that that drafting point is correctly dealt with. The hon. and gallant Member for Oxford is perfectly right in saying that rent and so forth will be charged on the same basis as in the case of any other allotment holders. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), I do not think he quite comprehended the words of the Clause. He seemed to suggest that, because this Clause says that a man should not be removed from his allotment merely because he has ceased to be unemployed, that means that he might go to some place far away where he would not be able to do anything with the allotment. The whole point, however, is that a man should not be turned out of his allotment solely on the ground that he has obtained employment.
A further point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford was with regard to repayments and so forth. It will be remembered that on ordinary-allotments there is a loss, and the Allotments Bill provided that there might 1191 a loss which should be made up out of the rates, but no special provision was made in that Measure that, as soon as a man was getting along nicely with his allotment, it should be possible to come down and tell him that he must pay the whole amount of such loss. If that was not done in the case of a man who was not unemployed, it would be obviously unjust to do it in the case of a man who, ex hypothesi, is worse off.
Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words:but if the unemployed person or person not in full-time employment has been provided with seed, fertilisers, or equipment, at a price less than that sufficient to cover the cost of purchase, that person shall be liable to refund to the council or society which provided the aforesaid, a sum sufficient to cover the cost of purchase.We have just passed a new Clause which provides, very properly, that a man who has obtained employment shall not have to vacate the allotment which was given to him when he was down and out and had no work to do; but no provision of any sort is made in the Clause that such a man in any circumstances, when he does become employed, shall be called upon to make good any of the loss incurred by the taxpayer and the ratepayer in putting him on his allotment. I submit that that is not taking a business point of view, but is an attitude which would encourage people to be thriftless, to think that they can get something for nothing; and I think that some steps should be taken to see that, in suitable cases, some of the money is recoverable from the person for whose benefit the loss has been incurred. The Chancellor of the Duchy remarked that in a former Bill no provision was made for the recovery of any possible loss. That may be so; I do not know; but, if it was so, I think it was wrong.
It will be seen that, while my Amendment is not very drastic, it does give the option to the society which provided the seeds and so on, or to the local authority, to recover at any rate something from the man. I would draw the attention of the House to the word "liable" in the Amendment. Unlike my Noble Friend the Member for Aldershot (Viscount 1192 Wolmer), I do not say that he must repay all the expenditure incurred in supplying him with the allotment and with seeds, fertilisers, equipment, and anything else that may be necessary to make the allotment a paying proposition; but I do say that, where a man has been provided with seeds, fertilisers, and equipment at a price below the cost of purchase, thereby entailing a distinct loss upon the society or local authority, if that society or local authority see him making good money they should be able to say to him that they think he ought to pay some of this money, or all the money; or they may say that they do not want to ask for any of it. I do not think it is right that we should lavishly, and without any thought of public money, endow people who have obtained work with that which they were entitled to get when they were unemployed. [Interruption.] An hon. Member laughs, but, surely, no Member of the House would really suggest that public money should be given to a person and then, when that person was in a position—because he would not be asked to pay unless he was—to give something back to the taxpayer and ratepayers, he should not at any rate be asked to do so.
I do not think that this Amendment is unreasonable. I am not in the least objecting to the new Clause of the right hon. Gentleman. It is perfectly sound and fair. Naturally, we all want to encourage the taking of these allotments, and it would discourage it if, directly a man came into full-time employment, he could be turned out of his allotment. I would, however, ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider this Amendment, always keeping in mind the fact that it is not mandatory, that it is not an absolute necessity that the man should be asked for the money. It merely gives to the society or to the local authority, who know all about his case, the option of trying, in appropriate circumstances, to get back some of the money which has been expended.
§ Major GEORGE DAVIES
I should like to support and reinforce the argument of my right hon. and gallant Friend in connection with his Amendment. I would remind the Minister and the House that the particular portion of this Measure with which we are now dealing is one upon which there was common 1193 agreement, not only on the Second Reading but in Committee. It was agreed in all parts of the House that this was one feature of the Bill on which we could get very close together. It is not necessary for me to enforce that argument at any length, or to talk about the work done by the Society of Friends and other organisations in connection with this matter of allotments. It has been realised what an excellent reaction this work has had on the community, and it is also realised that, in the unfortunate conditions of to-day, when large numbers of people are out of work, this is one of the most important fields for making this provision of allotments. The Minister does that in the original Clause of the Bill, and he has extended certain benefits in his proposed new Clause. The point of the Amendment is this. We are agreed that it is a sound expenditure—up to a limit, of course—of public money to make this provision of allotments for those who otherwise would be unable to get the benefit of them—both the direct benefit in the way of foodstuffs and the indirect benefit from the open air healthy life; and, as long as they are in the position of being ruled out on account of lack of income because of lack of employment, we are all at one. But, a new situation arises when the people in whose interests we are passing this new Clause can no longer be classed as unemployed people who are getting no income, and are, therefore, a suitable subject for our consideration and for generous treatment by this House.
The Amendment, as my right hon. and gallant Friend has pointed out, does not come down like a bank calling in an overdraft; it is a declaration that there is a liability. As long as the man is unemployed, he is a complete beneficiary under the provisions of this Measure, but the moment he moves out of that category—and it is quite easily ascertainable whether he is or is not in employment—he is not necessarily charged with a debt which can be called in in toto or in a given time, but he is placed in a category where there is an admitted liability to the State because of the generosity which the State extended to him during that time in his career when, we admit, he is entitled to it because of his unemployment. We have to recognise the difference of status, and, therefore, 1194 difference of claim on the generosity of the taxpayer and the State, between the man who is entirely unemployed, and who, therefore, whatever his aspirations, is entirely ruled out of any chance of getting an allotment except under the provisions of this Measure, and his completely altered status when he ceases to be unemployed. The Amendment of my right hon. and gallant Friend is so moderate in its terms, and so non-mandatory, if I may use that expression, that I hope that the Minister will appreciate its full meaning and will accept it.
§ Mr. BLINDELL
I hope that the Minister will not accept this Amendment, because I see a great danger of its defeating the whole object of Clauses 14 and 15 of the Bill, which is to induce these unemployed men to turn their energies to work on the land by taking up allotments, and so help to maintain themselves and their families, instead of remaining idle. Under these two Clauses, as I understand them, the State says to these men, "If you are willing to work and will cultivate a plot of land, we will guarantee to provide you with the land; and, because you are unemployed and cannot cultivate it properly, we, the State, will come to your assistance and provide you with fertilisers, seeds and equipment, probably at a cost less than the actual cost to the society or the local authority." The man says, "Yes, that seems very reasonable; it is a very good inducement to me to turn my energies to work which is going to be remunerative to me and to the State and help my own family;" and then he goes on, always with the dread that, after he has carried on for a year or two, there may come a period when he may be in full-time employment, perhaps at a very low wage, and then the very local authority who have said that they want him to be self-supporting and to cultivate this land in his own interest, giving him every encouragement to do that while he is unemployed, are going, the moment he gets work, to make it most difficult for him to keep it.
It would be better to say to him, "Here is some land, and that is all we are going to give you." If you are going to help him as an unemployed man, for goodness sake do not say, when he gets on to his feet, that you are going to press 1195 him down into the position in which he was before. When these unemployed people become employed, they will, as a result of extended unemployment, have other liabilities that must be met, and this is putting an extra liability upon them at the very moment when they are least able to bear it. I hope that these men will be induced to take land and do work of some value to themselves and to the State, which will enable them to produce food and will help them over this difficult period. I hope, therefore, that the Amendment will not be accepted, because I believe it will defeat the very end that we have in view.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is very wise in bringing forward this Amendment. After all, this is something of a social movement. It is a thing in which we want people of good will acting, and the Minister is acting through local councils, private soceties and so forth. What we want is to get a really good move on, and to get the work done. Is it really wise to say to a man whom we want to get into this movement, "We are always going to hold over your head a liability to repayment"? Is it wise to put on the people who are going to work this the very unpleasant and invidious duty of debt collecting, looking into a man's circumstances, and that kind of thing? It is really not wise, and the amount concerned is not very great. As a matter of fact, it is not a thing that is done every time the State comes to the assistance of some part of the industry of the country. There are plenty of instances where large sums have been given but it is not demanded directly the business is succeeding they shall all be paid back. It looks rather mean and niggling to take up this attitude, and it would rather spoil the effect of the good work that is being done by co-operative associations and so forth. Directly you begin to put this legal liability, you put apprehension into the mind of a man, because there are plenty of people who are subject to this sort of liability when they have been kept by the Poor Law. There is also a feeling in local authorities that, because there is a liability, they are bound to get all the money they can. I think on the whole the Amendment will rather spoil 1196 this part of the Bill and I hope it will not be pressed.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I heard the Minister's reply with the greatest disagreement, although I cannot say I am astonished at the attitude he has adopted, because it is thoroughly in accordance with the attitude of his chief and of the Government, to whom the taxpayers' money appears to be like the widow's cruse, something into which they can dip without ceasing and on every possible occasion. I entirely dissent from the right hon. Gentleman's psychology. I ask him to imagine the actual position on the allotment ground. You have one man who has never been unemployed, or perhaps he had a few days' unemployment before the Act came into force and is now in employment again. Anyhow he has his allotment on the same terms as are open to everyone else up to now and he is expected to pay for what he gets. Next door to him an allotment is given to a man who is unemployed. He is given particularly favourable terms as to rent, and he is also given his equipment, his fertilisers and his seeds, either free of charge or at a very low cost.
In Committee, when some of us expressed doubts as to the amount of expense that was being piled up by the Bill, the Minister, not once but constantly, made this point. "Here you have these hundreds of thousands of men who are unemployed, and who are costing the State untold millions. It is a positive economy to put them on the land and to equip them so that they may be able to produce food." The Minister has supported the Bill on the ground that it was economical, as well as right, for the State to dip deeply into its pockets in order to make a great attempt to put unemployed men on their feet again. But then in the illustration I am drawing the second man gets into employment, and the other men who have their allotments and have had to pay for them, as they never were unemployed, will see their colleague, who has had all these advantages and is now earning good wages, not being called upon to pay a penny piece back to the taxpayer. I think the other allotment holders will feel, rightly, that there is an injustice. This man will be holding his allotment partly at their expense as taxpayers, and they will look down on him and will feel 1197 resentment against the way in which they have been treated. I believe the right hon. Gentleman is also quite wrong in his psychology about the man himself. I believe the unemployed would be only too glad to pay their debts when they were in a position to do so. That is all that the Amendment asks.
My right hon. Friend said he prefers his form of words to mine as being more lenient. I am not in entire agreement with him about that, because I suggest that the man may be asked to repay by instalments. Furthermore, I ask the Minister to draw up, with the sanction of the Treasury, regulations under which these repayments shall be made so that the whole thing shall be put on as easy a basis as possible and that no hardship should occur. No one on this side of the House wants to force these men to pay the money back before they are in a position to do so and, after a man has been a long time out of employment, he has many debts of an onerous character which he will be expected to repay. All that we ask is that what he has obtained at the expense of his fellow taxpayers shall be regarded pari passu with these other debts. By all means allow him full and reasonable time in which to make repayment but to say that, because a man was once unemployed and has, therefore, got this allotment and receives fertilisers and equipment, under specially favourable terms, no matter how prosperous he may subsequently become, he shall never be called upon to repay any of the money, appears to me to be not only gross mismanagement and bad guardianship of the public purse, but is also an insult to the man himself.
I was very sorry to hear opposition to the Amendment from the Liberal benches. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) is not in his place, because he has preached to us the necessity for economy, and economy can only be brought about by safeguarding points like this. The spendthrift always says there are only a few thousand pounds here and a few there. That is how the Government have succeeded in adding millions to their first Budget and are going to add a great many more to their second. There is no sort of justification for saying that men who are in good work, who have been able to pay 1198 back their other debts, who have received large grants from their fellow taxpayers, should not be called upon in due time to repay money which they are in full position to repay.
§ Mr. PALIN
It is obvious that hon. Members who are supporting the Amendment have very little unemployment in their constituencies or they would not have put down such an ungenerous and pettifogging proposal as this. I represent a constituency where unemployment has been rife since 1918. The great armament firm of Armstrong Whitworth is in my constituency, and there are men there who have not had all opportunity of work since that firm practically closed down after the Armistice, nor are they likely to find work unless we can get them into the position into which this Bill proposes to put them of being able to recondition themselves, and provide some food for their families. Many of these people own their own houses. They have mortgaged and mortgaged and the mortgages have been foreclosed. Unemployment allowance went long ago. The furniture has gone. There is no money for clothing and they are almost naked.
The point of view I would put before the House is that they are suffering from a long continued and noxious disease. It is necessary that they should be restored, both physically, morally and spiritually, and are we going to refuse a grant such as this, £1 or £2, to supply the wherewithal? Immediately a man gets into work all his debtors will come down upon him, and I trust the Minister will not under any circumstances allow an obstacle to be placed in the way of a large number of these people, who have been out of work for 10 or 12 years, to avail themselves of this beneficent Measure, because a man who has already piled up by long continued unemployment a large amount of liability will think twice before he incurs a liability even so small as this will involve. The Noble Lord says he does not want unduly to press such a person. He would have to wait a very long time before most of them would be in a position to meet this liability. Therefore, I feel that it would be imposing upon the local authority or the voluntary organisation book-keeping, inquiries and form filling up which would entail administrative ex- 1199 penditure and would far outweigh any sum that could be recovered, and would undoubtedly do untold damage in the large number it frightened off from applying for such benefit as the Act confers. I trust the Amendment will be rejected.
§ Captain BRISCOE
I hope very much that my right hon. Friend will withdraw the Amendment. It is true that my Noble Friend spoke a great deal about economy, but we have already accepted the principle that certain sums of money are to be given for the encouragement of allotments. It is now our job to see that that money is given in the fairest possible way, and, though there may be inconsistencies at the moment, they will not be put right by creating a yet further inconsistency. You will create a position, if this Amendment be passed, in which a man who gets on very well will be made to pay a certain charge and the man, his next-door neighbour, who has not done so well, will not have to pay that charge, and naturally that will create a very great deal of irritation among the men.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
Is not that the same all through life? The man who has money has to pay his debts; the man who has not any money cannot pay his debts.
§ Captain BRISCOE
I must remind my right hon. and gallant Friend that the Minister is right in thinking that this Amendment is creating an inconsistency and a very irritating one. Honestly, I do not think the Amendment is really worth while passing, and I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will withdraw it. It has already been pointed out that it is going to entail a good deal of further expense to societies by the keeping of books, and it seems to me that it will be of no use if it leads to irritation and further misunderstandings.
§ Mr. TINKER
I hope that the Amendment will be withdrawn. I come from a constituency where many of the unemployed men have taken to the smallholding business and have been working for the welfare of the nation. If this Amendment is carried, it will damp the ardour of those men, who later on may otherwise probably get work if they start with the idea that if they get work they will have to pay back all that they get from 1200 the Government under this Measure. They will say: "What is the use of doing anything? I am hoping to do something for the country, but, if I have to pay back the cost of these things after I get work, I cannot take on the proposal." I resent the Noble Lord's statement that he have no regard for economy. In other words, he said that we prefer to give away the taxpayers' money. I hope that he does not mean anything of the kind. What justification has he for saying it? Is it because we are attempting to do something for the unemployed? Are we, therefore, guilty of throwing away the taxpayers' money? It is not a fair charge, and I resent it very much.
Another point which was made was that some will get benefits, which others who have been unemployed and have since got work will not have an opportunity of obtaining. Does not that sort of thing happen under every Act of Parliament? Take the Workmen's Compensation Act. Before it came into operation hundreds of workmen received injuries but compensation dated only from the time the Act was passed. I can assure the Noble Lord that the people in my constituency who are in work will not resent the unemployed having a chance to recover themselves. I trust that the Noble Lord will take the advice of one of his hon. Friends behind him, and, in view of the arguments which have been put forward, ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will not press the Amendment. I do not want to repeat the arguments against it which have been given by others, but I should like to point out that these seeds will be given during the time that a man is in distress. The benefits he will receive will be limited to that time also. He will only get benefit for one year, and there is no guarantee that he will get any benefit at all. If he uses the seeds and cultivates his holding, and then, unfortunately, fails to obtain good crops, he will not receive much benefit at all. There is no limitation in the Amendment as to the period for which a man should be liable. Unfortunately, we know that many men are unemployed for very long periods, and it is possible that a man might not only be called upon to refund the cost of seeds for one season but for a succession of seasons, and that 1201 would be very unfair. An allotment cannot be looked upon as being the income of a man. It is always an accessory to income, if he has one. It would be unwise for us to enact anything which would enable a charge to be made upon such a man from season to season. Some mention has been made of the cost and of economy, but I do not think that the amount of money involved in this proposal will be very great in comparison with the enormous cost which the Bill as a whole is going to entail. The cost of collection would probably be far more than the amount that would be recovered. I do not think that there is anything that can be said for the Amendment on the ground of economy, and I appeal to my right hon. and gallant Friend not to press the Amendment, but to withdraw it.
§ Major GLYN
I hope that the Noble Lord and my right hon. and gallant Friend will not press the. Amendment. We are rather inclined to lose sight of the wood for the trees, and it seems to be a pin-pricking Amendment, and one which will do very little good. Judging from the facts in my constituency, we ought to help men to get on to the land and to occupy their time in a useful way. I am sure that if I went to them and said, "You can have your allotment and your seeds, but if you do well there is going to be a day of reckoning, and you will have to fork out some money in order to repay the cost of seeds and equipment," they would reply, "We thought there was a snag somewhere, and we will not touch it." The Amendment would have the effect of discouraging men from cultivating allotments, and I do not think the Amendment is worth while. There is another thing of great importance. The previous Allotment Acts, as far as I know, contained no provision of this sort. Allotment societies have grown up in this country, and they look after the allotments very well indeed. There is a very good public spirit in these societies, and it will be a serious mistake if we do not rely upon that public spirit. If we put these pettifogging, pin-pricking, annoying little things into an otherwise good Clause of the Bill we shall probably destroy the whole of its advantage through trying to be a little too clever, I am sure that my right hon. and gallant Friend who moved 1202 the Amendment did so with the very best of intentions and for the purpose of economy, but I do not think that this is a very good way in which to exercise economy. These allotments are not large estates, and in view of the comparatively small cost of seeds and a certain amount of equipment, I am convinced that the book-keeping that would be necessary would cost an infinitely greater sum than the actual cost of these things. While I am sure that my right hon. and gallant Friend brought forward the Amendment in the best interests of the taxpayers, and that he believed that it was not going to be detrimental to the unemployed, I am afraid that the provision in the Bill would not be so beneficial if the Amendment were accepted. I trust that my right hon. and gallant Friend will withdraw the Amendment. If he goes into the Division Lobby I certainly cannot vote for him.
§ Mr. ERNEST BROWN
I hope that the Noble Lord does not think that the Amendment which he supports is worthy of him. If the seeds are ripe, the fertilisers which have been brought to bear upon them to make them spring to fruition are certainly all wrong, if we are to judge from the speeches which we have heard. You may spend money trying to collect these sums which you may save if the Amendment becomes law. I hope that the Noble Lord, seeing that the seed has fallen upon unproductive soil, or at least received the wrong kind of fertiliser, will bury his dead.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
I hope, like many other speakers from this side of the House, that my right hon. Friends will see their way to withdraw the Amendment. The object is that all allotment holders should be treated alike, and it has been argued that employed allotment holders would be penalised by money being given to unemployed allotment holders. The unemployed allotment holder is not in the same position as the employed man. It is as if there is a race and the unemployed man has started with a handicap. At the end of the race, or at the end of a given time, they must be level to the extent of the benefit which has been given. This would merely penalise the unemployed, and it is the last thing that we should wish to do. I hope, therefore, that the Amendment will be withdrawn.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I do not intend that the Noble Lord should go out of the House thinking that he is the only economist in it. I rise strongly to support the Amendment. The argument put by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) was that this Bill is going to cost so very much that it is not worth while saving a little. The country has cost a very great deal and it is worth while saving every possible penny. If it will cost more to collect this money than the amount which we are going to receive, and the right hon. Gentleman will say that, I am sure we shall be satisfied, but I dissent strongly from what has been said on the apposite side that this is an ungenerous Amendment. It is impossible to be generous or ungenerous with other people's money. You can spend other people's money wisely and you can spend it stupidly, but generosity is an entirely wrong term to use. I hope that the Amendment will be considered on its merits. If a man is partly unemployed, he may possibly be earning more than a man who is in full employment next door to him. The man in full employment on a small wage cannot get help, and the man who is partly employed can get it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us whether an economy can be made, and if it is possible to economise, I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will proceed to a Division.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I think that we have had an interesting discussion on the Amendment. I do not think the House has shown itself to be very keen on economy. As my Noble Friend and myself seem to be the only advocates of economy, and, as it seems to be expressing the wish of the House, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The next new Clause standing in the name of the Minister—(Power to arrange for management by local authorities of smallholdings and allotments provided by Minister or for the transfer thereof to such authorities)—would, if it were added to the Bill, impose an increased charge on the rates. This he cannot do on the Report stage, so if the Minister desires that it should be added to the Bill, it will have to be recommitted.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Johnston)
On that point, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make it clear to the Opposition that we propose to re-commit the Bill in order to have this Clause incorporated. I thought that, perhaps, it would be convenient if that information were given at this stage.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The new Clauses (Application of section 8 of Allotments Act, 1925) and (Transfer of smallholding to council of county or county borough)—are, I think, partly or wholly covered by Amendments to the new Clause of the Minister.