HC Deb 01 July 1948 vol 452 cc2433-5

Lords Amendment: In page 26, line 37, after "equipment," insert: on a holding (as defined in the Act of 1923).

6.30 p.m.

Mr. T. Fraser

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This Amendment requires to be taken together with the next Amendment in line 38. We have not yet got away from the small landholder's tenure. In the case of a landholding tenure it would be inappropriate to issue directions to an owner in respect of fixed equipment, since in most cases the responsibility for the provisions on upkeep of the equipment rests on the holder. The Amendment meets the point by restricting the operation of Subsection (4) to holdings to which the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act apply.

Lords Amendment: In page 26, line 48, after "with," insert: and the Secretary of State is satisfied that an adequate opportunity has been afforded to the person to whom the direction has been given to carry out the direction.

Mr. T. Fraser

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The insertion of these words makes it clear beyond doubt that action under the Subsection will not be taken by the Secretary of State unless he is satisfied that adequate opportunity for compliance has been afforded to the person to whom a direction to carry out the work has been given. The Amendment merely defines in the Bill something to which effect would otherwise have been given by administration.

Mr. McKie (Galloway)

I am grateful to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for asking the House to agree to this Amendment. He will be aware that Members on this side pressed on many occasions during the Committee stage that action contemplated under this Clause should be taken only after the Secretary of State and those associated with him were absolutely satisfied that the fullest opportunity had been given to the person upon whom a direction notice was served to carry out the requirements. I congratulate the Joint Under-Secretary on having the temerity to persuade his own party to agree to this Amendment. I feel sure that his ready acquiescence will not be shared by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I assure the Joint Under-Secretary that no matter what may be said by any of his hon. Friends on this point he is certainly on firm ground.

I say so, because this Clause will certainly have far-reaching effects. There can be no dubiety about that. The whole Bill will have very far-reaching effects, but this Clause is bound to have a far-reaching effect on the land system in Scotland as we have known it in the past. No doubt that will be a matter of extreme jubilation on the part of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay), but many of us who take a more balanced and commonsense view of this subject do not share that jubilation. That is why we are delighted that the joint Under-Secretary has agreed to what I might describe as the breathing space, which the noble Lords, in their great wisdom, have seen fit to propose in this Amendment.

I have mentioned the far-reaching effects of this Clause, and I would make so bold as to say that in a very few years we shall see an ever-increasing quantity of land being offered on the market as a result, even if the Joint Under-Secretary does agree to the incorporation of this Amendment. I am sorry to see the Lord Advocate looking so pleased, but he knows that what I am saying is absolutely true, and that a very great burden will be laid by this Clause upon the unfortunate owners of land. Many of these people have been unable in the past to meet all the requirements laid upon them, but now their difficulties will be almost insurmountable. This Amendment will give a breathing space and an opportunity for these matters to be carefully investigated.