HC Deb 15 February 1940 vol 357 cc1033-4

6.32 p.m.

Brigadier-General Brown

I beg to move, in page 18, line 3, to leave out "commencement of this Act," and to insert: third day of September nineteen hundred and thirty-nine.

The Deputy-Chairman

I think it will be convenient if the hon. and gallant Member will deal with the four Amendments to this Clause which stand in his name.

Brigadier-General Brown

This Clause excludes from the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, certain grasslands which have been let for cultivation but this exclusion is to apply only from "the commencement of this Act." My Amendment proposes to leave out the words "commencement of this Act" and to insert the date "3rd September, 1939."In many cases an extraordinary anomaly would be created if this exclusion applied only from the commencement of the operation of this Measure, when tenancies may have been made for some time. This is a matter which I hope the Government will look into and put right. The second point involved in these Amendments is dealt with in the fourth Amendment, which proposes to add to the Clause the words: or (iii) the land was being so used and was in the occupation of the owner. This would cover the case of parks let for seasonal grazing prior to the new contracts for tenancy and the case of parks in the proprietor's own occupation. I suggest that the addition of these words will help to carry out what the Government desire to do.

6.34 p.m.

Mr. Colville

This Amendment cannot be accepted in this form, but it raises a point of principle with which I find myself in general agreement. The purpose of the Clause is to enable a landowner who has grass parks or other such sub- jects, which have not been used for agricultural purposes or have been let for seasonal grazing, to let them to a farmer for arable cultivation during the war without thereby incurring the liability to compensate the farmer at the end of the tenancy which would arise in the ordinary way under the Agricultural Holdings Acts. Many such leases have already been entered into since the outbreak of the war, and the purpose of my hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment and those which follow it on the Order Paper is to extend the scope of the Clause so as to cover these cases retrospectively, back to the beginning of the war. Landowners who have patriotically made grass parks available for the ploughing-up campaign, in some cases without charging any rent, would obviously have a grievance if the tenant, in addition to receiving the return for his produce, were enabled to claim compensation for improvement or for disturbance at the end of the lease.

It is only fair that those who have without question made such land available should not be in any worse position than those who have waited for an Act of Parliament to safeguard them. It is possible, however, that some contracts may have been entered into on terms—perhaps involving a high rent—which have been adjusted on the basis that the Agricultural Holdings Acts will apply. Therefore the question is one which requires examination. I do not think there are many such cases but there may be some. There are certain further points which have been found to arise and which require examination, in particular the position of the owner-occupier which is raised in the last Amendment of this group. There is also the question of whether compensation for improvements as well as disturbance should be ruled out. I am willing to say to my hon. and gallant Friend that I have these points under consideration, that I am in general sympathy with the principle of the Amendment and that I shall try to devise suitable words before the Report stage to meet his point.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.